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. graeters.com.

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. dunlapcafe.com.

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. northsideyachtclub.com.

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. asianati.com.

1. Sotto

2. Incline Public House

3. Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse

1. Marx Hot Bagels

2. Bruegger’s Bagels

3. The Bagelry

1. Eli’s BBQ

2. Lucius Q

3. City Barbeque

4. Montgomery Inn

5. Pickles & Bones Barbecue

6. Just Q’in

7. Sweets & Meats BBQ

8. Midwest Best BBQ

9. Pontiac

10. Harmon’s Barbecue

1. Yard House

2. Taft’s Ale House

3. KungFood Chu’s AmerAsia

1. Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey

2. Goodfellas Pizzeria/Wiseguy Lounge

3. Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse

1. Sleepy Bee Cafe

2. First Watch

3. Sugar n’ Spice

4. Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey

5. Taste of Belgium

6. The Echo

7. The Original Pancake House

8. Hang Over Easy

9. Maplewood Kitchen and Bar

10. Half Day Cafe