Social OTR is a new restaurant in Cincinnati’s hip Over-The-Rhine district. The space is beautiful, the food is delicious, and the service is friendly and engaging. The format is my favorite: small plates to be passed and shared.
Merriam-Webster defines “social” as “marked by. . . pleasant companionship with friends or associates.” That’s a perfect description of the diner’s experience at Social OTR — go with friends, share some wine, pass the plate, connect with your people.
And there’s another aspect of “social” that applies perfectly to Social OTR: “of or relating to . . . the interaction of the individual and the group, or the welfare of human beings as members of society.” While we are engaging in a special dining experience, Social OTR is providing training and opportunity for those seeking a career in the culinary industry.
Come for the dining experience
A night at Social OTR is fun and the food is delicious. Located in historic and revitalized Over-The-Rhine, across from Findlay Market , the space is upbeat and beautiful.
Our first visit we were seated in Alley at OTR, a separate room down a short hallway — peek at the kitchen as you walk by. It is available for private parties. It has it’s own bar, with a talented bartender.
As pretty as the space is, the star of the night is the food. The menu is interesting, with so many things we wanted to try. We started with the charcuterie, which was a nice combination of flavors and consistencies.
One of my favorites was the Pulpo, a wonderful charred octopus, which was tender and beautifully prepared.
We also enjoyed the rabbit agnolotti, the pot pie, short rib raviolo, the squash ravioli (one of the best, with winter greens, brown butter, sage and pepitas), and the outrageously good duck fat fingerlings with aioli. I’d love to show you pictures of this beautiful food. Unfortunately, as each plate was set on the table, we attacked the plates with such enthusiasm and fervor that there was nothing left for me to photograph! Trust me, the food was beautiful and yummy.
The food is not the only good thing happening
Not only is the dining experience outstanding, there is something else special going on behind the scenes at Social OTR. Social OTR, a non-profit restaurant operated by Findlay Market in partnership with CityLink Center, is changing lives. It is offering opportunities where there were none.
If you don’t know CityLink Center, it helps those living in poverty to find a better position, by gaining education, employment, and money management skills. This short video explains how CityLink is attacking generational poverty.
Some of CityLink’s programs, like the outstanding IT training program Per Scholas, are available to CityLink clients who have a higher level of education (like a GED). The Findlay Culinary Training Program is available to a broader base of individuals, including those lacking significant formal education, or who might have a history in the criminal justice system. It will open doors that have previously been closed.
The culinary interns in the Findlay Culinary Training Program spend 4 weeks at CityLInk learning hard and soft skills, and then transition to a 3-month internship at the restaurant. Students will graduate prepared to enter the culinary industry, and CityLink will support their job search and placement. This intensive and full-time training is offered free of charge, and students are paid for their time working.
The culinary program will provide opportunities for careers rather than jobs, in positions offering stability and advancement. Imagine the sense of self-confidence and hope that would come from working as a line cook in a successful Cincinnati restaurant, compared to serving behind the counter at a fast food restaurant.
“Through the Findlay Culinary Training Program, I’ve become more driven and determined that you can’t and shouldn’t ever give up.”
— Kameron, a a participant in the Findlay Culinary Training program
Generously supported by the community
One in three Cincinnatians lives in poverty.
Let that soak in. Social OTR is a pro-active, positive and affirming venture to provide a path out of poverty. This exciting and impactful venture is supported by the community of Cincinnati, including local businesses, foundations and churches. The exposed brick pathway leading to the kitchen at Social OTR has a discrete sculpture with names of supporters. Nothing explains the presence of the names or the amounts given. Maybe Social OTR hopes you’ll focus on the quality of the dining experience, rather than the fact that this is a non-profit venture combatting poverty in Cincinnati. But the wall is a gentle message that the community stands behind this attempt to provide training, stability, and hope.
The names here are a who’s who of organizations that support and love Cincinnati, and their contribution to this non-profit demonstrates it.
Come to Social OTR for the food. And know that they are serving up hope and opportunity along with their beautiful culinary delights.
For more about the partnership between Findlay Market and CityLink Center, please see this article .
To read about another great philanthropic effort, please see THANKS for GIVING: the blessing of generosity .
For more of our favorite culinary experiences, please see: