The Dish: Recent Greater Cincinnati Restaurant Openings and Closings

Cincinnati has welcomed a new modern Mexican joint, a "magical" steakhouse and a bar in OTR from MadTree.

click to enlarge La Cantina - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
La Cantina


La Cantina
The former Cheapside Cafe space downtown has gotten new life thanks to local Crown Restaurant Group (Crown Republic Gastropub, Losanti, Rosie’s Cocktails & Pies). It is now home to La Cantina, a restaurant offering a self-described mix of “contemporary, authentic Mexican cuisine and cocktails.”
Chef Johnny Curiel, recently the executive chef at Nada, is bringing his years of experience and “modern-meets-authentic” Mexican style to the new restaurant.
La Cantina started as a pop-up at Crown Republic Gastropub in July of last year, with Curiel and CRG’s chef/owner Anthony Sitek at the helm. The menu there featured dishes including elote, Baja fish tacos and chicken mole, and the full restaurant offers similar inspiration.
La Cantina currently lists dishes including tacos with fillings ranging from pastor or lamb barbacoa to smoked prime brisket or sweet potato. Starters run the gamut from mesquite cold-smoked tuna crudo and grilled oysters to queso fundido. Mains include carne asada, chicken mole and enchiladas verdes.
The cocktail program focuses on mezcal and tequila, featuring more than 50 agave-based spirits. La Cantina also carries Mexican coke, Topo Chico and horchata. 326 E. Eighth St., Downtown,

MadTree Alcove
MadTree Brewing has opened a multi-level Over-the-Rhine bar, restaurant and event space called Alcove.
MadTree describes Alcove's main bar and restaurant as containing "a large bar, light-filled lounges, dining areas and an intimate private dining room for small groups." On the website, they also mention a greenhouse bar and a "lush outdoor patio space for lounging and dining."
The food menu is focused on farm-to-table dishes created by chef Stephen Williams of Bouquet Restaurant and Spoon: Kitchen and Market. The drink menu features housemade cocktails — utilizing herbs grown in that aforementioned greenhouse — and MadTree’s own brews will be on tap at the three bars located throughout.
From a design standpoint, Alcove is stuffed with live greenery from Urban Blooms in every corner, creating a secret-garden-like feeling with living feature walls. In the event loft on the third floor, there's even a massive chandelier made of ferns.  1400-1410 Vine St. in Over-the-Rhine,

Son of a Butcher
The team behind Agave & Rye seems to have conquered the eccentric taco world and has now set its sights on steakhouses. The company’s new Son of a Butcher — colloquially referred to as S.O.B. — opened March 1 at Shindig Park, an event space in Liberty Center also helmed by the Agave & Rye team.
Yavonne Sarber, founder of S.O.B. and Agave & Rye, tells CityBeat via email that the new restaurant is “evolving the stuffy steakhouse into something magical.”
“S.O.B offers everything guests would expect from a high-quality steakhouse, without the white tablecloths, pretentious service and boring atmosphere,” she says.
Sarber says the look of S.O.B. plays off the same ethos of the Alice-in-Wonderland-meets-Baroque design of the Agave & Rye locations.
“We call it a ‘Southern Rock Tattoo style,’” she says. “Beautiful, custom chandeliers. Same artists (as Agave & Rye), different flare. Same culture and core values.”
Sarber says the menu features “something for everyone,” highlighting USDA Prime cuts, wagyu, caviar, shaved truffles and “gold leaf options.” There is a sweet and spicy bacon and blue cheese burger, a New York-style Italian sandwich on a baguette and a filet mignon chopped salad. For vegetarians, look for cauliflower steaks and black truffle gnocchi.
S.O.B. is launching with dinner service, but there are plans to expand into brunch offerings as well. 7630 Gibson St., Liberty Township,

Woodburn Brewing Kitchen
Woodburn Brewing has added some bites to go with its beer. The East Walnut Hills taproom and brewery is now home to a new kitchen, helmed by chef Andrew Han. Han — who has done stints in notable local eateries including Senate, Pepp & Dolores and O Pie O — has drawn on his Korean heritage for the menu.
“I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to open up the Woodburn kitchen,” Han says in a release. “I had a lot of fun developing the menu with my team and incorporating my favorite childhood flavors into easily recognizable dishes.”
The menu features fusion-style dishes like a steak bowl with jasmine rice, golden curry, marinated egg, pickled carrots and red onion, and a “Toadstool Sandwich,” with soy-and-ginger-marinated mushrooms, topped with mayo and gochujang slaw. There are also wings, nachos, pork rinds (with Grippo’s seasoning), salads, burgers and more.
A release says Woodburn Brewing eventually will add a weekly brunch menu as well as a “late-night menu to satisfy those midnight munchies.” 2800 Woodburn Ave., East Walnuts Hills,

BBQ High Life
Oakley Kitchen Food Hall welcomed a new barbecue spot, BBQ High Life, on March 1. Previously based in Goshen, High Life offered carry-out and catering services. Its new menu at the Oakley Kitchen consists of six signature sandwiches and four classic barbecue side options.
The eatery serves everything from a classic pulled-pork sandwich to the “Big Red Smokey,” which is made with split andouille sausage and topped with pulled pork and coleslaw. 3715 Madison Road, Oakley,

The Arepa Place
Findlay Market favorite The Arepa Place has opened a storefront in the suburb of Wyoming, with its grand opening held Feb. 24.
Arepa Place started as a pop-up specializing in arepas at Over-the-Rhine’s Findlay Market in 2016, before expanding into a full storefront there. The new location takes over the space formerly occupied by CWC, the Restaurant.
Drawing on her Colombian heritage, owner Isis Arrieta-Dennis says the Arepa Place in Wyoming features the same fast-casual dining style guests experience at the Findlay Market location. 1517 Springfield Pike, Wyoming,

Paris Baguette
A national bakery cafe chain is opening its first Ohio location in Cincinnati.
Paris Baguette has more than 90 storefronts across the country, and its newest one is set to open inside 3CDC’s recent 4th & Race development.
Cincinnati restaurateur Ai Lin of Sichuan Chili and Gyu-Kaku BBQ will own and operate the new location, per a press release from 3CDC.
According to 3CDC, Lin came across Paris Baguette while visiting her mother in Flushing, Queens, where she is originally from. There are three locations just in that neighborhood alone, so she was inspired to bring Paris Baguette to Cincinnati.
“If I believe in the concept, I want to open one,” Lin says in the release. “I saw the potential here.”
Paris Baguette is based in South Korea and the company’s vision, according to its website, is “to reestablish the neighborhood bakery cafe as the heart of the community around the world.”
Looking at the store locator, most of the U.S. locations are on the East and West coasts, with a few in Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta and Dallas.
Cincinnatians will be able to grab sweet and savory items at Paris Baguette, including breads, seasonal desserts, cakes, salads and sandwiches.
An official opening date has not been announced. 124 W. Fourth St., Downtown,


click to enlarge Boombox Buns - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Boombox Buns

Boombox Buns
Over-the-Rhine’s source for homemade Chinese-style steamed buns, Boombox Buns, has closed. Owner Nathan Friday announced in a social media post that the shop would close Feb. 19.
“It’s hard to express the emotions of letting go of something that has been such a dominating force in your life,” his post reads.
Friday says he and his fiancée, Katie, have been working together on Boombox Buns for four and a half years. “The process of taking an idea from something on paper to a pop up, a pop up to signing a lease and hiring employees, to navigating a pandemic has been a wild ride,” he writes.
Friday made his debut as a restaurateur when he opened Boombox Buns for weekend-only, walk-up-window business on Woodward Street in an empty space behind The Takeaway Deli and Grocery in the fall of 2018. And in 2020, he opened the brick-and-mortar on Republic Street.
“Lastly I would like to thank all of our customers and staff both past and present for supporting us every step of the way,” the post continues.

Enoteca Emilia
Loveland-based Italian eatery Enoteca Emilia has closed — but it appears there are new plans in the works.
In a post on Facebook, owner Margaret Ranalli said the pandemic forced the restaurant to restrict its hours to ensure the same standards and hospitality Enoteca Emilia was known for, noting she is “grateful beyond measure” for the staff and guests.
“As Spring approaches, we are preparing for a re-birth with an entirely new concept and menu,” her post continues. “Defining our path forward with the same commitment to flavor and hospitality, we must also respect a post-COVID industry landscape. Look for a concept reveal in mid-March and a relaunch coming late Spring.”
Originally located in O’Bryonville, Enoteca Emilia closed in 2016 and then reopened in Loveland in 2019. 110 S. Second St., Loveland,

The Mercer OTR
Per a note hung in the restaurant’s window in early February, the Mercer OTR has quietly closed its doors. The sign announcing the restaurant’s closure reads, “It’s been a pleasure serving you, OTR. Cheers.”
The owners did not make an announcement or provide a reason for the closure and shut down the restaurant’s Facebook page and website.
The restaurant, which was on the ground floor of the Mercer Commons apartment complex, had been in operation since 2014.

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