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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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Free Ride to Put-in-Bay? Miller Ferry Salutes Active Military & Veterans

As if there wasn’t enough reason to take a trip over to Put-in-Bay already, Miller Ferry is saluting the U.S. military by offering up a pretty sweet deal.  And by pretty sweet, we mean FREE!  Active U.S. Military Personnel and American Veterans are invited to ride aboard Miller Ferry at no charge Saturday, May 27 through Memorial Day, May 29.  Miller Ferry asks that Military Personnel and Veterans identify themselves at the ticket booth to obtain free passenger ferry passage.

After getting over to the island without paying a dime, the savings continue.  While we’d like to give a nice description of each place that’s giving a discount, we’re going to be completely honest here, we don’t have enough time and you’d stop reading — It’s so, so many places.  So instead, we’ll just list them. Below are valid from:

Saturday, May 27 through Memorial Monday, May 29

Boardwalk Main & Upper Deck 10% off any food item (does not include alcohol).
Cameo Pizza $2.00 off a large and $1.00 off a medium pizza.
Candy Bar 10% discount.
Carriage House Gift Shop 20% discount.
Chicken Patio $5.00 off a chicken dinner.
Country House Gifts 10% discount.
Dairy Isle
10% off any food item.
E’s Golf Carts
 $5.00 off daily cart rental.
Heineman’s Winery 50% off combo tours. Pay only $4.00 for a winery tour, cave tour and a glass of wine or juice.
Hooligan’s 10% off any food item (does not include alcohol) .
Island Bike & Cart Rental $5.00 off daily golf cart rental.
J.F. Walleye’s (Middle Bass Island) 50% off vacation rentals, golf cart rental and breakfast buffet.
Lime Kiln Bus free transportation & $1.00 off for adult family members.
Miller Ferry free transportation to Put-in-Bay or Middle Bass Island.
Park Hotel Golf Cart Rental $5.00 off cart rental (day rate only).
Pasquale’s Cafe 25% off mean (does not include alcohol).
Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center free admission to Perry’s Cave & $1.00 off for adult family members.
Put-in-Bay Brewing Company Free souvenir pint glass with any purchase.
Put-in-Bay Surf Shop 25% discount.
Put-in-Bay Tour Train free tour & $1.00 off for adult family members.
Reel Bar 20% off total food bill (does not include alcohol).
T & J’s Smokehouse 15% total off food bill (does not include alcohol).
The Bucket Shop 10% discount.
The Butterfly House free admission & $1.00 off for adult family members.
The Keys 10% off any food item (does not include alcohol).

Memorial Day Only – Monday, May 29

Boardwalk Main & Upper Deck Free bowl (one) of lobster bisque.
Mossbacks
 50% off any food item.

We were right, right?  So many discounts.  For more information visit www.millerferry.com. We’ll see you on the island!

9 Ohio Instagram Users That Will Make You Drool

It’s right here we usually like to include a little set up for the story, but not this time.  It’s right to to the meat and potatoes.  Quick word of warning however, do not read this on an empty stomach.  It’s like that feeling you get when you’ve chewed gum whilst hungry multiplied by 43.

@clefoodies — Food Tour Curator Tricia McCune is all about eating/supporting local and lucky for her, Cleveland has a ton of eclectic options.  And lucky for us, she makes all those options look ridiculously good.

CleFoodies

@smashingtoledo — First off all, it’s one of the best Instagram food related names ever.  Who doesn’t love to smash food now and again?  Or for that matter, smash food all the time.  Mouth watering tamales, pastrami piled so high you can’t see over it.  Keep smashing guys.  We’ll  keep following.

smashingtoledo

@cincyeats — While we do like smashing food, sometimes we like to take our time, clean up after ourselves and make appropriate use of our napkins.  These clean, crisp, neatly procured photos of food make us want to head right down to the Queen City for a proper meal.  Maybe finish things off with a nice beer from Rhinegeist.

cincyeats

@therailburger — Can’t.  Stop.  Looking.  At.  Burgers.  No seriously, it’s hard.  We have a cheesy soft spot for meticulously crafted burgers.  Plus The Rail is All-Ohio, all at the time and we like that because we are too.

TheRailBurger

@jenisicecreams — Anyone who uses “superlative” ingredients to make ice cream is alright in our book.  Honestly though, there’s ice cream and then there’s ice cream.  Jeni’s is clearly the latter if you get our drift.  Atlantic Beach Pie — Sweet cream ice cream swirled with homemade lemon pudding and buttery saltine cracker gravel.  Just stop it.

JenisIceCreams

@catawbaislandorchard — You don’t need to be American Pickers Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz to find this place, although I guess it helps because they were just there.  Owner Nikolai Blumensaadt and his crew are almost as good at taking pictures as they are at creating tasty, eclectic dishes.  Word on the street is he’s opened two more adjoining restaurants as well.  Portage Room at The Island House and Lago Mexican Kitchen.  Yeah, we’re pretty stoked.

CatawbaIslandOrchard

@frostedandfried — You had us at frosted.  You kept us at fried.  This dreamy Instagram account isn’t exactly for health nuts, but then again if you don’t like a doughnut right next to your chicken wings that what are we doing here?

frostedandfried

@meltbargrilled — You know what makes food taste good?  Cheese.  You know what makes pictures look good?  Cheese.  Heads up, don’t lick the screen in hopes of tasting said cheese.  It doesn’t work, we tried.

MeltBarGrilled

@theporkchopshop — Holy meats. From Cinnamon Chipotle Bacon to Barbacoa Chops, these Westside Market Butcher Babes are as well versed in pigs as Lebron James is in dunking on Golden State Warriors.  This Instagram page is truly beautiful…vegans, stay away at all costs.

theporkchopshop

We know there’s a huge amount of other saliva inducing Instagram accounts out there in Ohio, so if you have one mind please feel free to share!

6 Ohio Burgers That Will Melt Your Tastebuds Right Off

(Fair warning, there’s a Game of Thrones spoiler below.  In a burger article though? I know, weird).

Okay okay, they won’t actually melt your tastebuds off, but they will leave a lasting impression on them.  Supremely glorious in all their beefy splendor, these carefully crafted creations will have you kneeling to the Burgered God…I apologize for that, ever since Jon Snow was resurrected Game of Thrones references just kind of slip right out.

In all seriousness though, Ohio’s burger game is strong and these six are no exception.  They’re actually at the top of that game.

 

The RailCleveland/Akron

Lamb Burger

It’s not like you have to say much after looking at this photo, but try to imagine the feeling you’d get if the Cleveland Browns won the Super Bowl.  That’s pretty much what the first bite feels like. You know what I’m talking about Browns fans.  The Rail traded up for a first round pick on this one and didn’t select Johnny Football, but more like Russell Wilson.  50/50 all-Ohio lamb, fresh mozzarella, cucumber dill sauce, sautéed peppers & onions, lettuce and tomato — A perfect balance of succulent, sweet and cool.

One of the best parts about The Rail?  You can rest assured almost everything you’re munching on comes from Ohio.  Beer included.  Extra tip: Mike Mariola, owner of said establishment, has another delectable spot in Wooster, Ohio called City Square Steakhouse.  Melt-in-your-mouth type of steak situation.  Seriously.

(Update) – If you enjoy a nice craft beer and let’s be honest, one can’t have enough places to slug down hoppy beverages, check out the Ohio Beer Garden.  Their monthly Beer Exploration Society meetings bring in Ohio brewers that shell out fresh information and beer.  Pro tip: Snag the pretzel bites with your beer, you won’t regret it.

The Rail Lamb Burger
Photo Courtesy of The Rail

Manny’s Sports TavernSandusky

Beer Cheese Burger

Cedar Point, Put-in-Bay, Lake Erie.  All great reasons to make your way to Ohio’s north coast, but I’ve found another.  Cruising north on Rt. 250 just after Kalahari on your left you’ll come across an unassuming building stamped “Manny’s Sports Tavern.”  Do yourself a favor, pull off the road and walk in.  To be fair all of their food is fantastic; however, their burgers are off the charts, particularly the Beer Cheese Burger.  Reserved as a special, this delightfully cheesy beef bomb is all about timing.  Although I bet they might make it for you if you ask nicely.  One can hope.

Beer cheese, bacon and fried portobello mushrooms is all I have to say.  Mic drop.

Manny's Beer Cheese
Manny’s Beer Cheese Burger

The Thurman Cafe – Columbus

Thurman Burger

After careful consideration I decided not to include a photo of the Thurman Burger, it’s simply too dangerous.  This meaty monstrosity may just ruin your dinner, following day’s breakfast and lunch solely by catching a glimpse on the intranets.  Almost world renowned at this point, the description reads like a short novel.  Bottom bun, mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickle, banana peppers, 12-ounce burger, bacon, cheddar, another 12-ounce burger, sautéed mushrooms & onions, ham, mozzarella & American cheese and a top bun.  Okay my fingers are tired.  Just a heads up, make sure to split this work of art with at least one other person.  Or two, or three.  You get the gist.

ThurmanCafe
Photo Courtesy of Thurman Cafe FaceBook Page

Voltzy’s Root Beer Stande – Dayton

Hog Burger

“You going to stand there all day?” is what you might hear if the owner Rick Volz deems your burger order procedure sub-par.  Slinging insults and jokes as if he owns the place, the colorful proprietor cooks every burger to perfection himself and after tasting one, you’ll see why his slights are worth taking.  While the sliders are certainly on the burger bucket list, not to mention perfect traveling companions, The Hog deserves some kind of sparkly cheese crown.  20 ounces with double cheese and double onions, there’s a good chance that this thing will punch whatever vegetables you have in your stomach right in the mouth.

There would be a photo to accompany this, but I was afraid to take my phone out for fear of getting kicked out.  Just teasing, it was a long time ago and I still had a flip phone.  Google it!

 

G & R Tavern – Waldo

Bologna Sandwich

Let’s address it right off the bat.  You are all correct, this is not a burger.  But you know what?  It sure resembles one and that’s good enough for me.  They might as well call it a Bologna Burger, because that’s precisely what it is.  This rule breaker has burger written all over it.  3/4 inch thick bologna that looks like it came from an overzealous butcher, melty monterey jack cheese, sweet pickles and onion make this G &R’s opus.  A garlicky production brought down to us from the cosmos meant to achieve one sole purpose: Satisfaction.  Okay, maybe indigestion too.  But it’s oh so worth it.

G&R Bologna
Photo Courtesy of G & R FaceBook Page

Terry’s Turf Club – Cincinnati

Apparently All of Them

Honestly I’ve never been here, but that’s not going to stop me from putting Terry’s on my list because it’s on good authority that this place has the absolute juiciest, most savory burgers in Cincinnati.  A bewildered, food crazy friend who frequents Cincy recently said this over the phone fresh off a visit. “I’m dead serious, it’s ridiculous.  Imagine a unicorn and a cow had a baby and that baby was a burger.  And that burger was covered in edible diamonds.”  Oddly enough the edible diamond part was the only thing I found weird.

Anyhow, the burger in question was one with a burgundy mushroom sauce and swiss cheese.  Needless to say a trip to Cincy is in my near future.  He also mentioned there’s a lot of neon signs and that it’s a dive bar.  Bonus.

Terry's Turf Club
Photo Courtesy of Terry’s Turf Club FaceBook Page

No doubt I’ve missed a ton and even had to omit some other burgers that are amazing, but if you have any suggestions please share below or on Twitter @ItsAlwaysOhio.

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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