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Taco Takeover: The Best Taco Joints in Ohio

We’ve noticed, you’ve noticed, the whole midwest has noticed — It seems like tacos are taking over the food scene and that’s perfectly fine because we happen to love them.  Sweet, salty, savory, fresh, cheesy, melty…folks are doing everything you can imagine in a corn tortilla these days.  And with this delicious Mexican creation on the rise, we thought it’d only be fitting to give praise to these foldable morsels of heaven by etching out a list of our favorite tacos joints across Ohio.

Taco Bell — Everywhere — Just kidding! Admit it, you just got so upset for a second. Okay, let’s get serious.

Guerra’s Crazy TacoSpringfield — The gentleman behind this spot grows his own herbs and peppers and touts that “fresh” is of the utmost importance. You can certainly tell.  If you want to send your tastebuds on an epic journey, try the shrimp tacos or brisket smoked in house.

Guerra’s Crazy Taco Facebook

CondadoColumbus — Two words, Bubba Kush. Don’t let the odd name fool you, just like the rest of the tacos on the menu here, it’s legit.  It comes with a “Peezler” shell, which is a hard shell and soft shell combined, smoked cheddar, pulled pork, jicama, onions, pineapple salsa and jackfruit BBQ sauce.  Try and recite that entire line without getting all slobbery…impossible.  They also have a location in Pittsburgh, but we don’t care about that.

Condado’s Tacos Facebook

OH TacoSandusky — Oh, so you want a view of the Great Lakes while you’re munching on a delightful beer battered tilapia taco?  Well look at that, we’ve found a place for you! Albeit fairly new to the restaurant scene, OH Taco more than makes up for its young age with superb authentic Mexican street tacos and a unique atmosphere.  Connected to the wonderful boutique-style Hotel Kilbourne and its lobby bar dubbed Moseley’s, patrons here have more than enough choices of venue to go around.  Vegetarian?  Try the portabello taco with fire roasted poblano peppers for an explosion of south of the border flavor. Did we mention there’s a rooftop bar, too?

OH Taco Facebook

MomochoCleveland — With one in Lakewood and one in Ohio City, east side Clevelanders have it good…really good. This funky spot focuses on “Mod Mex” cuisine and does it well, and the particular part of that culinary style we’re interested in is the taquitos, or rolled tacos.  All taquitos come with five soft corn tortillas, whether it’s the outrageously tasty coffee + chili ancho braised brisket or the beef tongue pastrami.  Worried about that second one? Don’t be, it’s so good it’ll make you forget you’re eating tongue. Wash it all down with one of their signature flavored margaritas — We like to go for the Red Bell Pepper.

Momocho Facebook

Los Gauchos — Columbus — If you’re lucky enough to have already happened upon this local’s spot, then you also already know that the taco el pastor here is northing short of life changing. And if you haven’t found this place yet, go. Go now!  A perfect combination of slow-cooked marinated pork, cilantro, pineapple and onions served on two soft corn tortillas…you can’t see it, but the “s” on our keyboard has a little bit of drool on it.  Los Guachos has two locations, one in Columbus and another in Gahanna.

Los Guachos Facebook

MazuntaCincinnati — Steak? Fish? Pork? It really doesn’t matter what taco you decide to have at this place, they’re all melt-in-your-mouth good.  Just for extra measure though, try the pork tacos served with cotija cheese…absolutely ridiculous.  This small joint has a beach vibe that’s unlike anything you’ve most likely seen in the states and really makes you feel like you’ve been transported to Oaxaca.  On top of all of the goods, prices are very affordable.  Make sure to try the horchata, fresh chips and salsa bar as well.  You know what? Try everything, you won’t be disappointed.

Mazunte Facebook

Casa Nueva Restaurant & CantinaAthens — It’s true we have a soft spot of Athens and Casa falls right in line with what’s so good about this little southern Ohio town.  It’s just different.  Different and spectacular.  Owned by the workers, the foundation of this restaurant is vastly different from most — Want to leave a tip? They’ll take it, but instead of going in their pocket, it will be donated to a local Athens organization.  Make sure you come hungry though because the food here is abundant and the tacos are usually large. Also, keep the number of margaritas you have to a few, as they’re not your average. Wink, wink, they’re strong.  If you can swing it, stop in on a Wednesday, order the puerco pibil and then watch everyone look at you like you’re a local.

Casa Nueva Facebook

Have a favorite taco spot you think should be on this list?  Let us know in the comment section below!

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Sandusky, Ohio Has a Boutique Hotel? 

We’re just as surprised as you.  If you had the chance to read our “Sandusky is Shedding the Rust and Quietly Becoming Awesome” post, you’d have seen that we technically knew it was coming, so I guess we can’t be all that surprised.  It’s just that seeing it in person and talking about it are two very different things. This is the kind of stuff you see in larger, hipper towns like Austin, Texas or Cleveland, not Sandusky, Ohio.  We’re not talking a Red Roof Inn right off the highway.  We’re talking about a legitimate local hotel opened by legitimate locals.  But then again, Sandusky really is becoming awesome.  Or better yet, it IS awesome.

The Hotel Kilbourne is the product of two local visionaries by the name of Ryan Whaley and Nikki Lloyd.  The couple’s ideas first came together in the form of a 1930’s themed speakeasy just down the street from the hotel dubbed Volstead Bar.  Specializing in booze forward old school cocktails, the joint is definitely something usually reserved for larger cities, much like the aforementioned hotel.

front-of-hotel-kilbourne

So, first things first.  You’re probably wondering where the name came from and the answer is quite interesting.  Hector Kilbourne, a Freemason and the surveyor who created the original plat of Sandusky in 1816 back when the town was called Portland, laid out the streets to form the Masonic emblem.  If you’ve ever spent much time driving around Sandusky, he’s the one to blame for all the weird angles.  Thanks Hector.  Onto the hotel itself.

Located in the center of Sandusky’s entertainment district, The Hotel Kilbourne is ideally situated just steps away from the city’s best amenities.  See a show at the beautiful Sandusky State Theatre, pop into Small City Taphouse for some sushi and craft beer or slide into hearth tavern for a wood fired pizza.  Or you could just walk around and take let your eyeballs feast on stuff like this…

freighter-sandusky-ohio

The hotel itself is comprised of nine modern, deluxe rooms.  Visitors staying the night will have their choice of a luxury city view, luxury lake view or penthouse suite.  Along with boasting a spacious living area, the penthouse suite has a nifty Murphy bed that folds up into the wall, making it a unique room perfect for hosting small events as well.

room-poster-hotel-kilbourne

This place is seriously cool and you get that sense when you walk into he lobby.  Simple with clean lines everywhere, yet elegant enough to know you’re in for a luxurious stay.  The cucumber infused water is a nice touch as well.

A lot of the facets built into the hotel rooms were meant not only to create a unique space, but preserve the historic integrity that’s so important to many of those who grew up around the area.  Like these beams for example, which have been kept during the gutting process and repurposed inside a few of the rooms.

beam-hotel-kilbourne-ohio

Now to the bathrooms, which if you’re like me, have to be solid.  You’ll first notice the size, which is more than ample.  Beautiful tiled floors lead into showers that are big enough to fit a party of 10.  Quit snickering, we’re not insinuating anything.  They’re just very spacious.  The showers also come equipped with rain style shower heads, which unfortunately, is going to run you about $150 and a trip to Home Depot when you immediately realize it’s missing from your personal bathroom.

bathroom-hotel-kilbourne

rain-shower-head-kilbourneMore bathroom stuff, because we like bathroom stuff — This place has Molton Brown soaps.  If you’ve never heard of them, it’s pretty much body cleansing heaven.  Blended in England, it’s clear these folks like smelling good and lucky for visitor’s of the Hotel Kilbourne, you’ll come out smelling like Tom Brady.

Oh yes, did we mention this place had two bars?  One of them being a rooftop scenario?  On the lobby floor through one set of glass doors you’ll find Moseley’s Public House.  A great spot with and small patio and glass doors that supply patrons with a panoramic view of Jackson Street Pier on Sandusky Bay.  We dig the vibe in there as well —  Upscale enough that you feel like you’re fairly important, but just mellow enough so you watch an Indians game and not feel like you need turn up your nose.  A carefully thought out selection of wines fits perfectly next to a few select cocktails and of course all of the assumed accoutrements of a nicely stocked lounge.

moseleys-public-house

While the lobby bar is open seven days of a week, Moseley’s Rooftop Bar is only Friday – Sunday, weather dependent and usually closes around ten to not wake the tenants, so be swift on your fourth floor voyage.  Once you’re up there however, the place offers up a spectacular view of Sandusky Bay and the surrounding Lake Erie region.  Be sure to grab yourself a Modelo Especial on draught, as they’re only $3.00.

rooftop

So if you need a good night’s sleep before hitting Put-in-Bay, staying for a Cedar Point weekend or just simply just in town for a drink, check this place out.  You’ll see just exactly why we’re so stoked on Sandusky, Ohio.

15 Places in Ohio You Must Visit in 2016

Making favorite lists is terribly hard, but with the new year already upon us it only makes sense to reflect on where we’ve been in 2015.  So although nearly impossible, I’ve tried my best to whittle down a list of favorite Ohio spots into a mere 15.

Disclaimer: 15 could’ve easily turned into 50 and there’s no rhyme or reason to the compilation, just simply locations across Ohio that we thought are swell.

Close Quarters in Avon Lake, Ohio:  With around 20 bar stools, this tiny bar certainly lives up to its name but makes up for what size it lacks in character.  Packed to the gills with wacky memorabilia and old-school patron polaroids, there’s hardly a blank spot on the walls.  If you’re lucky enough to find the charming proprietor present, he’ll take an aforementioned polaroid of your mug, affix it to the wall and further cement you into Cleveland tavern lore.   Make sure to try the chicken wings, which are contest worthy and wash it down with a cold beer from their surprisingly large selection.

CloseQuarters

Katalina’s in Columbus, Ohio:  The state capitol doesn’t lack delicious breakfast spots, but Katalina’s in Victorian Village is the cream of the crop.  Superbly charming with excellent outdoor patio space and locally-made goodness, I only have two other words for you: pancake balls.  Seriously, their signature item is made with local stoneground flour, ridiculously tasty and filled with things like Nutella, dulche de leche and pumpkin apple butter.

Catalina's

Shisler’s Cheese House in Orrville, Ohio:  This old school cheese house is perfect.  From Rita, the story-filled owner to the mazed aisles of homemade trail bologna and countless local treats, it almost feels like a shop that could’ve existed on the Frontier.  Rifling through more cheese in a year than you’ve probably ever laid eyes on, I’m guessing the folks at Shisler’s rarely get stumped playing cheese trivia.

Shisler'sCheeseHouse

Loganberry Books in Shaker Heights, Ohio:  My first visit to this glorious gem of a book store was to hear avid budget traveler, Nomadic Matt, speak to a small group of folks about travel hacking.  Independently owned and operated in the historic Larchmere neighborhood, Loganberry boasts over 100,000 volumes, which is staggering for a bookstore of this size — And we’re not talking Books-a-Million, as this place is meticulously curated with new, used and rare books of all genres.  Plus any bookstore with Oriental rugs and wandering cats is fine by me.

Loganberry Books

Porco Lounge in Cleveland, Ohio:  Located between the historic neighborhoods of Tremont and Ohio City, this Polynesian pleasure is where patrons come to get their tiki fix and escape from the traditional midwest day.  Fine spirits, fresh squeezed juices and house made mixers are intricately meshed together in a lush atmosphere to create potent, delicious libations that would make Don the Beachcomber proud.  My favorite, trying to get through all the levels of Painkillers.  But if you’re really feeling randy, go for the Tiki Bob’s Concussion — Careful, you’re only allowed just one.

PorcoLounge

Tony’s in Athens, Ohio:  Hailing from Ohio University and fresh off a recent trip down memory Tonyslane, it’s imperative that I include at least one of my 57 favorite places in Athens.  Tony’s must be that place.  If you’re looking to relax with friends, throw some darts and have a drink in a quintessential college bar, there’s no place better watering hole.  Grab a Hot Nut shot and treat yourself to some nostalgia old boy.

Johnny’s Little Bar in Cleveland, Ohio:  Best bar in Cleveland. Johnny'sLittleBar That is all.  Oh yes, and try the burger in this tiny alley beer joint.  My grandmother always refers to good bars as “beer joints” and I feel only the best taverns deserve such a timeless moniker.  Johnny’s definitely does.

Hocking Hills in Hocking, Ohio:  Arguably one of the most picturesque places in Ohio, it’s nearly impossible to snap a bad photo here.  Walking around with your pup for a day at Hocking Hills almost feels like a form of mediation — Soothing waterfalls and earthy caves set amongst lush vegetation bring about something everyone desperately needs after a week at the office: peace.  Don’t care much for relaxation?  Zipline over the canopy I’ll be mellowing out in.

HockingHills

Catawba Island Brewing Co. in Catawba Island, Ohio:  Convert an old marine storage facility into a really cool brewery, dish out some tasty craft beer and you have yourself a pretty sweet establishment.  Sweaty summer day?  Try the excellent Whitecap Wit and if you time it right, maybe you’ll get to taste their oddly delicious Habanero Hefeweizen.

CIBC

Old Forge Cafe & Creperie in Put-in-Bay, Ohio:  Beside being the best island in the world, Put-in-bay has an array of places we could’ve included in this list but had to withhold for the sake of brevity.  Honestly, best island in the world — Pretty sure it would hold up in court.  Okay, now that I’ve professed my love for South Bass Island, to the Old Forge.  Their carefully crafted crepes (say that three times fast) taste wonderful on their own, but when you combine the unique atmosphere of a historic island blacksmith shop that’s been brought back to life, they taste even better.  Plus they have an outdoor, Key West-ish garden bar with a phenomenal beer selection.  Go here next summer.  Just hop on the Miller Ferry and go.

OldForge

Volstead Bar in Sandusky, Ohio:  If you fancy yourself a cocktail connoisseur then this place is the nines.  Housed in an old brothel called the Green Door, the Volstead Bar is a perfectly executed throwback to the days when Al Capone toted illegal booze and bar patrons took immense pride in what they imbibed.  With 24 seats, zero televisions and a no-cell phone suggestion, the cozy confines are excellent for those important conversations you were thinking about having at that last bar.  Try my favorite if you like bourbon, the sazerac.  If you don’t like bourbon, then you’re dead to me.  Kidding, kidding…try the popular French 76, the English derived Pimm’s Cup or the classic Aviation.

VolsteadBar

La Dolce Vita in Cleveland Ohio (Little Italy):  Right in the heart of Little Italy, which is a very distinctive area as a whole, La Dolce Vita personifies what true Italian food and Mediterranean atmosphere is all about.  Go for the street side cafe seats outside if the weather’s nice, however the inside of the establishment is just as unique.  You can’t go wrong with the Eggplant Del Giorno for an appetizer and as for the main course, my vote goes to the Veal “Pavarotti” in a marsala wine sauce.  One more thing and I’m willing to live with the finality of this statement, their sangria is the best I’ve ever had.

LaDolceVita

JAFB Wooster Brewery in Wooster, Ohio:  There’s a good chance you’ve seen their beer if you’ve been to a Cleveland Browns game and probably a greater chance you’ve had three or four considering that’s usually what it takes to stomach our beloved NFL franchise.  Ultimately though these fellas are much more than just one canned beer — These Wooster natives are brewing up some ridiculously tasty beverages, as evidenced by their recent silver medal at the Great American Beer Fest for their Rain Delay IPA.  My favorite?  Step Up Pale Wheat or the Mean Bourbon Bean Stout.  Ultimately it doesn’t really matter which brew you choose while you’re here, I haven’t had a bad one yet.

JAFB

Fatheads Brewery in North Olmstead, Ohio:  If JAFB is considered an up-and-coming brewery then this place would undoubtedly be considered an old Ohio staple.  Year in and year out their beers are awarded gold medals at every competition imaginable and somehow just keep getting better.  Beers like the Sunshine Daydream Session IPA and the Hop Juju Imperial IPA tend to be my go to’s, but much like JAFB it’s nearly impossible to find a sub-par beer.  Make sure to bring your appetite though, as their delicious array of signature sandwiches are sure to be bigger than your head — Unless you have an abnormally large dome, then maybe not.

Fatheads

 

The Village Pump in Kelleys Island, Ohio:  Kelleys Island unapologetically does its own thing and that’s cool.  From remote white sand beaches encompassed in limestone piers and 20,000 year-old glacial grooves, to island wineries, breweries and character-laden taverns, this picturesque Lake Erie island is as unique as it is fun.  With the Village Pump, there’s a huge emphasis on “character-laden tavern” part of that description as you’ll soon find out after receiving the obligatory high-five from Gary, proprietor of said establishment.  Start off with a cup of clam chowder, followed by a perch sandwich and wash it all down with their famous Brandy Alexander — that’s Kelleys Island lunch perfection right there.  And if you’re feeling adventurous, head to the bar and shoot back a storm cloud.

VillagePump
Photo courtesy of The Village Pump

Is there a place in Ohio that just has be on this list?  Please share below or on twitter @ItsAlwaysOhio.

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