When you’re headed out for holiday activities, there’s no one-size-fits-all restaurant recommendation. If you’re going to Holiday of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo, you’re probably not going to want the same pre- or post-event dining suggestion as a couple headed to date night under the mistletoe. So here are a few activity-specific, family-friendly recommendations that might help during the holiday happenings ahead. Next week I’ll cover the date-night plans.
First, that Zoo trip. I haven’t met the kid yet who doesn’t like pizza, so I’m going to go with the sure thing. Pomodori’s (121 W McMillan St., Clifton, 513-861-0080) is a winner. It’s not your typical delivery pizza joint and, yes, the kids will have to sit still for a bit while as they make the pies, but let them munch on garlic bread with cheese while Mom has a nice glass of wine. Order a fantastic wood-fired spinach pizza with smoky bacon for the grown-ups, an apple dessert pizza for everyone and it’s a jolly holiday.
This advice is also going to hold true for visits to Scuba Santa at the Newport Aquarium. Newport Pizza (601 Monmouth St., Newport, 859-261-4900) is a better value than anything at the Levee and a much better-than-average pizza. Try my favorite, antipasta. And take the edge off — their beer selection is what made Rudolph’s nose turn red.
Another don’t-miss for kids is a trip to see the train display at the Behringer Crawford Museum in Devou Park. Afterwards, let the grownups recaffeinate at Reality Tuesday (1518 Dixie Hwy., Park Hills, 859-261-4939) where the coffee is great and the atmosphere is entirely laid back. The kids will fit right in and will love the iced cookies in the glass case. Nothing your children do will faze Tracy, the owner — she has triplets. If you’re hungry for something that’s not sweet, try their veggie sandwich. It’s the best in town.
Whether it’s date night or kids’ night, ice skating at Fountain Square is going to get you in the holiday spirit. It’s also a good bet for where to take out-of town visitors. I consulted my downtown go-to guy, blogger Bob Schwartz (5chw4r7z), and he suggested that for less-adventurous guests, Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery (on Fountain Square, 513-621-1588), Palomino (across from the Square above Tiffany’s on Vine St., 513-381-1300), and Nicholson’s (625 Walnut St., 513-564-9111) are good choices. They’ve got a good city-center vibe, but they’re familiar enough that the visiting suburbanite is still in their comfort zone. You can wear your skating gear and not feel underdressed at any of these three spots and you’ll have lots of choices of better-than-average food at a reasonable price.
And my best and final suggestion: If you’re bringing budding ballerinas downtown to see The Nutcracker at the Aronoff or Cinderella at Ensemble Theatre, you should make it extra memorable with afternoon tea at the Cricket Lounge at the Cincinnatian Hotel (601 Vine St., 513-381-3000). Reservations are required, but this is the sort of thing that’s real holiday magic — a harpist plays and the beautifully decorated dining room sets the scene for tiered plates of dainty tea sandwiches, scones and special “Teddy bear tea” treats for children. Pastry chef Summer Genetti gets wonderfully playful here.
“After all,” she told me, “how many times a year do I have an excuse to make adorably cute gumball snowmen?”
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