My Town Monday Cincinnati: Price Hill Chili

I’ve worked in Delhi Township for a year now, and not once have I had a chance to dine at Price Hill Chili. Until last week.

Price Hill Chili is like Camp Washington Chili, one of those mom-and-pop chili parlors that has a bigger rep than the chains in some circles. I’d heard about Price Hill Chili a long time ago, but never had an opportunity to visit. After all, it’s on the West Side, and moving between Canada and the US is easier than venturing beyond I-75 from the East Side.

After a stressful morning at work last week, which included a run to Walmart to replace a shirt I spilled coffee on (Didn’t even make it into the building when that happened!), I spotted Price Hill Chili on Glenway. So I made it my lunch destination.

Price Hill Chili is a family-owned chili parlor started in 1962. It is attached to the Golden Fleece Lounge, which is part of the business. As a result, Price Hill has a classier look than other chili parlors, which gives it its own character. Consider Blue Ash Chili and Camp Washington Chili, which both have a raucous fifties diner vibe, or Delhi Chili, which is an old family corner restaurant. Price Hill’s decor and atmosphere is wood paneling, almost like a steak house.  Part of it is to make the restaurant seamless with the Golden Fleece.

Sitting in Price Hill Chili for lunch, though, makes it clear this is a neighborhood institution. Listening to the chatter of the customers around me, I could tell most of the diners had been coming here for lunch probably for decades. For me, I felt the stress of the morning simply melt away as I had my usual four-way onion.

And now to the important part: How was the chili?

Quite good. Price Hill does a thinner chili, typified more famously by Skyline. However, Price Hills seasoning stands out more than Skyline, and the meat is a bit thicker.

I will be back for lunch soon, hopefully without a rotten morning driving me out of work.

 

More at the My Town Monday blog.

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My Town Monday Cincinnati: Twenty Years Here

Twenty years ago this month, I packed all my possessions into an old postal Jeep, headed south on I-71, and arrived in Cincinnati, aka the Queen City. It was an inauspicious start. I was supposed to start work for a local Chevy dealer only to find out a license suspension three years earlier disqualified me from working there. They neglected to tell me this until after I moved here.

But I wasn’t going back. I’d have to move in with my parents, and they lived in Holmes County, in the midst of Amish country and two hours from any city worth mentioning. I sucked it up, bounced around a few jobs until I eventually got into IT. In that time, I’ve watched the city change.

In 1991, the Bengals were still taken seriously, though founder Paul Brown died a few weeks before I’d arrived. Both the Reds and the Bengals played in Riverfront Stadium. Jerry Springer was a local anchorman. Few people had heard of George Clooney, the son of a former local anchorman and nephew of singer Rosemary Clooney. There were fewer buildings in the skyline. Fountain Square took up two blocks. Third Street was one-way eastbound, and second street did not exist. Cross County Highway, now Ronald Reagan Highway, went nowhere unless you wanted a northern shortcut to I-75 from Montgomery and Kenwood. Northern Kentucky had no skyline. You could see the Roebling Suspension Bridge from Dixie Terminal’s lobby because the riverfront was essentially a parking lot with a few night clubs and warehouses scattered about. And Kings Island, the local coaster-freak mecca? It looked pretty much like it did in the classic Brady Bunch episode set there and was still Hanna-Barbera themed. To this day, if you have to park at a distant parking lot to get to your office, it’s locally referred to as parking in Scooby Doo, which was the name of the most distant Kings Island parking lot. The lot’s there, but the Hanna-Barbera cartoons have since been replaced by Star Trek, and most recently, Peanuts.

In that time, Cincinnati has had three minor league basketball teams, four arena football teams, and two hockey teams, one of which, the Cyclones, still exists. When I arrived, you could still see concerts, hockey, and Xavier basketball at the Cincinnati Gardens. Xavier invested in its own arena.  Riverfront Colisseum became The Crown, then Star Bank Arena, then the FirstStar Center, and is now US Bank Arena. The Bengals moved across the riverfront to Paul Brown Stadium. The city then shoved Great American Ball Park in between Riverfront Stadium and US Bank Arena (or whatever it was called back then.) Jerry Spring left town to become the ringmaster. Local radio talk show host Bill Cunningham went from late night loud mouth to conservative blow hard to his own television show. Yes, people. We are responsible for the Bill Cunningham who is not the bike riding octagenarian in the New York Times but the bastard child of Springer and Maury. (We’re sorry.)

Ronald Reagan now connects Montgomery on the east side to a point on the 275 Loop that connects it I-74 and Indiana.

In that time, the Ohio River has flooded three times. We have had four major snowstorms that made me question why I bothered leaving Cleveland in the first place. (Um… Dude, you didn’t live there when you left?) A hurricane actually hit in 2008, Ike was still barely hanging onto that status as it followed the exact same track another storm did in 1900 after destroying Galveston.

But Cincinnati to me is where I became a writer. I discovered the Internet while living in a one-bedroom apartment in Oakley back in 1994 and parlayed that into a career as a technician, then a programmer.  I’ve met Springer, Johnny Bench, and Marge Schott. I also met the city’s biggest benefactor, Carl Lindner, in the lobby of the Westin, though, typical of the late Mr. Lindner, I did not realize it until after he walked away. I’ve been married and divorced and married again here. This city has played host to 80% of my adult life.

I sometimes get frustrated with the pace of progress here, the conservatism that occasionally reaches religious proportions, and the idea that there is no reason to go beyond the I-275 Loop. (That last one is most prevalent on the West Side, and I find it pretty amusing now that I work over there in Delhi Township.) But it also has one of the best library systems I’ve ever seen – You have to go to New York to see a better one, had my life saved at a world class hospital in Mt. Auburn, down some serious bar hopping in Mt. Lookout, downtown, and just over the river in Newport, Kentucky. I’ve watched baseball at two Major League ball parks since moving here. It’s changed my life in ways I never imagined.

And it allowed me to be with Nita and AJ, the family I never would have had if I had stayed in Northern Ohio or moved to another city or even another state. In fact, two weeks before I went out with Nita for the first time, I was on business for BigHugeCo in Chicago and began seriously discussing moving there. Then came the big Valentine’s Day date, and by summer, I was remarried. I was also not leaving this city any time soon.

If anything, I’ve got at least another twenty years in Cincinnati ahead of me.

More at the My Town Monday blog.

My Town Monday Cincinnati: Kentucky Speedway

KYTower1-lgThere are three things Cincinnatians love in sports: Baseball, college basketball, and NASCAR. The Reds, of course, solidified their place in baseball history with the Big Red Machine of the 1970’s. For college hoops, the city hosts the University of Cincinnati and Xavier, with nearby Miami of Ohio up in Oxford and a sizeable University of Kentucky following across the river in Northern Kentucky. NASCAR…?

For the longest time, Cincinnati had a big NASCAR following, but no NASCAR events. Humiliating. Cleveland has had a friggin’ Grand Prix since the early 1980’s. (I know. I used to watch it when I was a teenager.) Even Mansfield, more famous for its state penitentiary and its toilet factories than anything else, had more auto racing than Cincinnati.

Then in 1998, Turfway owner Jerry Carroll began construction on a plot of land in Sparta, Kentucky, across the river from the current site of Belterra Casino. The result was Kentucky Speedway. It immediately attracted some minor NASCAR races, an Indy Racing League event, and truck races. But no Sprint Cup.

Part of the problem was the Speedway’s inauspicious start. After the first race, the surrounding parking area turned into a mud pit. Not a good impression to make on the racing public. The Speedway quickly paved over the parking area and expanded it. The race itself nonetheless convinced NASCAR to sanction a Busch (now Nationwide) Cup event.

But no Sprint Cup. Ownership pushed. They sued. Then they sold to another raceway owner, one who already hosted two Sprint Cup events. After all the dust settled, NASCAR sanctioned the Quaker State 400 this year, bringing NASCAR’s premier racing series to Northern Kentucky. So how’d it go?

Kyle Busch won. And Speedway and state officials realized the traffic problems weren’t all gone. So now Kentucky is reworking the exits and roads around the Speedway, and once again, parking is being expanded.

More at the My Town Monday blog.

My Town Monday Cincinnati – Larry Flynt

He’s one of the city’s most infamous exports. On the one hand, he’s a crusader for free speech and civil liberty. On the other hand, he’s a sleaze peddler. He is Hustler publisher Larry Flynt.

Born in Kentucky in 1942, Flynt ran away from home in 1957 and joined the Army, lying about his age. He was discharged in a peace time downsizing of the military, but enlisted in the Navy in 1960 where he had his first brush with greatness: He was part of the deck crew of the USS Enterprise when it retrieved John Glenn’s capsule.

In 1965, Flynt bought a bar in Dayton, then used the profits to open several more bars. He remade them into Hustler Clubs, which featured naked hostesses. Classy guy, Larry was.

So where did his most controversial creation Hustler come from? In the later 1960’s, Flynt needed a cheap way to promote the Hustler clubs. So he created the Hustler Newsletter. The newsletter grew in popularity, and by 1973, it was up to 32 pages. Then the energy crisis and subsequent recession hit. With the recession, the Hustler Clubs’ revenue dropped. Flynt needed a way to avoid bankruptcy and transformed his newsletter into Hustler. He soon became a millionaire.

And a felon. Flynt soon found himself on the receiving end of obscenity charges in several states, starting in Ohio. Amusingly, Oliver Stone cast Flynt as the judge in his own case in Cincinnati in The People Vs. Larry Flynt. In 1976, one man took major exception to Flynt’s work. During a trial in Georgia, he shot Flynt and his lawyer. The lawyer came away with minor injuries. Flynt ended up in a wheel chair.

One of Flynt’s highest profile legal battles went all the way to the Supreme Court when he was sued by evangelist Jerry Falwell over a parody Campari ad that ran in Hustler. Flynt won, but the argument was so compelling that Falwell forgave him. They became friends and remained so until Falwell’s death a few years ago.

Over the years, Flynt has become a complex character. On the one hand, he’s an unrepentant sleaze peddler. On the other hand, he has been an outspoken proponent of free speech and has befriended some of his most powerful rivals. It’s hard to really form a coherent opinion about him.

That’s probably the way he wants it.

More at the My Town Monday blog.

My Town Monday Cincinnati: Repost – The Peters Cartridge Factory

It’s Halloween, so let’s revisit one of this blog’s most popular My Town Monday haunts, the Peters Cartridge Factory in nearby Kings Mills.
This being October, I thought I’d take a look at some of the more haunted places around Cincinnati this month. So today, I want to revisit one we looked at back in May: The Peter’s Cartridge Factory.

Situated near King’s Island in the Mason area, Peter’s Cartridge was a supplier of munitions during the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II. The building is crumbling, yet still in use in places. Still, even with cars parked around it, mostly cyclists and hikers using the Little Miami Trail, it looks abandoned.

And haunted.

According to forgottenoh.com, many of the legends of hauntings stem from a 1940 explosion at the plant that killed three people. The stories gained traction after an artist who keeps a studio in one of the buildings left tombstones inside for a photo shoot, which were later used for a horror movie shoot. Rumors of hauntings still persist. In fact, the current site has been surrounded by stories of ghosts almost from the day the plant opened in 1899. In 1900, an earlier explosion of two rail cars killed 11 people.

But if rumors were whispered after the 1900 and 1940 explosions, they became rather shrill in 2002, when a movie crew came to shoot a film in the factory. Cast and crew reported whispering heard in empty rooms and seeing objects move on their own. In addition, in 2006, during a paintball tournament, a man fell through a floor in the factory (a not-uncommon accident for visitors and trespassers alike) and was nearly impaled on some remaining old equipment. While it’s likely the building’s deteriorating condition caused the fall, many see the incident as proof the dead want everyone to stay away.

The dead are bound to be disappointed as the former Little Miami Railroad is now the Little Miami Trail, and the factory’s parking lots serve as a trail head. Is it haunted?

In 2008, my wife and I rode up from Loveland to look at the place. Nita insisted she felt as though she were being watched from a window. The window was bricked over. The atmosphere of the place? Or someone from one of the explosions watching the trail?

More at the My Town Monday blog.

My Town Monday: Movies Shot In Cincinnati

Earlier this month, the George Clooney film Ides of March opened, which excited a lot of locals here in the Queen City. Clooney, a native of nearby Maysville, Kentucky, who also grew up in Cincinnati, used the area for location shooting for the film. After all, much of the action takes place in Cincinnati, and even in the trailer, you can’t miss the Roebling Suspension Bridge or the skyline’s newest feature, Queen City Square.

But this is not the first movie to be shot here. In fact, Cincinnati has had several movies shot in and around the city. If you’re old enough to remember, WKRP in Cincinnati is not the first television series to use the city’s skyline and landmarks in its transition shots and credit sequences. Crime-centered soap opera The Edge of Night (produced by local corporate behemoth Procter & Gamble) used a shot of Cincinnati’s skyline from Mt. Adams to stand in for the fictional Monticello. (Which, it has been suggested, was located in Ohio.)

Getting back to the silver screen, what movies were shot here?

A few of them…

Eight Men Out, 1987: This John Cusack movie about baseball’s 1919 Black Sox Scandal was, appropriately, shot in Cincinnati. Eight White Sox players were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds.

Rain Man, 1988: Tom Cruise comes to Cincinnati to retrieve his autistic older brother, played by Dustin Hoffman. There are scenes on the Roebling Suspension Bridge and in the Dixie Terminal Building, which offers a spectacular view from the lobby of the bridge and the Northern Kentucky skyline. Sadly, that view, which I once got to see on a daily basis in the pre-9/11 era, is no longer there. The Banks riverfront development has blocked the view.

Lost in Yonkers, 1992: The Martha Coolidge adaptation of Neil Simon’s play takes place in 1940’s Yonkers. The problem is Yonkers looked like 1990’s Westchester County. So Northern Kentucky, which looks in places like a World War II era town along the Hudson, doubled as Yonkers of Simon’s youth.

Milk Money, 1993: This Richard Benjamin film starring Ed Harris and Melanie Griffith shows a lot of Cincinnati locations, though it’s not really clear if the film is set here. Most of the film was shot in the Mt. Lookout neighborhood, which means I likely delivered pizza to the crew at some point. There are also some great shots of downtown, and the seedy flophouse Ft. Washington Hotel makes an appearance as Melanie Griffith’s “office.” In one scene, Griffith, who plays a hooker, is kicked out of a limo while servicing a businessman in a parking garage. When I finally saw the movie, I realized that I parked in that same garage almost daily in 1997.

The People Vs. Larry Flynt, 1996: The only film on this list not listed on the Chamber of Commerce’s web site. But you can’t tell the story of Larry Flynt without shooting it in Cincinnati. The bar that doubles as the original Hustler Club is actually a quiet fern bar on the corner for Fourth St. and Central Avenue. What happened to the Hustler Club. It and the entire block were torn down to make way for the Aronoff Center.

Traffic, 2000: Michael Douglas plays a prosecutor from Cincinnati named as the nation’s new Drug Czar. Much of action takes place around Cincinnati. Douglas’s daughter in the film, who descends into drugs and prostitution, is depicted as a student at Cincinnati Country Day, which prompted outrage from the private school

Seabiscuit, 2003: This Depression-era tale of the horse racing legend used the retro-looking River Downs along Kellogg Avenue for some of its location shots. If someone could chime in with a comment, tell me if my memory is correct in that Florence, Kentucky’s Turfway also got some camera time in this one.

More at the My Town Monday blog.

My Town Monday Cincinnati: The Aronoff Center

Mind Meal, used under Creative Commons

Mind Meal, used under Creative Commons

Most cities have either a theater district or a major facility for performing arts. Cincinnati has the Aronoff Center, situated at Sixth and Walnut. Across the street is the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Museum. It’s also home to the Backstage District, an ever-shifting series of bars and restaurants that service theater goers.

If you want music or a comedian, you go to the Taft, down on Fifth Street. If you want arena shows, you go to US Bank Arena. But if you’re looking for Broadway without the expense of a trip to New York, the Aronoff is your place.

Some concerts come to the venue, but in terms of music, the complex hosts ballet and the symphony more often. Sometimes, a big name like Lewis Black will bring a standup show, but the big attraction is the Broadway Across America series.

The Aronoff actually is three theaters and an art gallery. The largest is Procter & Gamble Hall, which seats over 2000 people. For smaller events, there is the Jarson Kaplan Theater, which hosts just over 400 patrons. At the small end of the scale is the Fifth Third Theater, which handles up to 150 people. At the corner of Seventh and Walnut is the Alice F. and Harris K. Weston Art Gallery. There are a number of smaller rooms and rehearsal spots as well that are used for small-scale performances and private parties.

The Aronoff did not exist when I first arrived in Cincinnati in 1991. The stretch of Walnut between Sixth and Seventh Streets was a seedy, rundown block most famous for the location of Larry Flynt’s original strip club in the early 1970’s. By the early nineties, the block had been demolished to make way for a new performing arts center.

The center has hosted such shows as The Vagina Monologues, Miss Saigon, Spam-a-Lot, and most recently, Beauty and the Beast.

More at the My Town Monday blog.