The first time I walked into the brand new space of Ruth’s Parkside Café, it was familiar. Ruth’s Parkside Café is co-owned by Mary Kroner and David Tape, who both live in Northside and worked together in a well-known Cincinnati restaurant, Mullane’s Parkside Café. Faces from long ago, from Mullane’s, greeted me. Mullane’s was a popular restaurant in Downtown at 7th and Race, that closed in 2004 and was my first favorite place to eat. Around the time Mullane’s opened, I had decided to become a vegetarian, and was new to this how do you order when you don’t eat meat, but your family and friends all eat meat. It was the first “public space” that became “mine.” Before I invested time, energy, and money into coffee shops and neighborhood bars, there was Mullane’s. There is a certain strange ownership quality that we can have over public places. Mullane’s was my spot, and I loved showing it off. Friends in town? New hip guy? Meet me at Mullane’s. It was always my top pick for food.
On a Tuesday, when my father and I were feeling lazy about homework, dinner preparations and dishes, I could convince him to take me to Mullane’s. When I started dating, it was always my first date pick. The food was good, always good. Comfort food with a twist. Never fussy. Always healthy. There was something fresh about the food, even if I always ordered the same thing. (Spinach Sauté.) The space was small, cozy, and almost romantic. The tables were tiny, and I remember candles. I remember having to constantly scoot in, to let a staff member or patron walk by, no matter where I sat, but I don’t remember ever feeling claustrophobic. The feeling was cozy, warm, and comforting. Before Final Fridays became popular in Over the Rhine, Mullane’s was the first restaurant that I remember that had local art on the walls, and it seemed to have new stuff all the time. It really was synonymous with “eclectic.” The menu had soups, sandwiches, pasta, meat and seafood dishes, and everything was always tasty. Many friends from high school and college worked there, and it was like instant cool points to have been an employee there.
So, I imagine my concern, but also wistful thinking…Will Ruth’s Parkside Café be as good as Mullane’s? Will it live up the memories? Will they have a spinach sauté? After all the Northside restaurant jokes (“Hey, do you know where I can get a taco?”) we were all ready for something different, but familiar. Ruth’s Parkside Café fits this need. It is near the intersection of Hamilton Avenue and Spring Grove, with plenty of parking. The first time driving there is a bit confusing. The restaurant is in the first floor of a commercial and residential spot. Where do I pull in? Where do I park? Where is the front door? Signs were placed at all entrances, and it was way less confusing than it seemed. The second time I arrived, I was pleased to slip right into the parking lot and walk in. (Mullane’s only downside was parking. It was a challenge on a busy weekend night.) Access to the space is through the Blue Rock Road entrance to the American Can Building, between Hamilton and Spring Grove avenues.
The restaurant space itself is quite different than Mullane’s. It’s a 4,100-square-foot space on the ground floor of the historic American Can Building. It’s a cool place, slick, and polished. Sexy even. Very tall ceilings, beautiful colors, natural light, lots of windows. There is a small, but cozy bar as soon as you walk in, and both times, we were immediately greeted. Even though both times it was an early weekday evening, the place was busy. The staff has been excellent. Attentive, friendly, and genuine. The owners have been present, greeting people, smiling. The food is quite good, and the positive reviews are deserved. And, yes, they still have the Spinach Sauté’.
By Lora Jost