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While he is pretty bitter and was oversold on the place there is some truth in Dantown's statements. I currently live in Chicago, grew up near Dayton but always had a bit of Fondness for Cincinnati and even went to College there after taking many trips there growing up. I figured I'd pipe in with my own perspective on some of what he says.
The description that compared Cincinnati to Greenwich Village must have been based upon a New York Times article about Over the Rhine. OTR really does feel like a NYC neighborhood, but if said neighborhood went to hell and back lost about 50% of its building stock and over 90% percent of its population. At its peak there were literally 150,000 people living in the greater Downtown area. Now the numbers are not much above 10,000. Its really sad because Cincinnati used to be one of the most Urban cities in the United States prior to the war, take a look at this picture, urban renewal, too many parking lots downtown, and the interstates combined with insane do gooder activists (like Buddy Grey) decimated what once looked like this:
Its so weird because a lot of other US cities at this caliber embraced their density like Boston and San Fran and didn't loose proportionally anywhere near as much. There is a nasty city-suburb divide that exists in Cincy to this day which is bizarre given the assets the city had in its heyday and continues to have the vestiges of today. I kind of feel that Cincy is like San Francisco if San Francisco forgot it was San Francisco and conservative instead of liberal. Imagine half of the Chinatown there being a parking lot for those who've traveled to San Fran, that's Cincinnati:P
OTRs revitalization (as difficult a road as it is) is one reason why I'm so closely following what's going on down there. Downtown is growing and OTR is changing its demographics pretty rapidly (for a city that's not known for change).
Anyways a few other points:
1) Sorry, it is true. After a year I've mostly learned that the brightest and most attractive girls tend to get married very early here. Very early. And the online dating scene is a trainwreck.
This is one of the number one reasons I left Cincy. It seemed like too many people were marrying off immediately after College. Not only that but every social clique was connected to every social clique. It was very hard to really find new people that were from a fresh perspective. Online dating however is always a bit sketchy no matter what city your in, its just a larger city has a larger pool of people and more chance of success. Not only that but if you are even from near Dayton (30 miles away) you get treated like an alien, you didn't go to this Church or this High School or shop at this Kroger, you aren't accepted. Though I'll admit I later found a group but weirdly enough only as I was leaving and after I left (on visits back to town to see family), generally of people who don't fit into Cincinnati's mold (e.g Northside folks and pro-urban "pioneers" working to revitalize OTR). The social scene and thus dating is way more open and accessible in Chicago where people want to be your friends outwardly and don't worry so much about what part of town your in (other than silly sports arguments) and are you okay because of the part of town your in.
Chili) I defend Chilli 100%, but then again I grew up with it and when I was little I was shocked to find out that Texas style chili was the real deal and it didn't have Spaghetti As far as introducing outsiders to it, more like it than you'd think. There is a Cincy Chili parlor in Chicago that also serves beer (even Cincy brands like Moerlien, literally the only spot in Illinois where you can get it) and I've made a few converts out of Chicagoans to the stuff :-D, just make sure to tell them to approach it with an open mind.
Food) There is one area that Cincinnati exceeds a lot of much bigger cities in and its kind of a well kept secret - Indian Food. Its possible to get reasonably priced high quality North Indian food all over the city. I cannot say the same about Chicago, while Devon Ave is fantastic you get away from there and the Indian food quality goes way down (and Devon is ridiculously far from anything else of note too). I have a friend in New York City that even prefers the Indian in the Cincinnati area, its that good.
In general I'd say that food in Cincy is better than it is in Dayton but you have to pay more to get less quality than a place like Chicago. Other than Indian ethnic food is lacking (Thai is rare, as is real Mexican with Tortas bad tasting tortilla chips and green and red salsa). One nice thing I noticed is that local restaurants have smaller serving sizes, which is good if your trying to loose weight (In Chicago I gained quite a bit due to this in spite of a good transit system that has me walking more). The only good Pizza spot is Deweys, and LaRosas is pretty good but in the grand scheme of things not in the same ball park as what I've been exposed to in Chicago.
And that's it, Cincinnati does have a lot of amenities but unlike other Cities they don't pop out at you. Look at MPMF, easily one of the better Indie music festivals in the country, yet no one in Chicago (besides the bands here that participate) really knows about it. Its good enough that a big cultural center like Chi-town should take notice, but it just flys under the radar.
Ditto for film. Small film societies (closed groups) are where you go if you want to see good foreign cinema in town like the Cincinnati Film Society or Cincy World Cinema, the esquire takes so long to show anything of value beyond pseudo Hollywood stuff that its almost not worth going there. The awesome stuff of a bigger city exists but you just have to look really hard for it. I feel this is vestiges of what once was one of the best cities in the country. With stuff like this comes the potential for Cincy to be that great again, but it only will happen when it learns to open up a bit, be more proud of itself and not settle for medocrity on the surface.
Btw, since you are a downtown resident "Dantown", I would strongly recommend supporting the recent bars and res truants in OTR's gateway, Neons, MOTR, Japps and Senate are all on par with bigger city type places. They are top notch and in what soon could be one of the best neighborhoods in the United States if people like you who are outsiders help push it in a direction that many Cincinnatians can't even comprehend it going - Maybe then it will be like Greenwhich Village before it got so pricey only the uber rich can live there. Maybe this will help Cincinnati get over itself and at least try to become the bustling city it once was as evidenced by the photos above.
Addendum after reading a few more posts...
While many other cities known as "destinations" have learned to respect history while moving forward, da Nati does exactly the opposite.
Well said. Maybe those living there and are upset and those who actually give a darn but were turned off and moved away, should work together to help overcome the oppressive tradition bound politics and hatred of a rich history that is holding the city back instead of just complaining about it. Along those lines check this out in regards to preservation (from a guy who posts here now and then) agree or disagree with him, he's got the right idea with this blog, bring people together to make change happen for the better:
Just for good measure lets end with a photo from the 1970s of Vine Street from downtown to the hill at the end of OTR, before Buddy and his poverty pimp hooligans helped almost obliterate an amazing neighborhood: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...et_in_1973.jpg
Last edited by neilworms2; 07-14-2011 at 01:22 AM..
Great post Neil. The one thing that we tend to forget is that while huge population numbers sounds great, in reality they are not always that good. OtR pre indoor plumbing and filled to the brims in the 20's is not something id want to enjoy, even though I will romanticize it from time to time. In the last place I lived, which was around an 800 sq ft apt, there were 8 people living there in the 1920 census.
I don't want to romanticize the tough conditions people dealt with in the 1920s in those neighborhoods, but rather celebrate a more modern less dense (but still dense and lively) version of that which Cincinnati lost out on getting, but other cities like Boston and San Francisco have.
I wanted to respond to one thing DanTown wrote. When my husband and I moved here from Lexington some years ago, we ate out quite a lot, in restaurants with a range of price points. We were (and still are) amazed at the abysmal quality of some places that have managed to stay in business for years--quality that would have led to closing within months or a year in Lexington. Even more amazing, when we talked with long-time Cincinnatians about these places, they were surprised and seemed rather insulted that we had a negative opinion of these local institutions. We eventually concluded that this is one symptom of a syndrome we call "low expectations," which along with generalized conservatism seems to pervade a lot of areas of life in Cincinnati.
I personally don't understand how people like scotti's as the times I've been there I find it barely edible, let alone someplace I'd rant and rave about.
I wasn't thinking about Scotti's specifically, but that's the type of longstanding place I was talking about. And woe be to you if you happen to express a dislike for a restaurant where somebody happened to go for their high school graduation celebration, or a memorable first date, or after their sister's first baby shower. It's as if you've trashed their entire history and family, and labelled everyone as an ignorant *******.
Now that I think about it, maybe this is just yet another example of the unhealthy conservatism in this area.
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