The DH was not a linear thoroughfare per se, but a network of interconnected roads stretching from Canada to Florida. Two main arteries, DH East from Sault St. Marie, Michigan to Miami and DH West from Chicago to Miami had loops and connectors funneling cars to the main lines. The introduction of the interstate meant the dismantling and renaming of portions of the Highway. The Dix was, roughly speaking, replaced largely by I-75 and in part by I – 65 and I – 95. In a north/south direction anyway. You can still see signage for the DH in states like Kentucky and Ohio but more than often you wouldn’t even know you’re on the historical road.
Many of the businesses that thrived along this highway died when the interstate pushed through. Some did manage to survive and you can read about two of them here. One lives on, one does not.
In north Cincinnati the suburb of Sharonville, once on the DH, is a mecca for chain restaurants and hotels. However at least one hold out still exists. Hanging on to it’s pre interstate days. The Rootbeer Stand has been delighting south central Ohioans and visitors for over half a century.
Originally opened under the A & W banner by Mick and Nancy Rideour along with (Nancy’s parents) Jim and Catherine Clark. Mick found a seasonal (summer) business was the perfect counter to his seasonal (fall to spring) job as a teacher. Right on the outskirts it was the first place to grab a bite as you hit town. (Or last depending on which way you were going of course.) In 1982 they’d discontinued their affiliation with A & W and were independent.
By the late 80’s Mick and Nancy were winding down their careers and Nancy’s parents had both passed. It was time to move on. That's where Scott and Jackie Donley stepped in. A deal was struck and the Donley’s opened the 1990 season as the new owners. They immediately changed….nothing. Why would they?? They had a good thing going. The chili and most importantly the root beer recipes developed by Catherine back in the 50’s are still the same today.The root beer is even made with the same equipment they’ve been using since they opened in 1957.
On the outside very little has changed. There’s been some cosmetic alterations and of course all the A & W signage was replaced with The Rootbeer Stand but the place is still in the same spot it was when it opened. Car hops have been gone since the early 70’s as well.
Inside the kitchen and a few other areas have been moved around but the signature feature has remained. The hat hall of fame that adorns the ceiling. In by gone days, truckers were the predominate customer as they travelled up and down the Dixie Highway. They’d leave their ball caps as a form of advertising. The tradition has continued ever since. They get thinned out once in a while and when they took over, the Donley’s had a great number of them cleaned. Another tradition still observed is the hiring of young, high school aged kids for the season. Most often, this is the first job these young boys and girls ever have. A nice way to kick off their working life. Even better for a couple of young girls in the 60’s. Both working as car hops met their husbands at the stand. Today they can be found working in the kitchen.
Well all this tradition is wonderful the food is really what matters. So lets have a look.
The double cheeseburger was good but not great. Mrs. Sippi was far more enthusiastic about it than I. It was very reminiscent of the one at Texas Tavern in Roanoke. Both of those burgers to me just screamed nostalgia.
The foot long chili cheese dog was very good. An ordinary wiener and bun with chili, cheese, mustard and onion. The surprise, being that we’re in Cinci was that the chili was more of a traditional chili. It, on its own was also very good. It had a nice cumin hit and good chili flavour. No real heat which would’ve made it even nicer but you just don’t get that in hot dog chili.
The Big E sandwich is the normal Cheeseburger with warmed Deli Ham and Swiss Cheese. It came dressed with pickle, onion, mustard and mayo. In future I think I’d skip the pickle and add tomato. All in all this is a delicious sandwich. The ham and swiss take this to another level. As I said above, the Cheeseburger was good. This is very good.
The star of the show as you can imagine is the root beer. Made with water from their own well which they claim gives it it’s personality. It has a nice smooth flavour and little carbonation. It’s also not overly sweet. Just enough to take the edge off. They even serve it up in a mug which is a nice touch. Notice the pop corn. They don't serve fries so chips or pop corn are your options.
The root beer float was even better. The vanilla ice cream complimented the root beer perfectly. This is where the less sweetness of the root beer really mattered.
My Grandmother would often make us Ginger Ale and Butter Pecan floats when we were kids. (It's a great combo, give it a try). I never really thought much about them until the last few years when I rediscovered the float. Great memories.
So if you’re in the Cincinnati area and are feeling nostalgic, head on over to The Rootbeer Stand.
You can find The Rootbeer Stand at 11566 Reading Road in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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You can also find them on the web, facebook and Twitter.
Well that’s all for now folks, see ya next time in the food court.