April 12, 2018

Inside Scared Beast: OTR's new modern diner

“Simple food. Taken seriously” is the motto for Sacred Beast, the new modern diner at 15th and Vine streets in Over-the-Rhine, helmed by chef Jeremy Lieb, most recently of the Boca Group, and his wife Bridget.

“For years I’ve been saying I want to go out to eat breakfast but have a beer, and you can’t do that anywhere,” Lieb says.

Now you can.

The menu is a collection of Lieb’s favorite things, which run the gamut from literally the best French-style omelet in town — fluffy, soft and full of goat cheese and piquillo peppers — to a “Diner Breakfast” with scrambled eggs, maple-glazed pork belly and ricotta pancakes and a double or triple burger with Dijonnaise, onions, pickles and American cheese on a freshly made Blue Oven bun.

“(It’s) not necessarily diner favorites, just favorites,” Lieb says. “It’s very, very simple, but it’s got a lot of flavor, a lot of technique and a lot of foundation. It’s just casual, fun food.”

The menu also includes 17 beers on draft, three draft wines and “classic, strong cocktails.”

“I want people to come in and be like, ‘Holy shit. That’s an old fashioned’ or ‘That’s a Sazerac,” he says.

Lieb and his wife, both Maisonette vets, have traveled the world working in food, with stops in Atlanta, Las Vegas, New York and France. They returned to Cincinnati in 2009 when they “decided it was time to be near our family and make our life here,” Lieb says. “Then I decided, I need to figure out what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.”

After stints with Jeff Ruby’s and Boca, Lieb decided it was time to open his own venture, first starting with a smaller, 60-seater concept, which then spiraled into the almost 5,000-square-foot Sacred Beast.

The restaurant is a family affair (his kids trained with the staff during their spring break) with a curated experience for patrons and employees (Sacred Beast has about 55 right now), all developed by Lieb and Bridget. “Myself and my wife did everything ourselves,” he says of the concept development, funding and more.

The large space was designed by architect Ron Novak from the Drawing Dept, with a streamlined industrial allure featuring cement, wood and steel. The tables are carbonized wood, and the vintage-brown tufted leather booths were upholstered by local Orange Chair. A reel-to-reel player behind the bar pumps out music, specifically selected to create a vibe depending on the time of day. There are TVs to stream whatever game is on, but they’ll also be playing classic Looney Tunes cartoons, Lieb says.

“I love old. I love history. I love nostalgia. I love vintage,” Lieb says. “I wanted to take all the things I loved about a diner and do that, and all the things I didn’t love and kind of create what that would feel like. I don’t want it to feel greasy. When you walk in the door, I want you to feel awesome.”

The restaurant is open until at least 1 a.m. every night. Brunch starts at 10:30 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, with a slightly modified menu. During the week starting at 10 p.m. — 11 p.m. on weekends — Lieb features a “happier meal”: a Hamm’s beer, shot of Evan Williams and a burger for $15. And once his coffee machine arrives from Italy, a real analog one with springs and levers, they’ll have a coffee window open from 7:30-11 a.m. with Five One Three Bagel Co. bagels and pastries.

“When you come in, I want you to feel like, ‘This is awesome,’” he says. “What I want, when you eat this stuff, is it to remind you of when you were a kid. Enjoy life.”

Sacred Beast (1437 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine) is open 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m. 2:30 a.m. Friday; 10:30 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Saturday; 10:30 a.m.-1 a.m. Sunday. More info: sacredbeastdiner.com

Scroll down to view images

Join the CityBeat Press Club

At a time when local-based reporting is critical, support from our readers is essential to our future. Support our coverage with a one-time or monthly donation.


Editor's note: This is the best omelet.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Editor's note: This is the best omelet.
Sacred Beast is a vintage-inspired-yet-modern diner devoted to simple food taken seriously.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Sacred Beast is a vintage-inspired-yet-modern diner devoted to simple food taken seriously.
The 5,000-square-foot space is located at the corner of 15th and Vine streets.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
The 5,000-square-foot space is located at the corner of 15th and Vine streets.
"I wanted to kind of create something. I love old. I love history. I love nostalgia. I love vintage. So I wanted to take all the things I loved about a diner and do that," says co-owner and chef Jeremy Lieb.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
"I wanted to kind of create something. I love old. I love history. I love nostalgia. I love vintage. So I wanted to take all the things I loved about a diner and do that," says co-owner and chef Jeremy Lieb.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
The menu at Sacred Beast
"I love to cook," says Lieb. "I’ve been cooking for 28 years now. I love to eat and I think people are going to like to eat not fancy. It’s simple food, taken seriously. It’s not 8,000 ingredients."
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
"I love to cook," says Lieb. "I’ve been cooking for 28 years now. I love to eat and I think people are going to like to eat not fancy. It’s simple food, taken seriously. It’s not 8,000 ingredients."
The Sacred Beast burger. "A single burger is a double. A double is a triple. So you order a single, you get a double, which is fun," Lieb says.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
The Sacred Beast burger. "A single burger is a double. A double is a triple. So you order a single, you get a double, which is fun," Lieb says.
The reel-to-reel audio system. "It’s amazing what music will do to you. This might not even be the kind of music you listen to you, but you walk in and you feel good. It’s important," Lieb says. "It’s for the staff, too. ...I want my staff to have the same experience my guests have. When you walk in the door, I want you feel to kick ass. And then you eat."
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
The reel-to-reel audio system. "It’s amazing what music will do to you. This might not even be the kind of music you listen to you, but you walk in and you feel good. It’s important," Lieb says. "It’s for the staff, too. ...I want my staff to have the same experience my guests have. When you walk in the door, I want you feel to kick ass. And then you eat."
The bar makes classic, strong cocktails and offers 17 beers on draft and three wines.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
The bar makes classic, strong cocktails and offers 17 beers on draft and three wines.
"When you come in, I want you to feel like, 'This is awesome.' What I want, when you eat this stuff, is it to remind you of when you were a kid. Enjoy life," Lieb says.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
"When you come in, I want you to feel like, 'This is awesome.' What I want, when you eat this stuff, is it to remind you of when you were a kid. Enjoy life," Lieb says.