25 Essential Foods Every Cincinnati Visitor Should Try

Cincinnati is home to many staple foods and restaurants whose iconic offerings make up the flavor of our city. Some have been essential eateries for decades, like Frisch's Big Boy, Graeter's Ice Cream, Montgomery Inn and LaRosa's Pizzeria, while others have gained popularity more recently like Brown Bear Bakery and Eli's BBQ. Some dishes may be controversial, like Skyline Chili's 3-way or Glier's Goetta's meat-mixture, but the Queen City takes immense pride in all of our quintessential eats. Here's a list of foods you can't skip eating as a Cincinnati visitor (or citizen) — although probably not in one sitting.

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Skyline Chili
Multiple locations
A locally based chain of chili parlors founded by Greek immigrants in Cincinnati in 1949. Their Cincinnati-style chili is poured over spaghetti or hot dogs along with chili burritos, fries and baked potatoes. Their vegetarian version is almost as tasty with black beans and rice. 
Photo: Provided by Skyline Chili

Skyline Chili

Multiple locations
A locally based chain of chili parlors founded by Greek immigrants in Cincinnati in 1949. Their Cincinnati-style chili is poured over spaghetti or hot dogs along with chili burritos, fries and baked potatoes. Their vegetarian version is almost as tasty with black beans and rice.
Photo: Provided by Skyline Chili
Skyline Chili 3-Way
Multiple Locations
The history of Cincinnati-style chili goes back to the 1920s, when it was invented by Greek immigrants who used Mediterranean-inspired spices to create a meat sauce used initially to top hot dogs sold out of a cart. The beef-based sauce — it’s kind of like a runny pasta sauce with hints of cinnamon, chocolate and other spices — eventually became the key ingredient in the 3-way, a plate of pasta topped with chili, an unnecessary amount of shredded cheddar cheese and a side of oyster crackers. Adding onions to the 3-way makes it a 4-way; onions and beans make a 5-way. Local chain Skyline Chili was founded by Greek immigrant Nicholas Lambrinides in 1949, inspired by his mother's family recipes from their hometown of Kastoria, Greece. In an eternal regional chili war, locals are divided over whether Skyline has the best chili and the other popular local chain, Gold Star, is for losers, or if it’s the other way around. You’ll find die-hard supporters of both. But if you want to go non-chain, there are more than 250 chili parlors in Cincinnati — restaurants big and small offering their own take on this regional favorite. Most people, however, start with Skyline.
Photo via Facebook.com/SkylineChili

Skyline Chili 3-Way

Multiple Locations
The history of Cincinnati-style chili goes back to the 1920s, when it was invented by Greek immigrants who used Mediterranean-inspired spices to create a meat sauce used initially to top hot dogs sold out of a cart. The beef-based sauce — it’s kind of like a runny pasta sauce with hints of cinnamon, chocolate and other spices — eventually became the key ingredient in the 3-way, a plate of pasta topped with chili, an unnecessary amount of shredded cheddar cheese and a side of oyster crackers. Adding onions to the 3-way makes it a 4-way; onions and beans make a 5-way. Local chain Skyline Chili was founded by Greek immigrant Nicholas Lambrinides in 1949, inspired by his mother's family recipes from their hometown of Kastoria, Greece. In an eternal regional chili war, locals are divided over whether Skyline has the best chili and the other popular local chain, Gold Star, is for losers, or if it’s the other way around. You’ll find die-hard supporters of both. But if you want to go non-chain, there are more than 250 chili parlors in Cincinnati — restaurants big and small offering their own take on this regional favorite. Most people, however, start with Skyline.
Photo via Facebook.com/SkylineChili
Graeter’s Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Multiple locations including 643 Vine St., Downtown; 290 Ludlow Ave., Clifton; 617 W. Third St., Covington
Since its founding in 1870, Graeter’s French Pot Ice Cream, handmade chocolate confections and fresh-baked goods have become Queen City traditions. Today, the Graeter family still faithfully uses century-old recipes and methods of production, including making each 2-and-a-half gallon batch in a French pot freezer and packing each pint by hand. Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip is their signature flavor — and an Oprah Winfrey favorite. The flavor is crafted with black raspberries from Oregon's Willamette Valley and bittersweet chocolate chunks. Instead of boring old chips, Graeter's pours liquid chocolate into each batch resulting in wonky-sized and sometimes gigantic pieces of chocolate; whoever gets the biggest chunk wins.
Photo via Facebook.com/Graeters

Graeter’s Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Multiple locations including 643 Vine St., Downtown; 290 Ludlow Ave., Clifton; 617 W. Third St., Covington
Since its founding in 1870, Graeter’s French Pot Ice Cream, handmade chocolate confections and fresh-baked goods have become Queen City traditions. Today, the Graeter family still faithfully uses century-old recipes and methods of production, including making each 2-and-a-half gallon batch in a French pot freezer and packing each pint by hand. Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip is their signature flavor — and an Oprah Winfrey favorite. The flavor is crafted with black raspberries from Oregon's Willamette Valley and bittersweet chocolate chunks. Instead of boring old chips, Graeter's pours liquid chocolate into each batch resulting in wonky-sized and sometimes gigantic pieces of chocolate; whoever gets the biggest chunk wins.
Photo via Facebook.com/Graeters
A Frisch’s Big Boy
Multiple locations including 25 W. Fifth St., Downtown; 1001 Gest St., Queensgate; 5760 Wooster Pike, Mariemont
Well-known for their burgers and fish sandwiches, Frisch’s also brings in quite the crowd for their affordable breakfast buffet. Grab a Big Boy burger with a quarter pound of beef, cheese, lettuce, pickles and Frisch's famous tartar sauce — a family recipe you can find on items across the menu and in jars at the grocery store. For a taste of nostalgia, visit the original Mainliner location, which David Frisch opened in 1939 as Cincinnati's first year-round drive-in. 
Photo via Facebook.com/FrischsBigBoy

A Frisch’s Big Boy

Multiple locations including 25 W. Fifth St., Downtown; 1001 Gest St., Queensgate; 5760 Wooster Pike, Mariemont
Well-known for their burgers and fish sandwiches, Frisch’s also brings in quite the crowd for their affordable breakfast buffet. Grab a Big Boy burger with a quarter pound of beef, cheese, lettuce, pickles and Frisch's famous tartar sauce — a family recipe you can find on items across the menu and in jars at the grocery store. For a taste of nostalgia, visit the original Mainliner location, which David Frisch opened in 1939 as Cincinnati's first year-round drive-in.
Photo via Facebook.com/FrischsBigBoy
Montgomery Inn Ribs
9440 Montgomery Road, Montgomery; 925 Riverside Drive, Downtown
World famous for its ribs, Ted and Matula Gregory’s Montgomery Inn has been a staple in Cincinnati since 1951. Matula’s secret-recipe sweet and tangy all-natural barbecue sauce dresses the hand-spiced, slow-roasted and custom broiled ribs and is featured on everything from barbecue spring chicken and pork chops to Saratoga chips. Dubbed “the Ribs King,” the Gregorys ribs joint is a must-stop for locals, visitors, in-town celebrities and more. 
Photo via Facebook.com/MontgomeryInn

Montgomery Inn Ribs

9440 Montgomery Road, Montgomery; 925 Riverside Drive, Downtown
World famous for its ribs, Ted and Matula Gregory’s Montgomery Inn has been a staple in Cincinnati since 1951. Matula’s secret-recipe sweet and tangy all-natural barbecue sauce dresses the hand-spiced, slow-roasted and custom broiled ribs and is featured on everything from barbecue spring chicken and pork chops to Saratoga chips. Dubbed “the Ribs King,” the Gregorys ribs joint is a must-stop for locals, visitors, in-town celebrities and more.
Photo via Facebook.com/MontgomeryInn
Izzy’s Reuben
Multiple locations including 800 Elm St., Downtown; 610 Main St., Downtown
A Cincinnati tradition, Izzy’s serves a Reuben we can all be proud of: delicious corned beef topped with sauerkraut, Izzy's special dressing and imported Swiss cheese, served with a potato pancake and dill pickle. In the late 1800s, founder Izzy Kadetz left Russia and settled in Cincinnati, cooking at the Sinton St. Nicholas Hotel in Cincinnati and eventually founding the first Kosher-style deli west of the Alleghenies. His son, David, opened a second deli in downtown Cincinnati in 1982 — with manager John Geisen, now Izzy's president and CEO — and the Izzy's legacy has grown from there. It's possibly the closest thing the Queen City has to a New York-style deli.
Photo via Facebook.com/IzzysKadetz

Izzy’s Reuben

Multiple locations including 800 Elm St., Downtown; 610 Main St., Downtown
A Cincinnati tradition, Izzy’s serves a Reuben we can all be proud of: delicious corned beef topped with sauerkraut, Izzy's special dressing and imported Swiss cheese, served with a potato pancake and dill pickle. In the late 1800s, founder Izzy Kadetz left Russia and settled in Cincinnati, cooking at the Sinton St. Nicholas Hotel in Cincinnati and eventually founding the first Kosher-style deli west of the Alleghenies. His son, David, opened a second deli in downtown Cincinnati in 1982 — with manager John Geisen, now Izzy's president and CEO — and the Izzy's legacy has grown from there. It's possibly the closest thing the Queen City has to a New York-style deli.
Photo via Facebook.com/IzzysKadetz
Blue Ice Cream from Kings Island
6300 Kings Island Drive, Mason
Introduced by Kings Island in 1982 to promote a then-new Smurfs ride in Hanna-Barbera Land, the theme park’s classic blueberry soft serve put blue ice cream on Cincinnati's radar and it has maintained its cravability ever since — leaving without having one is a sin. Get it plain, doused in rainbow sprinkles or swirled with creamy vanilla at locations across the park. (Or at various creamy whips across the city.)
Photo via Facebook.com/VisitKingsIsland

Blue Ice Cream from Kings Island

6300 Kings Island Drive, Mason
Introduced by Kings Island in 1982 to promote a then-new Smurfs ride in Hanna-Barbera Land, the theme park’s classic blueberry soft serve put blue ice cream on Cincinnati's radar and it has maintained its cravability ever since — leaving without having one is a sin. Get it plain, doused in rainbow sprinkles or swirled with creamy vanilla at locations across the park. (Or at various creamy whips across the city.)
Photo via Facebook.com/VisitKingsIsland
Glier’s Goetta
Available at various restaurants and events
Glier’s Goetta has been a Cincinnati breakfast staple for over 60 years. The Queen City loves it so much there's even an entire festival devoted to the sausagey oat-meat mixture on the Newport riverfront each summer. Most restaurants throughout the city carry it as a breakfast side, like at the Metropole at 21c, or you can visit Glier’s Goettafest and try it in calzones, nachos, donut sandwiches and more. They even have a Glier's Goetta vending machine.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Glier’s Goetta

Available at various restaurants and events
Glier’s Goetta has been a Cincinnati breakfast staple for over 60 years. The Queen City loves it so much there's even an entire festival devoted to the sausagey oat-meat mixture on the Newport riverfront each summer. Most restaurants throughout the city carry it as a breakfast side, like at the Metropole at 21c, or you can visit Glier’s Goettafest and try it in calzones, nachos, donut sandwiches and more. They even have a Glier's Goetta vending machine.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
The BonBonerie's Opera Cream Torte
2030 Madison Road, O'Bryonville
Have your cake and eat it, too, at The BonBonerie. Opened in 1983 by Mary Pat Pace and Sharon Butler, the shop has crafted beautiful and delicious sweets and savories for more than 35 years. Scones, tea and quiche adorn the café menu, but the real treat is for those with a sweet tooth. The bakery features tortes, cakes, pastries and old-fashioned cookies to please everyone. Make sure to try their signature Opera Cream Torte — it’s a taste of heaven: a double chocolate chip cake filled with vanilla opera cream and covered in chocolate glaze and Belgian chocolate shavings. Little white chocolate buttercream rosettes and hand-cut white chocolate diamonds complete the picture.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

The BonBonerie's Opera Cream Torte

2030 Madison Road, O'Bryonville
Have your cake and eat it, too, at The BonBonerie. Opened in 1983 by Mary Pat Pace and Sharon Butler, the shop has crafted beautiful and delicious sweets and savories for more than 35 years. Scones, tea and quiche adorn the café menu, but the real treat is for those with a sweet tooth. The bakery features tortes, cakes, pastries and old-fashioned cookies to please everyone. Make sure to try their signature Opera Cream Torte — it’s a taste of heaven: a double chocolate chip cake filled with vanilla opera cream and covered in chocolate glaze and Belgian chocolate shavings. Little white chocolate buttercream rosettes and hand-cut white chocolate diamonds complete the picture.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
An Avril-Bleh Meat Market Mett
33 E. Court St., Downtown
This historic butcher shop has been serving Cincinnati homemade sausages, smoked meats and more since 1894. Avril-Bleh offers over 30 varieties of sausages ranging from Irish bangers to Cajun chicken or smoked Polish kielbasa. They use no additives or fillers and they use their own blend of all natural herbs, spices and seasoning. As Cincinnati has a strong German heritage, find their metts on the menu at restaurants like Zip's, Senate and Moerlein Lager House or just grab one to go from the butcher shop.
Photo: Sami Stewart

An Avril-Bleh Meat Market Mett

33 E. Court St., Downtown
This historic butcher shop has been serving Cincinnati homemade sausages, smoked meats and more since 1894. Avril-Bleh offers over 30 varieties of sausages ranging from Irish bangers to Cajun chicken or smoked Polish kielbasa. They use no additives or fillers and they use their own blend of all natural herbs, spices and seasoning. As Cincinnati has a strong German heritage, find their metts on the menu at restaurants like Zip's, Senate and Moerlein Lager House or just grab one to go from the butcher shop.
Photo: Sami Stewart