Mike Stankovich knows cool bars. The former punk rocker opened Longfellow in February after working at various Boston and New York bars for more than two decades to support his music career.
"I think bars are one of the last places where all people might still meet up," Stankovich said.
Longfellow reflects that philosophy with its horseshoe-shaped bar, which is designed to maximize social interaction. The bar allows people to talk while they watch bartenders make delicious craft cocktails and small food plates behind the counter. There is even a "pay it forward" board where customers can leave a note to let a friend know they bought them a drink for later.
This College Hill brewery opened in February and became an instant neighborhood hit. Want proof? Brink sold so much beer during its grand opening that the owners had to close for the following two weeks to brew more. Brink also became an example of the economic power of breweries to help revitalize older neighborhoods. West Side Brewing in Westwood and 13 Below Brewery in Sayler Park received similar attention when they opened later in 2017.
MadTree is another success story. The brewery drew a huge turnout when its owners opened MadTree 2.0 in Oakley on Feb. 11. The brewery converted a former factory and airplane hanger into a massive taproom with nearly 60 taps, an outdoor beer garden, brewhouse, Catch-A-Fire pizza kitchen and event facility. Rivertown Brewery and Taft's Ale House also opened new, larger locations this year.
The owners of Revel promised their Over-the-Rhine winery would feel like home before it opened in April. The small, casual first-floor bar and second-floor event space exude that vibe with wine, cocktails and unique events that make Revel stand out in the Over-the-Rhine bar scene.
Higher Gravity took the old drinking song "99 bottles of beer" to a new level when it opened in July in Northside. The brainchild of owners Nick Belleman and Jason Parnes, Higher Gravity blends the feel of a retail store, bar and brewery. It also boasts an impressive 500-plus beer stock, with 14 drafts on tap and 60 types of wine, too.
The historic Bay Horse Cafe and Road House reopened for business in July after being closed since the early 2000s. The Bay Horse's history as a saloon dates to the early 1900s, and owner Frank Berger restored the bar -- including its iconic neon sign above the front door.
This East End bar and restaurant was destined to be a success after it opened in August. That's because the Hi-Mark is the creation of two popular Cincinnati restaurant groups, the Lang Thang Group and Eli’s BBQ. In November the low-key bar received an approving nod from Zagat as one of Cincinnati's hottest new spots to grab a drink.
The Roosevelt Room was a perfect addition to Liberty Center when it opened in October. The round bar and warm lighting definitely make you want to settle in with a craft cocktail or beer. The Roosevelt Room is one of two new bars by Four Entertainment Group (4EG) to make this year's list.