Craig and Laura Decker seem to have a difficult time making up their minds. They also seem to have a knack for turning this indecisiveness into an advantage at every turn. When it came to opening their new business, for example, they briefly wondered whether it should feature a wine shop, a wine bar, or a gourmet bistro. Their solution? All three.
This spirit of inclusivity pervades The Wine Guy Bistro, where the Deckers pair seasonal wine varietals with globally inspired cuisine. Rather than choose between European elegance and New-American pizzazz, they settled on a compromise they describe as “Old World chic.” This label suits a menu that features small plates of housemade meatballs and bruschetta alongside assorted cheeses from around the world. The focus on small plates is in keeping with the Deckers’ have-it-all mentality and gives diners the option to sample several dishes without having to barter with adjacent tables.
As bartenders pour more than 75 aromatic whiskeys and single malts from a healthy menu of mixology-inspired cocktails, a team of chefs diligently reduce the same amber potions into savory sauces. These potent condiments flow freely over burgers and pizzas, punching up classic American flavors with the distinctive kick of Old Grand-Dad, Fireball, and Jack Daniels. On select nights, live bands flood the expansive eatery with catchy riffs and pumping bass, drowning out the clacks of colliding stripes and solids upon red-felted pool tables. An exclusive VIP area gussied up with sleek leather couches and velvet ropes hosts bottle service—vodka, gin, and scotch vie for tumblers' attention. Whisky Bar's private game room hosts corporate events and private parties, and a cavernous, free-access parking lot accommodates up to 150 cars, which is the same number of cars Evel Knievel once flew over—on United Airlines flight 1232.
If you're not paying attention as you walk down Elder Street, a big pink ice-cream cone will stop you in your tracks. This cone stands sentinel in front of the bright-blue façade of Swirly Bears, an old-fashioned ice-cream and candy shop. Customers can duck into the friendly space to peruse its candy offerings or satisfy their sweet teeth with a classic ice-cream treat, such as a float, shake, or banana split loaded with three scoops of ice cream and as many toppings as the customer wants. Even the parlor's candy-making classes and parties begin with a round of ice-cream sundaes, much like wrestling matches of old.
As if the big game wasn't reason enough to head to DJ's Sports Tavern, the pub offers game-day specials, such as a beer bucket during Reds games, and daily specials, such as pizza and a pitcher night. Even if patrons aren't there for the specials, they can savor entree after meaty entree. Chefs slather barbecue sauce atop pulled pork, fry pork chops, and assemble the signature Cincy sandwich: thin-sliced prime beef in onions, peppers, mushrooms, and cheese sauce. DJ's pairs these dishes with sides of tater tots and cheese, as well as occasional live music performances.
The roster of calzones on Doughby's menu grows long, rattling off more than 75 varieties of the golden-brown, savory pastries. Sweet and savory crepes, available all day, come in more than 25 styles, lined with ingredients such as ham, pineapple, brown sugar, and mozzarella, or Nutella, strawberries, and bananas. Open early and late, diners can stop in for brunch and lunch, or stay as late as 4 a.m. to sate late-night cravings for hand-held grub.
A sleek black-and-gold façade and the promise of frothy brews entices Mt. Adams bar-hoppers into Tavern on the Hill’s newly expanded space. Fifteen flat-screen TVs flicker with almost any sports game of patrons’ choosing, thanks to satellite TV packages such as NFL Sunday Ticket and MLB Extra Innings. Bartenders dish out draft beer from a dual-sided bar, and chefs prepare plates of classic pub cuisine, including sizzling pizza and bar bites from the late-night menu.