Road Trip: Flavors of the Queen City Food Tour thanks to #fastparksummer

I love exploring Cincinnati - it seems that every tour I go on - I learn more about this city that I've grown to love over the last 10 years. The folks at Airport FastPark wanted to help me have a fun summer adventure - so they sent me on the Flavors of the Queen City Food Tour

The tour is led by a former guidance counselor here in Cincinnati and he's great. He's mellow and so full of information.

He also pointed out some of these fantastic things that most people walk by each day without even noticing. For example - this wonderful quote from Longfellow right there on Fountain Square all about Cincinnati!

Our first stop was the Carew Tower - an art deco delight! We learned about the history of the tower being built and so much more.

Then we were directed to notice the archways inside Carew Tower - and it's all Rookwood Pottery. I never even noticed it! It's so beautiful.

Also inside Carew Tower is Hathaway's Diner. It's an old school 50's diner with the counter seating and waitresses that have been there for 20+ years.

Since this was our first stop - we just had a chocolate milkshake - which I promptly forgot to take a picture of. It was great! They have the old fashioned shake mixers and it was obvious they knew what they were doing. 

Hathaway's on Urbanspoon

They also had this great black & white photo of Carew Tower when it opened. I always think that I would love to have lived during the 50s - when all of the businesses were opening and everybody was so proud of these new things in their neighborhoods. Just picture that hustle & bustle - love it!

We also got to peek into Orchids at the Palm Court. It's gorgeous and full of more art deco than you can shake a stick at. I've never had the pleasure of eating there - hopefully soon!

Next up we walked across the street to Via Vite - the amazing Italian right on Fountain Square. With this tour - I had actually been to most of the places - but the tour itself had so much more than just a visit to a restaurant - it was a history lesson and getting THE BEST from each place!

They have an open kitchen with a few seats right there - and we got to sit there - my favorite spot! I love watching the kitchen. This guy was filling squash blossoms for dinner - to which Larry said, "You eat a FLOWER?" Yup!

We got to try a couple of bruschettas - one with goat cheese & artichoke and the other with red pepper. Larry preferred the goat cheese (surprisingly) and I preferred the red pepper. The bread was fresh and crispy, the toppings light and fluffy, the combo - yummy!

Via Vite also has a gorgeous patio that they've recently expanded and it overlooks Fountain Square. It's great for a party or just sitting out for dinner with your honey!

Via Vite on Urbanspoon

While we walked to our next destination we saw this sign in the former Tom's Pot Pie's location. Jean-Robert is opening his second place! Woohoo! 

As we were heading down Court Street, we learned a little something about these posts. They are fully wired with electricity and were meant for a Farmers Market that didn't make it through the years. Major bummer - can't you picture Court Street filled with farmers carts and shoppers! Argh!

Our next stop was It's Just Crepes. I've been many times as I used to work a block from their 4th Street location. Freshness is key at IJC - everything is made right in front of you with fresh ingredients. The crepes are made with eggs - so Larry took a rain check here.

It was great because every place we went - our guide got us the specialty or the best offering - so it was nice to not have to think and try new things at all of these awesome restaurants! 

It's Just Crepes on Urbanspoon

Next up was Tom + Chee - the grilled cheese & tomato soup place that got its start as a tent on Fountain Square during the ice rink season and now has been on Shark Tank & Travel Channel!

We got to try the GRILLED CHEESE DONUT. Let me tell you - I was a bit nervous about this. I had heard of it for years but really thought it sounded awful! A glazed donut cut in half and grilled inside out with sharp cheddar on the inside. I have to admit - sitting in front of me - it did look pretty damn good. And the donuts are egg free (much to Larry's delight).

So yeah - this happened.

OMG amazing. This is DELICIOUS. I literally don't have words to express how good it was. The cheddar was great and you need the sharp to cut through the sugar from the donut. So freaking good. How could I ever doubt them?!

Tom+Chee on Urbanspoon

We also saw the beautiful murals around the city done by ArtWorks - which is composed of high school and college students that beautify our city. Check out some of their 2012 before & after photos - you'll be amazed. This one is right near Kroger's office downtown.

So next we walked to OTR to Venice on Vine to find out about an amazing organization that also serves some damn good pizza.

Venice on Vine is actually a small business run by Power Inspires Progress which serves the mission to provide positive, meaningful work opportunities for adults with employment barriers. Participants take part in a 52-week training program that takes them from dishwashing to serving and everything in between. It's an amazing program and we get to reap the rewards!

Venice was one of the first restaurants on Vine and they've continued to maintain a solid presence. This art is really awesome - once you get up close - you see that it's made of aluminum cans and glass bottles!

Venice on Vine serves pizza, hoagies, salads, pasta and more but we had to try the pizza of course! Larry & I were both STUFFED but found a way to make room for a slice of pepperoni and man was it worth it! We had agreed to split the piece and almost regretted it - I kind of wanted my own piece!

I can't wait to get back to Venice on Vine and have more of that delicious cheesy goodness!

Venice on Vine on Urbanspoon

On the way back to Fountain Square we came across this beauty. I always pet the horses and how could you not stop and check this girl out with her beautiful painted nails!?! (And they're Colts Blue - per Larry)

Our last stop on the tour was Graeters of course. And even if you're a native Cincinnatian - there's always room for ice cream! I tried their new summer flavor Peanut Butter Brownie - it was good but my favorite is still Coconut Chip.

Graeter's Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

So that was my adventure with the Flavors of the Queen City tour. While you might think - well I've been to most of those places - and while only 1 restaurant was new to me - I got to have new items at each place as well as learning a lot of fun stuff about the city along the way! So if you have a few hours sometime - check it out. Or if you have friends in town - it's a great way to introduce them to a lot of the great things Cincinnati food lovers already enjoy!

Thanks again to Airport Fast Park for the fun summer adventure. They have two locations near CVG airport and I can say from first-hand use - Airport Fast Park is the ONLY way to go if you have to leave your car at CVG. I used the CVG parking one time and my boss laughed at me! He told me about AFP and I haven't looked back since. AFP is quick and reliable. They get you to and from your car quicker than anybody! If you're not a Cincinnati resident - they have 16 convenient locations across the US! They even have a rewards program which is nice if you're a frequent flier. And if you're traveling with kids - check out this article with links to printables and travel tips. 

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