Best Of 2022

Lunch just won’t be the same in the Central Business District after two decades-old staples closed their doors. Both Total Juice Plus and Fred & Gari’s received an ultimatum from their landlord telling them they had to be out of their longstanding, neighboring storefronts on Vine Street by the end of January this year. The restaurants, which had both been in month-to-month leases, weren’t super pleased about the news — and neither were patrons — with Total Juice Plus’ co-owner Emil Mallat telling CityBeat, “Twenty-four years serving Cincinnati, only to be shrugged off as if we were college tenants in an apartment.” Gari Jager, owner of Fred & Gari’s, said, “I knew that it was going to happen sooner or later, but I didn’t know when.” Total Juice Plus had offered healthy menu items like wraps, freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices, and all-natural nonfat smoothies since 1998. Fred & Gari’s had served food since 1987, first as a ZZ’s Pizza Company franchise, then independently starting in 1994 — with a rotating assortment of soups, pizza and classic deli sandwiches. Both establishments were frequent staff and reader Best Of Cincinnati winners. Jager says there may be some hope for Fred & Gari’s, telling CityBeat he’s going to start looking for a spot to reopen after taking a much-deserved vacation.


Here are the 2022 Best Of Cincinnati® Reader and Staff Pick winners for Eats.

1. Decibel Korean Fried Chicken

2. PearlStar

3. Saint Francis Apizza

4. Pig Candy BBQ

5. Rosie’s Cocktails & Pies

6. Bee’s Barbecue

7. Proud Hound Coffee

8. Cork N Crust

9. Cafe Mochiko

10. OLLA Taqueria Gutierrez

1. Sotto

2. Jeff Ruby’s The Precinct

3. Pepp & Dolores

4. Ivory House

5. Boca

6. Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse

7. The Eagle

8. Incline Public House

9. Taste of Belgium

10. Agave & Rye

1. Pompilios

2. KungFood Chu’s AmerAsia

3. Bouquet Restaurant

4. Agave & Rye

5. Walt’s Hitching Post

6. Otto’s

7. The Baker’s Table

8. Greyhound Tavern

9. Libby’s Southern Comfort

10. Coppin’s Restaurant & Bar

Norwood got a little sweeter this year with the addition of over-the-top donut maker Starlight Doughnut Lab. In operation since the start of 2019, owner/baker Ben Greiwe has been crafting small-batch baked goods with a unique ingredient. Starlight donuts use mashed potatoes in the dough, which “boosts moisture, sweetness, flavor, and adds a crispy outside layer thanks to the potato’s natural sugars caramelizing in the fryer,” Greiwe explains. He says the flavor combos and that texture set Starlight apart from other local donut purveyors. The Norwood storefront offers both cake donuts and 48-hour brioche donuts with six always-on-the-menu flavors including churro, vanilla-glazed with sprinkles, and a raspberry lemonade. But our favorite is the everything-bagel donut with garlic-herb goat cheese. Greiwe tells CityBeat that this savory 48-hour brioche donut is his favorite flavor he’s ever made.

1. Sleepy Bee Cafe

2. First Watch

3. Sugar n’ Spice

4. HangOverEasy

5. Taste of Belgium

6. Maplewood Kitchen and Bar

7. The Echo

8. The Original Pancake House

9. Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey

10. Half Day Cafe

China (left) and Nate Kautz outside their Cackleberry food truck
Photo: Provided by Cackleberry
China (left) and Nate Kautz outside their Cackleberry food truck

Squeezed into a bite-sized vintage trailer, husband-and-wife duo Nate and China Kautz serve eggy breakfast sandwiches as Cincinnati-based pop-up Cackleberry (a term for a hen’s egg). The petite menu blends Queen City staples with Filipino-fusion ingredients to offer options like the Lolo, with longanisa sausage and atchara pickled slaw, and a goetta sandwich called the Porter with muenster cheese and mustard aioli. The seasonal food truck parks in various locations on weekends and operates until all sandwiches are sold out.
After closing in October of 2021 for renovations, Alabama Fish Bar reopened at the start of 2022 to once again serve the self-proclaimed “best fried fish in Cincinnati.” 3CDC acquired and revamped the three-decade-old eatery as part of its $50 million Willkommen project, which includes building or rehabbing several buildings across Over-the-Rhine to create residential and commercial units. Out of the deal, Alabama Fish Bar got an updated storefront, new flooring and paint and some new kitchen equipment. Another update? They now take credit cards.
Purrfect Day Cafe
Photo: Danielle Schuster
Purrfect Day Cafe

Get your caffeine and cuteness fix at the Purrfect Day Cafe in Covington. At any given time, there are roughly 20 adoptable cats and kittens ready to cuddle and play. Purrfect Day works with three Tri-State-spanning animal rescues — Kenton County Animal Services in Northern Kentucky, Cincinnati Animal CARE Humane Society in Northside and P.A.W.S. of Dearborn County Humane Center in Lawrenceburg, Indiana — to get their adoptable animals. And all have been spayed or neutered, are dewormed, are up-to-date on their shots and are FeLV and FIV negative. You can reserve a 50-minute session in the kitty lounge for $15 per person or simply stop in for cat-themed coffee, tea or cocktails (their menu includes “purrbons” and “meowmosas”) to watch the friendly felines through the cafe window. If you fall in love with a cat, adoption coordinators are on-site. Visitors can also treat themselves to snacks like “paw-pcorn,” cookies and scones.

1. Sotto

2. Pompilios

3. Pepp & Dolores

4. Nicola’s

5. Primavista

6. Giovanni’s Family Italian Restaurant

7. Scotti’s Italian Restaurant

8. Via Vite

9. Ferrari’s Little Italy & Bakery

10. Forno Osteria + Bar