I was a fast food junkie and pre-packaged meal queen. I ate at my desk, in the car and on-the-go. Food was a nuisance to me. It was just something I had to do. You know, along with breathing and sleeping. But that all changed the summer I was a foreign exchange student in Dijon, France, my sophomore year of college.
No one appreciated my Quick Meal Queen status there. In fact, the other students pegged me as American the second they saw me huddled in a corner scarfing down a sandwich while doing homework on my lunch break. They said I needed to sit, relax and enjoy my meal. Granted, I still think their two-hour lunches are a little extreme, but I agreed I should at least slow down enough to taste my food.
I started going to cute little cafes at lunchtime with my new French friends. The streets were just lined with these adorable spots with open-air patios.
The people-watching was great, and so was the food. My new friends loved to teach me things about their food, culture and drinks. We’d get in great conversations about everything from the food to foreign politics. I started to look forward to lunch. I’d start the day wondering what we’d see, eat and talk about.
Every day we’d peruse the streets, and if we didn’t like how the food looked at one restaurant, we’d walk right next door and find something we did like.
Now, looking back, I learned how to enjoy myself at a meal that summer. It wasn’t just the food. It was the patio, people-watching, conversation, friends and everything else I experienced at those restaurants on the streets of Dijon.
I’ve tried to recapture that experience here in Cincinnati, but few places have the open-air patio feel I fell in love with. Lavomatic in Over the Rhine and Tellers in Hyde Park each have a good patio, but they’re on rooftops, so I miss people-watching from sidewalk passersby. Plus, I’ve yet to find anywhere in town with a street lined with cute cafe patios.
But last week, as I walked down Sixth Street to Mr. Sushi to meet friends, I saw a sign on the outside of a vacant window. It boldly said "Cincinnati Restaurant Row." I screeched to a halt and looked closer.
The sign read, "Five great restaurant spaces are available now, ranging in size from 2,100 to 3,600 sf. Each also has a particularly wonderful and rare commodity – outdoor dining space." The sign had a concept drawing of what this Restaurant Row soon will look like. The drawing looked like it had been perfectly captured from my dreams. This is what I had been looking for. I thought "This is exactly what the heart of our urban core needs!"
I’m in huge support of this new development, and I can’t wait to see which restaurateurs step up to plate. Ha! Literally!
To learn more about this tummy rumblin’ row, go to CincinnatiRestaurantRow.com.