More Than Records and Chili – Gettin’ My 52 On in Pleasant Ridge

This is the thirty-third in a series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods to find what makes each relevant to me. Follow me on Instagram for a hint of where I’ll venture next.

I rose that morning at 5 a.m. However, I felt foolish leaving for a walk that early even if I was trying to beat the heat.

However, I did arrive in Pleasant Ridge before 6:30 a.m. and pondered where to park. Meters started ticking at seven. I had been to Pleasant Perk (showing my age), now The Coffee Exchange. That lot would be perfect. I could end there with a bathroom stop and coffee jolt.

I walked north on Montgomery Road to Kincaid and around a few cul-de-sacs in that area. If sidewalks that went nowhere were the bane of my existence, the cul-de-sacs came in a close second. I hated the lack of connections that cul-de-sacs implied (we called them circles in our day).

Several times, I hit a circle and rotated around. I walked Beredith to Ridge and through a few other side streets to get to Losantiville, staying mostly in the shade before the sun had risen high enough to beat down on me.

I began to grow ansty with only homes to gaze and gawk at. This was a true bedroom community where plenty of neighbors were on the streets, running, or walking. I had the feeling I was in Hyde Park or Oakley due to the proliferation of baby joggers and runners. But I knew there was more to the community than just its homes.

I was forced to circle around Losantiville Country Club and the shady stretch gave me time to reflect on missing Davis this summer. His mornings had always started when ours did, when he worked at Hyde Park CC.

The Losantiville course was not in Pleasant Ridge, but that path helped move me to my next spot along Langdom Farm Road to Montgomery Road. I passed the Bi-Okoto center, which hosts an African dance company that performs in 48 states, and was reminded of the good work they have done.  Finally, I found Cypress Way and turned back towards the center of town.

I cut through Lawndale to Mapleleaf and partway down Lester until I understood how far out of the way that might take me. I hiked up Ridge to Woodford and recognized Robinson from my previous walk of Kennedy Heights.

I thought, “I’ll just take that back to Montgomery Road,” which just happened to be nearing mile 7 of my trek, in 90 degree temperatures all uphill. I wasn’t sure when exactly I had been trekking downhill, but my last two miles had been all up.

Finally, I coasted back down Montgomery and moseyed around the central business district.

Over the years, I had visited Everybody’s Records plenty of times (maybe even a few Sinatra albums). And who hadn’t been to Pleasant Ridge chili on a late night stop towards home. I approached the sign for Emanu, an image of Kristi King and I came to mind. She and I had dined at Emanu with our husbands years ago. Sadly, the restaurant had closed down in the spring. Had I known, Kristi and I would have shared one last “injera”. 

Dining in Ethiopia is characterized by the ritual of breaking “injera” and sharing food on a common plate, signifying the bonds of loyalty and friendship. Injera is a flat bread made of teff, a fine grain unique to Ethiopia. The traditional way of eating is with your hands. Injera is placed on a common plate and topped with a variety of meat and vegetable dishes. A small portion of injera is torn off and wrapped around a mouthful of the selected dish. – Emanu website.

About five years ago, I had stopped by Pleasant Perk after a meeting at WWf(a)C in Silverton. Mark and I had yet to move to Over-the-Rhine, but had already secured a contract on our home. Back then, the coffee shop displayed photography by local artists on their walls. As I waited for my double, skinny something, a swath of pink in a photo of caught my eye. Moss green paint covered the brick of an Italianate-style home and a piece of plywood, painted pink, covered the actual door of the home.

My home. The one we had yet to inhabit.

Upon closer inspection, I knew the name of photographer. Sue Wilke was a writing sister of mine.

I bubbled with enthusiasm, as I told my story to the coffee clerk, who remained unimpressed. I was reluctant to purchase the photo, as it had artistic merit. Certainly someone else could enjoy the view of which we already had plenty of photos.

After I left, I contacted Sue. She offered that, when I moved, she would gift me that photo. And Sue kept true to our word. She came for coffee and talk, and delivered the photograph which is displayed prominently on one of the few walls in our kitchen.

As any writer might appreciate, Pleasant Ridge was named by readback line. A gentleman named Sam was traveling with John Brewster to bury his wife and child. Sam said, “Here is a pleasant ridge.” Thus, the name.

Around the turn of the century, many residents commuted to Cincinnati by the CL & N railroad on the Highland Route, via one of four stops. The ridge had also been home to nursery and seed houses, and blacksmiths.

Pleasant Ridge now supports a few well-known restaurants and bars, Molly Malone’s, the new Casa Figeroa, Grand Central Deli, Nine Giant brewery and the kitschy in an ironic way, Overlook Lodge. The growth in the business district, mainly food and drink, may be directly attributed to Pleasant Ridge community awarded one of the first community entertainment district designations.

Finally, who could forget this touching story about the local shoe repair shop. They too were not open yet that morning. If they had been, surely I would have stepped inside and been taken back to the time of my grandfather and father’s days, when folks brought their #lostsoles for repair and and entire aisle of Januzzi’s Shoes smelled like glue.

The neighborhood has an active community council and recently celebrated Ridge Days with their annual parade, where plenty of politicians showed up to beat their drums and wave their banners. Based on the yard signs, The Ridge will be a key neighborhood in upcoming elections. After that, Pleasant Ridge can return to being, well, as pleasant as it sounds.

The heat that day could have had me beat, but I returned to the coffee shop, lacking now in local photography, but still had use of the bathroom, a sense of community and lavender lemon soda to quench my thirst for the ride back home. Its too bad I couldn’t have the chili since they didn’t open til 9 a.m. which should tell you what you need to know about Pleasant Ridge.

IMG_2225Pleasant Ridge had walkability, proximity, access to parks and recreation and restaurants and the renowned Pleasant Ridge Montesorri school. For a moment, its main street appeal, drew me back in time. Then, as I drove back to the city proper, the radio offered the news and I was immediately reminded of the present issues at hand.

* Addendum: Share Cheese bar just opened this week in Pleasant Ridge. Read more about this incredible story.

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2 thoughts on “More Than Records and Chili – Gettin’ My 52 On in Pleasant Ridge

  1. Nancy Jones July 27, 2017 / 10:02 pm

    We spent 15 years loving Pleasant Ridge and walking abut our lovely treed and tuliped neighborhood with kind neighbors, diversity and vivacity! Miss the old haunts and are intrigued by the new development. Enjoyed the read. Annette! X0

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