You won’t find stale cookies and days-old cakes within the glass display case at Sugar Darlin’s Sweets and Such. In fact, you won’t even find a display case. That’s because Sugar Darlin’s is an online sweet shop, helmed by loving couple and resident bakers Candece and Greg. The duo makes each of their decadent treats to order, from batches of red velvet whoopee pies to signature 3-D cakes customized for special events. They use an old family recipe to craft their decadent pie crust and pour more than a dozen fillings, such as pumpkin, cherry, and blueberry, inside. Crust-less desserts also reign supreme at the shop in the form of cakes and cheesecakes in nearly 30 different flavors, such as carrot cake, banana pudding, and sweet-potato streusel. Because they make everything by scratch and by themselves, Candece and Greg require at least 48 hours notice or a time machine for most orders.
Five-time winner of Cincinnati CityBeat's Best Bookstore (Non-Chain) award, Blue Manatee Bookstore & Decafe enthralls young minds with a literary selection ranging from eye-pleasing picture books to award-winning young-adult classics. Teach your favorite pintsize person the wonder of words with a tome from the Baby Unplugged series ($7.99), which fosters brain development through an interactive exploration of pets, the backyard, and the Babygate political scandal. Beginning readers learn to love reading as they progress through the simple sentences and companioned adventures of Bink & Gollie and Pigs Make Me Sneeze!, while older readers can explore the throes of teenage angst with the edgy drama Where She Went. Shroud a prereader in a 100% organic cotton humanatee onesie ($18), or supply a plot enthusiast with a green manatee tote, perfect for carrying newly purchased books or tricycle owner’s manuals. Blue Manatee also hosts educational and artistic activities for younger children, which are open to customers for an additional fee (not covered by today’s Groupon).
Essencha's leisurely tea lunch begins with your selection of either a hot pot of tea or a shot of matcha (finely milled green tea). The tea house lets you choose from over 70 varieties of high-quality blacks, oolongs, greens, whites, rooibos, herbals, and organic flavors. Essencha's passionate staff of tea-totalers will help you navigate this voluminous variety until you find the tea you never knew you craved. Next, a soup of the day or miso soup stretches tongue tendons, followed by a fruit salad or a café salad with seasonal greens, veggies, dried fruit, pine nuts, and lemon vinaigrette. After you fill up on finger sandwiches with your non-teacupped free hand, enjoy a scone paired with clotted cream and jam. A cupcake or triple-chocolate-chunk brownie caps off a meal fit for tea tycoons and tea-drinking raccoons alike.
Giminetti Baking Company epitomizes oven loving with a crop of toasty sandwiches, fresh-baked buns, and yeasty edibles. A fluffy stack of syrup-drenched pancakes ($3.95 for stack of three) challenges forks and pancake-climbing army men, and brownies ($2 each), white-chocolate macadamia-nut cookies ($0.75 each), and monstrous Danishes ($1.50 each) complement freshly brewed coffee ($1.50). For midday meals, the Vedgewich ($5.50)—two slices of multigrain rustica bread piled high with sprouts, bell peppers, grilled onions, and horseradish mayo—crunches under teeth and silences stomachs whimpering for one of their daily servings of vegetables. Dine inside or saddle up to two- and four-seat outdoor patio tables, which encourage impromptu games of Uno with sun-warmed stray cats. Open six days a week and as early as 7 a.m. on weekdays, Giminetti Baking Company offers a doughy start to the day, a speedy handheld lunch, or a savory solution to the sluggish 12 p.m. slump.
The creative culinarians at Aquarius Star’s Om Café transform organic, local ingredients into savory salads, sandwiches, and wraps that pair perfectly with fair-trade coffee and tea. The menu offers meat-free munchers a slew of vegetarian and vegan options, including the shareable organic hummus and veggie plate ($8.75), Om’s grilled blackened-tofu wrap ($8.75), and the Om salad, topped with raw nuts and homemade lemon-garlic dressing ($9.75). Om Café's Double Decker turkey sandwich ($9.25) delights eco-conscious carnivores with its blend of free-range turkey, locally sourced veggies, and organic mustard, mayonnaise, or aioli.
Roxx Electrocafe, located near the UC campus, boasts three 42-inch televisions and a massive 73-inch-wide screen that display heated bouts of digital competition across the café's spacious interior. Fourteen powerful gaming computers ($4/hour) enable activities such as cooperative robotic testing in the depths of Portal 2 or competitive right-clicking contests on the battlefields of League of Legends or Heroes of Newerth. Late-night hours yield to marathon console-gaming sessions of Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Halo 3, and Rock Band ($4/hour)—all fueled by iced coffees ($2.50) and smoothies ($4), which ensure proper hydration and appropriate glottal lubrication. As the café's four Xbox 360s, four Wiis, and PlayStation 3 enchant eyes and coordinate drill teams of button-pressing thumbs, comfortable chairs and modern décor invite board games or study sessions.
Brewing a good cup is an art form, and Mrs. Teapots has some of the best leaf-steepers in Northern Kentucky. Try sweet or fruity teas such as Bavarian chocolate crème, Forever Yours almond amaretto, and peach apricot, or sip a simple Earl Grey. High-strung leaf drinkers can mellow out with decaf offerings or try whatever unusual brews were just added to Mrs. Teapots carefully curated selection of domestic and imported leaves. One of Mrs. Teapots' friendly servers can help you choose an electrifyingly tranquil tea that dances upon your tongue and steams down your throat to warm you from core to crust.