The Foodie Report
Ruminations on food, cooking in and eating out in our area.

It's entirely possible to be a vegetarian in Porkopolis. Pop culture reporter Lauren Bishop blogs about products, recipes and restaurants she's tried for others who eat meat-free. E-mail her at lbishop@enquirer.com.

Nicci King is an unabashed foodie and the Lifestyle/Food editor in The Enquirer's features department. She loves to discover new food faves, and she's on a daily quest to answer one burning question: What's for dinner? E-mail her at nking@enquirer.com.

Enquirer Weekend editor Julie Gaw tends to order the same dish every time she eats at a restaurant, but periodically ventures out to discover something new and fabulous. After living in China, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Thailand for more than 8 years, she craves tasty Asian food. E-mail her at jgaw@enquirer.com.

Food/dining writer Polly Campbell loves every quirk and secret of Cincinnati's food personality, and is on a constant lookout for something good to eat. Keep an eye out for her restaurant picks, or see how she's progressing toward becoming famous for her apple pie. E-mail her at pcampbell@enquirer.com.

Communities reporter Rachel Richardson is on a mission to prove vegetarians eat more than lettuce. She shares both her graduate work on American food culture and food-related news.. E-mail her at rrichardson@enquirer.com.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Habanero on the Levee

Here's some good news that you don't read every day: A local, independent restaurant replacing a chain! I chatted with the owner, Max Monks, this afternoon. He sent a press release, but it didn't have hours. I'll update with hours when I know them. Had a really good tofu and eggplant burrito there a couple of weeks ago. Loved the burrito, but like Nada, they serve flour chips. I'm not a fan of flour tortillas or flour tortilla chips. Too greasy. But at Habanero and at Nada, I'll live with them because the salsa is so good!

Habanero will open its second location in April at Newport on the Levee, said owner Max Monks. The fast casual restaurant will have the same menu as the Clifton location, with a few additions. New dishes will include a sugar cane skewered Caribbean jerk shrimp appetizer and fire-roasted barbacoa steak taquitos. Monks said the Newport location will have a kids menu, which he recently introduced “with resounding success” at the Ludlow Avenue location. Monks will also serve beer, wine and sangria.
Monks said he is making some changes to the space – formerly Moe’s Southwestern Grill, which closed last month – to give it a “Habanero feel and reflect the independent, creative side of things.” Monks said that after 8 ½ years in business in Clifton, he made the decision to stay in Cincinnati and expand Habanero. Newport has an “excellent demographic, an excellent reputation and a need for a fast casual” restaurant such as Habanero. The Newport location will employ about 20 people, he said.

(Thanks, Lauren, for the tip!)


at 8:15 AM OpenID cincycub said...

That is completely awesome. I love Habanero!

at 8:54 AM Blogger Cin Twin1 said...

I think it is great to support local restaurants, but what makes Habanero think it will do better than Moe's? They both have burritoes....will quality and uniqueness alone be enough to make Habanero a success? Only time will tell...

at 10:00 AM Blogger Rachel said...

That's a good point Cin Twin. I've never been to Moe's, but the two concepts don't appear to be all that different. Still, it's nice to see a diversity of restaurants on the Levee. Now if only someone would open an Indian restaurant there...

at 10:08 AM Anonymous Harold said...

I only walked into Moe's once and quickly tired of the unison "welcome to Moe's" routine everytime someone walked in. I also quickly tired of the luke warm foul tasting food. That never happened at Habanero. Rachel, hop in your buggy and go to Guru India in Crescent Springs.

at 10:33 AM Blogger Cin Twin1 said...

Yes, I find I almost pee in my pants when I walk in and people start shouting, "Welcome to Moe's"!!! I mean can't a girl get a burrito without the harassment? I just discovered my favorite Indian food in downtown Cincinnati. I love Akash. Good food, always a table, and open for dinner during the week.

at 12:26 PM Blogger Stepf said...

Rachael, I promise: Big difference. Habanero is locally owned and operated, with plenty of unique options for omnivores and herbivores alike. It's kid friendly with no chicken fingers or French fries in sight.
I take the girl I mentor to the Levee for movies, and we sometimes eat at (gulp) Johnny Rocket's, which she loves. They've got a veggie burger, but after they charged me something exorbinant like $1 for some mayo I said no way. The music there was so loud that I was uncomfortable. (I felt old, but it was ridiculously loud!) I had to ask them to turn it down because my ears hurt. I guess if the music's that loud you'll be distracted from noticing how lousy the food is. I'll be so happy to have Habanero there.

at 9:25 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

You seem to applaud the demise of a chain. The fact is, Moe's closing is a shame even though it's part of a chain. A local investor has lost a lot of money and yet another blow to the local economy has been dealt.
Also, I think it's very short-sighted to assume that an independent restaurant is guaranteed to be superior to a chain. My husband and I try to support non-chains as much as possible, but not every independently-owned restaurant is good. Each restaurant (chain or non-chain) should be judged on a case-by-case basis.
These days it seems like if a restaurant is not downtown or owned by Jean-Robert, the writers of this blog don't care to mention it as a worthwhile culinary destination. That's a shame -- you are missing out on a lot of great dining in this region.

at 10:15 PM Anonymous TJ Jackson said...

Not sure why anyone goes to eat at Eminent Domain on the Levee.....I can get free parking and park closer to the eatery almost anywhere else...

at 11:25 PM Anonymous harold said...

9:25PM Anonymuous seems to have a bit of trouble reading. Habenero's quality is not assumed. It is something I have gone out of my way to enjoy. It is a shame when a business fails, but why do these chains think we want rehearsed greetings and fry cooks breaking into song and dance? As for this blogs alleged urbancentrism, I can't imagine how you figure that. I learn more about out of the way eateries here than any source in town.

at 8:22 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

TJ Jackson....so what it's going to kill you to walk a little ways to your culinary destination? Please...think of a better excuse to dog NOTL which has turned Newport from a stripping town to the talk of the town.
Your negativity on these boards is getting stale......

at 12:51 PM Anonymous TJ Jackson said...

I guess it is a safe assumption to say guess that Anonymous' home wasn't taken by wealthy NOTL developers at their convenience for pennies on the dollar. Glad to hear you did not have to go through that Anonymous - you are a lucky person.

at 1:37 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey TJ....try to pry yourself off the cross someone else needs the wood.

at 2:14 PM Blogger Cin Twin1 said...

One thing I like about this blog is our different opinions. While I may not be a vegetarian, I like to hear their perspectives. While I may like to endulge in the occasional alcoholic beverage, I don't have anything againt those who don't drink. When it comes to chain restaurants, they usually are successful because there is a formula developed already that just requires an investment. I don't want TJ to quit commenting just because we don't all agree. Let's keep the conversation lively and exciting! This makes it fun!

at 2:33 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of burritoes..
Anyone have the low-down on when us downtowners will finally get a Chipolte or Qdobe ?

at 10:27 AM Anonymous MikeD said...

The reason Hab's will succeed where Moe's failed is because Moe's was weak. It just wasn't very good. I think this is a genius move by the owners, and it's cool to see this along with Dewey's down at the Levee. I laughed at the person feeling sorry for the poor investor. Thats the restaurant biz. If you don't do a good job, you'll fail.

Man, now I want a burrito.

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