MPMF Visitor's Guide

Explore downtown and Over-the-Rhine in between the music during this year's MidPoint Music Festival.

Since its inception 15 years ago, Cincinnati’s MidPoint Music Festival has undergone changes almost continually. But through it all, it has remained a three-day celebration of today’s unique and innovative music-makers.

click to enlarge MPMF 2015 - Photo: Jesse Fox
Photo: Jesse Fox
MPMF 2015

The biggest change this year is that fans of all ages will be able to enjoy MidPoint in its entirety, as the format shifts from mostly using several bars and clubs to utilizing four outdoor stages located along Sycamore Street in Over-the-Rhine. The lineup features some of the biggest acts MidPoint has ever showcased (including Band of Horses, Kamasi Washington, Car Seat Headrest and Frightened Rabbit, all profiled on the following pages), as well as a healthy dose of local artists and up-and-coming acts.

And while visitor's won't have to journey as far as in year's past, there's still plenty to explore in downtown and Over-the-Rhine — especially with the city's new streetcar line, a 3.6-mile looping route through the city center. Find a full schedule of music and events at mpmf.com.

click to enlarge MPMF Visitor's Guide
Illustration: Lindsey Nehls

EAT

click to enlarge Maplewood - Photo: Jesse Fox
Photo: Jesse Fox
Maplewood

BRUNCH — Nation Kitchen and Bar (1200 Broadway St., Pendleton, nationkitchenandbar.com) is the perfect place to fuel up before the music begins, offering a classic brunch menu with bottomless mimosas. French Crust Café (915 Vine St., Over the Rhine, jrcincy.com/frenchcrustcafe) gives all the luxury and class of Jean-Robert’s contemporary French cuisine, but in a restaurant open for brunch, and with prices that aren’t as hard on the wallet. The Over-the-Rhine classic, Taste of Belgium (1133 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, authenticwaffle.com) is the iconic breakfast eatery of the neighborhood, with giant waffles, crepes, and that much needed coffee or espresso drink to wake you up from the night before. Wake up and head for the nearby California-inspired Maplewood Kitchen and Bar (525 Race St., Downtown, maplewoodkitchenandbar.com). Pick which way your day will go by making a choice between a Brainstorm Coffee or a roasted-tomatillo bloody mary. The coffee is blended with butter and oil to jumpstart your morning. The bloody? It’s made with cold-pressed Super Green Juice and Tito’s vodka. Complement either coastal concoction with avocado benedict for breakfast.

click to enlarge Che - Photo: Jesse Fox
Photo: Jesse Fox
Che

CHEAPISH — Part bar, part taco joint, all classy. Bakersfield (1213 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, bakersfieldtacos.com) specializes in gourmet tacos (pollo rojo, pastor, huitlacoche, etc.) and hand-crafted margaritas made the old fashioned way — not from a pre-made mix — not to mention a combined total of 100 tequilas for those that aren’t quite ready to call it a night. Stop by Ché (1342 Walnut Street, Over-the-Rhine, checincinnati.com) between 3 and 4 p.m. during your day for Empanada Hour, serving up authentic Argentinian empanadas for as low as $3. Over-the-Rhine natives, Tucker’s (1637 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, facebook.com/tuckersrestaurantotr) is truly an Over-the-Rhine institution (same family since 1946!) and an “everyman” restaurant with a classic diner vibe. Solid, Midwestern staples for hungry, working people. Features a full breakfast menu complete with a variety of omelets, pancakes and egg dishes. Try the Big Tucker, a double-decker burger with cheese and special sauce. Skyline (multiple locations including 643 Vine St., Downtown, skylinechili.com) is a locally based chain of chili parlors founded by Greek immigrants in Cincinnati in 1949. Their Cincinnati-style chili is poured over spaghetti or hot dogs along with chili burritos, fries and baked potatoes. Their vegetarian version is almost as tasty with black beans and rice.

click to enlarge Kaze OTR - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Kaze OTR

HIP — Vine Street is the epicurean epicenter of cutting-edge bars and restaurants in the heart of OTR. All the food trends are covered: farm-to-table, high-end street-eats and anything else that necessitates a long wait. Award-winning chefs own multiple eateries on and slightly off the strip (sometimes directly next to each other), so anywhere you stop, you can be sure you’re in for a excellent meal and, in keeping with elevated expectations, masterful mixology paired with lists of local craft beers and fine wines. Chef Daniel Wright’s Mediterranean tapas-style stop Abigail Street (1214 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, abigailstreet.com) is next door to Senate (1212 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, senatepub.com), which features gourmet pop culture-themed hot dogs, and down the street from Pontiac Bourbon & BBQ (1403 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, pontiacbbq.com), with tiki drinks and smoked meats. Nestled inside a retired post office, The Eagle OTR (1342 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, facebook.com/theeagleotr) specializes in free-range fried chicken, killer bloody marys and Southern sides. A Tavola (1220 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, atavolapizza.com) has a playful selection of signature pizzas baked in an oven from Naples, Italy, served with great cocktails. Krueger’s Tavern (1211 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, kruegerstavern.com) has housemade sausages, burgers and a rooftop patio to cheers to a great weekend with their wide selection of cocktails and beer. Kaze (1400 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, kazeotr.com) is a Japanese gastropub with a large outdoor patio and daily happy hour. Taft’s Ale House (1429 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, taftsalehouse.com) was built inside of the St. Paul’s Evangelical Church, the oldest Protestant parish in the city. Named after our favorite native beer-guzzling, heavy-weight wrestling president, you’ll be sure to feel at home with delicious beer and feel-good food. Eat lunch in the outdoor wooden tepee at Cheapside Café (326 E. Eighth St., cheapsidecafe.com), which also offers locally foraged housemade soda and a surprising grilled cheese with spaghetti squash and green chiles.

click to enlarge Gomez Salsa - Photo: Lindsay McCarty
Photo: Lindsay McCarty
Gomez Salsa

LATE NIGHT — Gomez Salsa (107 E. 12th St., Over-the-Rhine, gomezsalsa.com) is quick and inexpensive,Open until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, Gomez’s walk-up taco window has it all: mahi-mahi tacos with slaw and Baja sauce, chips with pineapple salsa, taco salad bowls and owner Andrew Gomez’s greatest invention, the Turtle Shell. Take a tortilla, stuff it with rice, beans, sour cream, lettuce, salsa, meat, veggies and cheese, layer in a tostado for crunch, put some cheese on the top and then brown it. It’s a fat little crunchy burrito envelope, a walking taco. ZBGB’s (1438 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, zbgb.co) is the latest gastropub for a late-night meal (open until 2 a.m. weekends), with gourmet burgers created with fresh-baked artisan buns, and wide selection of craft beer at their full bar. Pizza never disappoints after 2 a.m, and after the festival it’ll be easy to stumble right over to Goodfellas Pizzeria (1211 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, goodfellaspizzeria.com), or Lucy Blue (1126 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, facebook.com/lucybluepizza) to satisfy those munchies.

click to enlarge Off the Vine - Photo: Jesse Fox
Photo: Jesse Fox
Off the Vine

HEALTHY — If you’re looking for a healthy option, Park & Vine (1202 Main Street, Over-the-Rhine, parkandvine.com) is a staple for vegan and vegetarian cuisine, with meat-free sandwiches, salads and even burgers. Visit Off the Vine (1218 Vine St, Over-the-Rhine, otvcincinnati.com) cold-pressed juice bar to revitalize your festival experience, or Bottle & Basket (1400 Republic St., Over the Rhine, picnicandpantry.com) for a fast and fresh food bar with a picnic-inspired touch. They offer an abundance of locally grown whole foods and gourmet take-home salads and sandwiches.

click to enlarge Holtman's Donuts - Photo: CityBeat Archive
Photo: CityBeat Archive
Holtman's Donuts

SWEET — Satisfy a sweet tooth while feeling French and fancy at the Macaron Bar (1206 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, macaron-bar.com) with delicately crafted and colorful macarons. Or stop by The OTR Candy Bar (1735 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, otrcandybar.com) for a huge selection of candies and an old fashioned soda counter. If you’re really interested in a decadent snack — or breakfast — show up early for Holtman’s Donuts (1332 Vine St., Over-the -Rhine, holtmandonutshop.com) and try their famous maple bacon donut (they tend to sell out quick). Since its founding in 1870, Graeter’s (multiple locations including 1401 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine graeters.com) French Pot ice cream, handmade chocolate confections and fresh-baked goods have become traditions in the Queen City. Today, the Graeter family still faithfully uses century-old recipes and methods of production.

DRINK

click to enlarge Sundry and Vice - Photo: Jesse Fox
Photo: Jesse Fox
Sundry and Vice

BARS With an ever-expanding nightlife scene, OTR bars are places to be seen. Grab a barrel-aged Manhattan at The Lackman (1237 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, lackmanbar.com), a convenient detour on the way to any of the Vine Street restaurants. Sit on the massive dog-friendly patio at The Famous Neons Unplugged (208 E. 12th St., Over-the-Rhine, facebook.com/neonsunplugged), one of Travel + Leisure magazine’s “America’s Best Outdoor Bars,” with specialty-infused spirits, or head to the beer garden at Queen City Radio (222 W. 12th St., Over-the-Rhine, qcrbar.com) for a local pint, boozy slushies, wine and cocktails. Get down to some free live music at MOTR Pub (1345 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, motrpub.com) or take in a drag show upstairs at Below Zero Lounge (1122 Walnut St., Over-the-Rhine, belowzerolounge.com). If you’re serious about cocktails and history, visit Japp’s Since 1879 (1134 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, wellmannsbrands.com/japps1879) for pre-Prohibition style spirits, or the apothecary-themed Sundry and Vice (18 W. 13th St., Over-the-Rhine, sundryandvice.com) for drinks with egg whites, bitters and absinthe. If you want to run into Cincy’s homegrown boybanders Nick or Drew Lachey, their sports bar, Lachey’s (56 E. 12th St., Downtown, lacheys.com) is probably your best chance. For another sports bar, head to Rhinehaus (119 E. 12th St., rhinehausbar.com). The oh-so-popular 16-Bit Bar + Arcade (1331 Walnut St., Over-the-Rhine, 16-bitbar.com) offers 80’s themed drinks and free play on classic arcade games — as long as you’re sipping on a drink. But if board games are more your speed, The ROOK OTR (1115 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, therookotr.com) is where you’ll want to head. Liberty’s Bar & Bottle (1427 Main St., 513-429-2461) specializes in European wine and beers, with half-pours and bottles to go. The Skeleton Root (38 W. McMicken Ave., Over-the-Rhine, skeletonroot.com) is new winery and tasting room in OTR that pays homage to Cincy’s wine-making past. For a classic, visit Arnold’s Bar and Grill (210 E. Eighth St., Downtown, arnoldsbarandgrill.com), the oldest tavern in town. If you’re willing to cross the river, try out Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar (629 Main St., Covington, Ky., wellmannsbrands.com/okbb) for the best, you guessed it, bourbon. Rooftop patios and hotel bars offer unique drinking experiences downtown. Head to the contemporary art gallery and boutique lodging experience 21c Museum Hotel (609 Walnut St., Downtown, 21cmuseumhotels.com/cincinnati), voted the best hotel in America by Condé Nast Traveler readers. Take a secret elevator up to their rooftop terrace and watch the sun go down over downtown with a cocktail in hand. For an equally panoramic but greener view, Top of the Park (506 E. Fourth St., Downtown, topoftheparkcincinnati.com) at the Mariott Residence Inn overlooks historic Lytle Park, where a rare beardless statue of Abraham Lincoln stands sentry. For a drink on the ground floor, enjoy a Great Gatsby-esque Fleuri 75 (gin and champagne) at the Bar at Palm Court (Hilton Netherland Plaza, 35 W. Fifth St., Downtown, orchidsatpalmcourt.com) on a bar that was once a ticket booth at Union Terminal.

click to enlarge Rhinegeist - Photo: Jesse Fox
Photo: Jesse Fox
Rhinegeist

BREWERIES OTR is home to an entire Brewery District, launched in the 1800s by German brewers and decimated by Prohibition. Today, the Brewery District is exploding with new microbrewers inhabiting the once-abandoned skeletons of former beer giants. Named one of the top 10 best bars in the country by USA Today, Rhinegeist (1910 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, rhinegeist.com) — “the ghost of the Rhine” — is housed in a historic Christian Moerlein bottling plant from the 1890s. Updated with amenities like flat-screen TVs, ping pong and cornhole, the industrial taproom welcomes all drinkers to imbibe from their selection of hoppy brews and ciders. The rooftop deck is open weather permitting.. Down the street, Taft’s Ale House (1429 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, taftsalehouse.com), named after president/Cincinnatian William Howard Taft, offers creative craft brews and a curated menu in a former German church. The Christian Moerlein Malt House Taproom (1621 Moore St., Over-the-Rhine, christianmoerlein.com) offers free tours into the 19th-century underground caverns used by the building’s former inhabitants — plus $5 fresh-tapped pints and frankfurters. At Darkness Brewing (224 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue, Ky., facebook.com/darknessbrewing) they specialize in brewing dark beers — and joining the darkside has never felt so good. The garage-inspired brewery and taproom at Braxton Brewing Company (27 W. 7th St., Covington, Ky., braxtonbrewing.com) was the first in the world with gigabit internet. MadTree Brewing Company (5164 Kennedy Ave., Oakley, madtreebrewing.com) just launched a “blood orange” version of their beer, PsycHOPathy, that you probably want to try. At Nine Giant Brewing (6095 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge, ninegiant.com) they care just as much about the hand-crafted food as they do about the hand-crafted beer.

DO

click to enlarge Elm & Iron - Photo: Jesse Fox
Photo: Jesse Fox
Elm & Iron

SHOP — Shop OTR's bevy of local boutiques. Sloane Boutique (1216 Vine St., sloaneboutique.com) meets clothing needs for the style-blogger set. Continuum (1407 Vine St., facebook.com/continuumbazaar) is a concept shop showcasing indie designers, Elm & Iron (1326 Vine St., elmandiron.com) sells industrial vintage homegoods and MiCa 12/v (1201 Vine St., shopmica.com) has locally made gifts. For upscale underpinnings and ethical intimates, visit Swoon (1421 Vine St., @swoon_otr). Article (1150 Vine St., articlemenswear.com) features durable menswear and has its own sister store, Idlewild Woman (1230 Vine St., facebook.com/idlewildwoman), with all the indigo, chambray and tunics you need. Homage (1232 Vine St., homage.com) sells vintage-inspired T-shirts and apparel that focus on hometown and sports-team pride. Righno (1417 Vine St., righno.com) offers dudes European, Australian and California streetwear styles. Next door, the showroom of local interchangeable glasses start-up Frameri (1419 Vine St., frameri.com) sells hip Italian-made frames and lenses to help correct color blindness. Mannequin Boutique (1311 Main St., mannequinboutique.org) collects high-end vintage and donates sales proceeds to local nonprofits.

click to enlarge Washington Park - Photo: Jesse Fox
Photo: Jesse Fox
Washington Park

EXPLORE — The six-acre Washington Park (1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, washingtonpark.org) is a renovated 150-year-old public space that offers a dog park, children’s playground and a splashable water feature, plus free festivals, live music, movies and more. The park recently opened an elevated seasonal deck with lounge seating and a full bar (with local drafts). Stroll Findlay Market (1801 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, findlaymarket.org), Ohio’s oldest continually operating public market, for farm-fresh food and weekend $7 wine flights at Market Wines (128 W. Elder St., market-wines.com). The market is also home to outposts of favorite eateries like Dojo Gelato (dojogelato.com), which offers an excellent affogato (gelato drowned in espresso); streetpops (streetpops.com), grown-up ice pops; Eli’s BBQ (elisbarbeque.com), cult-favorite smoked meats; and Pho Lang Thang (facebook.com/dothelangthang), a Vietnamese eatery with the city’s best banh mi. Get a green manicure at Spruce Natural Nail Shop (1235 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, sprucenailshop.com) or for the latest in avant-garde theater, check out Know Theatre of Cincinnati (1120 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine, knowtheatre.com). Go online for an ArtWorks (artworkscincinnati.org) mural map to take a self-guided walking tour — the arts nonprofit paints large-scale works on the sides of local buildings every summer. Rent a Red Bike (cincyredbike.org) — which comes with its own basket — and pedal around town. Now with 50 locations ranging from Northside to Newport, the bike-share program costs just $8 a day.


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