Cincinnatians love dining with a view, whether it's over our majestic river or from atop Mount Adams. Price Hill's noted Italian restaurant Primavista offers diners a spectacular view of the city below but without any sort of al fresco experience — that was rectified in February when adjacent gastropub Incline Public House (no affiliation to Primavista) opened their restaurant that includes a 1,400-square-foot deck rife for soaking in vistas and cocktails. Owners Tony and Dominic Cafeo know a thing or two about views: they also operate Jefferson Hall, which is situated on the Newport side of the river.
IPH's name derives from the actual Cincinnati Incline that existed from the late 1800s to the 1940s, a trolley system that took people to the apex of a steep hill where there was a place called Price Hill House restaurant. The eatery was shuttered and replaced with a radio station tower and then, more recently, with condos. (It's too bad the incline was dismantled: it was easier than having to drive through sinuous roads in order to reach the sprawling urban landscapes.)
With openings of neighborhood coffee shop Corner BLOC, a few art galleries and now Public House, Price Hill's poised to become the next OTR. The Cafeo brothers wanted to "put an upscale twist on pub food that provided a unique experience to the west side of Cincinnati and beyond" and attract denizens from East Price Hill and Kentucky. The menu features sandwiches, pizza, epicurean appetizers and a slew of craft cocktails and draft beers; they have a monthly beer series called Meet the Brewer where beer-ophiles can sample suds from local breweries such as Blank Slate and Mad Tree.
Neighborhood families gather inside the quaint restaurant and dine at wood-stained tables arranged under a cathedral ceiling.
Pendant lights hang down and illuminate Incline-era black-and-white framed photos positioned on the mustard- and cerulean-colored walls. Windows are everywhere, making it difficult to pull your eyes away from the cynosure: the view.
The L-shaped bar has a few beers on draft, but try the house-made sangria, with julienned citrus zest dusted on top of the drink instead of chunks of fruit mixed in. All of the drinks were impressive, but the state-of-the-art Vero water filtration system featuring choices of sparkling, still or ambient water in a refillable glass bottle is like the crème de la crème of the water world; if this water is good enough for The Ritz Carlton, it's good enough for Cincinnatians.
About 95 percent of IPH's food is handmade, including their dressings and smoked meats. The two times I visited I hardly saw anyone eating pizza — they were mainly interested in sandwiches — so I tried a Green Eggs and Ham pizza ($13). It seemed a little peculiar for a pub to have pizza on the menu, but the brothers mentioned gourmet pizza wasn't well-represented in the area so they wanted to include it. The pizza had a skimpy amount of pesto drizzled on the dough, and the fried egg nestled in the very center was overcooked. Comparing it to a similar pizza M served, the egg on the latter's pizza happily broke and ran everywhere — basically, the Green Eggs pizza could've been wetter.
The stellar sandwiches and appetizers were more within their wheelhouse. Every night they feature a special, and one night they took on the much-debated Cuban sandwich. According to Miamians, a Cuban consists of ham, roasted pork and Swiss cheese a la plancha. (People in Tampa put salami on theirs.) Incline's version added a Cajun sensibility with andouille sausage, Dijon mayo, pepper jack cheese and spicy pickles — an innovative take on an iconic sandwich. As for appetizers, the mushroom pastry ($7) was flaky and had a nice mix of tartness from the bleu cheese and nuttiness from the walnuts; spiciness from the cheddar ale soup ($5) overpowered the faint taste of Maudite beer, eradicating the "ale" part of the soup; the bite-sized, cheese-stuffed olives ($5) were great — almost like a jalapeño popper. I'd also recommend the fish sandwich ($11): large pieces of grilled cod (you can get it fried, too) with a heap of coleslaw sandwiched between a remoulade-smeared rye bun, and a side salad with authentic grated cheddar cheese — not that sawdust-enhanced shredded stuff.
Sometimes restaurants with pleasant views have a lot of style without substance, but the food at IPH is as much of a draw as imbibing on a party deck overlooking the city. Summer's coming!
Incline Public House Go: 2601 W. Eighth St., Price Hill Call: 513-251-3000 Internet: inclinepublichouse.com Hours: 4-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday, 11 a.m.- 2 a.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday