The Losantiville Dining Room at the Cincinnati Museum Center

I wouldn’t say that it was the fanciest room in Cincinnati or that the food was the best, although it was certainly good. But the meal I had recently at the new Losantiville Dining Room off the main rotunda at the Cincinnati Museum Center turned out to be my favorite dining spot in the southern Ohio area and was quite a treat. I had never been in that room before, even though the Museum Center is a place my family has gone often to over the years. There have a been a few times that I had been invited to fundraisers held in that room but didn’t quite make it, and other events, but I had always wanted to go inside. Now, after the two and a half-year restoration which just had reopened the museum known for its massive rotunda and murals part of their new restoration strategy was to making dining at the museum not such a cavernous exercise. Previously the only way to grab a bite at the Cincinnati Museum Center was to eat in the large rotunda that captures every noise acoustically known to mankind. It’s nice to look around, but not very relaxing. Opening up the new part of the museum to dining was a nice surprise for me, and to top it off, the food was good and the whole event very relaxing.

It’s taken a few weeks for it all to settle in. As has become a tradition, for my birthday this year my family went with me to a museum. Last year it was the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis, this year it was the newly restored Union Terminal in my home town of Cincinnati. We had taken the grandkids to the Children’s portion of the museum during the restoration, but not much else over the last two and a half years, and I had been missing it. I’ve spoken before about my love of the Natural History and Cincinnati History Museums that have always been a part of the Center. And I like the Omnimax Theater and occasionally enjoy a movie there. More than anything I enjoy the art deco style of architecture, the entire place reminds me very much of the great Ayn Rand literary classics, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. So more time in those environments are nothing but good for me, and going there for my birthday with my family was something I knew I would enjoy. The surprise came from discovering the new opening of the Losantiville Dining Room.

The room is absolutely wonderful, the décor quite stunning. The room feels intelligent, and majestic. It’s the kind of place that I would just visit to grab a hamburger, not even to go to the various museums. It was a good move by the Museum Center to improve their dining options, and the food wasn’t overly expensive. It was nothing fancy, but the tater tots were exceptionally tasty, not sure why they were so good, but they were. I was happy to be somewhere comfortable with my family on my birthday where we could relax between all the walking around but I didn’t expect such a nice room. I am proud to say that my expectations of a good museum are the British Museum in London and The Louvre in Paris which I have attended while my hometown Museum Center was under renovation. While those big European Museums were bigger and had more to show, I don’t think for a second that they are better than the Cincinnati Museum Center. But certainly the food options which are important when you are at a place you plan to stay all day, is needed. For us my wife and I ended up eating outside at the British Museum and all that was offered were sandwiches and cold cuts. And I’ve reported my extreme displeasure at The Louvre’s lack of bathrooms and proper dining. They do have restaurant options, but the seating is terrible and crowd control atrocious—they behave like a socialist country, terrible service, terrible movement of people, and the efforts at imaginative offerings were despicable. I found it stunning that some of the best tourist attractions in Europe had such bad food offerings. Now I understand that food, especially big carb offerings are not European priorities. The people in Europe are smaller and skinnier than their American counterparts largely due to diets of excess which are common in the States. But for a global museum you’d expect more.

All the museums at The Museum Center were not even 100% yet, and still we arrived at the opening and were leaving as the place was preparing to close around 5 PM on a Tuesday afternoon. We were there a long time and during long visits like that food certainly becomes a priority. While the British Museum and the Louvre might argue that they are there to exhibit great works of antiquity and art, people get hungry and want to take a break. That is where the Cincinnati Museum Center has done so well. Even in the United States, the Field Museum in Chicago and the Natural History Museum in New York this Losantiville Dining Room is just a real treasure with now good food options and beer availability that sets it at the top of museum going experiences. I was even hoping for a better deal at the Children’s Museum at Indianapolis which turned out to be way too much cafeteria like in its approach. It wasn’t the kind of place that you’d want to buy a book in the gift shop and sit down there just to read it. But the Losantiville Room is just that, a place conducive to intelligent discourse, and it was built that way from the beginning as first a train station hold over room, which has evolved over the last century into a fine dining room.

Intelligent is the key word for the place, it was built as a testament to the best that the human race had to offer architecturally, and it fits well with the intention of museums as the most basic foundation of assumptions. I like a place that doesn’t insult your intelligence. Even at Jags in West Chester, I’m not a fan of the phony library look of some of the rooms. I like the intent, but it comes off as cheap to me, even though I enjoy eating at Jags quite a lot. I enjoy more a place like the Losantiville Room more even with the plastic chairs and standard tables to sit at. The room was intelligent and was far from phony, it wasn’t trying to be something that it wasn’t and I appreciated that. It was a great decision for the Museum Center to use that room for something other than occasional fundraisers. It was definitely a good idea to build off their natural assets.

I’m not a big fan of tax payer bailouts and the way that places like the Museum Center renovation was funded. Cincinnati as a whole needs to do a lot of things management wise to get better and to better distribute their revenue. But the Museum Center was certainly not a waste, they did the most with their money and it shows. It is certainly a treasure for the city and southern Ohio in general worth a trip from many miles around to attend. And honestly, I’d go to the museum now just to grab a bite to eat, just to sit in that room and relax. Just as it is nice to speak to intelligent people, it is every bit as nice to sit in places that exude intelligence and hope, and that is certainly the case at the Museum Center.

Rich Hoffman

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