It’s like your quirky-cool friend with an instinct for eclectic design also makes killer salads and sandwiches…and lets you stop by whenever.
True West Coffee
We give our fullest endorsement to the George Bailey sandwich (turkey, avocado, chipotle mayo, and more on rye) and the Bleu Apple salad (its namesake cheese and fruit with greens and walnuts) but to be honest, the entire menu sounds just as delicious—with big portions and reasonable prices to boot. Plus: coffee, desserts baked fresh daily, and live music on the weekends at the downtown location, where we visited (there’s another spot west of the river). truewestcoffee.com
2. SARA’S HOUSE
For Sara and Dave Vallandingham, a live-above, work-below setup wasn’t just a nostalgic idea of city life past: They renovated the building at the corner of Third and High Streets into a family home with their home decor and gift shop downstairs. That space is stocked with vintage pieces both in original form and creatively updated—like golf clubs Sara and Dave’s son Drew retrofitted into bottle openers—as well as jewelry, knit goods, and soaps from local makers. sarashousehamilton.com
3. RENAISSANCE FINE ART SUPPLIES
A well-organized art supply store can magically calm the brain, and Renaissance—located on the first floor of the Artspace Lofts, built specifically for artists—is no exception. They’ve got the whole color wheel (and then some) of various paints and pencils, as well as the papers, brushes, and canvasses to put them on. They’ll happily order specific supplies they may not stock (say, soldering tools for stained glass), so don’t be afraid to ask if you can’t find it on the shelves. Oh, and do not bypass the rack of stylistically minimalist, magnificently sarcastic greeting cards. rfasupplies.com
4. INSIDEOUT STUDIO
It’s a shop, but it’s also a working studio with a mission: to give artists with developmental disabilities a place to create, and to sell their wares to earn an income. You’ll hear the laughter and sounds of a busy studio in the back as you peruse the glassworks, ceramics, and mosaics out front. The artists also commission works, so if you see something along the lines of what you want, just ask: They can craft you something custom. insideoutstudioart.com
5. FITTON CENTER FOR CREATIVE ARTS
Right about where High Street meets the Great Miami River is an art center with just about everything: studios for ceramics and dance; multiple visual art galleries; classes, workshops, and summer camps; live jazz and cabaret; and a schedule of theater performances that include improv, Shakespeare, and musicals. Check out the bathrooms by the entrance, too (weird suggestion, we’re aware): They’re covered in mosaic murals by Cincinnati artist Jan Brown Checco. fittoncenter.org
6. MUNICIPAL BREW WORKS
You know you’ve really made it as a town when you have your own craft brewery. Municipal Brew Works, which opened last year in a 1935 Art Deco beauty, handles that. The Approachable Blonde Ale and Two Cents American Pale Ale are favorites, but there’s much more on tap—plus regular food trucks, a top-notch patio, and cornhole. municipalbrewworks.com
Downtown Hamilton is right on the banks of the Great Miami River, and the city likes to promote its outdoor assets. Not to be missed: Marcum Park, which just completed a $4.2 million expansion. A bike path runs through it, and the amphitheater hosts near-constant programming in summer months. On High Street, Rotary Park is getting finishing touches and will offer Ping-Pong, chess tables, and dog-friendly areas.