I was tricked (probably by myself) into going downtown on Thursday. A story on the morning news told of artifacts unearthed by an ongoing major development of the Cincinnati riverfront, The Banks. It mentioned the articles being transferred to the Cincinnati Museum Center’s Research Center and gave a time of 9:30. Somehow I read into that the idea that the artifacts would actually be on display for the day. By the time I learned I was wrong, I had enjoyed a delightful breakfast,
I thought seeing the artifacts would be good and decided that, if I was making an earlyish trip downtown, I ought to take in a new breakfast spot. Annabel’s doesn’t have its own website but has been getting rave reviews at places like Yelp and Urban Spoon. In addition to praising the food, almost all of those reviews mentioned a crowd and a long wait. But many also mentioned brunch and quite a few also mentioned Sunday. Although brunch is certainly not restricted to Sundays or even weekends I hoped that the reviews were and I now think that likely.
Annabel’s is small. Reviews that talked of a wait almost always mentioned this. There is seating for exactly two dozen people. Today, three two-tops to the left of the picture were full or, in the case of mine, half full, as was a two-top to the right. The restaurant is open 9:00 to 2:00 Thursday through Sunday. One of those reviews suggested getting there at 8:00 AM on Sunday to be sure of a seat. I suggest getting there just about whenever you feel like it on Thursday. No long wait for me but the food was just as awesome as the reviews claimed. I had the Carrot Cake Faux Toast which the menu describes as “French toast without the French” and which I describe as delicious. As I told the waitress, I was almost as impressed with the honey/syrup server as I was with the food. The top bit lifts off of the bottom bit and pressing the lever dispenses syrup through a hole in the bottom. Even if it dripped, which it didn’t, it would drip into the base and not in your lap. Brilliant!
The Thursday evening news also had a segment on the artifacts. Some of the items, such as nineteenth century bottles, were shown but the segment ended with a clear message that, though a public display of the artifacts is planned, that’s not yet the case. The morning version might have been somewhat misleading or I might very well have mislead myself. In either case, on Thursday morning I found myself on the west side of downtown Cincinnati in need of a new plan. Not a problem. Some conflict had interfered with recent plans to visit an exhibit at the nearby Betts House so that became a perfect substitute.
The Betts House was built in 1804 using brick made on site. It started as a two-room farm house and grew to a two-story eight-room residence as the city grew around it. The house that was once far beyond the settlement’s boundaries, now has to include the qualifier “downtown” in its claims. The website identifies it as “the oldest residential structure in the downtown Cincinnati area”. The house was restored in the 1980s and opened as the Betts House Research Center in 1996. The “Research Center” part of the name came from plans to establish a reference library in the house but that turned out not to be feasible. Director Julie Carpenter calls the Betts House a “museum without collection”. The house itself is certainly a worthwhile exhibit and it usually has something else, like a photo or painting exhibit, going on, too.
Its current exhibit is The Big Shake – How the 1811-1812 New Madrid Earthquakes Rocked the Ohio River Valley. When I first read about the exhibit I wanted to see it but I really didn’t make any particular connection with the house. I thought of it as simply a display and a space coming together. The exhibit — and Carpenter, who organized the exhibit and provides an introduction — soon straightened me out. Though the series of earthquakes was centered more than 300 miles away near what is now New Madrid, Missouri, they were huge. The tremors were not just felt in Cincinnati; They did some damage. No large structures were destroyed but houses were severely shaken and chimneys were toppled. A brick summer kitchen behind the Betts House was made unusable and it’s felt that a toppled chimney was the likely cause. So the house is a survivor and a rare one. Other area structures certainly survived the earthquake but they didn’t survive the two centuries of progress that followed. In that, the Betts House is alone. It is a most appropriate setting for this exhibit which provides information on earthquakes in general and the New Madrid Earthquake in particular including its connection with the Betts family.
On Saturday the 14th, I stopped in another new eatery that had been on my list for awhile. It’s Olive, an urban dive in Dayton, Ohio, and, yes, it really was once a Wympee’s. I never ate there when it was actually part of the Wympee empire but I did eat there a few times while it was an independent diner/’burger joint. The outside may look the same but the inside, as photos on the restaurant’s website show, has been totally redone. The menu is slightly Mediterranean but everything else is local. “local over import, labor over convenience and service over everything else” is their published motto and I can vouch for the service part. The service was excellent, the food quite good, and the prices OK. That local streak extends through the music, too. It comes, at an unintrusive volume, from an iPod (or something similar) that contains nothing but local performers. A nice touch that I particularly liked.