Potato Chip Archeology

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I recently discovered an old potato chip tin of the Up-to-Date company of Norwood, Ohio.    The white painted can had green lettering with red outline in 1940s era art deco script, with almost a Christmasy feel, and the words Crispy and Fresh.  Their address was 4920 Montgomery Road, Norwood, Ohio.  On the tin it noted simple ingredients:  Grade 1 potato chips, vegetable shortening, and salt.    There were no monosodium glutamate, or other hard to pronounce chemical additives .    These chips were not meant to go very far, nor were they meant to sit very long on a shelf.

With regional brands like Husman, Grippo, and Mike Sells, this one I had never heard of.

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Ohio  is second only to Pennsylvania in its number of independent chip companies.   As of 2017, Ohio has 10  independent chippers.    There’s Ballreich’s in Tiffin (1920) , Jones in Mansfield (1940), Mike Sells in Dayton (1910) , Husman in Cincy (1919) , Grippos (1919) in Cincy, Shearer’s in Massillon (1979) , Conn’s in Zanesville, Mumford in Urbana (1932),  and Wagner’s in Miamisburg (1978). The New Kid on the block, Hen of the Woods, in Over-the-Rhine came into the market in the last few years.    Both Herr’s and Frito Lay, which operate out of the state, have chip making plants in Ohio.

 

Jones Chips has a specific chip style indigenous to central Ohio.  It’s called a ‘marcelled chip’  or wavy style, named after the wavy art deco women’s hairstyle of the 1930s.    Some believe that Dan Dee of Cleveland sold the Ruffles name to Frito Lay

It’s as if every small Ohio town at one time had its own potato chip company – or several.    Massilon, for example, thirty miles south of Akron, at one time had three chippers: Gold N Krisp, Kitch’n Cook’d, and Gee-Gee’s.    There were four more in Cleveland, only forty five miles away – Dan Dee,  Num Num, Restemeier, and Johnnies.   In Akron there were Salem, O.K., Flaherty, and Tyler’s.    Toledo had Kuehlman and Q-Man.   Even Columbus had Buckeye Potato Chips and Bowling Green had Cain’s.     In fact, it was Ohio chipper, Don Nuss of Num Num chips who started what would become the National Potato Chip Institute, the lead organization for the $6.3 billion dollar industry.

So, getting back to the Up-to-Date Company of Norwood, Ohio.    Its origin story comes out of another Cincinnati company.   In about 1926, Harry Jaspers was working as a machinist for Henry Husman Potato chip company in Cincinnati.   Husman is one of the oldest chip companies in the U.S. , founded in 1919 in Henry Husman’s  basement.   But, after working on the Husman manufacturing equipment,  Jaspers thought he could compete and create his own better chip, maybe less expensively than with the Snowden potatoes used by chippers that had to be stored cold.

Jaspers may have named his company after the Up-to-Date potato variety.   It was a Scottish potato variety released in 1894, that stood the test of time.   It was a popular all around potato that’s flattened, yet oval with light buff skin and off white flesh good for mashing and baking and  promoted for processing into French fries.    Although it wasn’t specifically designed or used as a chip potato, many liked the flavor of Up-to-Date chips better than Husman, next to whom they sold on most shelves.

Back in the 1920s, potato chips were still a novelty and not the snack industry behemoth that they are today.    There weren’t sold in the elegant foil bags that can hold chips on shelves for months at a time.    No, you typically went to the store where they were made or delivered fresh, and scooped them from a glass case or large tin into wax coated or brown bags and paid by the pound.

As waterproof packaging and other improvements became available by the 1930s, the potato chips industry went from a cottage industry to one with larger distribution networks.     Most chips, without preservatives became rancid when exposed to UV light, so opaque packaging became the norm.

So, Jerry took his chip making experience, found a partner in Jules Super and opened the Up-to-Date Potato chip company in the early 1920s.      They sold their greasy, crunchy potato chips first in large refillable tins, much like Husman, and then waxy bags.   As they grew, they developed a network of delivery around Cincinnati and across the river to northern Kentucky like Carl Wendroth’s grocery at Vine and Lindsay in Dayton Kentucky.  In addition to Husman, Up-to-Date competed with other regional brands like Gordons and Martin’s potato chips.       The chip developed a local following, but never made it out of the Greater Cincinnati area.

By 1939, Jaspers had sold out his share in the company to Super, and opened the Mt. Echo Tavern on Elberon Avenue in Price Hill.       The Up-to-Date company eventually closed in the late 1960s, as many regional brands did because of shelf slotting fees, and the power of Lays and larger snack companies.    Oddly enough, Harry’s son Donald L. Jasper, worked his way up to being VP and GM of Husman’s when they sold in 1990.
 

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Hyde Park Housewife Grace Rush and her Boozy Fruitcakes

marthaanfruitcake1950.jpgA vintage red tin for candied ginger and a connection to the now closed Duck Creek Antique mall turned me on to a local fruitcake tradition.       Who knew that one of the booziest and most gourmet fruitcakes distributed in the U.S. was manufactured miles away from my house for more than 60 years?   I sure didn’t.

Now I know what you’re thinking – the words gourmet and fruitcake don’t belong in the same sentence.     Yes, there are jokes about fruitcakes and even fruitcake throwing competitions.     Most commercially manufactured fruitcakes are made with abused ingredients – fluorescent green cherries not found in nature, rancid nuts, and sticky fruit peels.      And, those that tout being boozed up are done so not with brandy, but with something more like grenadine.

The Martha Ann fruitcakes made in Hyde Park and then Oakley by Martha Rush were not made with these low-grade ingredients.     Her 200 year old English recipe called for ten varieties of  fruits and five nuts, and was boozed up and aged several times with six year old, bonded brandy and sherry.     Martha Stewart, look out!   And, they were not just any fruits and nuts.    The dates came from Iran and Iraq, the sultanas (golden raisins) and orange and grapefruit peels from Greece, the citron from Portugal.    Add cherry, currants, figs, pineapple, and candied ginger.  The filberts (Brazil nuts)  came from Turkey, the almonds from Spain.   Add walnuts, pecans and hazelnuts.    Oh yeah, and fresh creamery butter and eggs from Clermont County farms.  The result was a dense, rich, flavorful fruitcake that was distributed widely in the U.S., and sold locally at Pogue’s Department Store.

1928 press photos of Grace Rush, left founder of Grace Fine Foods and her daughter, Martha Ann Rush Philley, after whom the brands were named.

So here’s how the story goes.    Grace Rush was a typical Hyde Park housewife.    She prided herself in her cooking.     But before the Christmas season she made and aged fruitcakes out of her 3574 Burch Avenue house (more like mansion)  for family and friends from St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Eire Avenue, where they were members.     She was known for these delicious fruitcakes, from a 200 year old recipe she swiped from her next door neighbor on Burch, Emma Blanton.

A fortuitous situation occurred in 1917, during World War I, when  Grace’s sister, a New Yorker, was Christmas shopping in Manhattan at Hicks & Sons Confectionery.    She said her sister made a much better fruitcake than the ones they had on display.    The owner told her to put her money where her mouth was.   A small sample was sent, an order was placed, and Grace was in business.   Grace’s husband, Wilfred Rush (1877-1957) , quit his job to oversee sales and distributing of the product, and they named the line of products after their daughter, Martha Ann.

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The 3574 Burch Avenue home of Grace and Wilfred Rush, where Martha Ann fruitcakes got their start.   It was later known as Ivy Manor by neighbors because most of the house was covered in English ivy.

The Enquirer told a story in 1955, recalled by Grace in the early days, during World War I.    When she mixed the batter by hand, her wedding ring slipped off into the batter.  She didn’t discover it missing until after the cakes had been shipped to soldiers in Europe.   Several months later she received her ring, ,and a letter from a soldier, with a marriage proposal.   The soldier said, “If this is not your ring, and you’d like another one, you can bake these cakes for me for the rest of my life, as my wife.”     Grace, flattered, quickly declined, but sent the soldier another cake in gratitude, this time without a ring.

In the height of the Depression, in 1937, Grace Rush saw it necessary to expand her fruitcake business out of her Burch Avenue kitchen and build the Grace A. Rush Bakery building at 3715 Madison Avenue, that would bake and make her specialty cakes, cookies and candied fruits into the 1980s.    In 1992 the fruitcake factory would  be converted into the Duck Creek Antique Mall.

In 1922, Rush Fine Foods introduced the Christmas gift package, a marketing idea that became popular with mail order and other specialty food products companies.   Theirs included a fruitcake, stuffed dates, candied citrus peels, mapled nuts, and glaced fruits.

She handed the business over to her son Warren Rush, until his very public society divorce, and then her other son John (1904-1981) , took over the business, overseeing its sale in 1974 to the Millelacs Company of Madison, Wisconsin.    By the time of the sale, they had two types of fruitcakes – the original dark Old English style, and a light rum boozed one.    They also made crème de menthe and rum cookies, Kentucky bourbon pecan cake, rum pecan cake, brandy pecan cake, and holiday pudding in brandy.     All that booze in one place!

The company lasted into the late 1980s, and then closed, ending Cincinnati’s locally made fruitcake legacy.

Ale 8 – Best of the Bluegrass in Green Glass

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The original Ale-8 Factory on Main Street in Winchester, Kentucky.

Along with the cult of regional food items like potato chips or baked goods, there’s a cult around regional soft drinks.    One such cult following is that of Ale 8 – a unique ginger, citrus soda, manufactured in Winchester, Kentucky, since 1926.    It’s the only soda invented in Kentucky that’s still in existence.  I recently had the awesome opportunity to tour the Ale 8 Factory, which produces original Ale-8, Diet Ale-8, and Caffeine Free Ale-8 in the signature green glass bottles.

The small plant is a short drive from Cincinnati, about 20 miles east  of Lexington, Kentucky, and, with a call ahead reservation, you can take a plant tour on Thursdays or Fridays all year.      It pumps out 8000 cases of the green-bottled nectar, four days a week, along with bottling other regional sodas like Grape Nesbit, Orange, and the Cock & Bull line of sodas.

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Like the combination of RC Cola and a moonpie, the Cult of Ale-8 pairs it with Cincinnati-made, Grippos Barbecue Potato Chips.     Validating that was a huge bag of Grippos potato chips in the quality control room during our plant tour.    Another regional cult pairing with Ale 8 is with Mingua brothers beef jerky, made in eight flavors in Bourbon County, the next county over from Clark County.

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You will only find Ale-8 at the fountain in and around Winchester, in Clark and Bourbon Counties.   But the bars serve a variety of Ale-8 infused cocktails.  Halls on the River serves their version of the Kentucky Mule, which they call  the Kentucky Squirrel.  It’s a delicious concoction of Maker’s Mark bourbon, Ale 8 and orange bitters.     The Ale-8 company website has a recipe for the Bluegrass Burro  – their version of the Moscow Mule – along with other boozy drinks and recipes.

Ale 8’s legacy goes back to an innovative guy named G.L Wainscott, who started bottling soda water and several ‘red’ flavored drinks at a plant on Main Street in ‘downtown’ Winchester, Kentucky, in 1902.    The red flavors were strawberry, cherry, and raspberry.     Then, in 1906, to compete with Coca-Cola, he introduced Roxa-Cola (named after his wife Roxanne).    That quickly resulted in the company being sued by Coca-Cola, as the behemoth was doing to all local ‘me-too’ cola manufacturers.

So, Wainscott decided to travel Europe and explore the facilities that were making something called ginger beer, that no one in the United States was making.   This would give him a carbonated bevie he could market free from litigation with Coca-Cola.   He came back to the Bluegrass from his trip with various recipes for ginger beer.   He experimented with many flavors and came up with a ginger and citrus flavor that is called Ingredient # 2, whose formula only four members of the family know, and mix about every four weeks or so for production.    The secret sauce is made into a syrup, which is mixed five parts carbonated water to syrup on site.     A 1926 slogan campaign won by a local woman at the Clark County fair, solidified the name, which stands for “A Late One,”  referring it to the newest soft drink on the market.

The company is still family run.    Fielding A. Rogers, the great-great nephew of the founder, became president in 2009, and is one of the four family members who knows and mixes the secret Ingredient # 2 flavoring.

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The company is small, but growing.    They can be found regionally in Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio at Kroger’s, Fresh Markets, and nationally at Cracker Barrel Restaurants.      Coca-Cola, their formal rival,  now distributes for them in the three states mentioned.       The company has a great mission statement which talks to giving back and community involvement.   The Ale-8 Company supports Red River Gorge and the Daniel Boone State Forest, along with the military.   Any active military can get two free cases of Ale-8 shipped to anywhere in the world if they pay shipping costs.

In 2006, Ale-8 celebrated it’s 80th Birthday, introducing Ale-8 Suckers made in cooperation with Ruth Hunt Candies (makers of bourbon balls) in Mt Sterling, Kentucky, and an Ale-8 Salsa, both part of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Kentucky Proud Program.

And, although only 1% of their business, Ale-8 has a returnable bottle program, which locals love.   It’s a larger bottle than the non-returnable, with about three times the glass thickness.  Locals swear that the Ale-8 in the returnable bottle tastes better than the non-returnable bottle, saying it keeps the cola cooler.

At the end of the tour, you get an ice cold Ale-8 to enjoy in the returnable bottle, and the opportunity to get some company swag in the store.   The sweet receptionist will tell you about her connections to Loretta Lynn, Billie Ray Cyrus, and several other Kentucky music icons.

The other cool thing you can do in Winchester after touring the Ale-8 Factory is embark on the Kentucky Beer Cheese Trail at places like Hall’s on the River, where you can also taste another local favorite, Lamb Fries, made of fried male lamb gonads.

 

Happy Halloween in Cincinnati Pastry

Bonomini’s Spooky Halloween cakes in their storefront window.

Two Saturdays ago a friend and I were on our way to a morning tour in Camp Washington, when we just HAD to make a sweet detour at one of the best bakeries in Cincinnati – Northside’s Bonomini.     I have never had anything there that wasn’t OMFG good, but the secret is you have to get there early,  because their cult following will buy them out of all the good stuff!   Now Bonomini is one of the last of the great family bakeries left in the city.   And Virginia B., the owner, is amazing.   They really they know how to dress up a window for the holidays to really get you in the spirit.   They had it all spooked up for Halloween and had three awesome monster cakes on display.    I stood in front of the window, smiling like a kid, ogling the spooky creations, and taking pictures.

Creativity is the life blood of a food business.   And for bakeries, those who add a cheeky, seasonal sense of humor, with their special products, AND socialize them, are the ones who are going to win.     You don’t have to have an MBA in marketing to understand that.

So, it got me thinking, how are the other Cincinnati bakeries ‘bringing it’ with their spooky creations for Halloween?   I turned to social media to see what was cooking, or rather, baking.     Some of said bakeries still don’t get it about the power of social media and food photography in getting business.   Some, are maestros at utilizing their imagery on social media.      To those that are the maestros, here is my tribute to their creations.   To those bakeries that aren’t maestros, some sound advice : you really need to step up your game – its flipping 2017 – try some easy social marketing or find someone to help!!!

Out in Amelia, Marcella’s Doughnuts and Bakery have two cool creations – a vampire doughnut, with usable plastic vampire teeth, and a cute Charley Brown-esque jack-o-lantern doughnut.    For a 60 plus year old bakery that ties into the uber-popular Holtman Donut legacy, they are doing a great job on social media pulling in people from the city.    Kudos to Marcella’s!

Wyoming pastry shop is on its fifth owner, but they’ve been serving the Wyoming community since 1934.   Current owners, Phillip and Kimberly Reschke, have some wonderful products and a fantastic website and facebook page.    Phillip learned pastry from his German baker father, while Kimberly has decorated cakes for over 30 years all over the U.S. including Las Vegas.  Her talent shows in their adorable Halloween cookies below.

Bonbonerie in O’Bryonville always brings it with their seasonal confections.     Their signature Halloween offering this year is called the Bump in the Night cake – a rich chocolate cake coupled with vanilla marshmallow filling, and topped with a monster vanilla bean cream puff, all covered in a chocolate marquis glaze.     Now that sounds amazing.

 

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Busken’s Bakery always brings it too.   I’m scourged with living a couple of miles away from their commissary bakery, and can smell everything baking on my way home from work.      They do a great job with their cookie and cupcake decorating, but my favorite on their website were these furry creature cupcakes.

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I’m sure there are lots of great Halloween confections out there at some of our other local bakeries, but in this busy world of ours, if they don’t have them on their websites or in social media, how would we know?!

Meet Me at the Budna Bar & Grill

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All that’s left of a once iconic North College Hill bar and grill is the simple yellow and red neon sign that now hangs in the American Sign Museum in Camp Washington.   A few of its chairs made it to the North College Hill Historical Society Museum, and it’s Ken’s Hot Wings recipe is circulating on social media and in the homes of families who have connections to NCH.      The sign, which emblazoned the nights on Galbraith Road for 70 years, shares a dignified spot in the museum’s event space amongst signs of other local businesses like Skyline Chili and City Hall Café.

When Bud and Edna Schlewinksy bought the bar on the corner of West Galbraith and Grace Avenue,  in 1939, from a car dealership, they had no idea what a legacy their business would have for the community.   Budna was a cute mashup of their two names.  It became a rite of passage for NCH’ers coming of age.    When the drinking age was 18, you celebrated by getting your first dime draft beer at the Budna.  Boston may have Cheers, but North College Hill had its Budna.

They advertised in the church bulletin and supported their local Catholic parish, St. Margaret Mary, and sponsored many sports teams over the years, from hockey to baseball.    Many generations of NCH’ers drank and ate there, including my dad  and his three brothers, Jack, Fred, and Fuzz.    When I was in high school you would still see people wearing sweatshirts and jackets from Budna.   They competed against a neighborhood of bars like the Maple Leaf, Juniors, Swing Doors, Pinto’s, DeWitt’s Gardens, and even the German Bund Club, but they lasted longer than any of them.    Their hot wings and fried fish sandwiches on rye were so legendary, they did as much carryout business as they sold in the bar.     Who knows if it was the fish or the homemade tarter sauce that kept people craving.

Bud and Edna’s son, Ken, took over in 1966, after serving in Japan during World War II, and ran the place into his 80s, until he passed in 2009.     It was Ken and his wife Marie, who many still remember.      In 1986, Cincinnati Magazine rated Budna as one of the top jukeboxes in Cincinnati.   They said you could have a burger with Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower,”  or homemade soup with Don McLean’s “American Pie.”

Chris Hoeweler, a College Hill native, and former chef of Trio bought the place and tried to revive it as an upscale burger place, he renamed Van Zandt’s after the original name of Galbraith Road.   Chris even brought back the special mettwurst Stehlin’s Meats supplied for the annual Mettwurst Dinners at Matthew United Church of Christ in Winton Place that he remembered from his youth.   But, unfortunately he wasn’t able to connect in with NCH the same way the Schlewinskys had with Budna.

And so, in 2014 it became Swad, an Indian restaurant.      My Dad and Uncles would not recognize the Vindaloo or Biryani.

Budna Grill Wings

Ken’s wing sauce – Mix 1 whole bottle of Frank’s red hot sauce (made in Cincinnati), 1/2 stick margarine, add cayenne and red pepper to taste, add black pepper and garlic salt to taste.

In a sauce pan, simmer the above.

Deep fry wings or boneless strips for 10 minutes at 325 F.

Toss wings in hot sauce, place on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 400 F.

Enjoy with an ice cold Hudy or Bavarian.

 

 

Food Critics and Disney Characters

Chef Henri Soule, owner of New York’s famous Le Pavillon, and Chef August Gusteau of the animated film Ratatouille.

 

Dinner parties and food events have been inspirations for literary characters of many famous authors.    Cincinnati has a few such legends of these character inspirations.

In 1842, rich Cincinnati Judge Timothy Walker hosted author Charles Dickens at a dinner party at his mansion in Walnut Hills.   Judge Walker, according to his granddaughter, Clara Longworth de Chambrun, told Dickens of a strange Cincinnati woman, who, after being left by her fiancée, lived out the rest of her life in her wedding dress.    That story became the basis of the character of Mrs. Haversham in Dickens’ next book, Great Expectations.  
Another story exists about inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.    In about 1846, Harriet visited the home of Elijah Herndon in Carthage, Kentucky.   He had donated the land in 1844 for the Mt. Gilead Methodist Church in Carthage, and as such, hosted Sunday dinners for visiting preachers after services at the Church.   Harriet’s husband was one of these traveling preachers.     And, at the time, Elijah owned five slaves, who lived in the basement of the house.     Slaves Sophia and her daughter Elzina, would have done the cooking for this Sunday dinner.  According to local legend, Harriet based some of the characters in her novel from this visit.
For those who appreciate restaurant history, the Disney-Pixar film Ratatouille is laden with similar character references to the dynasty of New York’s famed French restaurant, Le Pavillon, started by French émigré, Henri Soule.      In the animated film Chef Auguste Gusteau dies suddenly and wills the restaurant to his illegitimate son with his mistress, to the surprise of everyone in New York, and especially the villain, Chef Skinner.
Henri Soule, similarly willed a large portion of his estate, half of his valuable Montauk, Long Island mansion, to his mistress, a Mrs. Henriette Spalter, who had been the hat check girl at Le Pavillon for many years.     After the death of Soule in 1966 from a heart attack, she became the manager of Le Pavillon’s sister Manhattan French Restaurant La Cote Basque, that Soule had started in 1957, when his landlord, Columbia Pictures President Harry Cohn, doubled his rent and forced him out of Le Pavillon.
A wiry-thin, snarky New York food critic, Anton Ego, comes to the restaurant in Ratatouille, to rate it after the death of Chef Gusteau.     This character I think is loosely based on the real New York Times food critic, the similarly wiry and snarky Craig Claiborne.      Like Chef Gusteau inspired Remy the Rat to become who he was meant to be, Soule inspired Craig Claiborne to basically create the entire food writing industry.
Craig  was a lifelong admirer and advocate of Henri Soule and his Le Pavilion. Despite Soule’s obvious flaws – his staff clearing temper tantrums – Craig lauded him until he died in 1966.    Soule’s tempers led to his talented staff leaving and starting other restaurants.   A young Jacques Pepin walked out of Le Pavillon due to Soule’s temper, straight to Howard Johnson’s, which launched his career to becoming a celebrity chef.

Disney’s character Anton Ego, and food critic Craig Claiborne.

 

After Soule’s death,  Claude C. Phillipe bought Le Pavillon, trying to ride the coattails of Soule, but Claiborne gave them nothing but criticism on their missing of fine points of service like serving lemon wedges without removing the seeds.    Madame Spalter’s La Cote Basque, however, received great praise from Claiborne.      For Craig Claiborne, like Anton Ego, it was all about these small details.

 

The Lost Beer Gardens of Cincinnati

 

mecklenburggardnesGrowing up we heard my Dad’s stories of the lavish family Christmas parties at the Top Notchers’ Club my grandfather belonged to.     Endless supplies of yummy greasy Gordon Potato Chips, German pretzels, and Fresca kept the kids in check, while endless supply of Hudy and hard liquor got the adults in the holiday spirit.     After getting small boxes of hard Christmas candy from a Santa, the kids got to watch the roaringly hilarious Laurel and Hardy’s March of the Wooden Soldiers movie on reel.     We were submitted to this movie as kids at Christmas too, as my father relived his youth.   Man, we thought, those special effects weren’t half as good as the newly released  Star Wars:  A New Hope!   It was all very nostalgic.

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This all took place for my father at a long gone North College Hill hall called DeWitt’s Gardens at 6508 Parrish Avenue, owned by William DeWitt from the 1940s to the 1960s.    It was demolished in the 60s, as was the fate of hundreds of Cincinnati’s old German beer gardens, dotting nearly every neighborhood.     But DeWitt’s, like other Cincy beer gardens, hosted many clubs, societies, and families with good German food, drink, and live entertainment.      In the 1950s, the NCH Republican club held its meetings there, presenting a four-legged rooster to the Mayor of NCH.

There are a handful of these old ‘Gardens’ left in the city – Mecklenburg Gardens in Corryville, is the oldest, incorporated in 1865 by Louis Mecklenburg.   In it’s early days it staged mock elections of a fictional town called Kloppendorf to help recent Germanic immigrants understand the voting process.   Now it hosts FC Cincy’s Innenstadt Fan Club, the Handelmeiers Mustard Club, and the Schlaraffia Society.     Then there’s the proudly divey Dana Gardens on Dana Avenue in Norwood near Xavier, that will never renovate, at the risk of losing said status.     Salem Gardens on the East Side has been a meeting spot for families since 1926 and famous for their broad array of fried bar foods.

Most of the old Cincinnati German ‘Gardens’ died out by the 1970s, as fast food changed the way Americans dined out.        No one seemed to have the time to spend an entire evening in the beer gardens with extended family and friends.    Those that held on, like Cassidy’s Gardens at Springdale Road in Peach Grove, promoted steak and chicken dinners and rented their halls and gardens out for events and weddings.

When a Cincinnati establishment had the word ‘Gardens’ attached, you expected to enjoy an outdoor beer garden with the entire family, home cooked German specialties, and usually high quality  musical entertainment.   A great example of that was Forest View Gardens in Monfort Heights, which closed in 2001.    All the waiters there were singers, many of them College Conservatory of Music students from UC, and they put on amazing shows for over 60 years.    Swiss Gardens in Bond Hill on was one of the few female owned gardens, run by Minnie Lohman, and made it through Prohibition because of the quality of their musical entertainment, which included a house orchestra.

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Another long term gardens was Quebec Gardens on the West Side that started out as Gries Wine Gardens in 1865.    The Metz Wine Garden in Lick Run was a competitor of Gries’ and a beloved tourist attraction to Cincinnati.   These were the group of beer and wine gardens that existed outside of the city limits and thus the Sunday Blue Laws prohibiting drinking on the Sabbath.    Reichrath’s Gardens in Northside/Cumminsville on Spring Grove Avenue was a popular beer garden for that reason too, before being annexed to the city in 1871.   In addition to musical entertainment, Reichrath’s staged boxing matches outside in the gardens that drew huge crowds, keeping them alive until Prohibition.

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There were many gardens in the city too.    On Vine Street popular spots were John Ast’s Gardens, the Atlantic Gardens of John Lederer, and Meidle’s Gardens.   For the wealthier Germanic hill dwellers of Walnut Hills there were places like Schmiesing’s Gardens at Blair Avenue and Rosskopf’s Gardens at Churchill and Gilbert.     Schmiesing’s boasted bowling, which might have been outdoor German nine pin kegel bowling, rather than our modern indoor lane bowling.    That would be a cool sport to bring back to the Cincinnati-style beer garden.

Mecklenburg’s is keeping up the tradition strongly.   And, recently Queen City Radio in Over-the-Rhine has done a wonderful job promoting themselves as an inner city beer garden.   The gardens at Germania Park or the Donauschwaben Park are very similar to these long lost Cincinnati beer gardens.    But the old school Cincinnati beer garden, seems an endangered species, relegating itself to Fall Oktoberfests.