Loosen your belt for the eats & treats at Buckle Up Music Festival: wine me, dine me picks

CINCINNATI - We are pleased to bring you this weekly feature from Julie Niesen Gosdin, the voice behind the food blog wine me, dine me. Julie serves up a "Pick of the Week," when she visits a local eatery and samples a signature menu item.

This is the first year for Buckle Up, produced by the same people who gave you Bunbury, but this time with a country twang.

There are big headliners: Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss, Old Crow Medicine Show, The Band Perry, and a bunch of others. So while you're tapping your toes to a Willie Nelson classic or swaying to "If I Die Young," by The Band Perry, you might get a little hungry, or maybe thirsty. This is where I can help.

Thirsty

Whether you're looking for a beer, spirits, or just a soda, Buckle Up has it all right on location. Organizers are continuing the Craft Beer Village and Distillery Village from Bunbury, but with a few new and different vendors.

The Craft Beer Village has a bunch of local brews and other craft favorites, from Blank Slate and Rivertown representing the 513 area code, to Upland from Indianapolis, to Lazy Magnolia representing Mississippi. You'll also find an interesting addition: Magners, an Irish cider (called Bulmer's in Ireland) that I became a huge fan of on a recent trip. It's light and refreshing and is great to cool down with between sets.

As far as distilleries go, you can try local Watershed Gin (a favorite) and Buckeye Vodka, or Ole Smoky Moonshine, sold in a Mason jar, and in flavors like apple pie and cherry. Just be careful: moonshine, technically unaged whisky, packs a wallop.

Hungry

There are a ton of food options at Buckle Up. I love that there's a real focus on local eats. Here are my picks:

  • Ce'st Cheese: a grilled cheese food truck. I'm a fan of the Bee Sting.
  • Dutch's Larder: specializes in smoked and cured meats. Be adventurous -- try them all!
  • Eli's Barbecue: After only a few years in existence, Eli's is now becoming a festival favorite. It's difficult to walk by without craving a pulled pork sandwich, topped with sauce and slaw, on a toasty, warm bun.
  • Streetpops: Always a great way to cool off, their frozen treats are completely natural and pretty good for you, with flavors like chocolate, coconut and raspberry lemonade. Their offerings vary, but they're always delicious.
  • Taste of Belgium: From a waffle stand at Findlay Market to the Food Network, these Liege-style waffles are a sweet, rich hit. They serve them plain, with toppings, or with chicken to make a Waffle 'n' Chicken (at ToB, the waffle comes first). Try Cincinnati's take on a Southern treat with that hearty dish.
  • Texas Joe, The Legal Mexican: Chipotle grilled chicken tacos are fantastic, and their green sauce is delicious and a little different from many of the local taco joints. This is a place I attempt to grab a taco from every time I see it, so I have no doubt that I'll do the same during one of the 3 days at Buckle Up.
  • Tom + Chee: All I have to say is: Grilled cheese donut. With barbecue chips. C'mon, now. Sure, it's decadent, but you'll be dancing and sweating away the calories, right?

Still hungry?

If you're heading to or from Buckle Up--and want to keep up that country vibe--head to Bakersfield or The Eagle in Over-the-Rhine for some outlaw country music and tacos (Bakersfield) or classic country and fried chicken (The Eagle). It's walking distance.

Want to just soak in air conditioning and not encounter huge crowds? Pop into Horseshoe Casino, where you can get some great pizza to go or a burger from Bobby's Burger Palace and pretend you're in Vegas. Or, walk a little further west towards the Banks, where you can grab some grub and brews at Moerlein Lager House or Yard House. 

If you go:

  • When: Friday-Sunday, July 18-20
  • Where: Yeatman's Cove/Sawyer Point, Cincinnati
  • Cost: $69 single day, $159 three days, $325 VIP weekend.
  • Website: buckleupfestival.com

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