Dojo Gelato has expanded beyond the Cincinnati palate. Dojo’s list of mentions starts at Bon Appétit magazine, ends at PBS and stays impressive in between, even showing up on blog Serious Eats, listed as a must-try by J. Kenji López-Alt, managing culinary editor of the site and a James Beard award-nominated chef.
That’s not to say Dojo isn’t basically still a community endeavor. With its flagship shop at Findlay Market, it’s clear that community is important to the company. Flavors and add-ins are locally sourced when possible, and the dairy is from Ohio. Everything about this Italian dessert spot screams Midwestern U.S.
In choosing a second location (which officially opened on May 19), co-owner and “ringmaster” Michael Christner says that Northside was an easy pick.
“I’ve always been attracted to Northside,” he says. “My wife and I bought our first home on Pullan Avenue, where we lived for a decade. I wrote Dojo’s business plan in the kitchen there. …Dojo’s first public retail event was the Northside Rock n’ Roll Carnival. We are the second-longest participating food vendor at this annual event. Northside has always reminded me of growing up near Austin, Texas.”
Plus, compared to other neighborhoods (like, say, Over-the-Rhine), the initial financial investment required to open in Northside is less and with promising projections for growth. With the purchase of the building at 1735 Blue Rock St., Christner was able to expand Dojo’s kitchen space and quintuple its cold storage space.
The new space in Northside remains true to its roots. Before Dojo it was JF Dairy Corner, a testament to the good frozen juju that must be permanently affixed to the location. It was owned by Juan Figaro — JF, himself — and his wife Yolanda, who both immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic in 1961. The couple opened their creamy whip at that location in the 1980s and closed it a couple of years ago, before Dojo took over and renovated the space.
Christner is all about injecting his own international talent back into the community. Once he had decided to tackle gelato as his life pursuit, he studied with Italian pastry masters in New York City and attended Penn State’s world-renowned Ice Cream Short Course through the Berkey Creamery.
Something luxurious and special like gelato deserves the most detailed attention. Each labor-intensive and creatively flavored batch of Dojo is made from scratch.
“Gelato’s density allows for a creamier mouth feel, more flavor and lower butterfat content. It’s better for you,” Christner says. “We also forgo the use of any artificial colorings or flavorings in our gelati. We make it fresh every day in small batches in our Northside retail kitchen.”
Christner’s offerings have already been pleasing sweet-seekers for eight years, but the new location will offer more than gelato. Given the tight-knit feel of Northside’s well-established community, Christner is setting up his Blue Rock space to be more of a hub for local activity than a simple scoop shop.
“Once we get settled, we’ll have ongoing events on our 2,000-square-foot patio: live music, open mics, parties, any reason to gather the community together and enjoy delicious ice creams, coffee and conversation,” he says. “We look forward to bringing people of all social and cultural backgrounds together — being a true ‘third place,’ much like our Findlay Market location.”
Unlike the Findlay location, however, Dojo Northside will be similar to a confectioner, serving more than just scoops. The shop will always have 10 flavors of gelato on offer, but with bonuses.
“We have expanded our menu and now offer milkshakes, a sundae bar and, exclusive to the new Northside location, we’ll also be offering a funky soft-serve menu along with killer draft rootbeer on tap with growler fills,” Christner says.
Popular Dojo flavors, including freshman 15 (peanut butter-Oreo), Cap’n Crunch and the rowdy Girl Scout (mint, Dutch chocolate, Urban Artifact’s Slider Rule stout), will be rotated out with new options.
There’s no wrong answer when a Dojo employee asks what you’ll be having today, but Christner has a few recommendations for the perfect summer flavor combinations.
“I’m a purest,” he says. “My go-to is typically sweet cream paired with pistachio or Vietnamese coffee gelato, or our vegan lemongrass sorbetto paired with coconut gelato.”
DOJO GELATO's new gelateria is located at 1735 Blue Rock St., North-side. More info: dojogelato.com.
More Frozen Treats
By Amanda Weisbrod
These area sweet shops offer creative and gourmet frozen finds — including some with booze.
Buzzed Bull Creamery
Alcohol and ice cream — try to think of a more iconic duo; we’ll wait. This recently opened dessert shop features made-to-order, nitrogen-frozen flavors that you can’t get anywhere else. With over 20 mix-ins and 30 flavors to choose from — plus four-flavor flights — you can customize your own alcoholic ice cream (with one to two shots of booze) or pick from a list of their specialty mixes, like a white Russian, whiskey sour or gin and juice. But if you’d rather have just the dessert and no buzz, choose from a selection of non-alcoholic flavors that are just as creamy and smooth, like the kid-friendly cake batter. Noon-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday; noon-1 a.m. Friday; 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday. 1408 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, buzzedbullcreamery.com.
As an alternative to store-bought, preservative-filled frozen summer treats, streetpops creates all-natural, refreshing ice pops made with fresh fruit and herbs to create gourmet flavors like avocado, mango chili and rhubarb cardamom. Throughout the summer, streetpops’ popsicle cart travels to different locations around the city, like the Wyoming, Blue Ash and Hyde Park farmers markets. But you can always visit their seasonal Oakley storefront instead, or, new this past spring, pick up a four-pack from area Kroger stores. Check the website for streetpops’ mobile dates and locations. Noon-8 p.m. daily. 3096 Madison Road, Oakley, streetpops.com.
In the heart of downtown, Hello Honey makes all of their small-batch ice cream, waffle cones, marshmallows, caramel sauce and cookies in-house from scratch, so every time you order your favorite sundae flavor, it’s always fresh and delicious. Rotating creative flavor combos include blends like banana honeycomb, espresso nut brittle and Earl Grey blackberry. For only $2 extra, add marshmallow to your scoop and watch them toast it by hand. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday; 2-8 p.m. Saturday. 633 Vine St., Downtown, hellohoneyicecream.com.