BB Riverboats began with a deceptive motto and a fleet of zero. In 1977, Ben Bernstein opened a restaurant in a converted steamboat, whose motto was “The Romance of Riverboat Dining.” Intended as tongue-in-cheek, the motto instead confused customers, who arrived hoping for a scenic cruise down the Ohio River. To placate his clientele, Ben Bernstein went into business with riverboat industry veteran Betty Blake, and BB Riverboats—named for their shared initials—was born.
Now run by Bernstein’s son, BB Riverboats has increased its fleet to three vessels, including the Belle of Cincinnati, a riverboat outfitted with Victorian details and two climate-controlled decks. On daily cruises down the Ohio, historical narration complements the scenery, while passengers play swashbuckling games and learn to read treasure maps on family-friendly pirate cruises. On the company’s dining cruises, visitors drink in the scenery while noshing on a Hawaiian buffet spread or sampling award-winning wines from StoneBrook Winery. Additionally, holiday cruises honor occasions from Valentine’s Day to Thanksgiving.
After years of honing his culinary craft at restaurants, feeding droves of people with catering companies, and engineering his own line of sauces and seasoning blends, Chef Jason Perkins brings his bistro fare to various locations around the city with his food truck, Eat! Mobile Dining. The bistro on wheels enlivens quick workday lunch breaks with eclectic fare, such as fruit and cheese plates, pasta, pan-seared jumbo scallops, and grilled-paneer sandwiches, made from fresh, seasonal ingredients. Eat!'s blue and white truck zips to catered meetings with custom menus or scopes out busy streets, looking for hungry passersby and carriage horses to feed. Perkins also offers a personal-chef service, sating appetites with his usual fare or preparing meals and hosting cooking classes in clients' homes.
Bellyfire caters to businesses, large-scale events, and busy families that don't have time to prepare homemade meals during the week. Bellyfire’s gourmand gang slaves over hot stoves to churn out culinary creations such as grilled salmon on bowtie pasta with a strawberry, red onion, and romaine salad; and sweet-and-sour pot roast with root vegetables and green-bean-tomato salad. Each meal consists of a palate-prepping salad and a hearty entree with two sides. In order to eliminate the drudgery of dish cleaning, all dinners come in disposable containers, which can be thrown out or fashioned into miniature toboggans for toy-poodle dogsled teams. Bellyfire can deliver meals hot and ready for immediate feasting or cold for storing and reheating.
Overseen by classically trained chef Jenn DiSanto, Fresco's busy kitchen churns out fresh, made-from-scratch meals for people with little time to cook. Clients can view the weekly menu online before calling ahead to place their order or stopping into the storefront to mime their favorite foods. Dine on Mediterranean chicken, sautéed with shallots, olives, and white wine and served with orzo (a value of $15 for single servings or $50 for family size), or opt for the vegetarian pasta alla Norma (a value of $13 for single servings or $45 for family size). Locally produced ingredients are used when possible, and simple reheating instructions come with the meals, so no Kelvin-to-Fahrenheit conversions are necessary.
To reach their table at Spaghetti Warehouse, guests commonly have to step through two doors: the front door of the restaurant and the door of the antique trolley parked inside. Since its inception in 1972, the Italian eatery has merged the functions of kitchen and museum. Artifacts such as grandfather clocks, factory flywheels, and circus billboards surround diners as they delve into signature plates of 15-Layer Lasagna or hand-rolled meatballs. Apart from the items they've amassed, each of the buildings also has a particular history, from the one-time ice-manufacturing plant in Columbus to Memphis's Civil War munitions depot. Given their storied pasts, it's no surprise that several of these venues house their own ghosts—at Houston's warehouse, for example, elevator lights have been known to flicker, objects are mysteriously found in new locations, and a lady in a white gown is said to roam the restaurant.
Yet the main attraction of the place is the delicious food. Like any great Italian meal, made-from-scratch dishes are created from family recipes passed down for generations via email. Guests devour the perfectly al dente pasta, crispy calamari, bottomless soups, and 12-layer chocolate cakes while dining with family and friends. It’s that feeling of togetherness that people love about Spaghetti Warehouse, a feeling that is only enhanced when the drinks start flowing and the air is punctuated by the sounds of laughter as kids play retro games, such as The Claw prize-grabbing machine.