photography by Mackenzie Frank
— Liberty Township, Ohio
Like many modern mixed-use developments, Liberty Center is something of a tiny city, with shops, upscale eateries, and pocket greenspaces dotting its crisscrossing streets.
The $350 million complex opened in 2015 and is now home to diverse food options (including a dine-in movie theater), an AC Marriott hotel, Cincinnati Children’s Discovery Center, and retailers like Forever 21 and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
On a snowy January day, shoppers braved the bluster to scope out Liberty Center’s newest tenant: Lotus Pad Asian Cuisine. The restaurant opened in December 2017, marking the small chain’s second location; the other sits on a ski resort in Big Sky, MT. A family-style, Vietnamese-and-Thai-influenced menu gives nods to the slopes, with entrees ranging in spice level from easy to intermediate to difficult, most difficult, and the fiery “experts only.”
Bangkok fries are the appetizer to try, piled high with crumbled pork and drizzled with alternately creamy and tangy sauces, while chef specialties include Pumpkin Curry and Crying Tiger, a 10-ounce Wagyu steak rubbed with spicy mint. Noodles, curries, and stir-fries round out the menu, with twists on Asian standards like Crab Pad Thai, salty-sweet and studded with freshly picked crab.
Ingredients are all organic and sourced locally whenever possible from partners including Morning Sun Organic Farm in Preble County, Pippin’s Produce in Fairfield, and Ohio Valley Food Connection.
“Organic and local just makes good sense—for health, for the environment, and for the community,” says cofounder Bryan Henderson, adding that in his more than 25 years of restaurant management, the “overwhelming response” to Lotus Pad’s local outpost has been a first.
“We didn’t do much marketing, mostly just word of mouth,” Henderson says. “But people in the area were ready for an approachable ethnic food option, especially when they heard about our commitment to fresh, organic flavors.”
— Hannah Purnell
7521 Gibson St., Liberty Township, Ohio
Hannah is a graduate of NKU's political science program and a freelance creative who writes extensively about development in Greater Cincinnati. She doesn't like to fly, but she loves to travel. Her favorite books are A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Love in the Time of Cholera.