New craft cocktail bar Longfellow opens in Over-the-Rhine

CINCINNATI -- A new craft cocktail bar and cafe opened for business Friday in Over-the-Rhine.

Longfellow at 1233 Clay St. started serving drinks and light eats at 4 p.m., according to owner Mike Stankovich.

"Tonight we are going to focus on letting people see the space," said Stankovich, who began planning Longfellow after moving to Cincinnati in 2015.

Stankovich, a Washington, D.C., native, moved to Cincinnati with his wife in 2015 after a lengthy career as a musician and working at bars in both New York and Boston. He began planning Longfellow while tending bar at Downtown restaurant and bar Mita's.

He announced the bar's location last August, originally calling it Peacemaker. He later renamed it Longfellow after he said he ran into issues with using the Peacemaker name.

Although the name has changed, Stankovich's vision for the bar has not. He said he designed the space to serve as a neighborhood hub that brings patrons together once they come inside.

To that end, Stankovich built a horseshoe-shaped bar that seats about 20 people. The bar allows people to face and interact with each other, rather than just looking forward at a bartender, he said. 

Longfellow also has an additional four tables around the bar area that will seat 10 to 15 additional people.

Stankovich said the bar's drink menu will include a variety of wines and four beers on tap. Cocktail and beer offerings will change depending on the season and which fresh ingredients are available.

In the center of the bar area there is a small, open kitchen area where customers can watch staff prepare their food, Stankovich said.

Longfellow’s food menu will be limited during its first few weeks, but it will evolve as Stankovich and his staff grow more comfortable in the space.

"I learned a long time ago to never take away, just grow," Stankovich said. "We'll quickly just kind of expand our menu in the weeks ahead."

The menu will eventually include simple dishes reminiscent of a European lunch, Stankovich told WCPO food writer Grace Yek in December.

"Since our kitchen is behind the bar, everything will be super fresh, well-sourced and rustic in nature," he said. "We want to provide a middle ground between a bar with no food at all and a full-on chef-driven restaurant."

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Some of those food items will include things like boquerones, liverwurst sandwiches and a seasonal roster of salads and tartines.

Longfellow will open at 4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and noon Saturday and Sunday. It will be closed on Mondays.

"It feels great," Stankovich said as he prepared to open Longfellow. "It’s a mix of emotions. It’s rewarding and also stressful. I’m almost just as excited to get back there behind the bar and go to work."

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