Beyond Findlay Market
Cincinnati began as a small settlement on the banks of the Ohio River. With the emergence of the steamboat era and the completion of the Miami and Erie Canal, the frontier town quickly grew into a bustling metropolis. Waves of immigrants added to population density and people began to build homes and businesses farther from the river and on the surrounding hillsides. Pioneers forged new paths and explored unknown regions.
Now, in the 21st Century, it seems history is repeating itself in the Over-the-Rhine (OTR) neighborhood. A movement that started with civic leaders and the private non-profit Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) blazed a trail that stretched the boundaries of economic development beyond the traditional central business district. They convinced Chef Jean-Robert de Cavel to open a restaurant at 1211 Vine Street. As Lora Arduser described in her April 16, 2008, City Beat review, Lavomatic became “one of the crown jewels in the up-and-coming area in Over-the-Rhine known as the Gateway Quarter.”
Ten years later, the area from Central Parkway to Liberty Street is teeming with locally owned restaurants, bars, retail shops, commercial spaces, and residential units. A neighborhood where people were afraid to drive just a few years ago is now so busy you hear complaints about a lack of parking. Consequently, those with vision are exploring the streets farther north, near and even beyond the iconic Findlay Market. Enter again, the pioneers.
After a few years with Lavomatic, Jean-Robert had moved on and opened several other Cincinnati restaurants including French Crust Cafe in 2013 at 915 Vine Street. Whether it was the familiarity of Findlay Market or the desire to be among the first restaurants near it, Jean-Robert and his business partner and pastry chef Jean-Philippe Solnom relocated French Crust Cafe in 2016 to 202 W. Elder. Thus, Findlay Market had a new neighbor across the street, a Parisian-style cafe and bistro, and the race was on to join the movement to develop the area around the market.
Many others have played a role in the rebirth of the neighborhood. Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. was “the beer that built Cincinnati,” and has been at the forefront of the brewing heritage revival north of Liberty. In 2013, Rhinegeist Brewery arrived on the scene when they brewed their first batch of beer in Moerlein’s old bottling plant. Artichoke opened the doors of its curated cookware store in 2015, paving the way for retail development around the market. Shortly thereafter, the non-profit Findlay Kitchen began offering entrepreneurs a modern shared commercial kitchen facility with a built-in support system to start or grow a food-related business. Recently, Social OTR has joined in by launching a culinary training restaurant that will also serve the public. Walk a block or two in any direction and you will find an urban winery, an artisan cheese shop, an axe-throwing venue and bar, a tailor shop, several restaurants, and a number of other unique specialty shops, none of which were here three years ago.
The latest OTR announcements come from Model Group as it continues to develop Market Square on the Race Street side of Findlay Market. In cooperation with the market, a food and bar hall is in the works as a means to build on the success of the Findlay Kitchen. Just a few steps away, local chef and James Beard semifinalist Jose’ Salazar will open his third Cincinnati restaurant. His arrival means the market district will soon herald a celebrity chef-owned restaurant on either end of the oldest continuously operating public market in Ohio. Findlay Market will have its culinary bookends, and Jean-Robert and Jose’ will have blazed a new kind of trail with inspiration for other chefs and restauranteurs.
If you build it, they will come. Just as they did with the Gateway Quarter, they will come to eat, to shop, to play, and also to live in this neighborhood north of Liberty Street. The demand for housing has been answered not only by Model Group and other property development companies, but also by small individual investors who see the promise of this historic neighborhood. Whether for retail, commercial, residential, or non-profit use, the sight of vacant, neglected buildings restored to full use is a tribute to the pioneers, the risk takers, and the creatives who see beyond the market.
Learn more and enjoy appetizers and drinks on our Beyond the Market Tour. Calendar and reservations available online at www.cincinnatifoodtours.com. Private tours available for groups of 8. Contact Barb for more information.