These Locals Are the Undisputed Champs of Original and Authentic (and Three of Their Winners Are In Our Own Backyard)
The names are as varied as their cuisine—Bakersfield, Eagle, Krueger’s, Kaze. Downtown delights even the most casual connoisseurs of cuisine have most likely heard of, if not sampled (repeatedly) in person. A fraternity of seriously good food, all under the watch of one local authority: Thunderdome Restaurant Group.
No surprise, they’re the very same masterminds behind three other fresh-focused options right here in our neck of the woods … if you haven’t experienced Maplewood, Currito and CityBird, you’re in for a treat.
It started with two brothers and a burrito. Cincy-born Joe and John Lanni launched Currito in Clifton in 2005. Five years and nearly a dozen locations later, there was a need for a bar—so they turned to Alex Blust, a local friend with the chops to make it work.
“Alex helped us get a bar program set up,” Joe recalls. “And we thought, maybe we’ll do something together … it was just left at that.”
Fate (and 3CDC) intervened. The two became three—and Bakersfield was born.
“The growth from there was organic,” Joe says. “John and I were going to continue growing Currito, Alex was going to continue his hotel work—it was supposed to be a fun side project. It just evolved.”
That evolution was Thunderdome, now with eight concepts and 41 locations across the Midwest and East Coast. CityBird in Harper’s Point and Blue Ash’s Currito represent 40 and 41, respectively.
“I think people go into Currito and CityBird and assume it’s just some chain from somewhere else,” Joe says. “We’re proud to be from Cincinnati—we’re based here. We definitely intend on continuing to grow all over the city, and these restaurants up here are the first part of that commitment.”
“We’re really excited about everything that’s happening.”
So are we, Joe. So are we.
Destination: Dig In!
Now let’s get down to business—the real business—what to eat? Joe gave us the inside scoop, his favorite fare, for each of the three stops on your local Thunderdome journey. Will you choose CityBird’s satisfying savory crunch, Currito’s build-your-own brilliance, or Maplewood’s fine-casual coastal flair? Hidden gems no more—these three meals were made for your delectation.
Maplewood: Guajillo Chicken Bowl
This beauty is a balanced blend of bold Mexican flavors, fresh ingredients and West Coast attitude. Built on a quinoa/brown rice blend, the vibrant veggies and greens work their signature magic with the chips and guajillo-braised chicken (that mild chili pepper zing goes perfectly with a Blackberry Lemonade or Super Green Margarita). “I think it’s quintessentially Maplewood … it’s one of my favorites—light, bright and on-trend.”
MaplewoodKitchenAndBar.com | Deerfield Towne Center
Currito: Green Goddess Salad
A summertime special, this seasonal salad was such a bestseller, they gave it a full-time job. “It’s one of those rare dishes that on paper doesn’t sound like it will work—but in reality, it’s delicious.” Meant to showcase all the items on Currito’s cold line, it’s affectionately (informally) known as the “drag you though the garden” salad. With a cucumber-tahini vinaigrette that’s both bright and tart (a nod to Chef Stephanie’s brilliance), this glorious gathering of greens is not only healthy, it’s truly divine.
Currito.com | Harper’s Point, Blue Ash, Kenwood
CityBird: Tenders & Fries
Yes, there’s slaw. And salads. And the spicy sandwich (!). Don’t even get us started on the house-made sauces (that Jalapeño Hot is spicy-pepper genius). The real star of the show is, no surprise, the tenders themselves. With cage-free, all-natural, free-roaming chicken—no antibiotics, ever—the tenders are brined in-house, then dipped in a from-scratch dredge. Even the size of the tenders was carefully considered in order to deliver the most perfect bite, every time. And the fries? “It’s all about the seasoning.”
CityBirdTenders.com | Harper’s Point