April 25, 2019

36 Staff-Selected Cincinnati Brunch Destinations to Try This Weekend

These days, the phrase “Let’s get brunch” is basically a euphemism for “Let’s get drunk before noon.” It’s a Bacchanalian breakfast celebration that doubles as an excuse to mainline mimosas and stuff bacon into foods where it does not belong. Why do Americans love a meal that doubles as breakfast and lunch and basically turns into an ongoing commitment to day drinking? Is it part of the self-care movement? A genius marketing campaign by egg companies or the avocado illuminati? A ploy to get people to repeatedly use the word “benedict?” Whatever the reason, our country is literally obsessed with brunch (CityBeat even has an entire event devoted to it: Brunched, June 22 at The Phoenix). And in this issue CityBeatdining writers have made a list of their favorite places to drink and dine on the weekends for all types of moods. Whether you want to get cocktails in your fashion sweatpants, have a cozy family outing or dip into some dim sum, we’ve got you covered. *Common sense note: Please check brunch times with the restaurant before you go; menu items are subject to change

Plus the Best of Cincinnati Top 10 (as selected by CityBeat Readers)

Best Brunch 1. Taste of Belgium 2. First Watch 3. Sleepy Bee Café 4. Maplewood Kitchen and Bar 5. Orchids at Palm Court 6. Grand Finale 7. The Greyhound Tavern 8. Hang Over Easy 9. Cozy’s Café & Pub 10. Nation Kitchen and Bar Best Breakfast 1. Sleepy Bee Café 2. First Watch 3. Taste of Belgium 4. Maplewood Kitchen and Bar 5. Sugar n’ Spice Restaurant 6. Hang Over Easy 7. The Echo Restaurant 8. The Main Cup 9. The Original Pancake House 10. Wild Eggs
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Sugar n' Spice
4381 Reading Road, Paddock Hills
Breakfast/Brunch: 7 a.m.-3 p.m. daily
As the name implies, this restaurant has everything nice. The campy, colorful decor is a good indicator that Sugar n’ Spice likes to turn on its nostalgic charm both in and out of the kitchen. While it’s likely you can find about anything you like to typically order at American diners, you should give their Wispy Thin pancakes a try, bonus points if you go for blueberry. Pair that with a ham steak, two eggs over easy and a big glass of chocolate milk and you’re sure to feel like a kid again, so go ahead and blow some bubbles in your milk. Must Try: One of their jumbo-sized fluffy omelets. Not sure how many eggs they use to make these monstrous breakfast creations, but they’re big enough to share — if you’re feeling generous. The Mexican omelet comes stuffed with chorizo, cheddar cheese, sour cream and homemade sauce and takes up almost the entire plate, with just enough space left over for a toasted English muffin. — SMP
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Sugar n' Spice

4381 Reading Road, Paddock Hills
Breakfast/Brunch: 7 a.m.-3 p.m. daily
As the name implies, this restaurant has everything nice. The campy, colorful decor is a good indicator that Sugar n’ Spice likes to turn on its nostalgic charm both in and out of the kitchen. While it’s likely you can find about anything you like to typically order at American diners, you should give their Wispy Thin pancakes a try, bonus points if you go for blueberry. Pair that with a ham steak, two eggs over easy and a big glass of chocolate milk and you’re sure to feel like a kid again, so go ahead and blow some bubbles in your milk. Must Try: One of their jumbo-sized fluffy omelets. Not sure how many eggs they use to make these monstrous breakfast creations, but they’re big enough to share — if you’re feeling generous. The Mexican omelet comes stuffed with chorizo, cheddar cheese, sour cream and homemade sauce and takes up almost the entire plate, with just enough space left over for a toasted English muffin. — SMP
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
The Arepa Place
131 W. Elder St., Over-the-Rhine
Breakfast/Brunch: 9 a.m.-noon Saturday; 10 a.m.-noon Sunday
Never had an arepa? This is the place to learn why the rest of the world is catching on to these Latin American delights in a hurry. Originally launched as a Findlay Market pop-up tent by native Colombian Isis Arrieta-Dennis, The Arepa Place now has a brick-and-mortar market spot from which to serve its traditional corn flour street food specialty. Each arepa is grilled then sliced and stuffed with fillings ranging from mozzarella cheese and chorizo to fried plantains and black beans. The space might prove unassuming for a brunch spot due to its relatively small dining area, but the eatery offers top-notch breakfast food, with alcohol, which makes this a quirky off-the-radar (until now) brunch destination. Must Try: The arepa de huevo — a deep-fried cornmeal sandwich stuffed with egg and ground beef — along with a beer; Presidente, a Dominican pilsner, is worth a try. They also serve aguapanela, which is sugarcane water with lemon. Each dish comes with one salsa, but extra sides of the condiment are only $1 if you want to try a variety. — SMP
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

The Arepa Place

131 W. Elder St., Over-the-Rhine
Breakfast/Brunch: 9 a.m.-noon Saturday; 10 a.m.-noon Sunday
Never had an arepa? This is the place to learn why the rest of the world is catching on to these Latin American delights in a hurry. Originally launched as a Findlay Market pop-up tent by native Colombian Isis Arrieta-Dennis, The Arepa Place now has a brick-and-mortar market spot from which to serve its traditional corn flour street food specialty. Each arepa is grilled then sliced and stuffed with fillings ranging from mozzarella cheese and chorizo to fried plantains and black beans. The space might prove unassuming for a brunch spot due to its relatively small dining area, but the eatery offers top-notch breakfast food, with alcohol, which makes this a quirky off-the-radar (until now) brunch destination. Must Try: The arepa de huevo — a deep-fried cornmeal sandwich stuffed with egg and ground beef — along with a beer; Presidente, a Dominican pilsner, is worth a try. They also serve aguapanela, which is sugarcane water with lemon. Each dish comes with one salsa, but extra sides of the condiment are only $1 if you want to try a variety. — SMP
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Wunderbar!
1132 Lee St., Covington
Brunch: 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Serving up “Wunderful Food & Beer,” Covington’s Wunderbar is a quaint, simple and usually-packed corner spot with a great beer selection, frequent free performances by many of our region’s best Folk outfits and a menu of handcrafted German staples which attracts a following of its own. Afternoon and evening patrons endlessly debate which selections go best with a cold beer — you’ve got to try their pretzels as big as your head, served with beer cheese. A number of housemade sausages (flavors include garlic pepper and curry) and sandwiches (including doner kabob and pork schnitzel) listed on a chalkboard behind the bar can accompany sides like braised cabbage, sauerkraut, bacon slaw and beet salad. Most swear by the Brussels sprouts. Must Try: Landjunge Fruhstuck is Wunderbar’s signature brunch dish of bacon, sausage, goetta, two eggs, biscuit with gravy and home fries. Other breakfast favorites include the goetta feta and French toast. A classic bloody mary is recommended for the brunch cocktail crowd. — BF
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Wunderbar!

1132 Lee St., Covington
Brunch: 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Serving up “Wunderful Food & Beer,” Covington’s Wunderbar is a quaint, simple and usually-packed corner spot with a great beer selection, frequent free performances by many of our region’s best Folk outfits and a menu of handcrafted German staples which attracts a following of its own. Afternoon and evening patrons endlessly debate which selections go best with a cold beer — you’ve got to try their pretzels as big as your head, served with beer cheese. A number of housemade sausages (flavors include garlic pepper and curry) and sandwiches (including doner kabob and pork schnitzel) listed on a chalkboard behind the bar can accompany sides like braised cabbage, sauerkraut, bacon slaw and beet salad. Most swear by the Brussels sprouts. Must Try: Landjunge Fruhstuck is Wunderbar’s signature brunch dish of bacon, sausage, goetta, two eggs, biscuit with gravy and home fries. Other breakfast favorites include the goetta feta and French toast. A classic bloody mary is recommended for the brunch cocktail crowd. — BF
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Coppin’s at Hotel Covington
638 Madison Ave., Covington
Brunch: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
A Tri-State native, chef Mitch Arens worked at New Orleans’ Cochon Butcher before returning home last year to take the helm of Northern Kentucky eatery Coppin’s and brought with him that former restaurant’s focus on local and low-impact food — along with some Cajun and Creole flair, which is readily available on the hotel’s brunch menu. Find breakfast basics like buttermilk pancakes and avocado toast or kick things up a notch with NOLA-styled bites like Oreilles De Cochon fritters with goetta, pie dough and powdered sugar or shrimp and grits done right, with Midway, Kentucky’s Weisenberger Mill grits, Gulf shrimp, andouille sausage, tasso Louisiana-style pork and Cajun gravy. Must Try: People love the very photogenic Roebling Benedict, a rich and hearty serving of Glier’s goetta on a housemade English muffin, topped with wilted spinach and hollandaise with Crystal hot sauce. — MZ
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Coppin’s at Hotel Covington

638 Madison Ave., Covington
Brunch: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
A Tri-State native, chef Mitch Arens worked at New Orleans’ Cochon Butcher before returning home last year to take the helm of Northern Kentucky eatery Coppin’s and brought with him that former restaurant’s focus on local and low-impact food — along with some Cajun and Creole flair, which is readily available on the hotel’s brunch menu. Find breakfast basics like buttermilk pancakes and avocado toast or kick things up a notch with NOLA-styled bites like Oreilles De Cochon fritters with goetta, pie dough and powdered sugar or shrimp and grits done right, with Midway, Kentucky’s Weisenberger Mill grits, Gulf shrimp, andouille sausage, tasso Louisiana-style pork and Cajun gravy. Must Try: People love the very photogenic Roebling Benedict, a rich and hearty serving of Glier’s goetta on a housemade English muffin, topped with wilted spinach and hollandaise with Crystal hot sauce. — MZ
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Commonwealth Bistro
621 Main St., Covington
Brunch: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
This Southern-inspired MainStrasse bistro generally offers a taste of familiar and farmy homestyle cooking at dinner with a touch of culinary flair — think Kentucky fried rabbit with a Somali-inspired biz baz sauce, roasted heirloom carrots with blue rice grits and a Commonwealth Highball cocktail with bourbon, Ale-8-One and housemade bitters. But things go much more eclectic on the brunch menu, with a global grab bag of flavors ranging from German schnecken to shakshuka naan and chilaquiles verde. It’s a fun and odd mix that makes brunch a bit of an adventure if you’re willing to push your taste buds beyond biscuits and gravy — although they have that, too. Must Try: Breakfast ramen upends the morning eggs-and-bacon combo and tosses it in a bowl of broth; it sounds weird, but honestly all ramen is breakfast ramen if you eat it before noon. A poached egg is nestled atop a bed of noodles, bacon-brined pork cheek, kimchi carrots, mushrooms and the menu-described “fermented brassicas” for a satisfying and attractive bowl of brunch soup. — MZ
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Commonwealth Bistro

621 Main St., Covington
Brunch: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday
This Southern-inspired MainStrasse bistro generally offers a taste of familiar and farmy homestyle cooking at dinner with a touch of culinary flair — think Kentucky fried rabbit with a Somali-inspired biz baz sauce, roasted heirloom carrots with blue rice grits and a Commonwealth Highball cocktail with bourbon, Ale-8-One and housemade bitters. But things go much more eclectic on the brunch menu, with a global grab bag of flavors ranging from German schnecken to shakshuka naan and chilaquiles verde. It’s a fun and odd mix that makes brunch a bit of an adventure if you’re willing to push your taste buds beyond biscuits and gravy — although they have that, too. Must Try: Breakfast ramen upends the morning eggs-and-bacon combo and tosses it in a bowl of broth; it sounds weird, but honestly all ramen is breakfast ramen if you eat it before noon. A poached egg is nestled atop a bed of noodles, bacon-brined pork cheek, kimchi carrots, mushrooms and the menu-described “fermented brassicas” for a satisfying and attractive bowl of brunch soup. — MZ
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Branch
1535 Madison Road, East Walnut Hills
Brunch: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
This new restaurant at DeSales Corner has a beautiful interior and the brunch plates are just as pleasing to the eye. Located in a former Art Deco-style bank, the Littlefield Restaurant Group rehabbed this historic building over a two-year period and opened the restaurant, Branch, and adjacent downstairs bar called Night Drop in December. Helmed by chef Shoshannah Anderson, brunch portions are more than generous; I went with seven friends to celebrate birthdays and nobody sent back an empty dish. Eye-opener cocktails go beyond — but include — the basics. There’s the standard bloody mary for $8 or a Bloody Sunday for $10, with vodka, gin, tequila, bourbon, lemon, Dr. Pepper syrup and housemade bloody mary mix. Must Try: The whole-milk yogurt on housemade granola with fresh berries sounds too simple but sometimes simple can be magnificent. If you’re looking for a lighter option, I say order this. I loved the bits of candied ginger in the mix. Heartier appetites should consider the shrimp and grits, a classic preparation featuring Weisenberger Mill grits, Gulf shrimp and mushrooms spiced up with smoked green tomato marmalade. — PM
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Branch

1535 Madison Road, East Walnut Hills
Brunch: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
This new restaurant at DeSales Corner has a beautiful interior and the brunch plates are just as pleasing to the eye. Located in a former Art Deco-style bank, the Littlefield Restaurant Group rehabbed this historic building over a two-year period and opened the restaurant, Branch, and adjacent downstairs bar called Night Drop in December. Helmed by chef Shoshannah Anderson, brunch portions are more than generous; I went with seven friends to celebrate birthdays and nobody sent back an empty dish. Eye-opener cocktails go beyond — but include — the basics. There’s the standard bloody mary for $8 or a Bloody Sunday for $10, with vodka, gin, tequila, bourbon, lemon, Dr. Pepper syrup and housemade bloody mary mix. Must Try: The whole-milk yogurt on housemade granola with fresh berries sounds too simple but sometimes simple can be magnificent. If you’re looking for a lighter option, I say order this. I loved the bits of candied ginger in the mix. Heartier appetites should consider the shrimp and grits, a classic preparation featuring Weisenberger Mill grits, Gulf shrimp and mushrooms spiced up with smoked green tomato marmalade. — PM
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Sleepy Bee 
3098 Madison Road, Oakley; 8 E. Fourth St., Downtown; 9514 Kenwood Road, Blue Ash
Brunch: 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
At Sleepy Bee, everything from their sammies to their scrambles are top-notch and delightfully tasty even when you yourself are a bit of a sleepy weekend bruncher. The options for vegan and vegetarian breakfast are delicious, from veggie sausages to the best brunch potatoes and sweet potatoes, and I always feel confident that they are getting as much local food as they can, prioritizing pesticide-free and non-GMO options. Much of the menu has substitutions available so you can compile all your favorites without frustration at limited options. Standouts include the specialty pancakes, like the blue cakes full of blueberries with a maple-blueberry sauce, as well as the light and lovely Bumblebee’s breakfast, a yogurt granola bowl with tasty apricot coulis and tahini. Must Try: Bee Cakes. These gluten-free beauties marry almond milk, buckwheat and quinoa to make a tasty and healthy pancake on which to layer your favorite toppings. They’re packed with protein, so you won’t immediately be hungry again. Feeling good about pancakes is always a feeling I can get behind. — LL
Photo: Khoi Nguyen

Sleepy Bee

3098 Madison Road, Oakley; 8 E. Fourth St., Downtown; 9514 Kenwood Road, Blue Ash
Brunch: 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
At Sleepy Bee, everything from their sammies to their scrambles are top-notch and delightfully tasty even when you yourself are a bit of a sleepy weekend bruncher. The options for vegan and vegetarian breakfast are delicious, from veggie sausages to the best brunch potatoes and sweet potatoes, and I always feel confident that they are getting as much local food as they can, prioritizing pesticide-free and non-GMO options. Much of the menu has substitutions available so you can compile all your favorites without frustration at limited options. Standouts include the specialty pancakes, like the blue cakes full of blueberries with a maple-blueberry sauce, as well as the light and lovely Bumblebee’s breakfast, a yogurt granola bowl with tasty apricot coulis and tahini. Must Try: Bee Cakes. These gluten-free beauties marry almond milk, buckwheat and quinoa to make a tasty and healthy pancake on which to layer your favorite toppings. They’re packed with protein, so you won’t immediately be hungry again. Feeling good about pancakes is always a feeling I can get behind. — LL
Photo: Khoi Nguyen
The Baker's Table
1004 Monmouth St., Newport
Brunch: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Walking into the living-room-like waiting area of The Baker’s Table feels like visiting your friend who has an impeccable design sense but who is also constantly trying to get you to eat another homemade orange-glazed cinnamon roll. Even during a bustling brunch, the well-designed space feels calm and relaxed. The dishes are rustic, homey and made from scratch with locally sourced ingredients, from the cheddar scallion biscuit breakfast sandwich to the cornmeal pancakes with Chantilly cream. The staff sticks with the mantra “Serve People With Love” and given that every piece of sourdough, brioche and biscuit is made in-house, you can always order some to go. Must Try: The lemon ricotta donuts are little balls of fluffy, creamy joy with a thinly fried exterior and a generous sugar dusting. They come with a seasonal fruit butter — mine was pear ginger — and are a perfect appetizer before your eggs or pancakes arrive. The last time I was there, I also heard multiple people comment that the single-origin coffee they served was “the best cup they’d ever had.” — LL
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

The Baker's Table

1004 Monmouth St., Newport
Brunch: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Walking into the living-room-like waiting area of The Baker’s Table feels like visiting your friend who has an impeccable design sense but who is also constantly trying to get you to eat another homemade orange-glazed cinnamon roll. Even during a bustling brunch, the well-designed space feels calm and relaxed. The dishes are rustic, homey and made from scratch with locally sourced ingredients, from the cheddar scallion biscuit breakfast sandwich to the cornmeal pancakes with Chantilly cream. The staff sticks with the mantra “Serve People With Love” and given that every piece of sourdough, brioche and biscuit is made in-house, you can always order some to go. Must Try: The lemon ricotta donuts are little balls of fluffy, creamy joy with a thinly fried exterior and a generous sugar dusting. They come with a seasonal fruit butter — mine was pear ginger — and are a perfect appetizer before your eggs or pancakes arrive. The last time I was there, I also heard multiple people comment that the single-origin coffee they served was “the best cup they’d ever had.” — LL
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
The Birch
702 Indian Hill Road, Terrace Park
Brunch: 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sunday
Located in Terrace Park and owned and operated by a Terrace Park family, The Birch is smartly charming and sweetly nice in its style and menu. But to assume that the restaurant is just for those in the surrounding ’burbs would be selling both it and yourself short. Their newly introduced Sunday brunch is a prime (and tasty) example of what they set out to do — serve quality dishes in a sharp yet inviting environment, one that is fit for both young and old alike. Brunch offerings include steel-cut oats with apples, cinnamon and brown sugar; baked French toast with orange butter; and even steak and eggs with grilled ciabatta and mixed greens or roasted breakfast potatoes. Everything about the menu is inviting and familiar, indulgent and worthwhile, making the visit feel as fresh and fun as The Birch’s bright green front door. Must Try: The crab cake benedict. This dish comes with two pan-seared crab cakes topped with avocado relish, poached egg and chipotle hollandaise. There is an option to just order half, but don’t. — KH
Photo: Clarity with Grace Photography

The Birch

702 Indian Hill Road, Terrace Park
Brunch: 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sunday
Located in Terrace Park and owned and operated by a Terrace Park family, The Birch is smartly charming and sweetly nice in its style and menu. But to assume that the restaurant is just for those in the surrounding ’burbs would be selling both it and yourself short. Their newly introduced Sunday brunch is a prime (and tasty) example of what they set out to do — serve quality dishes in a sharp yet inviting environment, one that is fit for both young and old alike. Brunch offerings include steel-cut oats with apples, cinnamon and brown sugar; baked French toast with orange butter; and even steak and eggs with grilled ciabatta and mixed greens or roasted breakfast potatoes. Everything about the menu is inviting and familiar, indulgent and worthwhile, making the visit feel as fresh and fun as The Birch’s bright green front door. Must Try: The crab cake benedict. This dish comes with two pan-seared crab cakes topped with avocado relish, poached egg and chipotle hollandaise. There is an option to just order half, but don’t. — KH
Photo: Clarity with Grace Photography
The Gruff 
129 E. Second St., Covington
Brunch: 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. Sunday
Nestled almost under the Roebling Bridge, The Gruff specializes in pizza (plus deli sandwiches and salads). But on Sundays they’re dedicated to a boozy brunch by offering $20 mimosa pitchers. If a pitcher seems like too much — it’s like four to five drinks — then get a mimosa or bloody mary by the glass ($5). And while you could just sit on their dog-friendly patio and sip mimosas, you could also try one of their Southern-inspired brunch dishes, like the burger topped with pickled green tomatoes, a sunny side up egg and bacon; chicken sausage gumbo with jalape?o rice; or banana bread French toast. Must Try: Something open-faced like the fried chicken sandwich on a biscuit with white gravy, bacon and egg or the housemade sausage with two eggs and cilantro-lime sauce on Sixteen Bricks sourdough bread smeared with cream cheese. After brunch, purchase a bottle of wine or six-pack from their market and take a stroll to the riverfront a block away. — GP
Photo: Jesse Fox

The Gruff

129 E. Second St., Covington
Brunch: 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. Sunday
Nestled almost under the Roebling Bridge, The Gruff specializes in pizza (plus deli sandwiches and salads). But on Sundays they’re dedicated to a boozy brunch by offering $20 mimosa pitchers. If a pitcher seems like too much — it’s like four to five drinks — then get a mimosa or bloody mary by the glass ($5). And while you could just sit on their dog-friendly patio and sip mimosas, you could also try one of their Southern-inspired brunch dishes, like the burger topped with pickled green tomatoes, a sunny side up egg and bacon; chicken sausage gumbo with jalape?o rice; or banana bread French toast. Must Try: Something open-faced like the fried chicken sandwich on a biscuit with white gravy, bacon and egg or the housemade sausage with two eggs and cilantro-lime sauce on Sixteen Bricks sourdough bread smeared with cream cheese. After brunch, purchase a bottle of wine or six-pack from their market and take a stroll to the riverfront a block away. — GP
Photo: Jesse Fox