Goats, snowmen and deep Cincinnati tradition convene.
On the edge of Mount Auburn and Over-The-Rhine near downtown Cincinnati sits Milton’s Prospect Hill Tavern, the local dive bar institution catering to, you guessed it, the Prospect Hill neighborhood. On a bit of an incline in a two-story brick building, Milton’s looks like the usual corner spot to grab a beer but an entangled history with Cincinnati festival Bockfest adds a little more intrigue to what is otherwise a divey, locals-heavy haunt.
The hints of Bockfest’s relationship to Milton’s Prospect Hill Tavern start with the sign over the bar’s front door where a large white goat head sits atop a green sign, an ornate white ribbon decoration serving as backdrop to a carved set of letters spelling “Milton’s.” In contrast, the rest of the Cincinnati dive bar’s name “Prospect Hill Tavern” is scrawled in almost imperceptible script lettering combined with the opening year of the bar, 1992.
Bockfest is Cincinnati’s annual celebration of Spring’s impending arrival, no small cause for celebration in Ohio where the winters can be discouragingly stiff. Each year, a series of pre-events culminate in Bockfest itself, a neighborhood festival in Over-The-Rhine that typically sweeps through a number of participating bars, restaurants, tents and city streets. The striking iconography of Bockfest is, of course, a goat, sometimes brought to life in costume form during the celebration.
In addition to the Sausage Queen (vote early, vote often) and Beefsteak Club Dinner, Bockfest season kicks into gear with the Precipitation Retaliation Happy Hour, the ritualistic burning of a cotton and wire snowman that rotates among bars in the area. Naturally, Milton’s Prospect Hill Tavern and owner Kevin Feldman have hosted and long been innately tied to the demise of an innocent snowman and the broader Bockfest slate of activities. That the sign above the door features a goat is, of course, no surprise.
Bockfest association aside, Milton’s Prospect Hill Tavern is a classic, brick-lined, urban neighborhood dive bar complete with pinball machine, drink specials and a steady collection of locals at the short bar in the structure’s main room. The building itself lends to the allure of Milton’s Prospect Hill Tavern, the main room dominated by the bar, but it is the back room and second floor that add a bit of intrigue to the layout.
The second floor in particular is a hidden gem among Cincinnati dive bar hidden gems, the winding wooden staircase worth exploration. Because the experience is divided up among multiple rooms, ample opportunity exists to camp out in a corner of this neighborhood haunt with a group of friends. The activity of the bar’s main room is contrasted with what are often much quieter vibes in the back room or upstairs area.
Milton’s Prospect Hill Tavern diversions include the aforementioned pinball as well as second-floor shuffleboard, pool and foosball. Cincinnati sports décor is, of course, prevalent, but Milton’s Prospect Hill Tavern is largely left to its own historic devices, dive bar wall coverings certainly involved but not overwhelmingly so. The Cincinnati dive bar’s centerpiece may be the “Milton’s” neon lamp behind the bar paired with a vintage “Bavarian’s Select Beer” sign on the opposite wall.