"Oh yeah, Myra's! We should go eat there sometime."
Friends, that time is now. Like many of my neighbors, I am guilty of mentioning the above phrase as we pass by the restaurant while circling Uptown for our regular consumption of pizza, burritos, or cheese coneys. Several years had passed since I first learned about Myra's, but for whatever reason, I never thought of Greek food when hungry in Clifton. Maybe it had to do with Cincinnati's abundance of Greek-style chili overshadowing the craving for traditional Mediterranean fare. Maybe it goes back to the age-old local question: "Where'd you go to school?"
My partner and I both attended university out-of-state, but for the legions of students who passed through University of Cincinnati in the last four decades, Myra's Dionysus was a staple for off-campus dining. A mecca for vegetarians and vegans, it was also one of the first restaurants in the city to offer a variety of delicious meat-free options; a rarity in the 1970s and 80s.
The hole-in-the-wall eatery seats 20 customers and features a small open kitchen where Myra Griffin cooked an endless assortment of scratch-made meals. From common Mediterranean dishes like falafel, pitas, and baba ganouj to the more eccentric imam bialdi, pulao, or gado gado, the Dionysus was the perfect place to eat healthy at an affordable price. Most entrees average between $6-$8.
What piqued everyone's interest were the soups. On a daily basis, eight soups would rotate on a display board, selected from over 30 different recipes. More than just your cup of tomato, Myra's specialized in extraordinary combinations such as curry peanut or watermelon gazpacho.
One week before closing, we made it to Myra's Dionysus and decided to try a little bit of everything. We started with a sampler plate of baba ganouj, dolmades (grape leaves stuffed with rice), and imam bialdi (a Turkish dish of eggplant, tomato, and currants) with garlic pita bread and a piece of corn bread.
For an entree, my partner selected Gado Gado, a spicy Indonesian sauce of peanuts and fresh ginger served over brown rice with tomatoes, cucumbers, raisins, and sunflower seeds. I kept it simple and ordered a falafel sandwich drizzled with tahini lemon sauce. Both were mesmerizingly scrumptious as we barely conversed through our meal other than the occasional "Mmmmm!" sounds.
By this point, we were stuffed to the brim, but decided to order a slice of key lime pie for dessert. Not only was the pie naturally made and arrived without a speck of bright green coloring, but it was one of the best key lime pies I've tasted. And I've been around the pie block a few too many times.
From infused teas to carefully crafted plates, Myra's will certainly be missed by customers new and old. If her tastes have yet to grace your palate, there's still time. Myra's last day of business will be August 30. While the restaurant's finale ends on a triumphant note (it's closing due to Myra's retirement; she's in her 80s) we can't help but wonder what's next for the building. The restaurant is on the market for $100,000, or investors can purchase the entire building for $400,000. Could one of Cincinnati's many restauranteurs secure the restaurant and keep the legend going? Time may tell. For now, we know we can at least expect a cookbook as Myra and her store manager work to share the long-time favorite recipes from her kitchen to ours.