I guess I have a reputation for being an urban snob.
Sure, I live in Over-the-Rhine. Sure, I love that I live and work in the same place. Sure, I love my walkable community and not driving a lot. Sure! But I pretty much dig any neighborhood that has walkability — which is not limited to downtown.
For me, I love any neighborhood that focuses on people and not cars. I was recently invited on a tour of Milford — based on one restaurant that I had to try: May Cafe. My Milford-resident friend and I both agree we love walkability; he just prefers a little more nature readily available at his disposable. I’m okay with a squirrel on my porch and Washington Park. Not every neighborhood is perfect for everyone– that’s why there are so many. He teases me about being an “urban hipster”, I tease him about being a “suburbanite” but really, we meet somewhere in the middle.
Isn’t that true of most things?
I have a soft spot in my heart for restaurants that remind me of European cafes, and Cafe May is a bright, sunny spot with a handful of tables and a counter to order and is only open for breakfast and lunch. They make their own homemade jams, pierogies (the proprietor is Polish), soups and serve foods with a distinct European feel, from Italian foccacias to a special of Hungarian goulash to croissants for breakfast.
We met at 10:45 so I could try breakfast or lunch — they turn over to lunch at 11. I ended up on the lunch side of the equation, with some homemade soup (potato-leek) and the Napoli tostino, essentially a grilled cheese with pancetta, mozzarella, olive oil and spices. I always love a good grilled cheese– particularly one that is interesting– and this was filling and delicious. We split the soup of the day– again, delicious, and even a cup was very generous. The day was cool, but not cold, and good soup-and-grilled cheese weather.
My friend got his usual — apparently he eats there a lot– eggs, bacon, toast and an exceptionally pretty fruit salad. We also got some pierogies — in fact, the owner insisted that my friend try them, as he hadn’t before — which were fantastic. Sauteed in butter and onion (what can be wrong with that?), we tried cheese and potato, spinach and cheese and onion and sauerkraut. I’d come back just for these and the half-dozen cups of coffee I had while we ate and chatted. May Cafe is a great spot for locals, but really, it’s for anyone who appreciates food made with care. Skip that Breakfast-Lunch-Brunch chain and head here.
Not content to just let me see May Cafe, we took a little stroll around Milford, which I can’t believe I’ve never done. Sure, I’ve been to 20 Brix (a favorite for business lunches), but beyond going to and from, I’ve rarely just explored. I got to try a doughssant from a little, mom-and-pop donut store, Ms. Cheri’s– she bakes, her husband sells. We visited an excellent, small-batch chocolatier called Auel’s, where I tried an excellent salted caramel truffle. I need to go back and grab a box — really delicious, traditional and local candies. I can get behind that.
There are, of course, non-food related parts of Main Street in Milford — a pretty nice Western boot store, a Gun Store (it has no name, just GUNS), and a vacuum repair store (I had no idea these still existed) with a basement filled with one of the best coral retailers in the country (apparently; I don’t know a lot about coral but it was quite beautiful). Towards the western end of Main (where you get off from US 50), there is a great art gallery, One Main Gallery, featuring lots of local artists, like Rookwood Pottery and one of my favorite local photographers, Marc Wavra. I’ll definitely stop by there again (particularly on a Second Saturday).
Every once in a while, I need to get out of my urban comfort zone. Main Street in Milford has the walkability I adore with a charm that’s a little more sedate. It’s a good change of pace — I’m looking forward to my next visit, which will definitely include a trip to the Cincinnati Nature Center’s branch in Milford, and a pizza at Padrino, I think.
Oh, and I am totally taking him on an off-the-beaten-path tour of OTR. What’s off the beaten path, these days?