October 16, 2018

The 19 Best Restaurants in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky (as Voted on by CityBeat Readers)

This year, CityBeat’s handy annual Dining Guide is a collection of some of the best places to eat in Cincinnati — as decided on by readers in our annual Best Of Cincinnati issue. We’ve been in the business of curating the BOC for more than two decades, highlighting the city’s most outstanding selections in Eats, Shops & Services, Music & Nightlife, et al, and the responsibility of selecting these exceptional entities is divided between our readers and staff.

In 2018, more than 900,000 votes were tallied to determine our Reader Picks — and readers logged on to the ballot site to vote for their favorites in a slew of categories. As this is the Dining Guide, we’re focusing on winners in the Eats section aka places where you can eat.

Note: This is obviously not a list of every restaurant in Cincinnati. And you may not agree with every pick on here. But it is certainly an excellent starting point in any conversation that begins with “Where should we eat?” that would otherwise end in a) tears b) loud arguments c) starvation. So close your eyes, point your finger at a random dining destination and get ready to bon voyage to bon appétit.

Here are the top 10 picks for best overall and best Northern Kentucky restaurant from CityBeat’s Best Of Cincinnati 2018.
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Please
1405 Clay St., Over-the-Rhine, pleasecincinnati.com.
Tucked away on Clay Street in Over-the-Rhine, Please serves modern and artful small plates. Chef Ryan Santos helmed Please as a gypsy pop-up from 2011 to 2016 and the design of the cozy brick and mortar is note-perfect down to the very instagrammable bathroom (search #pleasepotty for guest selfies with the abstract hand-painted wall tile). It feels like a first-class affair because it is one — each four-course dinner is served with fanfare and attention. Diners can choose from a vegetarian, pescetarian or omnivore menu, although gluten-free options are always available. Please also offers an à la carte and bar menu. 
Must try: The apple aebleskivers are a unique interpretation of the flavors found in Cincinnati chili — Danish-style apple donut holes are topped with maple and shredded, sweet and caramel-like Norwegian gjetost cheese.

Please

1405 Clay St., Over-the-Rhine, pleasecincinnati.com.
Tucked away on Clay Street in Over-the-Rhine, Please serves modern and artful small plates. Chef Ryan Santos helmed Please as a gypsy pop-up from 2011 to 2016 and the design of the cozy brick and mortar is note-perfect down to the very instagrammable bathroom (search #pleasepotty for guest selfies with the abstract hand-painted wall tile). It feels like a first-class affair because it is one — each four-course dinner is served with fanfare and attention. Diners can choose from a vegetarian, pescetarian or omnivore menu, although gluten-free options are always available. Please also offers an à la carte and bar menu.
Must try: The apple aebleskivers are a unique interpretation of the flavors found in Cincinnati chili — Danish-style apple donut holes are topped with maple and shredded, sweet and caramel-like Norwegian gjetost cheese.
Frida 602
602 Main St., Covington, Ky., fridaonmain.com.
The restaurant, named after the legendary painter Frida Kahlo, has Kahlo’s portrait and famous unibrow emblazoned all over the place. The cocktail list is divided into margaritas and house cocktails made with either tequila or mezcal, and they offer both alcohols in a flight, served in copitas (small clay cups). The menu is categorized into antojitos of chips and salsas, salads, nachos and several kinds of tacos, along with “mission style” burritos and two sandwiches — a Cubano and Oaxacan mezcal-glazed chicken. 
Must try: The vegetarian Brussels sprout tacos are the best, topped with a smoked peanut salsa on a fresh corn tortilla. Also a must: The queso dip. It’s a blend of melted cheeses, corn and hot peppers served in a round iron skillet and accompanied by a metal bucket of crispy tortillas to scoop up the gooiness.

Frida 602

602 Main St., Covington, Ky., fridaonmain.com.
The restaurant, named after the legendary painter Frida Kahlo, has Kahlo’s portrait and famous unibrow emblazoned all over the place. The cocktail list is divided into margaritas and house cocktails made with either tequila or mezcal, and they offer both alcohols in a flight, served in copitas (small clay cups). The menu is categorized into antojitos of chips and salsas, salads, nachos and several kinds of tacos, along with “mission style” burritos and two sandwiches — a Cubano and Oaxacan mezcal-glazed chicken.
Must try: The vegetarian Brussels sprout tacos are the best, topped with a smoked peanut salsa on a fresh corn tortilla. Also a must: The queso dip. It’s a blend of melted cheeses, corn and hot peppers served in a round iron skillet and accompanied by a metal bucket of crispy tortillas to scoop up the gooiness.
KungFood Chu’s AmerAsia
521 Madison Ave., Covington, Ky., facebook.com/kungfoodchu.
Quaint and comfortable with a huge beer list, AmerAsia offers all the usual Chinese dishes and chef specialties, but the food is anything but the usual. Chef Chu makes it all from scratch. His motto: “Do not take short cuts and do everything with passion and love.” Enjoy it all while taking in the eclectic décor of Kung Fu movie posters and paper lanterns. 
Must try: Favorite dishes include the inferno-hot Dragon Breath wontons and General Chu’s orange and sesame street chicken.

KungFood Chu’s AmerAsia

521 Madison Ave., Covington, Ky., facebook.com/kungfoodchu.
Quaint and comfortable with a huge beer list, AmerAsia offers all the usual Chinese dishes and chef specialties, but the food is anything but the usual. Chef Chu makes it all from scratch. His motto: “Do not take short cuts and do everything with passion and love.” Enjoy it all while taking in the eclectic décor of Kung Fu movie posters and paper lanterns.
Must try: Favorite dishes include the inferno-hot Dragon Breath wontons and General Chu’s orange and sesame street chicken.
Sotto
118 E. Sixth St., Downtown, sottocincinnati.com.
Located under Boca restaurant, the Tuscan-inspired Sotto offers a more approachable atmosphere and price point than its upstairs neighbor. With multiple dining rooms, the kitchen is open to view, including the custom-made wood-fire grill in front and a fresh-pasta room in the back hallway. Menu items include handmade pasta, house-cured salami and big-ticket items like Bistecca Fiorentina, a grilled creekstone porterhouse steak with daily sides. Sotto sources their bread from Blue Oven and also grows their own herbs and vegetables. Now serving lunch during the week. 
Must try: Any pasta. The handmade options change with the seasons, but if the cacio e pepe or short rib cappellacci are on the menu, order one of those. The cacio is spaghetti topped with creamy pecorino cheese and black pepper and the cappellacci (little pasta “hats”) are filled with short rib and topped with shallot, Amish butter and thyme.

Sotto

118 E. Sixth St., Downtown, sottocincinnati.com.
Located under Boca restaurant, the Tuscan-inspired Sotto offers a more approachable atmosphere and price point than its upstairs neighbor. With multiple dining rooms, the kitchen is open to view, including the custom-made wood-fire grill in front and a fresh-pasta room in the back hallway. Menu items include handmade pasta, house-cured salami and big-ticket items like Bistecca Fiorentina, a grilled creekstone porterhouse steak with daily sides. Sotto sources their bread from Blue Oven and also grows their own herbs and vegetables. Now serving lunch during the week.
Must try: Any pasta. The handmade options change with the seasons, but if the cacio e pepe or short rib cappellacci are on the menu, order one of those. The cacio is spaghetti topped with creamy pecorino cheese and black pepper and the cappellacci (little pasta “hats”) are filled with short rib and topped with shallot, Amish butter and thyme.
Mazunte
5207 Madison Road, Madisonville, mazuntetacos.com.
Taco fillings range from shredded pork to crispy braised chicken, and specialties include Memelitas (open-faced tortillas), corn husk tamales and corn empanadas with queso Oaxaca. It’s a refreshing and authentic culinary surprise, considering the restaurant’s location in a Madisonville strip mall. The Mazunte Mercado in the restaurant’s commissary (6216 Madison Road) serves meat by the pound, homemade salsa, dried goods and fresh produce. 
Must try: The special Sunday brunch menu — Dia de Los Huevos — features eggy options like breakfast tacos, chilaquiles and a delicious Huevos Rancheros.

Mazunte

5207 Madison Road, Madisonville, mazuntetacos.com.
Taco fillings range from shredded pork to crispy braised chicken, and specialties include Memelitas (open-faced tortillas), corn husk tamales and corn empanadas with queso Oaxaca. It’s a refreshing and authentic culinary surprise, considering the restaurant’s location in a Madisonville strip mall. The Mazunte Mercado in the restaurant’s commissary (6216 Madison Road) serves meat by the pound, homemade salsa, dried goods and fresh produce.
Must try: The special Sunday brunch menu — Dia de Los Huevos — features eggy options like breakfast tacos, chilaquiles and a delicious Huevos Rancheros.
Bouquet Restaurant & Wine Bar
519 Main St., Covington, Ky., bouquetrestaurant.com.
Working closely with local sources, Bouquet’s farm-to-table approach means a fresh, frequently rotating menu packed with seasonal ingredients. Elegant small plates, entrées and thoughtful wine pairings set the stage for an intimate dining experience. Find options like pork from local Marksbury Farm with pickled ramps and bacon-fat Brussels sprouts or a Black Hawk Farm wagyu grass-fed beef burger on a Sixteen Brick brioche bun. Most menu items can also be modified to suit the needs of different diners, from vegetarians to those with a gluten intolerance.
Must try: The Motherboard charcuterie board, featuring four cured meats, five cheeses and a multitude of accouterments. It’s huge.

Bouquet Restaurant & Wine Bar

519 Main St., Covington, Ky., bouquetrestaurant.com.
Working closely with local sources, Bouquet’s farm-to-table approach means a fresh, frequently rotating menu packed with seasonal ingredients. Elegant small plates, entrées and thoughtful wine pairings set the stage for an intimate dining experience. Find options like pork from local Marksbury Farm with pickled ramps and bacon-fat Brussels sprouts or a Black Hawk Farm wagyu grass-fed beef burger on a Sixteen Brick brioche bun. Most menu items can also be modified to suit the needs of different diners, from vegetarians to those with a gluten intolerance.
Must try: The Motherboard charcuterie board, featuring four cured meats, five cheeses and a multitude of accouterments. It’s huge.
The Eagle OTR
1342 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, theeagleotr.com.
The Eagle is nested inside a retired post office and has a relatively small menu, comprised of fried chicken, sandwiches, snacks and several side dishes. Booze-wise, they serve 100 kinds of beer and have about 15 different brews on tap. The fried chicken is free-range, all natural and sourced from Ohio farms. Opt for a whole, half chicken (white and dark meat) or a quarter of a chicken (select white or dark). 
Must try: While it is hard to look past all the ways in which you can indulge in some deep-fried bird here, do so because you’ll land upon the grilled cheese. Forgoing poultry perfection in order to just have a sandwich featuring three cheeses, apricot preserves and granny smith apples may sound crazy, but it isn’t.

The Eagle OTR

1342 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, theeagleotr.com.
The Eagle is nested inside a retired post office and has a relatively small menu, comprised of fried chicken, sandwiches, snacks and several side dishes. Booze-wise, they serve 100 kinds of beer and have about 15 different brews on tap. The fried chicken is free-range, all natural and sourced from Ohio farms. Opt for a whole, half chicken (white and dark meat) or a quarter of a chicken (select white or dark).
Must try: While it is hard to look past all the ways in which you can indulge in some deep-fried bird here, do so because you’ll land upon the grilled cheese. Forgoing poultry perfection in order to just have a sandwich featuring three cheeses, apricot preserves and granny smith apples may sound crazy, but it isn’t.
Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse
700 Walnut St., Downtown, jeffruby.com.
Modeled after a 1940s New York Art Deco steakhouse. If you love steak you have about a zero-percent chance of being let down with one of Ruby’s — they dry-age their own. There are several non-steak options on the menu, including good seafood dishes, but cow is king at Ruby’s. 
Must try: A steak, duh. Opt to go all-out with a Japanese A5 (the highest grade) wagyu tenderloin, cut to order and market priced.

Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse

700 Walnut St., Downtown, jeffruby.com.
Modeled after a 1940s New York Art Deco steakhouse. If you love steak you have about a zero-percent chance of being let down with one of Ruby’s — they dry-age their own. There are several non-steak options on the menu, including good seafood dishes, but cow is king at Ruby’s.
Must try: A steak, duh. Opt to go all-out with a Japanese A5 (the highest grade) wagyu tenderloin, cut to order and market priced.
Dewey’s Pizza
Multiple locations including 3014 Madison Road, Oakley; 7767 Kenwood Road, Kenwood; Newport on the Levee, Newport, Ky., deweyspizza.com.
A hip neighborhood pizza chain with craft beers, seasonal salads, specialty toppings and a window where kids (and adults) can watch the pizzas being hand-tossed. 
Must try: Whatever the pizza of the moment is. Seasonal salads and pies rotate based on, well, the seasons and feature fresh and fun toppings. The Tito Santana Pizza is back for fall with taco sauce, Chihuahua and cheddar cheese, seasoned ground beef, corn, shredded lettuce and Chipotle ranch.

Dewey’s Pizza

Multiple locations including 3014 Madison Road, Oakley; 7767 Kenwood Road, Kenwood; Newport on the Levee, Newport, Ky., deweyspizza.com.
A hip neighborhood pizza chain with craft beers, seasonal salads, specialty toppings and a window where kids (and adults) can watch the pizzas being hand-tossed.
Must try: Whatever the pizza of the moment is. Seasonal salads and pies rotate based on, well, the seasons and feature fresh and fun toppings. The Tito Santana Pizza is back for fall with taco sauce, Chihuahua and cheddar cheese, seasoned ground beef, corn, shredded lettuce and Chipotle ranch.
Walt’s Hitching Post
3300 Madison Pike, Fort Wright, Ky., waltshitchingpost.com.
Walt’s Hitching Post is a kick-back, casual place where everybody knows your name. Open in some iteration since the 1950s, classic menu items include Walt’s Legendary Fried Chicken, country fried steak with white-pepper-bacon gravy and fried chicken livers. All steaks are dusted with a unique seasoning blend and charred to perfection at 850 degrees. 
Must try: On Fridays, Kosher-salt encrusted prime rib is on special — while it lasts.

Walt’s Hitching Post

3300 Madison Pike, Fort Wright, Ky., waltshitchingpost.com.
Walt’s Hitching Post is a kick-back, casual place where everybody knows your name. Open in some iteration since the 1950s, classic menu items include Walt’s Legendary Fried Chicken, country fried steak with white-pepper-bacon gravy and fried chicken livers. All steaks are dusted with a unique seasoning blend and charred to perfection at 850 degrees.
Must try: On Fridays, Kosher-salt encrusted prime rib is on special — while it lasts.