140 of the Best Places to Eat in Greater Cincinnati

The Dining Guide 2019

Oct 15, 2019 at 11:55 pm

click to enlarge Social OTR - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Social OTR

Hello. Are you hungry? You probably will be at some point today or in the near future (unless you’re a robot). And when you’re ready to eat, you may need a restaurant recommendation. That’s where we come in.

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 — plus assorted other listings from this past year’s dining reviews and features. In 2019, more than half a million votes were tallied to determine our reader picks in a slew of categories. But 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*. 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 appetit (unless you’re a robot).

* Listings for the Dining Guide are compiled from CityBeat features and reviews and edited for space. 

New and Newish Dining Destinations

Recent restaurant additions plus the top 10 Best New Restaurant reader picks from the 2019 Best Of Cincinnati issue

click to enlarge The Baker's Table - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
The Baker's Table

The Baker’s Table — This cozy brunch spot on Monmouth Street has been serving local, seasonal cuisine to the masses since December 2018. Chef and co-owner David Willocks aims to make everything in-house, including the bread, and calls it the canvas upon which the food appears. As such, the menu reads like a love letter to biscuits and brioche and sourdough sandwiches. This hip destination often has a line out the door for patrons waiting to try main courses or ever-popular options like biscuits and gravy with Eckerlin pork sausage, eggs-in-a-hole and a fried chicken sandwich. Willocks runs The Baker’s Table with his wife, Wendy Braun, a designer who created the look of the open-floor-plan restaurant to blend craftsmanship and vintage tradition. Enjoy an Amaro Spritz or a cup of coffee with friends at the namesake 25-year-old baker’s table in the back of the space. Food and culture website Eater named The Baker’s Table one of 2019’s best new restaurants in America. The restaurant just launched dinner service. Must try: The ricotta donuts are little balls of fluffy joy with a thinly fried exterior and a generous sugar dusting. They come with strawberry lemon curd and are a perfect appetizer before your eggs or pancakes. 1004 Monmouth St., Newport, bakerstablenewport.com.

Boomtown Biscuits & Whiskey — This Pendleton restaurant is inspired by the trappings of the American frontier and California’s 19th-century gold rush. Order a cocktail when you sit down so you have time for another before dinner is over — and then another for “dessert.” At Boomtown, the true delight comes plated. The signature biscuit isn’t a run-of-the-mill thousand-layer flaked baked good; it’s a buttery, soft disc with a close crumb and a browned, lightly bubbled top that no breakfast chain can compete with. Choose from sandwiches, plates, bowls, sides and dessert. Must try: The Yukon sandwich, with fried chicken, gravy, smoked cheddar and thick-cut bacon. The option to add an egg is, theoretically, optional (and an upcharge), but better thought of as an intrinsic part of the dish. 1201 Broadway St., Pendleton, boomtownbiscuitsandwhiskey.com.

click to enlarge Branch - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Branch/Night Drop — The Littlefield Restaurant Group rehabbed a historic Art Deco Bank in East Walnut Hills to create the aptly named restaurant, Branch, and adjacent downstairs bar Night Drop. Their original eatery, Northside’s Littlefield, offers bourbon cocktails and innovative, inexpensive comfort food with an inimitable Northside vibe. Branch is a much more ambitious venture both in food, service and ambiance, although we can thank chef Shoshannah Anderson for creating the delicious menus in both places. Dinner choices are presented in two columns, “Shares” and “Stocks,” a play on the building’s history. The kitchen has Asian and Mediterranean influences, serving up dishes like black garlic ribs with sesame and fennel-apple slaw, chili-smoked wings with chimichurri and a peanut lemongrass smoked tofu on sesame noodles with a baby bok choy salad. In addition to dinner, Branch serves a weekend brunch menu that is fantastic. Must try: Pork belly and vegetable dumplings — a few tender but chewy crescent-shaped pasta pillows covered lightly in an umami-rich miso broth. 1535 Madison Road, East Walnut Hills, eatatbranch.com.

BrewRiver Creole Kitchen — Hearing a Boogie-Woogie tune on the piano while sipping a craft cocktail on a brightly furnished patio with a magnolia tree in view — you wouldn’t even have to squint to think you were in New Orleans. The atmosphere and cuisine at BrewRiver Creole Kitchen brings the spirit of the Crescent City to Cincinnati in a stately 150-year-old building on Eastern Avenue. From 2011 until 2018, owner Joby Bowman and chef Michael Shields ran BrewRiver GastroPub on nearby Riverside Drive before deciding to branch out to a 200-seat restaurant with a 35-seat patio. Shields, who earned his chops under Emeril Lagasse, has added new items to the menu — broiled oysters, fried green tomatoes with a pecan cornmeal crust and bread pudding for dessert — but kept his focus on Creole cuisine. Must try: Pasta Monica. Pasta Monica is inspired by the wildly popular Crawfish Monica from New Orleans Jazz Fest. The plump shrimp are generously coated in a Creole cream sauce, which manages to pack a major flavor punch without burning one’s tongue off. 4632 Eastern Ave., East End, brewrivercreolekitchen.com.

CHX — CHX is owned and operated by Hickory Wald — the team behind 3 Points Urban Brewery, Nation Kitchen and Bar and Rhinehaus. Their signature menu item is Bantys — which are lump-sized chicken pieces named after a wild and soulful breed of Indonesian chickens called Bantam — in two different brined and golden-fried finishing options: original or hot. In addition to Bantys, the chicken joint also offers salads, sandwiches and sharable sides like CHX nachos, fried cheese curds, wavy fries and more. Get it at CHX or from inside 3 Points Urban Brewery. Must try: A chicken sandwich. CHX takes some fried bantys (fried chicken strips larger than nuggets, smaller than tenders) and puts them between Texas toast from Sixteen Bricks, topped with lettuce, pickles, American cheese and mayo. You can get it spicy or original; either way it’s going to be better than anything from drive-thru. 1211 Broadway St., Pendleton, chxcincy.com.

Condado Tacos — Condado commits to the build-your-own tacos concept down to the type of tortillas. For protein, customers have several options (even multiple ones for vegetarians!) — like housemade chorizo, Thai chili tofu, BBQ pulled jackfruit, ghost pepper marinated steak and more. They’ve got the toppings, too; cilantro and onions, jicama and cabbage slaws, queso fresco and more. Must try: Rise and shine with a wake-n-bake, aka a soft tortilla, corn, chorizo gravy and biscuit crumble. Yes, Condado does brunch. 195 E. Freedom Way, Downtown, condadotacos.com.

Crown Republic Gastropub — This casual from-scratch kitchen offers up a range of inventive entrees and shareables for lunch, dinner and dessert. The menu draws on a Mediterranean influence, with clean and light flavors in dishes like duck fat hummus, Yemeni mussels and farro salad. Try the chicken gobbets. The name is weird, but the meat isn’t. Gobbets are basically adult chicken nuggets that are soaked in the malt brine the crew makes their pickles in, then fried and served with honey hot sauce on the side. Must try: Crown Republic incorporates squid ink into a housemade pasta for their take on tagliatelle, which includes mounds of crab atop black pasta with lemon, chili oil, breadcrumbs and tomato. It’s creamy with a spicier profile than you might initially infer — definitely one of the more unique pasta options in town. 720 Sycamore St., Downtown, crgcincy.com.

Delwood — Nestled at the intersection of Delta and Linwood avenues in Mount Lookout Square, Delwood is a family-friendly Peruvian-inspired gastropub from owner Trevor Snowden. Snowden comes by his Latin American inspiration honestly; his mother is Peruvian and that country’s recipes and ingredients infuse the menu with an uncommon flair. Delwood’s kitchen is small, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in flavor. The petite food menu offers six different sharable items like tostones and shishito peppers and eight meal options like their popular Delwood Burger or the kale Caesar salad. The bar menu offers a variety of cocktails including a paloma, Caipirinha and the Rum & Rye Old Fashioned in addition to beer, wine and boilermakers. Must try: The Delwood Burger comes topped with salsa criolla (a sort of vinegary red onion and pepper mixture), avocado and Peruvian huancaina sauce made from aji Amarillo chile peppers and cream. It’s slightly spicy and served on a standard bun. Instead of french fries, try the yuca fries or tostones (twice fried plantains). 3204 Linwood Ave., Mount Lookout, delwoodcincy.com.

click to enlarge Fairfield Market - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Fairfield Market

Fairfield Market — Appealing to residents on either side of the Ohio River, Fairfield Market brings coffee, cocktails, locally sourced snacks on pretty plates and a sun-dappled workspace to Bellevue’s main drag. The decor blends Midcentury Modern with a Palm Desert vibe, mixing original terrazzo with contemporary furniture and plenty of outlets for charging electronics. Fairfield operates around a fast-casual concept, offering bites, which are ordered at the bar, alongside drinks, starting with coffee service in the morning and lunch, followed by beer, wine, cocktails and snacks in the evening. There’s also Sunday brunch. Must try: A cocktail. The streamlined menu is fiercely seasonal and offers fresh twists on classics. Grab an old fashioned if you’re feeling traditional or a bright and peppery creation while you snack on a build-your-own charcuterie board. 700 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue, thefairfieldbellevue.com. 

Fausto — Fausto, a new restaurant in the lobby of the Contemporary Arts Center, is the latest offering from the Ferrari brothers — Tony and Austin — and their expanding local food service empire. The menu is contemporary and upbeat and feels like the culinary equivalent of the light that streams into Fausto’s seating area through the CAC’s massive panes of glass. A heightened brunch, lunch or dinner experience, for sure — not many places are serving trout roe on potatoes — but one that safely resists pretension. Tony describes the food as “California cuisine” with splashes of citrus and extra-virgin olive oil, not full of fat or butter. Breakfast features several egg and toast options, a chia seed pudding and that aforementioned trout roe. The lunch menu has plenty of light and crisp salads and sandwiches. But dinner offerings feel more involved. There is a three-course selection for $39, or several individual entrees (called “attractions” on their menu), appetizers (“beginnings”), pasta and dessert (“endings”). Must try: The chicken salad sandwich is perhaps the best of the salads and sandwiches because it marries the two in one great offering. The tarragon elevates the dish, which is served on Allez bread with butter lettuce. 44 E. Sixth St., Downtown, faustoatthecac.com.

Fiery Hen — From the team behind Court Street Lobster Bar comes this Southern-style hot chicken eatery featuring Nashville hot chicken sandwiches, catfish, burgers, fried green tomatoes, brisket and more, including a moonshine menu and taps with local beer. Guests can choose a level of heat, with sauces ranging from mild to the cleverly coined “Bless Your Heart” sauce. Must try: Fiery Hen challenges your spice tolerance with their Nashville hot chicken options. If you can take the heat, you deserve a medal. The hot chicken sandwich is served with slaw, pickles and pimento cheese. There’s also the Basic Chick sandwich, with Yella Belly fried chicken, pickles and chipotle ranch. Cool down with some banana pudding; it’ll probably help. 26 W. Court St., Downtown, fieryhencincy.com.

Forty Thieves falafel over hummus - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Forty Thieves falafel over hummus

Forty Thieves — Helmed by Dan Wright and his wife Lana (of Senate, Abigail Street and Pontiac), Holiday Spirits and its in-house eatery Forty Thieves evoke the vibe of a dive bar and serve a menu of Middle Eastern street food. You can order your falafel or shawarma either from a walk-up window facing Liberty Street or inside Holiday Spirits itself. Must try: Go for the falafel over hummus, which is worthy of an entire article dedicated to its deliciousness. The falafel — crisp with a pillowy center — is served with charred tomato and shishito peppers, red onion and pickled radish. Pair it with the tomato soup. This fast-casual restaurant is really hitting all the right notes in its opening number. 1538 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, facebook.com/fortythievesgang.

Gaslight Bar & Grill — Located in the space formerly occupied by the Clifton Branch of the public library, the menu at the Gaslight Bar & Grill still makes for some good reading. There are plenty of domestic and local craft brews, a solid wine list and a literary-inspired cocktail menu featuring nods to Hemingway, Bradbury, Poe and more. The restaurant is also home to Ludlow’s first rooftop patio. Must try: The Greek spaghetti with tomato, onion, spinach, tapenade (an umami-rich paste made from olives, capers and anchovies) and feta, with the choice to include bacon. 351 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, gaslightbarandgrillclifton.com.

Goose & Elder — Located across from historic Findlay Market, Goose & Elder is local chef and restaurateur Jose Salazar’s comfort food eatery. He describes the restaurant as “midcentury grandma,” sourcing colors and patterns that evoke a sense of the 1970s and ’80s. The restaurant offers a menu of American comfort food ranging from traditional dishes to new takes on classics. Both approachable and affordable, no menu item exceeds $20. Dishes include a grain bowl, chicken schnitzel, roasted bone marrow and baked mac and cheese. Must try: The fried bologna sandwich, topped with spicy slaw and marinated cucumbers. Add an over-easy egg for an upcharge. 1800 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, gooseandelder.com.

HighGrain Brewing Co. — Located in the former Silverton Memorial Municipal Building, HighGrain Brewing features “old-world styles with a modern twist,” like their Switch oatmeal stout with chocolate, coffee and nuts, and the Monarch IPA, with Citra and Idaho Gem hops. The food menu from their in-house chef includes options for vegetarians, meat-eaters and kids. With a focus on sustainability, the brewery is also 100-percent powered by wind, and at least one beer is carbon neutral. Must try: The food menu at HighGrain ranges from tofu tenders with maple mustard and watermelon panzanella to barramundi with plantain salsa, a bologna sandwich with fried egg and biscuits made with spent grain from the brewery. 6860 Plainfield Road, Silverton, highgrainbrewing.com.

Karrikin Spirits Co. — Karrikin combines a distillery, brewery, bar and restaurant in a gigantic former warehouse located in what feels slightly like a no-man’s land of industrial buildings between Mariemont and Mount Lookout. But this distillery/brewery/restaurant operates out of a renovated warehouse, which makes for a roomy and exciting destination. The executive chef, Jared Bennett, served for six years as sous chef and then chef de cuisine at Metropole. Even inside a warehouse, you can safely expect delicious food to come out of Bennett’s kitchen. The three-page beverage menu starts with a description of the spirits made in-house, below that are house cocktails and a few mocktails featuring housemade non-alcoholic sodas and shrubs. The food options range from wood-fired steaks and pasta to seafood and more. Must try: The roasted cauliflower: creamy, roasted cauliflower with crunchy wild rice in a savory quince vinaigrette sauce. 3717 Jonlen Drive, Fairfax, karrikinspirits.com.

Kiki — Kiki College Hill has opened its doors after two years of planning, fundraising, pop-ups and patience. Owners Hideki and Yuko Harada have created their dream restaurant in an old corner bank at 5932 Hamilton Ave. Kiki offers two ramen choices: shio ramen, a chicken broth with pork belly, negi, a tea-marinated egg and rayu; and kimchi ramen, featuring housemade kimchi and tofu. To warm up your pre-ramen palate, try the shishito peppers crowned with fluffy shreds of parmesan cheese, or the edamame, tossed in sea salt or tare. And you could never go wrong with the gyoza, either pork or mushroom, or the curry pan, a sort of fried bread or dumpling Hideki has described as a “curry donut,” stuffed with potato, onion and carrot. Must try: If you’re looking for punchier flavors, go with the karaage —  fried chicken with an option to add bright oroshi ponzu or mellow Jordy mayo (named after sous chef Jordan Ellerhorst). 5932 Hamilton Ave., College Hill, kikicincinnati.com.

Libby’s Southern Comfort — There’s no denying that the folks behind Libby’s Southern Comfort have impressive bona fides in the poultry arts. The owners of this entry into Covington’s flourishing restaurant scene claim not just a family history of chicken expertise but a professional one to boot, with a lineage going back decades. Butch Wainscott owns the Greyhound Tavern in Fort Mitchell, which has maintained a reputation for exceptional chicken dinners throughout the 30-plus years that he’s been at the helm. This year, his son, Brad, fired up the fat in Covington and opened Libby’s, which pays tribute Southern classics with a Charleston slant. Appetizers include fried green tomatoes and goetta hush puppies and mains range from an oyster po’ boy and a pork belly BLT to a plate of fried oysters, a decadent open-faced sandwich called Charlie Brown, meatloaf and shrimp and grits. Look for a full menu of bourbon drinks and desserts like oatmeal cream pies. Must try: Chicken dinners keep tradition alive here. You must try the fried chicken. 35 W. Eighth St., Covington, libbyssoutherncomfort.com.

click to enlarge Lonely Pine - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Lonely Pine

Lonely Pine Steakhouse — The casual dining destination takes a simple concept — quality food at an affordable price — and elevates it with Southwestern flair and retro decor. From Gorilla Cinema Presents, Lonely Pine is the first foray into food service for the company and is less focused on blatantly paying homage to a film, though there are clues for those on the hunt for Easter eggs. There are nods to Back to the Future hidden throughout. Steaks are dry-aged with shareable sides like au gratin potatoes. For those with a sweet tooth, there’s chess pie with chocolate, blueberries and whipped cream; a citrus creme brulee; and locally made ice cream with seasonal flavors. Must try: The New York strip, dry-aged in house for 30 days. An aggressive sear yields a perfectly cooked medium-rare center. You can order a pad of garlic butter on the side, but the seasoning on the beef is so well applied that it’s unnecessary. 6085 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge, lonelypinesteakhouse.com.

LouVino Restaurant & Wine Bar — Take your taste buds on a journey from the marigold-lined pathways of Chateau Guiraud in France to the Alps-framed Castelfeder winery in northern Italy — all while dining at LouVino in Over-the-Rhine. The concept restaurant on Main Street offers 60 wines by the glass as well as small plates inspired by Southern cuisine. Ingredients are sourced as locally as possible and standout dishes include a Brussels sprouts salad, beef sliders and loaded potato tots. Brunchers: Louvino serves cheap mimosas on Saturdays and Sundays plus foodie items like pancake tacos, stuffed French toast and chicken biscuit sliders. A portion of the menu changes once per quarter, so guests can expect something new. Must try: It would be a grave mistake to pass up the potato tots. You get eight fried balls that are crunchy on the outside and the consistency of cheesy mashed potatoes on the inside. 1142 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, louvino.com. 

Lucius Q — While the name of this barbecue joint may look like “luscious” — which isn’t a bad association — the restaurant is actually called Lucius Q (loo-shus q), a moniker taken from a Roman general with special ties to Cincinnati. The restaurant logo is a Centurion riding a pig, but the Italian influence stops there. The menu is all about meat. The restaurant draws influence from regional barbecue specialties and the business partners’ own backgrounds: there’s Texas brisket, Carolina pulled pork, St. Louis-style ribs and Avril-Bleh sausage from Cincinnati. Everything is smoked out back. Must try: The brisket, available in a sandwich, chili and by the pound. 1131 Broadway St., Pendleton, luciusq.com.

Maize — Maize specializes in a unique fusion menu that honors traditional recipes from across Latin America, with an emphasis on Venezuelan cuisine. The restaurant takes its name from maize, a corn flour dating back some 10,000 years and first utilized by indigenous Mexicans. The flour serves as the basis for the arepas, cachapas and empanadas served at Maize and acts as an access point for the rich world of Latin American cuisine. The bright blue accents of the restaurant lend to the tropical vibe, as do the multitude of rum options on the drink menu — there are more than 30 in house. Must try: The ceviche is perfect: plump and plentiful mahi, snapper and shrimp with diced mango, serrano pepper and lime. 1438 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, maizeotr.com.

click to enlarge Mazunte Centro - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Mazunte Centro

Mazunte Centro — Inspired by the vibrancy of Mexico City, Centro still serves the classics — tacos and tostadas, tequila and Topo Chico. But a handful of dishes exclusive to this location were added to the menu, namely tortas and tlayudas (imagine a love child between a Mexican pizza and a giant loaded nacho). Out-the-door-tacos for those on their lunch break and lingering evenings sipping tequila are both served with the same warm hospitality. Although folks in Mexico indulge in a leisurely meal and siesta midday and grab street tacos at night, Americans are more accustomed to working through lunch and partying after dark. Mazunte serves Mexico City food on a Cincinnati schedule. Must try: The impressive chicharron de queso. Literally translated to “cheese cracklings,” it’s a disc of shredded cheese wrapped around a wine bottle and fried. Don’t be alarmed when a foot-tall cheese tube arrives at your table; be amazed. It’s an excellent two-for-one deal — snap some off and dip it in salsa roja or salsa verde (both if you’re bold) or crumble it over the tlayuda for an added crunch factor. 611 Main St., Downtown, centro.mazuntetacos.com.

Mikey’s Late Night Slice — Mikey’s is known for its giant, foldable pizza slices and drunk-friendly menu items like the Pizza Dog — a hot dog stuffed with pepperoni and cheese, which is then wrapped in a slice of pizza — and the Cheezus Crust and Baby Cheezus, which is American cheese melted on top of two slices of pizza and pressed together into a sandwich. This pizza joint also shares a space with Oddfellows Liquor Bar. Must try: A Spicy-Ass piece of pepperoni pizza with Sriracha, banana peppers and red pepper flakes. 2014 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, latenightslice.com.

Mom ‘n ‘em — Located in a former 1890s home, Mom ‘n ‘em acts as a third place, with a diverse offering of wines and coffee, tinned fish varieties, cheeses, cured meats, pastries from North South Baking, the “Dirty Nati” Egg Samich and more, including toasties. Mom ‘n ‘em also has a full liquor license with cocktails like a classic negroni and Manhattan, and a smart selection of beer in their cooler. Friday night wine flights are $5, and family-style Bistro Night dinners are on the horizon as well. Must try: The anchovy toastie comes on thick slices of local Allez country loaf, generously swiped with homemade salsa verde, atop which rest silver strips of previously-tinned anchovies, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and doused with a sprinkling of aleppo (a zingy Italian chili.)  3128 Colerain Ave., Camp Washington, momnemcoffee.com.

Money Chicken — Money Chicken has taken the classic fried chicken sandwich and refined the spice blend to make one of the city’s more unique spicy sandwiches. While the basic ingredients are not unusual — fried buttermilk-brined chicken breast with spicy honey, pickles and mayo on a potato bun — it’s their Money Chicken Spice Blend that elevates everything thanks to the inclusion of Sichuan peppercorn. Spicy and slightly numbing, it’s a unique sensation more Westerners should embrace at the table. They also offer a tasty tempeh version for vegetarians or the chicken-averse. Must try: A chicken sandwich, obviously. 300 E. Seventh St., Downtown, moneychicken.co.

click to enlarge Oakley Wines' tomato pie - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Oakley Wines' tomato pie

Oakley Wines — Oakley Wines started as a boutique bottle shop just off the main drag. And then it became more than a neighborhood hang when upward of 100 people started stopping in for Friday-night wine tastings. Recently taken over by the owners of The Rhined cheese shop, the bar has been featuring a new food menu overseen by chef Lydia Jackman. Jackman focuses on “creating a multi-cultural experience where you can eat French, Italian and German-inspired dishes” paired with Oakley’s glass or bottle list. Must try: The tomato pie, with water buffalo cheese and caper aioli. Look for additional hearty dishes this winter. 4011 Allston St., Oakley, facebook.com/oakleywines.

Revolution Rotisserie & Bar — Revolution specializes in hormone-free, preservative-free roasted Amish chicken on a number of pita sandwiches named after revolutionaries — Einstein, Mandela, Joan of Arc, etc. — as well as in chicken-centric house specialties, indulgent appetizers, fresh salads and traditional sides made with a twist. There is also a full drink menu with beer, wine and boozy punch. Must try: A rotisserie chicken served one of three ways: Poulet Roti (French-style served over root veggies); Southern Comfort (served over bacon-braised collared greens and drizzled with hot honey); and Pollo A La Brasa (Peruvian-style served over coconut rice). Pick from a quarter white, double dark, a half bird or double white. 1106 Race St., Over-the-Rhine; 6063 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge, revolutionrotisserie.com.

Ripple Wine Bar — Ripple Wine Bar is one of those sweet little spots that hits all the right notes: good wine, lots of it, paired with good food. The bar offers 40 varietals by the glass or half glass, bottle or half bottle and also does a half-bottle happy hour for gun-shy consumers or folks dining solo. The menu’s overall vibe is laid-back — a true “California kitchen,” with wine-friendly food that is seasonally inspired. Look for items like choose-your-own charcuterie with Urban Stead cheese, a butternut squash salad and beef wellington popovers. Must try: The beef wellington popovers. The juicy little pastry packets are stuffed with beef and surrounded by a mushroom duxelle, with a pert tarragon aioli to balance the meatiness. Chef Will Smith goes through about 25 pounds of short rib a week to create the popovers, braising “the crap out of it” in red wine, garlic and shallots until it’s fork tender. 4 W. Pike St., Covington, ripplewinebar.com.

Sacred Beast — “Simple food. Taken seriously” is the motto of this modern diner, which feels like one of the largest restaurants in OTR. Clearly, this kitchen knows how to get the very best out of the humble egg. The “Diner Breakfast” is a truly great plate of food: Soft scrambled eggs, a short stack of ricotta pancakes topped with two strips of maple-glazed pork belly and a small grilled tomato make up this scrumptious meal. There’s also the equally delicious omelet filled with a simple combo of goat cheese and sweet peppers. The deviled eggs with pork rinds and chilies are excellent, as well. In addition to excellent eggs, the menu features options like a double cheeseburger with Dijonnaise, American cheese and a pickle on a Blue Oven bun; chicken schnitzel; and steak tartare frites; plus strong cocktails, mocktails, shots with a back and a wine by the glass. Must try: That omelet. 1437 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, sacredbeastdiner.com.

click to enlarge Social OTR pappardelle - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Social OTR pappardelle

Social OTR — A nonprofit venture owned by the Corporation for Findlay Market, Social OTR not only nails its ambitious New American menu but also aims to fill a multitude of societal and business needs in our community. Social OTR “teaches people looking for employment the necessary skills to get restaurant jobs” in partnership with CityLink, a faith-based nonprofit organization that works on multiple fronts to combat poverty. The restaurant actually is a two-in-one, with a front eatery and back bar featuring different decor and service styles but the same menu: about eight “Snacks,” 10 to 11 “Small Plates” and just two “Large Plates.” And libations shine brightly. Whether you prefer tequila, rye, gin or any other spirit, the house cocktail list has you covered. Must try: A piping-hot and generous portion of pappardelle pasta. Its mushroom herb sauce is extra delicious with butter-poached wild mushrooms and ramps, goat cheese, English peas and crispy kale. 1819 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, socialotr.com.

Station Family & BBQ — This new barbecue joint opened its doors to a hungry line of customers who, after their first bite of Station’s Cincinnati sausage and smoked chicken wings, were sure to be loyal repeat customers. There’s a separate dining area with table service and an indoor walk-up window that’s a bit more casual, so the kids can run around while you eat. Get a few entrees per diner since their protein options like pork butt and brisket are a bit conservatively portioned, but damn tasty. Must try: Proteins are smoked on-site and range from Cincinnati sausage to brisket, pulled pork and salmon available naked (by the quarter pound) or as a platter, served with two sides. Try the namesake Cincinnati sausage with your choice of sauce — classic barbecue, Alabama white or South or North Carolina. 400 Wyoming Ave, Wyoming, cincystation.com.

Tortilleria Garcia — Omar Garcia grew up on a family farm in Michoacan, Mexico and learned how to make corn tortillas the old-fashioned way from his mother and grandmother. Garcia has committed to honoring his family’s culinary history and his restaurants uncompromisingly follow the family recipe for fresh tortillas — never using flour or preservatives. Garcia’s menu consists of straightforward Mexican classics like tamales, burritos, housemade salsas and rotisserie chicken, in addition to tacos, plus his classic tortilla shells are available in two-pound packs so you can make your own inspired creations at home. Must try: Tamales. Made with the same masa as the tortillas and wrapped in corn husks, tamales are extremely portable and make an excellent take-out option. The spicy carnitas tamales with hot salsa are a perfect marriage of flavor and texture (just make sure your body is ready for some serious heat), while the pollo tamales with verde salsa are ideal for picky eaters — simple, straightforward. 5917 Hamilton Ave., College Hill; 11774 Springfield Pike, Springdale, tortilleriagarcia.us.

The View at Shires’ Garden — Located on the 10th floor of downtown’s City Club Apartments, this 6,000 square-foot rooftop spot features an indoor dining room, an outdoor patio, two full bars, outdoor small and group dining and cocktail tables with impeccable views. The food menu features Saturday and Sunday brunch and dinner options like mussels, whipped bone marrow over beef tenderloin tartare and entree greens. Must try: The Nicoise with seared tuna loin with marinated tuna crudo, olive tapenade, fingerling potatoes, French green beans, deviled egg salad and green goddess pesto. 309 Vine St., 10th Floor, Downtown, theviewatshiresgarden.com.

Wodka Bar — Owner Sarah Dworak pays tribute to her Ukrainian heritage not only with the decor but also through her drink and food menus. Vodka — the “w” is simply an Eastern European spelling and is pronounced like an English “v” — represents the iconic spirit of that part of the world, and Dworak wants to enlighten people who don’t appreciate its complexities. Before opening Wodka Bar, Dworak had already developed a following for her pierogies — palm-sized steamed potato-based turnovers with various fillings — at Babushka Pierogies. You can try them — along with a several other items on the bar’s food menu — while sipping spirits and cocktails. The drink menu includes a rotating selection of infused vodkas as well as a couple of vodka flights with either an infusion theme or four different types of “plain” vodkas. Bar snacks are mandatory, of course, but forget about french fries and beer cheese. Instead, you can chase your shots with caviar in puff pastry, a kielbasa bowl or smoked trout in cream sauce. Must try: One of the current charcuterie-style platters featuring options like smoked ham, kielbasa, farmers cheese, house pickles, dill butter and rye bread from nearby Allez bakery. 1200 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, wodkabarotr.com.

click to enlarge Yonder - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Yonder — Inspired by owners Chris and Tess Burns’ love of Kentucky State Parks, this bar concept by the folks behind Covington’s Commonwealth Bistro features a chic treehouse-esque rooftop bar with a small rotating menu and craft cocktails. The bar menu features a variety of both alcoholic and spirit-free cocktails. Yonder’s culinary menu rotates on a weekly basis. Like Commonwealth, Yonder’s chefs and bartenders use direct-from-the-farm ingredients, but the bar’s more flexible approach lets them use unique items that come in small quantities, which are perfect for an appetizer that only sticks around for a week but couldn’t be worked into the main restaurant’s menu. Past dishes have ranged from Oysters Rockabilly to wagyu beef jerky made in house. The breezy, plant-filled bar holds approximately 30 guests and features cozy, communal bench seating, hanging rattan chairs and five seats along the bar. Must try: One of the mocktails, such as the High Lonesome — locally roasted Deeper Roots cold brew coffee, chicory syrup, sarsaparilla, almond milk and mint. 621 Main St., Second Floor, Covington, commonwealthbistro.com/yonder.

Zundo Ramen & Donburi — You’ve probably been eating ramen the wrong way as long as you’ve been eating it. But before you panic, it’s OK. Ramen is fast food in Japan and embodying the concept of swift satisfaction is something at which Zundo excels. Zundo, which means “big pot” in Japanese, has a small but fierce menu comprising four ramens with different broths, 10 donburis, a thoughtful smattering of appetizers and a few desserts. Zundo’s traditional tonkatsu broth takes 14 hours; they also offer miso pork broth and a vegetarian version. Before slurping, you want the doily-like slices of lotus root to mingle with the strips of pork belly, the rim of red miso paste and the jammy-centered soft-boiled egg and the sprinkling of chopped green onions to take a bath in the bottom of the broth. Slurp. Repeat until done. You have two to three minutes to complete your mission. Must try: The piece de resistance of the ramen menu is the insider’s version: order the vegetarian miso ramen, request it spicy and add an egg and pork belly. It’s a Frankenstein’s monster of all the other ramens, dragging in each of the best bits of the others and leaving your stomach in a state of near-bliss. 220 W. 12th St., Over-the-Rhine, zundootr.com.

Coming Soon

Fillo Bake Shop — Evan Papanikolaou is slated to open his 2,300-square-foot day-to-night bakery concept on the ground floor of the Rennen & Beecher Flats project. The family-owned cafe will be open seven days a week and transform from a bakery during the day to a small-plates cafe at night with Greek dishes, cheese plates, cocktails, wine and beer, according to Papanikolaou. The shop is slated to open in mid-November. 1505 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, facebook.com/fillogreekbakeshop.

Losanti — This boutique steakhouse has taken over the former Anchor-OTR space and is slated to open this week. A non-traditional take on the typical white-tablecloth concept, it features casual seating, a bar and a patio that overlooks Washington Park. Helmed by the owners of Crown Republic Gastropub, Losanti offers steakhouse favorites like prime filet mignon in addition to non-steak entrees like pan-roasted salmon and double pork chops, plus sharable sides like CRG’s popular charred broccoli. 1401 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, losantiotr.com.

Mesa Loca — The former Cock & Bull pub location on Hyde Park Square is getting reimagined as a modern Mexican destination called Mesa Loca. The restaurant is slated to open in "late fall" and will start with dinner service, adding brunch and lunch after the grand opening. Mesa will feature locally sourced ingredients transformed into shared plates, antojitos and tacos, with tequila pairings. The bar menu will also offer wine and mezcal, plus cocktails, sangria pitchers, Mexican beer on tap and "interactive seasonally changing beverages." 2645 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, mesalocahydepark.com.

Nomad — This new evening gathering place will serve craft cocktails, coffee, wine, beer and donuts out of a renovated vintage 1976 Bristol double-decker bus and a dreamy outdoor courtyard. The space is across the street from Darkness Brewing and was the forme the home of Mama C's Buttercream & Sprinkles bakery. They will host soft openings throughout the fall ahead of their grand opening in spring 2020. 225 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue,  facebook.com/codacompany.

Pepp & Dolores — Thunderdome Restaurant Group — the team behind The Eagle, Bakersfield, Maplewood Kitchen and Bar, etc. — is opening an Italian/pasta-heavy concept this December. The pasta will be broken into two categories: traditional and non-traditional. In addition to homemade pasta, the menu will offer cicchetti (aka shareable appetizers) plus a main bar and a basement bar. 1501 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, searchable on Facebook.

Sugar n’ Spice OTR — Sugar n’ Spice, the classic Cincinnati breakfast restaurant known for its wispy-thin pancakes, is slated to open a second location in the former Joe’s Diner in Over-the-Rhine by winter. It will have the same menu as its Reading Road space in Paddock Hills. 1203 Sycamore St., Over-the-Rhine, facebook.com/eatsugarnspice.

Best Restaurants 

The top 10 reader picks for Best Overall and Best Northern Kentucky restaurant from CityBeat's 2019 Best Of Cincinnati issue


click to enlarge Sotto - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Sotto — 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 woodfire 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. Must try: Sotto is the premier special occasion dining spot in Cincy. From its sexy, low-light ambiance to its menu of fresh pastas and other rustic Italian cuisine (with accompanying price tag), this underground eatery is perfect for holidays, anniversaries, birthdays and more; it was even recently named one of OpenTable’s top 100 best restaurants in America. So when Sotto has a special on the menu, you know it’s gonna be out of this world. And generally, when the restaurant gets its hands on some truffles, the chefs create an ultimate indulgence. Truffles frequently come with a hefty price tag, but if you hear about a truffle special at Sotto, jump on it. 118 E. Sixth St., Downtown, sottocincinnati.com. 

Jeff Ruby’s The Precinct — You can always rely on a Jeff Ruby restaurant for a big, rare steak and platters of seafood. The Precinct, housed in a historical Romanesque-style former police precinct, was the first in a long line of Ruby steakhouses. You can’t go wrong with a sirloin or porterhouse, named after current and past Cincinnati sports greats. But there are other options, like blackened diver scallops or something from the tableside service menu like seafood fettuccine alfredo for two. Must try: Anything from the raw bar. Options like Alaskan king crab and a daily selection of oysters are served over glowing, neon ice — they drop a light into the bowl before adding the sea creatures. It’s cool. 311 Delta Ave., Columbia Tusculum, jeffruby.com.

The Eagle OTR — 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). The spicy honey served with chicken is a must — try it on everything. 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. 1342 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, eaglerestaurant.com.

click to enlarge Taste of Belgium's pumpkin waffle - Photo: Provided by Taste of Belgium
Photo: Provided by Taste of Belgium
Taste of Belgium's pumpkin waffle

Taste of Belgium — Hot, fresh Belgian waffles are made from a thick dough and coarse Belgian beet sugar, which caramelizes on the cast iron press. Find the heavenly breakfast food topped with strawberries and cream or ricotta, or as the bread in a McWaffle sandwich (egg, gruyere and maple syrup). The crepe station prepares sweet and savory crepes, like the Nati Crepe with goetta, made fresh to order. At dinner, the sophistication goes up a notch with mussels, steak frites and Belgian specialties. Offers an exclusive selection of Belgian beers. At The Banks location, you can find all four of Chimay’s Trappist ales on drafts — only the second location in the world outside of the brewery in Belgium to offer them all. Must try: The Belgian bistro has brought back its fan favorite Pumpkin Spiced Waffle for a limited time (through Nov. 30). The waffle features pumpkin puree and “seasonal spices” in TOB’s hearty dough, which is then pressed with a Belgian waffle iron and topped with fresh whipped cream, toasted pecans and freshly ground mace. Multiple locations including 16 W. Freedom Way, The Banks; 1135 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine; 2845 Vine St., Corryville; 3825 Edwards Road, Norwood, authenticwaffle.com. 

Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse — 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 the 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. 700 Walnut St., Downtown, jeffruby.com.

Boca — A trip to chef David Falk’s Italian/French gemstone is an experience to be savored as much as the food itself. Take your time, invest a few hours and allow him and his attentive, knowledgeable staff to unfold an epic tale of two or three courses, plus dessert. Most entrees are available in full or tasting portions. Must try: The Pommes Soufflees “1942” — puffy french fries — are a call back to the restaurant’s former iteration as the Maisonette. 114 E. Sixth St., Downtown, bocacincinnati.com. 

Incline Public House — With a 1,400-square-foot deck for soaking in vistas and cocktails, IPH’s name is derived from the actual Cincinnati Incline that existed there from the late 1800s to the 1940s. Their upscale twist on pub food features sandwiches, salads, epicurean appetizers and a slew of craft cocktails and draft beers. Must try: Their pizzas are surprisingly delicious for a non-pizza-parlor. Build your own with toppings ranging from pepperoni and prosciutto to fried egg and oven-roasted tomato. Or order a house option like the Garbage pie with basically everything ranging from bacon, pepperoni and sausage to arugula, fried egg and cheese. 2601 W. Eighth St., Price Hill, inclinepublichouse.com.

Taft’s Ale House  Housed in a renovated multi-story 1850s-era church, Taft’s is named after William Howard Taft, the 27th president of the United States and native Cincinnatian. The working brewery and restaurant features meat platters, salads and sandwiches that focus on tri-tip beef — similar to prime rib — and a special kids’ menu. The creative beer selection boasts brews made with local goods, everything from locally roasted coffee to artisan chocolate. Must try: The restaurant ages its tri-tip beef, rubs it, chars it, smokes it over hickory-wood chips and then finishes it in the oven — so anything with that. 1429 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, taftsalehouse.com.

Mazunte — 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. Must try: Warm, vibrant and, honestly, just full of really good food, don’t sleep on their Sunday brunch menu. The huevos divorciados features crispy fried eggs atop corn tortillas and a collision of salsa verde and salsa guajillo. 5207 Madison Road, Madisonville, mazuntetacos.com.

Dewey’s Pizza — 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. Right now, there’s a Cuban pizza with a mustard base, mozzarella cheese, Canadian bacon, pulled pork, Mojo sauce, dill pickles and Swiss cheese. Multiple locations including 3014 Madison Road, Oakley; 7767 Kenwood Road, Kenwood; Newport on the Levee, Newport, deweyspizza.com. 


click to enlarge AmerAsia - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Pompilio’s — This restaurant, where the toothpick scene in Rain Man was filmed, has been offering classic family Italian since 1933. Play a game of bocce ball on the back court or grab a beer-and-burger special in the attached Colonel Pomp’s Tavern. You also can’t go wrong with any pasta dish. Must try: Order a pasta sampler with spaghetti marina, fettuccine alfredo, penne robusto (a hearty marinara) and rigatoni with meat sauce. 600 Washington Ave., Newport, pompilios.com.

Hofbräuhaus — The first authentic German Hofbrauhaus in America and modeled after the legendary Munich location. Traditionally decorated rooms, beer brewed on-site (in line with the German Purity Law “Reinheitsgebot,” using only hops, malt and water), a huge biergarten and German dishes make this a fun dining option. Servers bring you your schnitzel and wurst in traditional German garb and there’s live music almost every night. Must try: A giant glass boot-stein of whatever beer has been recently tapped and something German. The Bavarian sampler platter for two, or Schmankerlplatte, has schweinebraten (pork roast with bier sauce), schnitzel wiener art (breaded pork cutlet) and three types of wurst with fried cabbage, mashed potatoes and sauerkraut. 200 E. Third St., Newport, hofbrauhausnewport.com.

Walt’s Hitching Post — 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, Steak Diane and fried green tomatoes with chicken livers. All steaks are dusted with a unique seasoning blend and charred to perfection. Must try: On Fridays, Kosher-salt encrusted prime rib is on special — while it lasts. 3300 Madison Pike, Fort Wright, waltshitchingpost.com.

KungFood Chu’s AmerAsia — 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 decor 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. 521 Madison Ave., Covington, facebook.com/kungfoodchu.

Bouquet Restaurant & Wine Bar — Working closely with local sources, Bouquet’s farm-to-table approach means a fresh, frequently rotating menu packed with seasonal ingredients. Elegant small plates, entrees and thoughtful wine pairings set the stage for an intimate dining experience. Must try: The Motherboard charcuterie board is ever popular, featuring two cured meats, two house meats, five cheeses and a multitude of accoutrements. 519 Main St., Covington, bouquetrestaurant.com.

Otto’s — Otto’s does lunch and dinner, but it’s definitely a happening brunch spot. For brunch, Benedict Otto’s substitutes fried grit cake for the English muffin of a traditional eggs Benedict. It’s delicious, a bit rich and a true indulgence. There are a half-dozen mimosa options, from Violette Royale to citrus vanilla spice, and bloody marys made with house-infused cucumber or jalapeno-garlic vodka. Must try: Otto’s is known for its panko-crusted fried green tomatoes, so if you go during brunch, order the B.L.F.G.T. aka the bacon, lettuce, fried green tomato, egg and cheese sandwich on a croissant. If you’re there for dinner, order the appetizer portion of tomatoes with dipping sauce. 521 Main St., Covington, ottosonmain.com.

click to enlarge Frida tacos - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Frida tacos

Frida — 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. Must try: The vegetarian Brussels sprout tacos are the best, served with a smoked peanut salsa. Also a must: the queso dip. 602 Main St., Covington, fridaonmain.com.

Greyhound Tavern — Famous for its double-deckers, the Greyhound Tavern has been a Fort Mitchell institution since the 1930s. You won’t want to miss the divine fried chicken, the ginormous onion rings, the Hot Brown or the bread pudding. It’s family-style fried chicken night on Mondays and Tuesdays, with generous portions of bird — rolled in secret-recipe herbed flour and fried — mashed potatoes, green beans, coleslaw and biscuits. Must try: A classic Kentucky Hot Brown. Get country ham or oven-roasted turkey on toast points, topped with cheesy mornay sauce, cheddar cheese, bacon and tomato. 2500 Dixie Highway, Fort Mitchell, greyhoundtavern.com. 

Agave & Rye — Agave & Rye is a taqueria and tequila and bourbon hall that serves self-proclaimed “epic tacos.” Geared toward a hip audience, tacos have names like the Swipe Right and fillings like kangaroo meat, duck confit, butter-poached lobster and veggie options like fried green tomatoes. Sides range from mac and cheese and bourbon-bacon refried beans to “guac fries” and elote. Must try: The “Sensei,” made with soy and ginger kangaroo tenderloin topped with crispy rice noodles and veggies before it’s finished off with spicy peanut chili oil. 635 Madison Ave., Covington, agaveandrye.com.

Coppin’s Restaurant & Bar — There’s a strong local identity to the location and the menu, with nods to history and the new South, the bourbon and the banter that starts at the Roebling Bridge. Chef Mitch Arens has also placed a specific and intentional focus on reducing waste. By building relationships with local farms and producers to source everything from lamb, beef and chicken to produce, cheese and ice cream, the goal — specifically with the proteins and plants — is to use the entirety of the items that pass through his kitchen, nose to tail and root to stem. The menu is full of upscale but still Southern-inspired dishes. Must try: For a romantic date night, try one of the dishes from under the “for two” heading, like a Sakura Farms ribeye. 638 Madison Ave., Covington, hotelcovington.com.

Keystone Bar & Grill — This chain of neighborhood joints offers a variety of tasty comfort food like huge plates of pasta, a rockin’ quesadilla menu, build-your-own-burgers (including turkey or veggie options) and weekend brunch. Must try: Where Keystone really shines is its macaroni and cheese menu: specialty selections of ooey, gooey carbs smothered in rich dairy, named after famous bands like their “Fleetwood Mac” with mozzarella, pesto and tomato. Multiple locations including 313 Greenup St., Covington; 249 Calhoun St., Clifton Heights; 3384 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, keystonebar.com.

Best of the Rest

Here are some other top 10 and top 3 picks from a variety of Best Of Cincinnati dining categories 

Best Barbecue

click to enlarge Eli's BBQ - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Eli's BBQ

Eli’s BBQ  Eli’s specialty, the pulled-pork sandwich, is a good intro to his amazing barbecue sauce, and you can move on from there to hickory-smoked ribs, smoked turkey or sides like mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, baked beans and jalapeno corn bread. Must try: You haven’t done Eli’s right until you’ve had the 2 All-Beef Dogs. You’ll still get a barbecue fix because the two smoked franks come in a bun with Eli’s famous sauce, however the flash fry preparation and pork crispins and coleslaw toppings will make you forget that Eli’s is known for anything else. 3313 Riverside Drive, East End; Findlay Market, 133 W. Elder St., Over-the Rhine, elisbarbeque.com. 

  • City Barbecue, multiple locations including 2760 Alexandria Pike, Highland Heights, citybbq.com.
  • Montgomery Inn9440 Montgomery Road, Montgomery; 925 Riverside Drive, East End, montgomeryinn.com.
  • Lucius Q1131 Broadway St., Pendleton, luciusq.com.
  • Pickles & Bones Barbecue, 1149 OH-131, Milford, picklesandbones.com.
  • Pontiac,1403 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, pontiacbbq.com.
  • Sweets & Meats, BBQ2249 Beechmont Ave., Mount Washington, sweetsandmeatsbbq.com.
  • Just Q’in,975 E. McMillan St., Walnut Hills, justqin.com.
  • Midwest Best BBQ and Creamery,669 Justice Court, Loveland, midwestbestbbq.com.
  • Big Art’s BBQ Grille,2796 Struble Road, Colerain, bigartsq.com.

Best Breakfast

Sleepy Bee Cafe - Photo: Khoi Nguyen
Photo: Khoi Nguyen
Sleepy Bee Cafe

Sleepy Bee Cafe — A family-friendly breakfast and lunch spot, much of Sleepy Bee’s food is sourced locally from farms with bee-friendly practices. Expect a healthy wait on weekends for healthy and hearty brunch fare. 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. 3098 Madison Road, Oakley; 9514 Kenwood Road, Blue Ash; 8 E. Fourth St., Downtown, sleepybeecafe.com. 

  • First Watch, multiple locations including 104 E. Seventh St., Downtown, firstwatch.com.
  • Taste of Belgium, 16 W. Freedom Way, The Banks; 1135 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine; 2845 Vine St., Corryville; 3825 Edwards Road, Norwood, authenticwaffle.com.
  • Maplewood Kitchen and Bar, 525 Race St., Downtown, 5065 Deerfield Blvd., Mason, maplewoodkitchenandbar.com.
  • Sugar n’ Spice Restaurant, 4381 Reading Road, Paddock Hills, eatsugarnspice.com. 
  • Hang Over Easy, 13 W. Charlton St., Corryville, facebook.com/hangovereasycincy.
  • The Echo Restaurant3510 Edwards Road, Hyde Park, echo-hydepark.com.
  • The Main Cup, 18 Main St., Milford, maincupmilford.com.
  • The Original Pancake House, 8355 Beechmont Ave., Withamsville; 9977 Montgomery Road, Montgomery, originalpancakehouse.com.
  • Wild Eggs, multiple locations including 301 E. Fourth St., Downtown, wildeggs.com.

Best Burgers

click to enlarge Zip's Cafe - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Zip's Cafe

Zip’s Cafe  Open since 1926, Zip's Cafe is an East Side institution. And the cafe’s claim to fame — besides the little toy train that runs along the ceiling — is having some of the best burgers in town: fresh, flame-broiled Avril-Bleh beef patties (sourced locally every day), served on a honey-egg bun. Must try: The fan-favorite Girth burger — named by former Bengal punter Pat McInally — features a classic Zip burger topped with a split, grilled Avril-Bleh mettwurst. If that isn’t enough, opt for the Train Wreck, a step up from the Girth with the addition of shaved ham and three types of cheese. 1036 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout, zipscafe.com. 

  • Arthur’s, 3516 Edwards Road, Hyde Park; 8221 Beechmont Ave., Anderson, arthurscincinnati.com.
  • Krueger’s Tavern, 1211 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, kruegerstavern.com.
  • Nation Kitchen and Bar, 1200 Broadway, Pendleton, nationkitchenandbar.com.
  • Tickle Pickle, 4176 Hamilton Ave., Northside, ordertickle.com.
  • Flipdaddy’s Burgers & Beers, 165 Pavilion Parkway, Newport; 7453 Wooster Pike, Mariemont; 12071 Mason Montgomery Road, Symmes Township; 8863 US Route 42, Union, flipdaddys.com.
  • Roney’s, 314 Chamber Drive, Milford, facebook.com/roneysrestaurant.
  • Bard’s Burgers & Chili, 3620 Decoursey Ave., Covington, bardsburgersandchili.com.
  • Quatman Cafe, 224 W. Main St., Mason; 2434 Quatman Ave., Norwood, quatmancafe.com.
  • Gas Light Cafe, 6104 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge, gaslightcincy.com.

Best Burritos

Gomez Salsa — On Weekends, Gomez in OTR is open till 2:30 a.m., making it the perfect drunk Saturday pit stop before piling into your Uber. But this Mexican eatery — which serves up tacos, burritos and turtles — is also a prime spot to pick up grub before lounging in Washington Park, during your lunch break or literally whenever you feel on-the-go. Must try: The Turtle — a burrito tortilla stuffed with rice, beans and the ingredients of your choice, plus a crunchy tortilla right in the center and a layer of crispy melted cheese on top. It’s cut into halves, and you eat it sort of like a sandwich...or a Cruchwrap Supreme. 107 E. 12th St., Over-the-Rhine; 2437 Gilbert Ave., Walnut Hills, gomezsalsa.com.

  • Chipotle, multiple locations, chipotle.com
  • Mazunte, 5207 Madison Road, Madisonville, taqueria.mazuntetacos.com.

Best Chili (Non-Chain)

click to enlarge Camp Washington Chili - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Camp Washington Chili

Camp Washington Chili  A great place for breakfast, lunch or dinner, Camp Washington Chili features greasy-spoon breakfast offerings, double-decker sandwiches, Cincinnati-style chili, coneys and even a few salads. A James Beard Award winner, Camp Washington Chili opened its doors in 1940, and current owner Johnny Johnson has been working at the parlor since 1951. Open 24/6 — they’re closed on Sundays. Must try: The "513-Way," three slabs of Queen City Sausage goetta covered in Cincinnati-style chili, beans, onion and cheese. 3005 Colerain Ave., Camp Washington, campwashingtonchili.com.

  • Blue Ash Chili, 9565 Kenwood Road, Blue Ash; 4200 Aero Drive, Mason; 11711 Princeton Pike, Tri-County, blueashchili.com.
  • Pleasant Ridge Chili, 6032 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge, pleasantridgechili.com.

Best Mediterranean

click to enlarge Aladdin's Eatery + Lounge - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Aladdin's Eatery + Lounge

Aladdin’s Eatery + Lounge  Although the Aladdin’s Eatery chain has been around since 1994, their location in OTR marks something novel for the Lebanese-American franchise: a full bar. Now, you can not only grab a freshly squeezed juice, smoothie or mint tea, you can also opt for a drink from a clever selection of cocktails. Find food favorites like rolled pita sandwiches, shish kabob plates, kibbie, beef kafta and other Mediterranean flavors. Must try: A pita “pitza,” topped with anything from baba ganouj and veggies to hummus, ground beef, diced tomatoes and pine nuts. 1203 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, facebook.com/aladdinseateryotr.

  • Phoenician Taverna, 7944 Mason Montgomery Road, Mason, facebook.com/phoeniciantaverna.
  • Sebastian’s Gyros, 5209 Glenway Ave., Western Hills, sebastiansgyros.com.

Best Seafood

click to enlarge Court Street Lobster Bar - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Court Street Lobster Bar

Court Street Lobster Bar — Nary a bright-red shell is in sight at Court Street Lobster Bar. Instead, there are several ways to enjoy tender, buttery lobster meat — in a creamy bisque or as an ingredient in poutine; as part of the decadent lobster mac and cheese; or in one of two styles of lobster rolls. Must try: A “Maine Style” or “Connecticut Style” roll. The Maine roll is a chilled lobster salad with mayonnaise while the Connecticut roll has warm lobster meat drizzled with hot butter. 28 W. Court St., Downtown, courtstreetlobsterbar.com.

  • Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, 11975 Northwest Blvd., Springdale, pappadeaux.com.
  • Bonefish Grill, multiple locations including 2737 Madison Road, Hyde Park, bonefish.com.
  • McCormick & Schmick’s, 21 E. Fifth St., Downtown, mccormickandschmicks.com.
  • Pelican’s Reef, 7261 Beechmont Ave., Anderson, thepelicansreef.com.
  • S.W. Clyborne Co., 5948 Snider Road, Mason, clybornes.com.
  • Mitchell’s Fish Market, 9456 Water Front Drive, Mason, mitchellsfishmarket.com.
  • Washington Platform Saloon & Restaurant, 1000 Elm St., Downtown, washingtonplatform.com.
  • Chart House, 405 Riverboat Row, Newport, chart-house.com.

Best Sushi

Green Papaya — If you’re a Thai food fan, this mainstay — locally owned by Bangkok-born husband and wife — focuses on unique sushi rolls, curries and noodle dishes. Must try: The namesake Green Papaya roll with shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, mango and cream cheese, topped with spicy mayo, crab stick and tempura flakes. 2942 Wasson Road, Hyde Park; 4002 Plainville Road, Mariemont, greenpapayacincinnati.com.

  • Cloud 9 Sushi, 1018 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout, facebook.com/cloud9sushi.
  • Ichiban Japanese Cuisine, 1020 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout, ichibancinci.com.
  • Mr. Sushi, 580 Walnut St., Downtown; 138 W. McMillan St.., Clifton, mrsushicinci.com.
  • Wabi Sabi, 508 Madison Ave., Covington, wabisabicovington.com.
  • Kaze, 1400 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, kazeotr.com.
  • Fusian, 600 Vine St., Downtown; 8060 Montgomery Road, Kenwood; 3780 Paxton Ave., Hyde Park, fusian.com.
  • Wild Ginger, 3655 Edwards Road, Hyde Park, wildgingercincy.com.
  • Izen’s Drunken Bento, 212 W. McMillan St., Clifton, searchable on Facebook.
  • E+O Kitchen, 3520 Edwards Road, Hyde Park, eokitchen.com.

Best Veggie Burger

click to enlarge Krueger's Tavern veggie burger - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Krueger's Tavern veggie burger

Krueger’s Tavern  Krueger’s Tavern is part of the rapidly expanding Thunderdome empire, which also owns Maplewood, Bakersfield, Currito and The Eagle. Must try: The veggie burger.The housemade patty is a blend of beets, breadcrumbs and other binding ingredients, all mushed together into a sort of disc, then dropped in a fryer. The burger is crispy on the outside and super flavorful on the inside, with a nice reddish hue. It is topped with melty provolone cheese, pesto mayo, mixed greens and housemade pickles on a challah bun. 1211 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, kruegerstavern.com.

  • Tickle Pickle, 4176 Hamilton Ave., Northside, ordertickle.com.
  • S.W. Clyborne Co., 5948 Snider Road, Mason, clybornes.com.
  • Arthur’s, 3516 Edwards Road, Hyde Park; 8221 Beechmont Ave., Anderson, arthurscincinnati.com.
  • Sleepy Bee Cafe 3098 Madison Road, Oakley; 8 E. Fourth St., Downtown; 9514 Kenwood Road, Blue Ash, sleepybeecafe.com.
  • Flipdaddy’s Burgers & Beers, 7453 Wooster Pike, Mariemont; 12071 Mason Montgomery Road, Symmes Township; 8863 US Route 42, Union; 165 Parkway Pavilion, Newport, flipdaddys.com.
  • Maplewood Kitchen and Bar, 525 Race St., Downtown; 5065 Deerfield Blvd., Mason, maplewoodkitchenandbar.com.
  • Arnold’s Bar & Grill, 210 E. Eighth St., Downtown, arnoldsbarandgrill.com.
  • Harvest Pizzeria, 1739 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, harvestpizzeria.com.
  • Bones’ Burgers, 9721 Montgomery Road, Montgomery; 3235 Madison road, Oakley, bones-burgers.com.

Best Vietnamese

click to enlarge Pho Lang Thang's new exterior - Photo: Pho Lang Thang Facebook
Photo: Pho Lang Thang Facebook
Pho Lang Thang's new exterior

Pho Lang Thang  Pho Lang Thang recently relocated to a much larger space a little north of Findlay Market. There’s a full bar that’ll be fully stocked once their liquor license comes through, but for the time being, Coco Rico or an iced coffee are the best drinks in the house. Diners can enjoy their pho, banh mi and shrimp salad rolls at the bar or at one of the many tables. Must try: One of Pho Lang Thang’s best dishes is their pho bun nam, or brisket pho: the thinly sliced meat is tender and flavorful, enhancing the body of the already phenomenal broth. For sandwiches, the fried tofu banh mi is excellent thanks to the crunchy French baguette, crisp cucumber and aromatic cilantro. 1828 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, pholangthang.com.

  • Cilantro Vietnamese Bistro, 235 W. McMillan St., Clifton, eatatcilantro.com.
  • Pho Kimmy, 11974 Lebanon Road, Sharonville, pho-kimmy.business.site.

Best Pizza

Adriatico’s — Adriatico’s has a huge draft beer selection and 64-ounce growlers to go, plus spicy, garlicky sauce, oversized pepperoni and a super-thick crust. Good luck finding calzones like theirs, too. Must try: A giant 18-inch-by-24-inch Bearcat pizza. It will feed your entire party. 113 W. McMillan St., Clifton, adriaticosuc.com.

  • A Tavola1220 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine; 7022 Miami Ave., Madeira, atavolapizza.com.
  • Catch-a-Fire Pizza,  MadTree, 3301 Madison Road, Oakley, catchafirepizza.com.
  • Chester’s Pizza2929 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, searchable on Facebook.
  • Fireside Pizza773 E. McMillan St., Walnut Hills, firesidepizzawalnuthills.com.
  • Joe’s Pizza Napoli, 507 Chamber Drive, Milford, joespizzanapoli.com.
  • Strong’s Brick Oven Pizzeria336 Monmouth St., Newport, strongsbrickovenpizza.com. 
  • Taft’s Brewpourium4831 Spring Grove Ave., Spring Grove Village, taftsalehouse.com/brewpourium.
  • Taglio3531 Columbia Parkway, Columbia Tusculum; 56 E. 12th St., Over-the-Rhine, eattaglio.com.
  • Trotta’s3501 Werk Road, Westwood, trottaspizza.net.
  • Two Cities Pizza Co.202 W. Main St., Mason, twocitiespizza.com