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Downtown fixture Arnold's Bar and Grill voted among '16 Best Bars in America' by Esquire Magazine
Casey Weldon, WCPO Digital
4:52 AM, May 27, 2013
5:12 PM, May 27, 2013
CINCINNATI - The rest of the nation is finally getting a chance to learn what people in the Greater Cincinnati area have known for the past 150 years: Arnold's Bar and Grill is one of the best bars in the country.
In its June issue, Esquire Magazine lists the bar that has survived the Prohibition era, four owners and an ever-changing social landscape since opening in 1861 among its "16 Best Bars in America."
The bar's current proprietor, Ronda Androski, said she was surprised to learn that Arnold's was included in the article. Not because she doubted the caliber of her establishment, but because she never knew the bar was in the running.
"One day we received a request for some photos but we didn't really know why at first," said Androski who purchased the bar from her long-time employer at the bar, Jim Tarbell. "Apparently the person who was doing the ranking showed up and never told us we were in the running!"
The Esquire article, which is written by cocktail writer and historian David Wondrich, isn't the first round of national attention the Eighth Street fixture has received. Arnold's has also appeared in a Travel and Leisure Magazine article titled "Where to go Next…" (2000) and was voted one of the "50 Best Bars in America" by Men's Journal Magazine.
It has also earned the prestigious "America's Top Restaurant" distinction by Zagat Survey.
Of course, people in Cincinnati have known about the charms of Cincinnati's oldest bar for years. While it has come a long way since Simon Arnold opened the tavern in 1861, the heart of the bar remains the same, which is part of the reason it resonates so well with current diners and bar-goers.
The reputation it has among locals accounts is part of the reason it is considered one of the best overall entertainment destinations in the Tri-State and has been a perennial fixture at CityBeat's "Best of Cincinnati" awards.
Arnold's won the 2013 awards for "Best Outdoor Dining" and "Best Live Music While You Eat." It also placed among the top three for business lunch and overall bars in Cincinnati, an honor it received in 2012 as well.
It's not all about draft beer and craft cocktails at Arnold's, though. It also received recognition one of the 10 best overall restaurants in the Cincinnati.
Having a bathtub that is rumored to have been used to make gin during Prohibition in one of its dining rooms is pretty cool, too.
Regardless of the attention her business receives from the media, Androski doesn't see her bar changing any time soon.
"People come here because it's a comfortable place to be," she said. "Sure, we have great food, good music and wonderful drinks, but you're nothing without a great atmosphere. And the people who come to Arnold's bring that with them."