May 31, 2018

Grab A Hudy Schooner at Cincinnati's 200-Year-Old Comeback Kid: The Bay Horse Cafe and Roadhouse

The Bay Horse Cafe and Roadhouse has been a downtown Cincinnati institution for approximately 200 years. Thanks to Fred Berger and his partner, Lori Meeker, the Bay Horse is back and better than ever.

Berger has a deep love of historic buildings and of Cincinnati's unique cultural heritage. His family has been in the Cincinnati area since 1836, and his passion for preservation shows in his most recent project, which he has dubbed a "museum with a liquor license."

The Bay Horse’s former home, another historic building a block away on Fifth Street, was torn down in 1962, and the bar then moved to its present-day location at 625 Main Street. When the current building was threatened with demolition in 2016, after being vacant since 2005, Berger and Meeker knew they couldn’t let that happen—not to the Bay Horse! Berger purchased it for $142,500 and began restoration.

Bay Horse's menu, featuring 25oz "schooners" for $4!

photo by: Fred Berger

The menu includes horse-themed soups, salads, and paninis alongside classic cocktails and local beers.

The project paid close attention to the many unique architectural elements of the 1860s Italianate, including patterned tiles remaining from the building’s previous use as a jewelry and watchmaking shop; the still-intact, double-hung star glass windows; and a simple but stately bar salvaged from another at-risk building with “just the right number of cigarette burns,” as Berger puts it. However, the most significant detail was probably the sign, which dates back to at least the 1940s and inspired the Bay Horse’s beloved tagline, “Follow the Horse!”

“How did I not visit this place schooner??”

Yelp reviewer
The Bay Horse Cafe and Roadhouse's former location.

photo by: Fred Berger

The former location of the Bay Horse Cafe, featuring the now-famous sign.

The old neon lights in the former Bay Horse Cafe.

photo by: Fred Berger

Since its inception, Bay Horse Cafe has been a supporter of local Queen City breweries, particularly Hudepohl, which continues to be popular.

Owners Fred and Lori.

photo by: Fred Berger

The Bay Horse Cafe and Roadhouse, which formerly didn't allow women entry, is now a woman-owned business, thanks to Fred Berger and his partner, Lori Meeker.

Locals were ecstatic to see the sign restored, particularly bargoers who remember the Bay Horse from before its recent renovation. Younger generations have also taken to the sign, and thanks to some local pranksters this past St. Patrick’s Day a bushel of manure painted green appeared underneath the horse.

The Bay Horse has long served as the largest retail outlet for local Hudepohl Brewing Company, which has been around since 1885. Currently, Hudy varieties are popularly sold in a 25-ounce “Schooner” for just four dollars.

The bar’s down-to-earth nature is echoed in the foods served: paninis, soups, and salads, all with horse-themed names, such as the Triple Crown panini with ham, turkey, roast beef, three cheeses, red onion, spinach, and Italian dressing.

The Bay Horse Cafe and Roadhouse promises to be a great trip. As one Yelp reviewer said, “How did I not visit this place schooner??”

The exterior of Bay Horse Cafe and Roadhouse in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio.

photo by: Cincy USA

Thirsty Cincinnatians are encouraged to "Follow the Horse!"

Hours: Tuesday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Don’t Miss: The historic photos covering the walls, which document the history of the Bay Horse through its several iterations and nearly 200 years of serving Cincinnati's working man (and, eventually, woman). These include the “Bay Horse Blind Bowling Team” and characters such as Gus Schmieg, who lived and worked at the bar for 78 years.

You’re Having: A Hudy Schooner; a whopping 25 ounces of beer for just $4 from local brewery Hudepohl, which boasts a history as robust as the Bay Horse itself. If you're feeling a bit more adventurous, ask for a pour from the scratch tap, which is reserved for up-and-coming local breweries and rotates weekly.

Best Yelp Review: "Come for a history lesson; stay for the beer. They just don't make 'em like this anymore. If you're interested in seeing what it was like to drink a beer in Downtown Cincinnati at the turn of the 20th century--this is the place for you: Steeped in history and dripping with nostalgia; this is a true Cincinnati landmark. The beers, cocktails, and paninis are dynamite! The staff are super friendly, too!"

Fun Fact: The bar got its name for a bay horse who wandered into the bar “for a stiff drink” in 1879. News spread, and somehow the name stuck!

Mikayla Raymond is a proud preservationist and editorial intern at the National Trust. She lives for public parks, weird art, and women’s history.

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