At the end of August, I visited Cincinnati for a historic doll convention called Blythecon.
In 1972, Kenner Toys and inventor Allison Katzman, created the Blythe doll. At Blythecon, collectors were celebrating her 50th birthday in the city of her creation. Kenner made some of the most iconic toys of the 80’s like Strawberry Shortcake, Star Wars figures, Care Bears and more. Blythe’s defining features are a very large head that houses an eye mechanism that allows you to change her eye color by a pull of a string. You could get a blonde, brunette, redhead and a raven. She came in groovy 70’s fashion. Blythe was around for only a year as she was not popular with young girls.
Luckily, in the early 2000s, she was reintroduced in Japan with much success. She is still being made today and has a loyal collector/artist base. I bought my 1st Blythe in 2008 and now have several, including a Kenner Blythe, a special 50th birthday girl! I named her Wendy as it’s an iconic 70’s name and one that I’ve always liked.
I was able to meet many people I befriended online during the 2 years of pandemic living. It was a more personal experience than my first Blythecon in San Francisco in 2016 where I didn’t know anyone.
This community is super positive and full of lovely people who truly enjoy giving. Each attendee got a goodie bag full of specially made donated items. A raffle that included 10 dolls, and over 100 donated handmade items was a highlight of the afternoon. I won a cute retro bunny dress. My mom came with me and thoroughly enjoyed herself. She never played with dolls growing up and got her first doll here! The organizers were so nice, thoughtful, and really made this event special. I had a vegan box lunch and there were even vegan cupcakes to celebrate. The next one will be in November 2023 in New Jersey! Maybe I’ll see you there!
If you are intrigued, come visit my Instagram page @sylvanian_blythe
This was my first visit to Cincinnati and it made a very favorable impression. I found the city itself quite vibrant in the summer. Colorful planters were on every downtown corner. Historic buildings were in great condition. Large art murals covered the spaces above parking lots. For example, a huge mural of fruit was on the Kroger headquarters. Wide vistas of the Ohio River were dotted with old fashioned riverboats. Live music bopping along at Fountain Square. A free electric streetcar makes a loop around downtown.
I feel that most people would enjoy a visit to Cincinnati and it definitely opened my eyes to living in the Midwest.
Cincinnati Vegan Meals
While in Cincinnati, I was able to try many different vegan meals from chain restaurants like Yardhouse and local cafes like the Sleepy Bee. Check out CincinnatiVegan.com for their recommendations or use the HappyCow App.
If you’ve done a lot of vegan traveling, you know that Loving Hut is all over the world. Each is a bit different. This one was quite popular due to their very affordable prices. They were very short staffed and gave priority to online and takeout orders. I think I waited over an hour for this sandwich. Unfortunately, the dining room was still closed so we went back to our hotel to eat.
Herban Vegans specializes in vegan seafood dishes. It’s right across the street from Findlay Market. Because they use processed vegan seafood products (vegan shrimp etc) it isn’t cheap. Regardless, I’ve come to realize that fried vegan seafood isn’t my thing but I think many people enjoy it.
Sometimes the best vegan food in a city is not at a vegan restaurant. My mom and I really liked eating breakfast at the Sleepy Bee in downtown Cincinnati. It’s near the Westin and Renaissance Hotels.
This little cafe had lots of local bee decor, including glass art that looked like honeycombs. They use local produce, support sustainability initiatives and make a lot of their items inhouse, like their jams and vegan goetta. When I was there, I subbed the eggs for tofu scramble. Goetta is a type of sausage but they made a vegan version with grains and a lot of mustard seeds.
I would love to eat there again. I know lots of vegans aren’t into honey and want bees to be free, but I liked that they brought attention to the fact that without bees we wouldn’t have a lot of food that comes from pollination.
Like Moms Only Vegan
A couple vegan vendors, like Harmony Plant Fare and Like Mom’s Only Vegan are in Findlay Market. I met a super friendly grandma at their booth. My mom bought several bags to give as gifts. I think their cookies taste like Uncle Eddies, soft and super flavorful.
After Blythecon, we walked from the Music Hall venue. People stretched out on the green lawn to listen to an outdoor concert with a full orchestra. Quan Hapa is the type of place that feels good to me, maybe because I’m hapa too! (Hapa is a term that means half-Asian and is commonly used in Japan and Hawaii) I love Pan-Asian food, anime playing on the TV, and vegan options clearly marked on the menu. Great service and our dishes came out quickly. We had a couple vegan handrolls and I tried the tofu katsu curry minus Parmesan cheese. A beautiful purple mocktail. A couple other Blythe attendees were there too!
Yardhouse is a sports bar chain and not someplace I would normally go to. We didn’t want to drive anywhere in the evening and thought it would be nice to take a walk to the Ohio River. Lots of Cincinnati Reds fans were eating before the game. Yardhouse carries several Gardein options. I had the Mandarin Orange Chicken with rice and bokchoy.
Since I didn’t get the chance to try Cincinnati Chili, I made a vegan attempt at home.
What is Cincinnati chili? It’s basically a spiced meat sauce you put on top of spaghetti. There is an ordering convention called The Way…and yes, this is before the show about the Mandalorian.
The Cincinnati chili Wikipedia article is full of great details on the history and how to order.
My way is a 4 way… with beans so please don’t kill me with raw onion! Gold Star Chili makes a vegetarian version with Beyond Meat but I don’t know how you order it without cheese.
I followed this recipe by Veggl.com and I think it turned out great. I used Beyond Meat. One caveat: It’s been harder to find vegan cheddar blocks. I’ve noticed that most only come in thick shreds or slices. I recommend Chao cheese made in Greece with fermented tofu. If you can find that and use a fine cheese shredder to make those large thin piles of cheese I think that would be fabulous. Also, you can find oyster crackers at Whole Foods. I haven’t eaten these since I was a child and it was fun to have them again.
Other places of note
Krohn Conservatory – Beautiful Flowers and exotic plants. Near Eden Park
The Graduate Hotel – If you are looking for a unique hotel experience, check out this independent hotel inspired by the Queen City and Kenner toy culture. They had another Jonathan Queen mural that even had Blythe and also Beetlejuice, Batman, Ghostbusters and some more obscure Kenner toys.
Pig Statues – We found one on the riverfront at Sawyer Point – Lucius Pigasus
I’d love to hear your experiences with Cincinnati, if you have a doll/toy hobby, and about your latest vegan travels. Thanks for reading and leave a comment! Remember, for your pleasure, my blog is AD-free!