Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cincinnati Oddities: Fast Food Sushi and Food Trucks

Over the weekend, we spent a lot of time downtown. We had a uniquely Cincinnati experience, and not just because I sat by the fountain from WKRP. I also had the opportunity to see things I’ve seen or heard about on local blogs or twitter but never experienced for myself, mainly because these are lunch things and I’m rarely downtown for lunch.


That’s me in the middle of the fountain there, with a shopping bag. We had just been to Macy’s, which is right across the street. I’ll let you in on a secret here: I hate clothes shopping, especially in a crowded mall. We were at the downtown Macy’s during their monthly One Day Sale and it was not crowded at all. Alex wanted to go because he needed new pants. Between eating my healthy-ish food and his Ninja Warrior training, he’s dropped several sizes. I suggested we go to the beer festival on the square after Macy’s.

At the festival, we saw Cincinnati’s two food trucks. I guess this is just in time for the national popularity of food trucks, but people here are puzzled by and fascinated with these. The latest has been what to do when it gets cold: should we build a heated tent around them?


And in the line of beer, a tent dedicated to tomato soup & grilled cheese, including grilled cheese on a glazed donut. Yes, you read that right. The donut is sliced like a bagel and the glazed sides are on the inside of the sandwich, right up against your choice of cheese. I wonder if this is a Cincinnati original. It might be. Tom + Chee is open weekdays on Fountain Square.

005It wasn’t that crowded, so maybe I should have waited until everyone was out of the way. That man is not Alex. I don’t know who he is.

The other oddity to mention is a sushi place a block away that we went to a few weeks ago, actually on our way to a preseason Bengals game. I had been holding these photos and wasn’t sure whether I would post them. Most of the restaurant posts I write are to show off good places to eat and eventually compile a pretty good list useful to visitors or new veg folks. I don’t write about places I don’t like. But this seems to fit in the local oddity section, and I don’t exactly dislike it.


Soho Sushi is a fast food sushi place. You walk up to the counter and they build the rolls right in front of you. It’s an assembly line. There’s a machine the workers fill with loose cooked rice, and it forms the rice sheets to go on the nori. Then they fill the roll with your choice of foods and place it in another machine to cut it. Finally, there’s a variety of sauces they want to douse the rolls in, and they think you’re weird if you don’t want sauce. Or sesame seeds.

Temp1_sushi2 Two vegetable rolls, 10 pieces each, $4.00 each

Not quite what you’d get from another place, but this was okay. The roll on the left includes three vegetables: asparagus, carrot, cucumber, topped with a mild wasabi sauce. The one on the right is simply avocado, carrot, and scallion, and so the roll went around several times. Can you see the green in all that rice? The worker suggested I add sweet chili sauce, which was more like a syrup.

I’m not sure I’d go back unless I needed a quick, cheap meal. The only problem I have with the rolls is that the veggie portions weren’t big enough for people like us, not getting any meats.

There’s a quote often attributed to Mark Twain (but probably never actually said by him): “When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because it’s always five* years behind the times.”

Sometimes that seems true, but other times it seems like Cincinnati is its own Porkopolis of a planet completely outside of the times. Has anyone else heard of grilled cheese being served with donut for bread? Or nearly automated sushi? (The link I found for the sample machine is from Australia – perhaps this is popular there?)

*The number of years in this statement varies; I’ve seen it be as many as twenty!

Soho Sushi on Urbanspoon


  1. I have never heard of a donut grilled cheese. I used to love a grilled sandwich of brie on sourdough with apricot jam so the donut and cheese isn't too different. But I think it would be a bit too sweet for me now.

    Fast food sushi is another new one. So much for 5 years behind. ;-)

    hope it was a good weekend overall,

  2. Never heard of a donut grilled cheese either. That acutally sounds like something you would find here in the south...ha

    I had never heard of food trucks until the show "The Great Food Truck Race". Now I hear about them everywhere. :o)

  3. Yep, Twain was right, Cinci is five years behind the times:

    Automated sushi sounds like sacrilege. Being a sushi chef is a very prestigious job in Japan.

  4. A doughnut-grilled cheese sounds really gross! Paula Deen probably came up with that idea.

  5. Oh wow - that link is crazy. The way I count, that's only 4 years, though - 2006!

    I wonder if Paula Deen would even eat the donut... I think it's a novelty, but a scary one, even in the season for fair food.

  6. Jessica, you're right. Four years. I was thinking it was 2011.


  8. Soho Sushi and Tom+Chee are amazing places for lunch in downtown Cincinnati.

  9. For the record, no one in Australia uses a sushi machine either - it's always handmade, in my experience. We like to follow the same rule as the rest of the world: If you can't see a sushi chef, don't order the sushi. ;)