Kaldi’s Coffee House back in full swing

As I pushed open the heavy wooden door to the recently reopened Kaldi’s Coffee House in Over the Rhine, the packed bar, the diverse crowd, the bluegrass band in the corner and the familiar smell of old books, cigarettes and coffee reassured me that Kaldi’s was back in full swing and has re-emerged as one of the best hangouts on Main Street.

The closing of the bar/venue/coffee shop/bookstore/restaurant caused a small panic among its many patrons when it shut down without warning one day last April. In late August, it reopened with new ownership. I hadn’t been back since the reopening, so when I visited the store on a frosty Friday in January, I had high expectations for the coffee house I remembered. How would the new Kaldi’s stack up to the old?

The new ownership made sure the shop remains true to the spirit of old Kaldi’s. Used books with titles like “The Case of the Runaway Corpse,” by Erie Stanley Gardner, and “The FBI Story,” by Don Whitehead continue to line the walls, and Kaldi’s still draws one of the most diverse and eclectic crowds I’ve ever seen.

Behind our table, a group of rainbow-haired art students sipped tea and coffee while a table of middle-aged friends sat in front of us making sure the beer kept flowing as they celebrated a friend’s 31st birthday. Later, the group offered pieces of the enormous birthday cake to the rest of the people in the shop. The Kaldi’s magic must still work, I thought, as I watched Indie Art Student and Blue-Collar Budweiser Guy eating chocolate cake together. It was a beautiful thing.

While Kaldi’s remains a place where you can party at the bar, tap your foot to in-house bluegrass band Kaldi’s Allstars or cuddle up in a secluded corner, it also features a revamped menu of appetizers and entrees. Sandwiches, burritos and quesadillas have all been improved from their original recipes.

The new menu sports lots of vegetarian items, as well. This is great news for those of us sick of arguing about where eat dinner with our meatless friends. My hummus and grilled pita bread was served up stylishly in a square green dish with slices of lemon, tomato and leek. To round out the hummus, I ordered a mint hot chocolate topped with a pyramid of whipped cream. It was a strange combination, but new combinations are what Kaldi’s is all about.

Kaldi’s keeps a full bar with eight local beers on tap, but sadly, being underage, I have yet to experience that side of the business.

So while I’m excited that one of my favorite Cincinnati hangouts has been resurrected, I’m now lobbying for new owners Jeremy and Collette Thompson to extend the shop’s hours.

Kaldi’s is the perfect place to wind down after a night at one of Main Street’s busy clubs and bars, or just a great place to catch up with friends after work, but most of the time when my busy friends and I find the time to visit, the shop’s already locked down for the night.