Inside Sitwell’s: New Owners Reopen with Full Vegetarian/Vegan Menu
Clifton coffee shop mainstay Sitwell’s has reopened under new ownership, and is now known as Sitwell’s Act II. The café closed its doors this January after a quarter century of business on Ludlow Avenue in the neighborhood’s Gaslight District. Known to Cincinnatians for its relaxed atmosphere, full bar and close proximity to the Esquire Theatre, Sitwell’s was a popular meetup spot for local artists and musicians whose work was often featured in the shop.
Now owned by Florencia Garayoa and her husband Alex Barden, the couple is determined to preserve what made Sitwell’s an iconic Cincinnati hangout while adding their own philosophy and personality. While Barden is a Cincinnati native, Garayoa is from Argentina and she was an employee at Sitwell’s during its last few months of operation under the original owner, Lisa Storie.
The couple purchased Sitwell’s and began renovations, giving the interior a complete overhaul. Chef Kyle Scrimsher, formerly of E+O Kitchen in Hyde Park, was hired and tasked with creating a fully vegetarian and vegan menu.
“We want to keep a little bit of the funkiness along with the name, but we want to do things differently, of course,” Garayoa says. “One of the main things is going to be the menu. It’s still sandwiches, pastries, soups and salads — simple in that sense — but we’re now a fully vegetarian restaurant with vegan options. Most of the dishes can be made vegan.”
The couple has also already reached out to local artists, assuring the community that Sitwell’s will continue to be a creative hub for the city’s up-and-coming musicians, painters, poets, et al.
“It’s a really nice community to be a part of,” Barden says. “Lisa fought really hard when Starbucks wanted to move in on Ludlow. Nothing against Starbucks, they do their own thing, but we really like that this strip is all locally owned. A friend of mine said there’s a new restaurant going in down the street and asked if I was worried about the competition. No. Anything that’s going to draw more people to this area is good … ‘the rising tide lifts all ships.’”
“It is Sitwell’s, but now it’s our Sitwell’s,” Garayoa says.
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Sitwell’s Act II, 324 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, facebook.com/sitwells.coffeehouse.| Photos by Hailey Bollinger and Sean Peters