Best Of 2020

Cincinnati's Table
Photo: Biz Young
Cincinnati's Table

It’s a fair assertion that most shared meals are those between close friends and families. Consider then hosting a different kind of dinner party: one where its guests are strangers to each other; one where they are from different parts of the world; one where they might not all speak the same language. Cincinnati’s Table spent an entire year doing just that. Since its inaugural dinner at Mount Healthy’s Tikkum Farm in October 2018, the monthly dinner series united immigrants, refugees and their neighbors across Cincinnati with a full passport’s worth of cuisine without ever leaving the city limits: cooks and chefs from Nepal, Mexico, Ghana, Palestine, Syria and Venezuela prepared their favorite traditional dishes for groups of new friends and old. In March, guests ate dinner amid the exhibition galleries at the Contemporary Arts Center. In June, chefs took on the Cincinnati Refugee Day World Cup, cooking for a crowd of hungry soccer players and attendees at Xavier University. The series is an effort of The Welcome Project, a social enterprise arm of Camp Washington gallery Wave Pool founded in 2017 to teach art classes and workshops to local immigrants and refugees. Now, those experiences have culminated in the 126 pages of Cincinnati’s Table: Recipes and Stories from a Year of Community Dinners. Part cookbook, part scrapbook, Cincinnati’s Table is a celebratory tome with contributions from home and professional chefs, artists, community organizers and neighborhood residents that made the project possible. The Welcome Project recently opened the Welcome Market as a hub for kitchen essentials, spices and specialty grocery items and will expand with a commercial kitchen later this year, allowing for cooking classes and even more community meals for the years to come. Find Cincinnati’s Table at The Welcome Project and various Cincinnati locations, including the Contemporary Arts Center and Joseph-Beth Booksellers. The Welcome Project, 2936 Colerain Ave., Camp Washington, welcomecincinnati.org.

Acupuncture Practice
Taylor Speed

1. Caldwell Family Wellness

2. Tiny Needle Community Acupuncture

3. Hamilton Health Associates

Adult Toy Store
Taylor Speed

1. Hustler Hollywood

2. Dusty Flynt Sexy Gifts

3. High on the Hill

Antique Store
Taylor Speed

1. Ohio Valley Antique Mall

2. Florence Antique Mall

3. Wooden Nickel Antiques

Appetizers
Taylor Speed

1. Sotto

2. The Eagle

3. Incline Public House

Arts & Crafts Classes
Taylor Speed

1. Cincinnati Art Museum

2. Clifton Cultural Arts Center

3. Brazee Street Studios

Arts & Crafts Supplies
Taylor Speed

1. Indigo Hippo

2. Michaels

3. Cappel’s

Auto Dealer (New Vehicles)
Taylor Speed

1. Jake Sweeney Automotive

2. Beechmont Subaru

3. Walt Sweeney Ford

Auto Dealer (Used Vehicles)
Taylor Speed

1. Jake Sweeney Automotive

2. Courtesy Automotive

3. Joseph Toyota of Cincinnati

Auto Detailer
Taylor Speed

1. Jake Sweeney Automotive

2. CarZmedics

3. Carriage House Car Wash

Auto Repair Service
Taylor Speed

1. Donovan’s Auto & Tire Center

2. Tire Discounters

3. AAA | Bob Sumerel Tire and Service

Auto/Car Wash
Taylor Speed

1. Mike’s Carwash

2. Sharonville Car Wash & Detailing

3. AAA Auto Wash

Bagels
Taylor Speed

1. Marx Hot Bagels

2. Bruegger’s Bagels

3. The Bagelry

Bank
Taylor Speed

1. Huntington

2. Chase

3. Fifth Third Bank

Barbecue
Taylor Speed

1. Eli’s BBQ

2. City Barbeque 

3. Lucius Q

4. Montgomery Inn

5. Pickles & Bones Barbecue

6. Sweets & Meats BBQ

7. Pontiac

8. Just Q’in BBQ

9. Bee’s Barbecue

10. Midwest Best BBQ and Creamery

Barber Shop
Taylor Speed

1. Bishops

2. Gil’s Barber Shop

3. Clifton Barbers

Bed and Breakfast
Taylor Speed

1. Inn of Hyde Park 

2. The Clifton House Bed and Breakfast

3. Gaslight Bed & Breakfast (TIE)

3. Murphin Ridge Inn (TIE)

Beer Selection (Restaurant)
Taylor Speed

1. Yard House

2. Taft’s Ale House

3. KungFood Chu’s AmerAsia

Best $10 Lunch Deal
Taylor Speed

Chef Jose Salazar opened Goose & Elder, a sort of comfort food destination with self-described “Midcentury grandma” décor, adjacent to Findlay Market last year. It’s the third in the local favorite’s restaurant portfolio, which includes the eponymous New American Salazar (opened in 2013) and the Spanish/Latin American Mita’s (opened in 2015). Sydney Fisher is chef de cuisine here but Salazar himself greets patrons and puts finishing touches on just about every plate coming out of the kitchen. Though it feels more casual or at least more affordable than Salazar’s other eateries, Goose & Elder’s menu is just as creative, boasting fun takes on easy eats. Chicken wings are covered with Calabrian chili sauce and served with parmesan dip; the baked mac and cheese is infused with pickled jalapeno; fall-off-the-bone duck leg confit is served over grits; and the fried bologna sandwich comes topped with American cheese, pickles, coleslaw, an over-easy egg and potato chips. Retro cocktails like the Harvey Wallbanger and White Russian add a fun twist. And if you stop by for lunch during the week — specifically between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday — don’t sleep on the burger deal. You can get a Royale Goose burger, featuring grass-fed beef, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and Dijonnaise on a sesame bun, plus crinkle cut fries and a soft drink for $10. Pretty sweet because usually all of those options come a la carte. Goose & Elder, 1800 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, gooseandelder.com.

Best Affordable Medical Marijuana Dispensary
Taylor Speed

So, you qualified for medical marijuana in Ohio: Great, and sorry for what ails ya’. Ohio law currently allows those with certain medical conditions (cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, PTSD, chronic pain and many more) to sign up as a patient, after being approved by a licensed physician, with the Ohio Medical Marijuana Registry and Ohio Board of Pharmacy. Your physician will approve you to use a 90-day supply of certain forms of marijuana for your specific condition — oils, tinctures, edibles, vapes. And once you’re approved, you have to go to a licensed dispensary to purchase your medication. There are only a few in the Cincinnati area: Verilife, kind of by Pleasant Ridge; Have a Heart Cincy, co-founded by Rev. Damon Lynch III and located in Hartwell, which is the only dispensary to open so far technically within city limits; and Verdant Creations in Columbia Township, kind of by Target and across from the original little MadTree taproom. (There’s also About Wellness Ohio in Lebanon.) But Verdant Creations seems to be a card-carrying favorite because it has affordable price points and offers frequent discounts. After checking in with your medical marijuana card and ID, you’ll head to the Verdant Creations waiting room to peruse a menu of the current offerings. The menu is divided by form (edible, flower, tincture, etc.) as well as brand and strain (indica, sativa). And if you have no idea what any of that means, the helpful “budtenders” will teach you about the different applications as they relate to your specific ailment, especially if you weren’t or haven’t been a big pot smoker/vaper/eater/tincture-er up until his point. Note: These budtenders aren’t pharmacists, they just know a lot about pot. (They’re also very helpful if you’re confused about what constitutes a “90-day supply” limit.) After you make your selection, it’s filled in a back room and delivered through a window with a prescription label and sealed in a bag with a staple. You have to pay in cash (they have an ATM) or some weird digital payment. But it doesn’t really matter, because prices here are reasonable. And they usually have sales, special deals and promotions. Like they offered 29 percent off their entire inventory on Leap Day (there was a line out the door and an hours-long wait). Sign up for text alerts for discount notifications. Verdant Creations, 5149 Kennedy Ave., Columbia Township, verdantcreations.com. 

Best Alternative Grain and Protein Options in a Northern Kentucky Strip Mall
Taylor Speed

Tucked away in a strip mall along Dixie Highway and helmed by a former U.S. Army Sergeant and family (look for veteran and service member discounts), Sake Bomb in Erlanger is a staple of sorts among Northern Kentuckians. Serving up Korean and Japanese grub — including sushi, bento boxes, ramen, stone bowls and more — the restaurant also touts items that cater to a variety of dietary needs, from vegetarians to those who need or want to go gluten-free. Sake Bomb has also developed dishes that cater to those with diabetes, including a bowl made with barley/brown rice and a medley of veggies: bean sprouts, spinach, lettuce, carrots, beets, zucchini, mushrooms, pickled radish, broccoli and kimchi — all topped with an egg. In another quirky turn, you can also feast on goetta fried rice here and green tea ramen. Bonus: Sake Bomb keeps the kiddos entertained with DIY sushi classes. Sake Bomb, 3072 Dixie Highway, Erlanger, sakebombcatering.com.