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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

River City Resilience Series: Bellevue, Kentucky | Nomad Shakes It Up (Sponsored by Southbank Partners)

Nomad shakes can be boozy or not, and they come with ALL the fixin's.

by Robin Gee
Photos by Phil Armstrong


Nomad | 225 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue KY
Wednesday and Thursday, 3pm
- 10pm; Friday 3pm - 11pm; Saturday 10am - 11pm; Sunday 10am - 3pm | call (859) 360-7134

Ryan Theirauf and Tanner Ziese in their Bellevue restaurant Nomad

When Nomad’s Tanner Ziese was ready to park his bus and settle in, he went looking for a suitable piece of property for his next adventure.

Ziese said he always wanted to open a cafe. His initial idea was to find a spot to park the large double decker bus he purchased in London and convert it to a restaurant. Yet, as most seasoned travelers know, one must be ready to adapt to new situations and to go in new directions.

For now his bus is parked offsite and the conversion is on hold, but he and his wife Kelti Ziese found a new adventure that brought them to a very popular spot in the heart of the Bellevue, Kentucky, business district. That new adventure is Nomad, a bar and eatery they began with friends Ryan Theirauf and Kirstie Storer on Fairfield Avenue in what had been a local bake shop.

The shop had a large parking lot out front, and one of the first things the group did was have it rezoned to be a courtyard for outdoor dining. The plan was to open in March 2020. With the pandemic on the rise, Ziese pushed the opening back to September.

Nomad is known for its generous outdoor space. It can seat up to 60 people.

Enjoying both the inside and outside space

The delay gave him time, he said, to concentrate on renovating the interior space. "We weren’t able to open when we wanted to but were able to get the building all fixed up the way that best suited the space and exactly how we wanted it to be...We really made it fun and utilized the whole building. We were extremely happy with that."

The courtyard fast became a focal point. Nomad has 60 seats in the courtyard with picnic tables and smaller tables — plenty of room to spread out.

"Over COVID, the ability to serve outside, it saved our butts to have that open air seating where everybody could sit six feet apart. We attribute our being able to continue to do business and turn a profit to that outdoor seating."

In fact, the courtyard is packed on weekends and often through the week as well. Nomad boasts a fun and cozy interior with a lounge and seating for about 25 comfortably, but people gravitate to the outside, he said.

Inside Nomad is cozy and comfortable.

He said this was one big and welcome shift brought on by the circumstances of the pandemic. "People really fell in love with being outside again. Even on the really cold days or the scorching hot days we’ve been having now, people really choose to sit outside on the patio and enjoy it rather than being inside with the heater or the air conditioner," he explained.

"We made our inside really fun, really cool. We put a lot of design into it, but we still find people loving sitting outside," he said. Nomad offers all they can to make guests comfortable outside. In winter there are heaters, fire pits, hot cider and complementary blankets. They offer music on the weekends, and Thursdays are trivia nights. 

Milkshakes that bring all the people to the yard 

Most restaurants start with a food concept but for Ziese creating the menu came after finding the perfect space.

"We ended up finding a space and then had to figure out what we wanted to sell out of the space. We knew we wanted to do a restaurant, go with coffee, craft a nice cocktail list and do some light food, but a lot of people have a menu in mind and look for a space to serve that out of. We had a space and had to find a good menu to fit the space."

This is not to say they didn’t have some solid plans. The group buckled down, he said, and came up with a beer list and a wine list, and worked on cocktails they’d like to serve.

"We also love milkshakes so we do those milkshakes...Then we were trying to think of a good food that went with milkshakes...then, we realized there’s nowhere around here that does loaded tater tot baskets so we went that road...Now, we also do tacos and some light appetizers. It’s really been an ongoing development for the menu."

"Those milkshakes" Ziese refers to have become a signature menu item. They are huge and boozy (although non-alcoholic versions are available). On the menu, for example, are "S’more Than a Feeling," a concoction of ice cream blended with vanilla vodka, marshmallow fluff, chocolate syrup and topped with graham crackers, a Hershey chocolate bar, roasted marshmallows and a cherry. Another example features bourbon, ice cream, chocolate sauce and peanut butter topped with Reese’s peanut butter cups.

Nomad serves about 10 shakes with options to customize, as well as a featured shake of the month.

At Nomad, it's shakes, loaded tater tots and tacos, too.

Thriving in Bellevue

Nomad is in the heart of the thriving Bellevue Entertainment District or BED.

Ziese credits the city of Bellevue’s support of its small businesses as a big draw for him. Nomad is in the heart of the Fairfield Avenue business district that is home to the Bellevue Entertainment District, the locals fondly call the "BED." With the program, people can purchase a drink in a special Bellevue cup at any participating establishment and take it with them as they shop along the avenue.

Bellevue has been undergoing changes to make the district even more friendly to businesses offering outdoor seating. Some of these changes were spearheaded by the bars and restaurants themselves, and Ziese said he is happy that city officials listened.

On the books was a law that restricted outdoor seating to 40 percent of the indoor capacity. With that, Nomad would have only been able to offer about 18 seats outside, Ziese said. The businesses lobbied to have that old rule overturned and were successful.

“We are grateful for the BED...and we are grateful for the city’s open mindedness. They were willing to look at old rules that were in place and see that they were not conducive for all the businesses, that form doesn’t fit everyone. So having them understand that and change that for places that have bigger outdoor seating area. We’re beyond for excited for that,” he said.

Ziese is originally from Petersburg, Kentucky. Kelti is from the Detroit area but came to Northern Kentucky University for college. Theirauf and Storer are from the west side of Cincinnati, but all four owners now live in Bellevue.

They’ve fallen in love with the city, said Ziese. "We want to put Bellevue on the map. It’s kind of a hidden gem and we hear that a lot from a lot of our customers...People enjoy walking up and down visiting the shops, checking out all the bars and restaurants and stuff. We’re happy to be down here," he said.

Kelti Ziese owns two other businesses along Fairfield Avenue, Coda Co., a home decor store and a baby store named Sage and Scout.

Small but mighty

Nomad touts its spot on the river in Bellevue.

"In Bellevue it’s the little things that add up," said Mayor Charlie Cleves. He said the BED has given the area a great boost. "We’re starting to get a lot of nice new restaurants of which Nomad is one. Bellevue is becoming a destination."

The mayor has his own longtime family business, the jewelry store Cleves and Lonnemann, on Fairfield. He said often people will come to get their watch battery replaced or another minor repair, and will be told to come back in 15 minutes. Two or three hours later, they return having had a wonderful time walking along the avenue visiting the shops and restaurants.

Cleves noted a few of the local favorites including another longtime business, Schneider’s Sweet Shop, that draws people from all over to its homemade treats. He lives right on the avenue across from Three Spirits Tavern.

"If I go on my porch I can see Nomad, I can see Three Spirits directly across the street and I go to my side yard I can see Darkness Brewing...They are just rocking on the weekends with people coming down to take advantage of the outdoor dining. These places are packed with people."

Even before the BED, Bellevue businesses offered First Fridays, an event once a month in which stores on the avenue remain open later and offer specials and discounts. Each First Friday is themed. Coming up in August, for example, is First Friday Tikki Night.

More on the horizon 


Nomad's interior is fun and inviting but many prefer the patio. Thanks to a change in Bellevue law, restaurants can have more seats outside now.

City Administrator Frank Warnock agreed with the mayor on the vibrancy of the avenue area. He said he was proud of the work the mayor and city officials have done to reach out to area businesses to find out how best to support them.

With a thriving business district along Fairfield Avenue, the city has turned its attention to another area of town, the business community along Donnermeyer Drive. The city recently received an $800,000 grant to rebuild the drive. Officials are working with businesses and a pedestrian advisory committee on the development plans.

After a lull due to the pandemic, new businesses are coming to Donnermeyer, he said, including a new building on the site of the former KOI Autoparts that will include a new animal hospital on the first floor and a lawyers office on the second floor.

Warnock listed out several new restaurants coming to town as well: Cork and Crust, a wine and pizza restaurant is moving into the former Virgils restaurant space. The owner of The Plaza, a large office building on Fairfield, is bringing in a new high-end restaurant on the top floor. A brunch and breakfast eatery Yucca will go into the former Fairfield Market Building. And, Enson Harbor will bring back seafood to the building along the river that was Joe’s Crab Shack.

He said he is proud to be a part of making Bellevue a better place, and he praises the mayor as "Bellevue to the bone." He added, "We are honest and we work hard. We are trying. We stumble sometimes, but we are making the effort. And I think that’s important."

Both he and the mayor credit community involvement including the Bellevue Neighborhood Association for their work keeping the city beautiful.

Ziese agrees that community spirit is what keeps Nomad going and thriving. "We’re grateful for all the grace people are showing with trying to figure out opening up a restaurant in the middle of COVID ...and, we are grateful for the love and support of the community and all of our patrons. I just want to say thank you to everybody who has come out and supported us."

About Southbank Partners

Southbank Partners, Inc,, is a community and economic development organization that coordinates activity with the cities that lie along Northern Kentucky's bank of the Ohio River. Their purpose is to support the cities through promoting and coordinating development activities, fostering teamwork and collaboration, and providing a unified voice for the partner cities in advocating common positions to state and federal government, as well as to other communities. Members are: Bellevue, Covington, Dayton, Fort Thomas, Silver Grove, Ludlow and Newport. 

Check out more of the River City Resilience Series on Fort Thomas Matters:
River City Resilience: Galactic Chicken, Dayton KY
River City Resilience: Dari Bar, Silver Grove KY
River City Resilience: BB Riverboats, Newport KY
River City Resilience: Second Sight Spirits, Ludlow KY


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