If you’re wondering why we’re afraid to believe that this whole highly unfamiliar habit of “winning” has become part of how the Cincinnati Reds conduct themselves, you must first understand the Jeff Ruby bags.  You can immediately tell how a Cincinnatian views himself, his life, and the opposite side of town through its usage– or lack thereof.

The bag in question looks like this, and if you have never seen one, much less carried one, you are likely a West Sider, where everyone knows everyone and the very act of trolling down the cul-de-sac in a car that doesn’t have at least some miles on it sets you up for condemnation of committing the ultimate West Side crime of showing off.

Acting Hot

In my day, this mortal sin was referred to as “acting hot,” and was deployed thusly in the following sentence that has stuck in my prefrontal cortex for four decades now: “Michelle is acting hot because she’s going to the circus this weekend.” I wish I were making this up. But the point is: This simply isn’t done. We would first have to move outside of the five-mile radius that is our work, entire family, home, social lives, and religious anchors. In other words, it doesn’t happen.

So to casually and publicly announce the patronage of a fine dining establishment is the equivalent of failing to sign up a child for some form of soccer. It simply isn’t done. Not only would we never think to sit down for a meal in a place where a 20% tip is probably more than our entire yearly Ron’s Roost budget, we certainly wouldn’t let people know about it.

That means if we somehow came into possession of such a thing, it would be carefully placed in reserve for recycling as house-only use, and then only with the guarantee that extended family members would never have any idea that evidence of such outrageous opulence hovers so close. Not only would you never take it to haul snacks to the Oak Hills football game, you would deny its entire existence. East Siders, we imagine, use them to tote their organic golf shoes if they need to visit Whole Foods on the way back from the country club.

Look at the website. This place has a chandelier on the outside. You could buy outdoor softball chairs for your entire parish on the cost of a stemware setting alone. No, no, this is not how we live.

Ruby in the Ladies’ Room

Once I branched into acknowledging the existence of the East Side beyond carefully planned sorties to Kenwood Mall, however, I was stunned to enter a yoga class (I know. Don’t start) and see not just one, but several Jeff Ruby bags stuffed into the cubbies of the ladies’ room. And Lululemon bags, and at least one form of designer purse that wasn’t even available at T.J. Maxx. Not one Kroger’s sack.

I was stepping far beyond my territory. Even though I’d thrown everything into a denim carry-all, I was dangerously close to acting hot, if not having done so already in the mere act of stepping into a yoga studio. These people ate at Jeff Ruby’s! Where you could order oysters! And they didn’t care if other people knew about it! Where did they go for their 8th grade graduation outfits, Paris? On a private jet made of uranium?

I told my mother and my sister immediately, providing this as evidence that I had somehow entered a world of Ohio-based oil sheiks. We talked about it for days.

The Sommelier Seating

So when Josh The Pilot and I succumbed at last to the hedonist lifestyle of non-West Siders and stood beneath the chandelier ourselves, our concern wasn’t how in the world we were going to afford an appetizer without taking a second mortgage or whether or not we’d see anybody we knew (we wouldn’t, of course; everyone I’ve ever met in my life has sprung from the West Side, and by definition these are not the Jeff Ruby demographic) but how on Earth we were going to transport the piece of cake that was returning with us. I honestly contemplated carrying it with my bare hands rather than someone from the parish council somehow catching me with the Mark of the Vegan over my shoulder.

PICTURED: Photographic proof (background) of author’s complete and total descent into East Side overindulgence

In our time within the Versailles of the Little Miami River, we saw Marty Brennaman and wife, at least two Bengals, and a personage whose identity remains a mystery but we know for gosh-darn sure he and his party somehow rated a private seating in the Sommelier Room. (Every West Sider reading this just Googled “sommelier,” feeling immensely proud that he had never in his entire existence heard this term before.)

We also saw two children– children!– whose parents somehow seem to think that ordering from a menu not covered in plastic is the right way to raise a family. Then we met a busboy who was working his way through college, grew up in Harrison, and of course knows my godchild. He saw me looking in horror at the bag the server just handed me, attempting to contemplate what I had just become.

“Tell everyone you got it from the friend of a neighbor who works here,” he said. “That’s what my mom does.”

The Rescuing Reds

But even though I rightfully should have passed a special anniversary dinner at Maury’s Tiny Cove if we really wanted to get fancy, I will have no doubt what everyone in Price Hill Chili was doing that night. They were watching the Reds, knowing they could conduct a conversation with someone on the other side of the great divide without anybody dreading accusations of acting hot at all.




16 Responses

  1. Daytonnati

    There is no better special event experience in Cincinnati than dinner at one of the Ruby restaurants. Everything is excellent including the service. The Precinct will always be my favorite, but downtown and Carlo and Johnny’s are great too.

    If you feel really adventurous sometime, you and the Pilot should make an excursion up to the Pine Club in Dayton, still my personal favorite, but I am a prejudiced native Daytonian. Make sure you get there early, or are prepared to wait as they do not take reservations. Just ask President George HW Bush! His secret service detail waited for him and signaled when a table was ready.

    • Will the Red

      Grew up spending a summer weekend in Cincy as a kid for a Reds/Braves series (dad grew up a Braves fan) and doing back-to-school shopping at the Kenwood Mall. Was from a small NE Ohio town. Cincinnati was the “big city,” and I was going to go there some day. Ended up at college at Xavier (Go XU) and then a few more years on Montgomery Rd, just outside of Hyde Park. Moved to Philly and been here for 20+ years, but got every single reference and love all of this essay. It makes me miss Cincy a lot, especially Price Hill Chili. Terrific essay and GO REDS!

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Even when it’s just drinks and dessert, we were treated like the king and queen of Fountain Square. I need a business expense setup so we can start bringing people cooler than ourselves. It has the Marty seal of approval, after all.

  2. Scott C

    I am really ashamed of you Mary Beth, “acting hot.” But will forgive you of this one transgression. I do believe the Reds, at least over the last few weeks, have been acting hot, but as we have found out over the last few weeks, they have come back to earth so we can sit around and complain about how bad they are. I hope you’ve already been to confession.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      lol I will hit up the confessional ASAP. Although there is never, ever, ANY danger of me attending the circus at any time #clowns

  3. Jim t

    My family began on Pleasant st. in OTR. My mother and her siblings went to school at St. Francis. The area they lived in was known as Little Italy. Most of my relatives are buried in the Italian/ Irish section of St. Joe’s cemetery on pedretti ave. . My Dad retired from the post office on Dalton ave a block over from where Crosley field was located. My cousin married one of the original members of the Casino’s. A group started in OTR which gave us the single “Then you can tell me Goodbye” for those old enough to remember.

    Love that part of Cincinnati and visit often

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      That is a lovely family story– thank you for sharing it! I wish that PO on Dalton were still sending packages… we gotta go across the river for a quick trip! My whole family is in “the new St. Joe’s,” where they pretty much mix everybody up 🙂

  4. Bob

    Truer words have never been spoken, “The bag in question looks like this, and if you have never seen one, much less carried one, you are likely a West Sider, where everyone knows everyone and the very act of trolling down the cul-de-sac in a car that doesn’t have at least some miles on it sets you up for condemnation of committing the ultimate West Side crime of showing off.”

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      The most mortifying day of my mother’s life is the moment my father rolled into the cul-de-sac in a temporary Lexus SC.

  5. LDS

    Not being from Cincinnati, I wasn’t familiar with Jeff Ruby. Looking over their menu and prices tells me I won’t be visiting. Ron’s Roost looks like a place I would have liked back in the day. So had I been from Cincinnati, I guess I’d have been a west sider as well. As for acting hot? Ruby’s strikes me more of just acting dumb.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Oh you gotta go for drinks/dessert like we did at the Precinct! The cheesecake is awesome. I have to admit that it felt strange to be in any kind of restaurant that didn’t have TVs tuned into sports all over the walls.

  6. Rednat

    good stuff MBE. I have lived the majority of my life in Roselawn which is probably best described as within the dmz of Cincinnati so I never got involved much in the whole west side vs east side debate. But I tell you when friends and family from other parts of the country come to Cincy and want a tour of our fair city, I almost exclusively take them around the west side. I think you get the real feel of the city !

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      LOL I’ve heard Mt. Adams described as the DMZ but nope, it’s full-on East Side. Roselawn is a good actual candidate, however.

  7. Mark Moore

    While not local to the 513 area, I get everything you wrote and greatly appreciate it. I’m from rather humble stock (Dad never owned a house as the parsonages were provided by the various churches) and I made far more than he ever did within the first couple years of being a working professional. We live in a nice place, but in one of the more rural counties and in a 20-year-old development with a busted up road and now HOA. One vehicle is a 2021 Highlander and the other is a 2004 Tundra with over 220K miles on it. I normally “look hot” once per day after my morning walk. Twice if I have to mow the yard.

    But we can all dream and sometimes you have to treat yourself, even if the neighbors will throw you “that look”. Brian Snitker’s comments after the Braves series were honest respect for our young team. I’m hoping that team shows back up soon and starts another winning streak.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Josh The Pilot just sold his trusty 2005 Vibe, which at one point only had a single operating door handle. Been there (and quite recently.)