Flavor: Cincinnati’s version of Cheers — your quintessential neighborhood bar. Even if the food was bad, you’d still go. Of course, it’s not. Some of our favorites are the slightly garlicky Spinach Pizza and Burger Madness on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Toppings are free and include everything from blue cheese to chili. For vegetarians, there’s always the Black Bean Burger, one of the best in town.
Flair: The colorful mural on the wall depicts drunken regulars from a bygone era and the outdoor seating is ideal for spring and summer.
3516 Edwards Road, Hyde Park, 513-871-5543. Open 7 days. $7-$13.
Flavor: The varied menu at this “novel” bistro serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner items culled from best-selling cookbook authors like Alton Brown (Spinach Salad with warm bacon dressing) and Rachel Ray (Turkey Burger with horseradish and cranberry dressing).
Flair: Don’t mistake this place for a glorified coffee bar just because it’s stuck in the far corner of a Joseph-Beth Bookstore and serves delicious desserts. Its big, comfy booths are equally appealing as a place to curl up with a good book and a cup of Joe, or to grab a delicious and interesting meal.
2692 Madison Road, Norwood, 513-396-8970. Open 7 days. $8-$14.
Café de Paris
Flavor: Parisian café food as well as an opportunity to practice your French! Feast on lunch and breakfast selections like Salade Nicoise and Croissant Foure aux Epinards (toasted croissant with spinach and feta). Fresh baked European breads make the sandwiches very satisfying, and there are loads of vegetarian options. Don’t forget the Chocolate Croissant for dessert!
Flair: Owner Khaled Atallah must be a favorite son of the City of Lights. His hearty “Bonsoir!” rings throughout the cafe, creating a charming, tres chic dining experience. Dine al fresco on the sidewalk or take your sack to Piatt Park across the street, as seating is limited.
17 Garfield Place, Downtown, 513-651-1919. Open Monday-Friday. $3-$9.
Dilly Deli Café Wines & Gourmet
Flavor: Dilly’s menu ranges from small plates like the new Mussels with fennel and roasted red peppers in a white wine herb garlic sauce to sandwiches like the BBQ Pulled Pork to high falutin’ options like the Wild Mushroom & Duck Breast Windsor Salad to comfort food items that include the Café Meatloaf and Fish and Chips. Don’t walk out without an order of the Sweet Potato Fries — you’ll regret it forever if you do.
Flair: The space is a relaxed combination of an old-time diner/Brooklyn neighborhood restaurant. The real flair is in their wine philosophy: Dilly offers more than 1,000, and rather than one or two wines by the glass, they have over 30. Winner of “Best Wine Selection.”
6818 Wooster Pike, Mariemont, 513-561-5233. Open Monday-Saturday. $10-$25.
Green Dog Café
Flavor: Local sourcing whenever possible. The guacamole gets raves, and can be added to the Cilantro Pesto Quesadilla with caramelized red onions, roasted sweet potatoes, feta and spinach served with salsa fresca and sour cream. For brunch, try the Lemon Zephyr Pancakes with lemon quark cheese, honey butter, fresh berries and Ohio maple syrup.
Flair: Sustainability — that’s how they roll at the Green Dog. Building materials were recycled or sustainably produced, appliances are energy saving and everything that can be recycled is. There’s a strong commitment to green at the Dog.
3543 Columbia Pkwy., Columbia–Tusculum, 513-321-8777. Open Tuesday–Sunday. $10-$14.
Flavor: Country cookin’ — French style. Offers breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch featuring seasonal, local ingredients and simple, friendly preparations. Good coffee and lovely assorted pastries all day long.
Flair: The most bohemian of the Relish Group restaurants, the rehabbed Covington brownstone was previously home to the Wildflour Bakery. Bright walls with art nouveau décor and a charming garden patio make this cozy little neighborhood place a destination for people from all over the city. The scent of fresh-baked goods drifts seductively throughout the two floors calling you to make a choice between the almond and the chocolate croissants.
308 Greenup St., Covington, 859-261-3663. Open Tuesday-Sunday. $2-$9.
Flavor: Soups, salads, pastas, panini, wraps and calzones created by Master Chef and owner Jean-Paul Belmont. Need we say more? OK, Jean-Paul is a Master Baker as well and offers canolli, bread and other baked goods from the bakery. Perhaps their claim to fame is their self-proclaimed “best pizza in the universe.” Try one of the specialty pies or build your own.
Flair: An offshoot of Jean-Paul’s Clough Pike Market, the eatery only has a couple of tables. The environment is conducive to chatting it up with the friendly and attentive staff, but most of the business is carryout.
6732 Clough Pike, Mount Washington, 513-231-2780. Open Monday-Saturday. $5-$15.
Flavor: French bistro fare beckons, with a focus on local farms and purveyors. Experience a modern twist on traditional comfort food, with dishes like steak frites and Seared Scottish Salmon.
Flair: The bistro is a great spot for wine after work, with bartenders who are really convivial. Enjoy 12 craft beers on tap along with an extensive wine list to complement any meal.
413 Vine St., Downtown, 513-621-1465. Open 7 days. $16-$31.
Flavor: A tapas restaurant with lots of variety. Enjoy the Onion Bianca Tandori flatbread with caramelized onions, four cheeses and white wine cream sauce, or share Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps dunked in soy lime dipping sauce. Still hungry? Try the Sautéed Sea Scallops or the Filet Mignon paired with Parmesan potato pancake and port wine reduction. Full-size entrées featuring Grilled Salmon, Vodka Penne and a hearty NY Strip Steak in a teriyaki preparation are also available.
Flair: A great place to enjoy street-side seating on a nice spring night or cozy loft seating on a more intimate occasion. With the addition of a second location in Anderson Township, you’ll want to check the Web for menu variations.
18 Main St., Milford, 513-831-9888; 7426 Beechmont Ave., Anderson Twp., 513-827-9146. Open 7 days. $6-$21.
Flavor: Otto’s is the little restaurant that could. Its humble beginnings as a sandwich shop have given way to a small, well-crafted menu featuring some of the best Shrimp and Grits and Baked Brie in town. The Pinotage wine is glorious. Tuesday is $5 Martini Night and they have half-price wine bottles on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Flair: Warm, cozy and even romantic, gosh darn it! Diners are tempted to linger but feel badly as the waiting list forms. There’s a small private patio out back or sidewalk dining out front to enjoy when the weather’s nice. Summer season brings back Sunday brunch.
521 Main St., Covington, 859-491-6678. Open Monday-Saturday and Sunday Brunch. $20-$32.
Flavor: Everything’s homemade at Paula’s Café, offering hot and cold sandwiches, oversized salads and filling homemade soups. The food here never fails to satisfy; just try the Cuban Sandwich (roast pork loin, ham and melted Swiss cheese pressed between slices of dense, fresh Shadeau Bakery bread) to see just how good a sandwich can be.
Flair: A bustling, busy lunch spot where the downtown crowd seeks refuge from their cubicle with baked from scratch cake and real brewed iced tea. If solace can be found in a salad, Paula’s has it.
41 E. Fourth St., Downtown, 513-381-3354. Open Monday-Friday. $4-$8.
Flavor: This microbrewery always has fresh ales to quench the beer thirst and a menu to cure any hungry appetite. Some popular specialty dishes include Mahi Tacos (served with a pineapple slaw), the thick Brewery Chili (with black beans, beef and southwestern spices) and the Mac ‘n’ Chicken, a spin on the classic dish with chicken and parmesan breadcrumbs. Steaks, burgers, pizzas and lighter salads are also offered.
Flair: Great meeting place for before or after a Reds or Bengals game. Rock Bottom’s location also is a perfect place to take out-of-town guests for a night on the town.
10 Fountain Square, Downtown, 513-621-1588. Open 7 days. $9-$24.
Flavor: 10 West is a surprisingly tasty exception to the humdrum rule of most hotel cafés. Whet your appetite with Edamame Hummus, grilled flatbread and crudite, or Blackened Sea Scallops with fried green tomatoes. Other new menu features such as Pancetta wrapped Sea Scallops and Woodford Reserve Bourbon Ribs promise that you won’t be disappointed. Want to feel at home while away from home? Try the Homestyle Fried Chicken with pan gravy.
Flair: This Marriott overall is a cut above with an exceptionally amiable staff throughout. 10 West has a great river view of the downtown skyline and the servers are accommodating.
10 W. RiverCenter Blvd., Covington, 859-392-3750. Open 7 days. $15-$35.
Terrace Cafe at Cincinnati Art Museum
Flavor: Sandwiches, soups, salads and desserts, as well as wine, beer and appetizers in a charming café where the menu has been created by David Cook, owner of Daveed’s at 934.
Flair: The dining room is understated polish, no adornment other than the natural view of garden courtyard through one glass wall. Outdoor dining in the Alice Bimel courtyard during warm weather. WiFi is available in the café and the courtyard. And, of course, a world of art is just beyond its doors.
953 Eden Park Drive, Mount Adams, 513-639-2986. Open Tuesday–Sunday. $10-$15.
Flavor: Trio offers pretty typical something-for-everyone American-style menu items with an upscale twist. Choose from many great salads, sandwiches, pastas, steaks, gourmet pizzas or seafood prepared with care. Pair your meal with a nice glass of wine from the extensive wine list. Try the Wild Mushroom Ravioli or the Smoked Salmon Pizza.
Flair: Fancy yet casual, Trio’s dining room features white tablecloths, neatly dressed attentive servers and lots of natural light. Veranda seating is also available in the warmer months. Private dining rooms available to accommodate larger groups.
7565 Kenwood Road, Kenwood, 513-984-1905. Open 7 days. $20-$30.
Flavor: Chef Matt Buschle focuses on fresh local and seasonal ingredients, and he’s passionate about what he does. With starters like a Petite Pork Shank, barbecued and served with gorgonzola coleslaw, to entrées like Shrimp Creole with cheddar cheese grits, the dishes are distinctive and delicious.
Flair: Nice and clean but casual (and nonsmoking). Buschle took on the huge project of turning a run-down apartment building into an inviting space in which to realize his vision of serving accessible, creative and well-prepared food without a high price tag.
710 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue, 859-491-3287. Open Wednesday–Monday. $10-$25.
White House Inn
Flavor: Does a great job on standards like filet mignon and prime rib, but they also let their creativity shine via prix-fixe menus Thursday through Saturday, with four courses for $25. Incredible cream pies for dessert.
Flair: Spare yourself the strip-mall sameness of West Chester chains and visit the original restored farmhouse that’s home to the White House Inn. The showy, retro Baked Alaska, served tableside, near the cozy fireplace in winter.
4940 Mulhauser Road, West Chester, 513-860-1110. Open Tuesday-Sunday. $18-$28.
York Street Café
Flavor: This local institution offers a lunch and dinner menu specializing in seasonal dishes that run the gamut from Vegan Polenta with mushrooms, broccoli and toasted pumpkin seeds to a Chicken Mole Sandwich to Filet Mignon spiked with house-made Worcestershire sauce. In fact, Chef Curtis Paul, a veteran of La Normandie and The Maisonette, runs a kitchen that makes its own sauces, soups and desserts!
Flair: Built as a pharmacy in 1880, the building is loaded with character and now houses the eclectic café along with a lounge (featuring live music), an art gallery and an artists’ studio. In warmer weather, ask to be seated on the garden patio for some al fresco romance!
738 York St., Newport, 859-261-9675. Open Tuesday-Saturday. $8-$25.