At first glance, downtown establishments 1215 Wine Bar & Coffee Lab, Pleasantry, and Money Chicken seem like very different businesses. In truth, they are stand-alone concepts tied together by partners who share a passion for their Cincinnati community and a belief that sourcing sustainably and ethically is the only option.
At 1215, a cozy café at 1215 Vine Street in Over the Rhine, they specialize in wines that are made with great care by real people and families, who focus on healthy farming practices and honest products.
“Of course wine has to taste great, but it should reflect the place and time that it comes from,” says Joanna Kirkendall, who opened 1215 in 2012. She notes that the majority of the world’s wine is factory-made to meet a market demographic.
“That’s not what we’re about,” explains Kirkendall. “We carry wine made from grapes that are grown sustainably, and made into wine with a light touch, letting the wine be what it should be.”
The majority of their coffee is roasted by Deeper Roots Coffee in Cincinnati. While the coffee farmers are using organic practices as well, Kirkendall maintains that it’s the personal relationships that Deeper Roots has with the farmers that mean the most.
Sarah Finney, co-owner of 1215, recently took her first trip to “origin,” to visit coffee farms in Guatemala. She calls the experience “life changing.”
“After meeting the farmers and their families, every bag of beans that we open has that much more meaning behind it,” says Finney. “And every cup of coffee we pass to the guest is that much more special.”
In 2016, Kirkendall opened Pleasantry with partner Daniel Souder, who took the wine program at 1215 even further by creating a fully natural wine list for the restaurant. Located north of Washington Park at the corner of 15th and Pleasant streets, Pleasantry embraces Chef Evan Hartman’s commitment to seasonality and sustainable sourcing by offering a focused, creative, hyper-seasonal menu designed for tasting as much as possible at every visit.
They get their grass-fed beef from Blackhawk Farms in Princeton, Kentucky. Pork is from Marksbury Farms in Lancaster, Kentucky. Produce and eggs come from local farms in the region via Local Food Connection, which connects farmers to a network of active wholesale and retail buyers in the Bluegrass and in the Ohio Valley. They also get produce from Madison’s at Findlay Market. Seafood, though by necessity not local, is line-caught or sustainably farmed.
“Evan is so diligent about taking the time to know the background of every purveyor we use,” says Kirkendall. “It’s the right way to do it, and he always says that if you start with the best ingredients, you don’t have to fuss to have great flavor.”
In September 2018, Souder and Kirkendall launched Money Chicken, located at 300 E. 7th Street in Cincinnati’s Central Business District. The idea was originally conceived because of a popular chicken dish at Pleasantry.
“Evan created this stand-out spice blend for the dish at Pleasantry, and Daniel had the idea to apply it to a fast-casual concept,” says Kirkendall. “To have quick-service food, but with the level of sourcing that you find in fine dining – I don’t think anyone else is doing that.”
Money Chicken has a streamlined menu: chicken sandwiches, tenders, wings, salads and sides. But the sourcing hasn’t changed, with produce coming from local farms, and chicken from Joyce Farms in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Joyce Farms, in particular, goes beyond sustainable; they practice regenerative farming.
“Every year they operate, their soil gets richer in nutrients and pulls more CO2 out of the atmosphere. They are literally improving the earth with their farming practices,” explains Kirkendall.
Kirkendall admits that when 1215 first opened, it was daunting that nearly every customer who walked through the door was a stranger. When she and Souder launched Pleasantry four years later, however, they were greeted with nothing but familiar faces.
“We’ve organically grown this great community,” says Kirkendall, who along with Finney, Souder, and Hartman – all born Cincinnatians – has fostered long-term relationships with many of their guests.
“A restaurant is a fluid part of the community because your doors are always open. The people in this community have become part of our lives, and we are part of theirs,” says Kirkendall. “Keeping that standard of ethical sourcing is just another way of taking care of our community. We couldn’t do it another way.”
For more information on 1215 Wine Bar & Coffee Lab, call 513.429.5745 or visit www.1215vine.com
For more information on Pleasantry, call 513.381.1969 or visit www.pleasantryotr.com
For more information on Money Chicken, call 513.381.3590 or visit www.moneychicken.co