June 23, 2016

Arnold's Bar and Grille in Cincinnati, Ohio

Arnold's Bar and Grille - Exterior

photo by: Michael Contreras/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

Open since 1861, Arnold's is the oldest watering hole in Ohio.

With only minimal changes over its more than 150-year lifespan, Arnold’s Bar and Grille in Cincinnati, Ohio, is truly is a piece of history. It’s also a rocking place for live music and hearty food.

The two buildings that house the bar were built in 1838. Initially, one of them was a barbershop and the other a feed store that used the courtyard as a stable. The locale was converted into a saloon by new owner Simon Arnold in 1861, making it the oldest watering hole in Ohio.

At that time, the Arnold family lived on the second floor. During Prohibition, Arnold’s became a cafe and the family moved up to the third floor, leaving the bathtub on the second for moonshine production (according to local legend). In total, three generations of Arnolds lived in the building over the span of 98 years.

Arnold's Bar and Grille - Bathtub

photo by: Yelp Inc./Flickr/CC BY-NC ND 2.0

According to local legend, the bathtub at Arnold's was used to make booze during Prohibition.

In 1976, Arnold’s started serving dinner and a courtyard was opened. At that time, a stage was also built, and live music has regularly graced the place ever since.

To give you an idea of how rich Arnold’s history is, it should be noted that local attorney and preservationist Mike Morgan is writing a book about it. How many bars do you know that have entire books devoted to them?

The most remarkable thing about Arnold’s is that despite its lengthy history, it has remained largely unchanged.

For example, the wood and tile floors haven’t been resurfaced since the 1920s. The floor near the entrance is even older; Arnold’s current owner Ronda Androski claims that when you walk across it, you’ll be strutting the same surface that Civil War troops walked on in the 1860s. Tables at Arnold’s have been the same since the 1910s and a clock from more-or-less the same era hangs over the back bar. Certainly, there have been some updates, such as new kitchen equipment, but nothing that the patron would see with the naked eye.

Some bars gloat when one celebrity orders a pint there. Arnold’s, however, can count household name Emilio Estevez —the star of such perennial classics as The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo’s Fire, and The Mighty Ducks —among its regulars. There’s even a mural with his face in the courtyard.

Arnold’s also serves lots of dishes that will leave you feeling more than full, from chicken and waffles to burgers and pastas. Vegan options are available for those concerned about their waistlines. You can also burn calories by dancing; the stage at Arnold’s hosts live concerts Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Crowd at Arnold's Bar and Grille

photo by: Yelp Inc./Flickr/CC BY-NC ND 2.0

With great food, drinks, and live music, Arnold's is the perfect place to unwind.

Location: 210 E 8th St, Cincinnati, OH 45202

Hours: Monday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-1:30 a.m.; Thursday-Friday, 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m.; Saturday: 2 p.m.-2:30 a.m.; closed Sundays.

Your Having: Greek spaghetti: spaghetti mixed with olive oil, butter, garlic, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and olives, sprinkled with Romano cheese. Down that with some homemade sangria or limoncello.

Best Yelp Review: "Arnold's is a classic, as they have been in operation since 1861, even through the Prohibition. You get a chance to pretty much walk back in time when you go here. Check out the pictures on the wall and be sure to go upstairs and see the bathtub that may or may not have been used during the Prohibition. ; ) The courtyard is a must see, under a tented ceiling in the winter and open in the summer; it's just beautiful. There's usually a band playing and it's a great place to grab a drink. Their food is solid as well. Get the Greek spaghetti and the roasted garlic as an appetizer. You'll fend off vampires for weeks, both are so tasty." – Kelly M.


Filip Mazurczak was an editorial intern at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He previously worked as a freelance journalist, translator, and editor. He is from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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