Restaurants & Reservations: Dining in Cincinnati

What happens when a rabbi and a lawyer walk into a bar? We'll let you know in a few years, but until then we'll do our best to share with you our favorite (and not-so-favorite) Cincinnati restaurants and hope you'll share some with us, too!

I Never Thought I'd Look Forward to Awakening

Awakenings Coffee & Tea2734 Erie Avenue • Cincinnati, OH 45208 • (513) 321-2525

His Take

There are coffee shops and then there are coffee shops. What separates the two is a combination of character, service, and taste (having a great wine selection and amazing desserts is probably in there, too). Having said that, it should be obvious to anyone who’s been to Awakenings that it definitely falls in the second category. (For clarity, Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks are in the first category, though Starbucks desperately tries to get into the second one.)

Located in beautiful, eclectic Hyde Park Square, Awakenings is a terrific destination for a cup of coffee, lunch, dessert, wine, or just setting up camp to work/study and utilize their free wireless network (a rarity these days, though Starbucks is making good progress). I certainly can’t count the number of times I’ve been there, but I’ll share a few good examples of what I love about the place.

First, on a cold winter (or spring?) day when you need to get out of the house or office for a few, but can’t last long without a warm drink, Awakenings is the perfect place to patronize. While I confess to not being a coffee drinker (which means most of you will immediately jump to “Her Take” I suspect), their hot chocolate is certainly up to the task. They have a very reasonable amount of seating for a coffee shop, and there are always people there chatting, reading, typing, and often conducting business (go figure).

While I’ve never had lunch there (their panini-maker was broken at one point), their desserts are phenomenal. Now, I can’t really give them credit for making the desserts (check out Frieda's Bakery for that (and here’s some interesting background on Frieda’s)), but I can certainly credit them for finding an amazing supplier for delicious desserts! Naturally, I recommend anything chocolaty in their array. Awakenings also frequently has samples of their desserts available, and I always make a point to try them…twice.

Between the atmosphere, the friendly staff, and the selection, you really can’t go wrong stopping by Awakenings. And with the weather slowly warming up, the outdoor seats alongside the square will be in high demand soon!
Her Take

Awakenings is one of my standby study places. I’m not sure I should share that, since I get so much done there because I’m surrounded by people I don’t know. I have tried many different things there, and none of them has been bad. My most frequent drink is a café mocha (or the Awakenings equivalent), which I thoroughly enjoy. The hot chocolate is rich, and the fruit smoothies (“frappes”) are good—although I ordered one thinking it was made with real fruit, and was disappointed to see that it was just fruit juice and ice.

The highlight for me is the desserts. Everything I’ve had (all brought in from Frieda’s Bakery) has been delicious, although my judgment tends to be limited to those things highest in chocolate content. I also check the counter frequently when I’m sitting there for a few hours—there are often samples sitting out!

They have a small lunch menu of a few panini choices each day. They are not particularly exciting, but they certainly hit the spot, especially on days when you’re settled into your work or the free wireless internet and hungry, or in need of justifying another dessert with something meal-like before it.

Awakenings also has the unique feature of being a wine bar in addition to a coffee shops. They host frequent wine tastings, and one wall of the café is lined with all different wines. The tastings are about $20 for four tastes. I’ve never done it, but I’ve been there during the events. They seem to be a draw for few, but an added bonus for others who stop in and stay for the wine. The walls are decorated with rotating exhibits of local artists in varying mediums (and talents). I love that the décor seems to change between each of my visits.

I love Awakenings as a local coffee shop. In my mind, it has what any good café should: yummy drinks, fantastic desserts, and free wireless internet. Everything else is a bonus!

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1 comment:

liz said...

hey guys, i love your blog! 2 perspectives is a good idea. you should definitely check out awakenings for the wine tastings, it's really fun and a good way to check out new wines (especially if you are like me and know practically nothing about wine).