Best Of 2021

For its 150th anniversary, Graeter’s released a special birthday cake-flavored ice cream. Described as a “blend of cake pieces and sprinkles in cake batter ice cream,” it’s like Funfetti in a cone. Or cup. Or pint.

Over-the-Rhine’s Dunlap Cafe started making their own grown-up “happy meals” for carry-out during the pandemic. The perfect lil’ combo pack included an entree with a side of fries, Twizzlers, a Dunlap Koozie as a prize and an adult beverage — a beer, hard seltzer or a cocktail. Entree options included cheeseburgers, chicken tenders or a fried chicken sandwich. And the meals came wrapped and organized in a cute branded box, ready to devour in the car, or at home — if you could wait that long.

The Northside Yacht Club really wasn’t fucking around this year and in February 2021, they brought back their deep-fried cheese coney, also known as the “Cincinnati chimichanga.” The now-annual infamous Midwestern monstrosity features a chili cheese coney topped with more chili and cheese, wrapped in a flour tortilla and then deep-fried (they also make vegetarian and vegan versions). But to really kick things up a notch, and give people a goal to strive for as the pandemic approached the one-year anniversary mark, NSYC invented a coney-eating challenge. The “5 Coney Food Challenge” asked intrepid idiots to scarf down five deep-fried coneys and a basket of fries in 69 minutes. If you triumphed, you got a free T-shirt and your name on the wall of fame. If you failed, you had to pay $69 for your meal and your photo was added to the wall of shame. Only one person — Randy “Rando” Sullivan from Hamilton — was able to do it.

While Cincinnati’s super popular Asian Food Fest was canceled in 2020, fans were still able to enjoy a ton of local Asian eats in the fall. Asian Food Week ran from Nov. 2-8 and more than 20 eateries from across Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky offered either a special $20 prix fixe, three-course meal or a secret menu item. As Asia encompasses an extensive collection of cuisines, so too did Asian Food Week with offerings from Vietnamese, Hawaiian, Indian, Chinese restaurants and more. Both Asian Food Fest and Asian Food Week were started by the Asian American Cultural Association of Cincinnati.

Findlay Kitchen’s Yee Mama offers wonton kits that include a dozen Hong Kong-style wontons, your choice of sauce, herbs for garnish and instructions for how to cook them.

Launched in 1920 by Harry T. Kaiser Sr., the West End’s Kaiser Pickles celebrated 100 years of fine brining in 2020. Using farm-fresh produce, the company produces 90 million pounds of pickles (and peppers) per year and is still a family-owned operation. You may have even tried their pickles without knowing it: They produce them for local deli chain Izzy’s.

Camp Washington Chili offers a Cincinnati-chili-infused melt — essentially a grilled cheese sandwich with a ladle of chili in the middle.

Fans of Proud Hound Coffee can pick up their beans at shops throughout the city or grab a drink via their multi-colored truck, which they park at various events. But the ethical roasters also sling damn fine brews via pop-ups at their Silverton-based roastery on Saturdays. Lucky for us, Proud Hound’s first brick-and-mortar location is in the works.

Camp Washington’s Mom ‘n ‘em coffee is now offering a coffee subscription, so you don’t have to leave home for that perfect cup. Named one of the best coffee shops in America by Food & Wine, you can have the Ferrari Bros. beans delivered to your home on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis. Opt for their house blend, a community blend, a seasonal variety or even decaf.

Roughly five years ago, a bright blue-and-green soft serve truck parked itself smack dab in the center of Walnut Hills. With its colorful branding and playful slogan, “Life is hard enough, your ice cream should be soft,” Green Man Twist quickly became a soft serve staple in its community. However, this ice cream food truck serves more than just creamy whip, slushies and hot dogs — Green Man Twist’s core mission is to serve its community as well. As a nonprofit, the creamery gives 100% of profits back to the community through entrepreneur training, affordable housing and education initiatives.