Cincy Trip Pt. 3: From Sleepy Bees to Screaming Trees

Our Sunday focus in Cincinnati was to grab some screen time in front of the TV for a little football action. But of course, we needed some fuel in the system after a good night's sleep, so we headed to the Blue Ash branch of the popular local breakfast and lunch purveyor Sleepy Bee Cafe.

Started in December 2013 in the Cincinnati suburb of Oakley by John Hutton and Sandra Gross, the eatery's popularity prompted a second location a ten or so miles up Interstate 71 in Blue Ash (a third location in the heart of Downtown Cincinnati is nearing completion.)

If you hadn't guessed from the restaurant's name, the Sleepy Bee has an apiary theme, borne out of the owners' love of bees.  Honeycomb tile clusters and vaguely-beehive-shaped wire lamp covers dot the ceiling, while a flowery glass sculpture hangs over the bar area (unlike their Oakley location, the Blue Ash eatery has a liquor license.)

Various aspects of Sleepy Bee reminded me of various Columbus-area eateries and their touting of their local sourcing as well as the open kitchen, where orders await pickup. The long wait on this day reminded me of those you'd find at Columbus favorite Northstar Cafe (perhaps the most similar Columbus eatery to the Sleepy Bee on an overall basis) during weekends - you can get your name on the wait list sooner by using Nowait mobile app. However, the eatery eases the wait with free brewed coffee (like another Columbus favorite in Skillet) as well as books to entertain the youngsters.

Perhaps the Sleepy Bee's greatest strength is the fact that you can have it both ways without much hassle: you can lean more decadent with regularly offered options like the Chorizo Omelet, the Piggy Cakes (pancakes infused with bacon chunks, covered with whipped cream and candied pecans) or the Bee's Knees Burger (with chimichurri sauce, goat cheese, bacon, fried egg and the other usuals) or lean more healthful with regulars like the Vegan Tofu Scramble, which you can get Avi style with avocado, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes and onions, or the Cauliflower Falafel Burger.  

Even better, the eatery makes it easy for those with dietary restrictions to order with lists of items that are vegan, gluten-free and soy-free, as well as caters to the youngsters with a fun kid's menu.

Our first experience has definitely recommended a return visit: we all enjoyed our orders this day, from the Greek Bee (egg whites, feta, grilled chicken, olives, garlic and herbs, along with a side of sweet potatoes) to my Bee Cakes (light and airy pancakes made with almond milk and a mix of quinoa and buckwheat flour, along with my first delving into goetta) to my spouse's very delicious special (a Fried Green Tomato Sandwich on sourdough with bacon jam and fried eggs), adult cocktails, and more.

After our meal at the Sleepy Bee, we actually ventured down to the Oakley area for the first visit for my spouse and me to Madtree Brewing's expanded brewery and taproom.

Considering the mad growth this brewery has experienced since it opened its doors in 2013, the name of this brewery might have been prescient in some sense. The first modern craft brewery to can its beer in Ohio, Madtree's new production facility (opened February of this year) boosted the brewery's footprint by a factor of three and gives it the capacity to increase their yearly production more than thirty-fold, from just under 3,000 barrels during its first year to 100,000 barrels by 2020.

The taproom's inside is plenty spacious, with plenty of tables, chairs and televisions. On the periphery, you'll find the gift shop, the tap area, as well as the Catch-A-Fire Cafe, the brick-and-mortar operation by the Cincinnati-area food truck specializing in wood-fired pizzas and Bob Marley references.

The courtyard shows off the building's former life as a paper manufacturing facility, providing a unique backdrop for anyone who chooses to sit outside with their brews in addition to a game of cornhole or two.

If you wander by the gift shop, you'll notice a glass door to the production area of the facility. On this day, the door sign welcomed anyone in who wanted to grab a look, and the elevated platform inside this hangar-like construct ensures that anyone can take absorb the full effect of Madtree's expanded production space.

As it turned out, much of the (exasperated) screaming within the taphouse today came from the gathered throngs of Bengals fans who watched their team lay an egg on this game day. However, all of us there had a variety of brews to drown our our sorrows. Our personal favorites on this day turned out to be more of the flagship brews like the Blood Orange PsycHOPathy and their _____ Brown Ale (a gnarly way indeed to list it on the menu board) versus the more specialized brews (which ranged from a tasty S'More Gratitude Stout to a way-too-dominated-by-rosemary Duck Duck Bear.)

Topped off with some eats from the Catch-A-Fire, the time spent at Madtree made for a nice conclusion for our foursome and, for my spouse and I, our first real excursion into Cincinnati in quite some time. We also came to the conclusion as we were driving back up I-71 toward home that we need to make these excursions just a little more often.

Sleepy Bee Cafe
9514 Kenwood Road (Google Maps)
Blue Ash, OH, 45242
(513) 241-BEEZ (2339)
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Madtree Brewing
3301 Madison Rd.  (Google Maps)
Cincinnati, OH 45209
(513) 836-8733
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