How to Dine at Cincinnati’s Priciest Eateries Yet Never Break Your Bank

Where to eat chic on the cheap

Dec 11, 2018 at 10:50 am
Restaurant L - Photo: Provided by Restaurant L // CityBeat Archive
Photo: Provided by Restaurant L // CityBeat Archive
Restaurant L

Yes, it’s true: You can dine at any one of Cincinnati’s most expensive restaurants and manage to enjoy a meal without totally busting your budget. Relish in the pleasures of fine dining all without sacrificing your entire paycheck.

In this informal survey of menu bargains, we’re revisiting the results of CityBeat’s original “Chic on the Cheap” story, first published 15 years ago. And the city’s restaurant scene has changed a lot since then. Gone are the late and lamented Maisonette and La Normandie, along with other dearly departed eateries such as Jean-Robert at Pigall’s, Barresi’s, The Celestial, Mike Fink, Mt. Adams Fish House, Beluga, Michael G’s, Daveed’s at 934 and Jimmy D’s. 

Newer high-end eateries have all arrived to take their place. Here’s a comparison guide to the city’s top 25 dining spots (as ranked by the most expensive regular nightly dinner meal on their menus) along with tips on an alternative bargain dish that price-conscious consumers can expect to find at each location.

No. 1: Restaurant L

Reach for your wallet at this Parisian-style Queen City Tower restaurant, piloted by chef Jean-Robert de Cavel and maitre’d Richard Brown. The top-priced menu dish is royal ossetra caviar with a champagne-poached egg and toast for $160. The six-course Menu Gourmand, meanwhile, includes lobster salad, foie gras, red snapper and filet mignon, all for $125. The bargain-priced dinner option: A two-course prix fixe (selection of rabbit, lamb, spinach ravioli, veal sweetbreads, scallops, octopus and other options) for a mere $65. Main courses on the “Lounge Menu” include arctic char Viennoise, sturgeon with bok choy, duck with lentils and chicken cordon bleu, each at $35. 301 E. Fourth St., Downtown,

No. 2: Jag’s Steak & Seafood 

The top-priced menu item at this West Chester favorite is the Neptune Raw Bar Platter, with eight colossal shrimp, six oysters on the half shell and a half pound of king crab legs for $145. The bargain-priced dinner option: Chicken marsala with garlic mashed potatoes for $31, caramelized black truffle scallops for $32 or there’s Portabella Napoleon for $29. 5980 West Chester Road, West Chester,

No. 3: Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Top-of-the-line menu items at this downtown chain steakhouse on The Banks include their Tomahawk rib-eye (bone-in; 40-ounces) and Chilled Seafood Tower (lobster, lump blue crab, shrimp); these meals can easily set you back a whopping $119 and $118, respectively. The bargain-priced dinner option: Mushrooms stuffed with crabmeat ($15) or the veal osso buco ravioli ($16). 100 E. Freedom Way, Downtown,

No. 4: Carlo & Johnny

The most expensive dinner meal at this Montgomery Jeff Ruby joint is The Hatchet, a 30-ounce dry-aged rib-eye, listed at a cool $115. The bargain-priced dinner option: Crispy chicken marsala at $30. If you want something cheaper, the Jeff Ruby Burger includes a special blend of dry-aged beef, Wisconsin cheddar cheese, caramelized shallot jam and Duke’s peppercorn mayo on a brioche bun with fries for $22. 9769 Montgomery Road, Montgomery,

No. 5: Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse

The top-priced dish at this downtown location is also The Hatchet rib-eye at $115. The bargain-priced dinner option (not including burgers): Confit rosemary potatoes at $18, with corn polenta, fava beans, carrots and brown butter. 700 Walnut St., Downtown,

click to enlarge The Precinct - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
The Precinct

No. 6: The Precinct

This venerable Jeff Ruby installment in Columbia Tusculum also sells its Hatchet for a piddling $115. For $93, you can get The Steve & Austin 8-ounce filet mignon with 12-ounce cold water lobster tail. The bargain-priced dinner option (not including burgers): The panko-crusted chicken for $29, or seafood fettucine alfredo (with crab meat and shrimp) for $30. 311 Delta Ave., Columbia Tusculum,

No. 7: Eddie Merlot’s

The top-priced menu meal — marble score 7/8+ wagyu rib-eye — lists at $99.95. The bargain-priced dinner option: Vegetarian bucatini pasta for $19.95. There’s also a vegan grilled vegetable dish for $19.95. 10808 Montgomery Road, Montgomery,

No. 8: Capital Grille

Top-priced menu item the Grand Plateau (crab, lobster, shrimp, oysters) lists at $99, while the bone-in wagyu strip is $85. The bargain-priced dinner option: Roasted chicken with baby potatoes and Mediterranean olives for $30. 3821 Edwards Road, Hyde Park,

No. 9: Morton’s The Steakhouse

The top-priced menu meal for a single diner at this Carew Tower nightspot is the jumbo cold-water lobster tail for $99. The bargain-priced dinner option: Chicken bianco for $27. 441 Vine St., Downtown,

No. 10: Prime Cincinnati

The top-priced menu meal at this downtown steakhouse is the 12-ounce Ohio wagyu filet mignon, listed at $98. The bargain-priced dinner option: Garlic gerber chicken or shrimp linguini for $24. 580 Walnut St., Downtown,

No. 11: Red Feather

The top-priced dinner item at this Oakley outlet is the Outlaw Cowboy with smashed loaded potatoes and barbecue butter for $84. The bargain-priced dinner option: Pork belly steamed buns with pickled red onion and cucumber for $9 in the small plates section or the boursin burger entrée for $15 with candied bacon, red onion marmalade and French fries. 3200 Madison Road, Oakley,

No. 12: Embers

The surf-and-turf filet mignon and poached lobster tail is the priciest dish here and lists at $72. The bargain-priced dinner option (not including sushi rolls): Baby-back ribs or roasted Amish chicken, either for $28. 8170 Montgomery Road, Kenwood,

No. 13: Boca

The top-priced menu incarnation, Beef Wellington, lists at $69. The bargain-priced dinner option: Petrale sole grenobloise (sunchoke purée, roasted cauliflower, sautéed spinach) for $20 for a tasting portion or $38 for a full portion. There’s also the Amish chicken listed at $32, with wild mushroom risotto, heirloom carrots and black truffle. 114 E. Sixth St., Downtown,

No. 14: Tony’s of Cincinnati

The top-priced menu items presented by owner-operator Tony Ricci are Quinn’s bone-in filet or the prime bone-in ribeye, which both list at $69. The bargain-priced dinner option: Bucatini primavera for $24. 12110 Montgomery, Montgomery,

click to enlarge Lisse - Photo: Lindsay McCarty
Photo: Lindsay McCarty

No. 15: Lisse Steakhuis

The top-priced menu item is the 21-ounce bone-in cowboy rib-eye, which lists at $56. The bargain-priced dinner option: Bami fettuccine with chicken for $18. 530 Main St., Covington,

No. 16: The Butcher and Barrel

The top-priced individual menu item is a 12-ounce Bife de Lomo filet mignon for $55. The bargain-priced dinner option (not including burgers): Ravioles de espinaca (spinach ravioli) for $20, or choose a Milanesa chicken classica for $16. 700 Race St., Downtown,

No. 17: Prism Steak & Seafood 

The bone-in dry-aged 18-ounce ribeye — broiled in a 1,800-degree broiler and finished with clarified butter — will set you back $55. The bargain-priced dinner option: A 10-ounce steakburger with white cheddar, tomato chutney, arugula, smoked bacon and fries for $21. 100 Broadway St., Pendleton,

No. 18: Firebirds Wood Fired Grill

The Surf & Turf is a half-pound lobster tail accompanied by a 7-ounce bacon-wrapped filet and lists at $52. The bargain-priced dinner option (not including burgers): Kobe beef meat loaf at $20, or there are also pasta and chicken dishes for $19. 5075 Deerfield Blvd., Mason,

No. 19: Boi Na Braza

The all-you-can-eat meat menu at this downtown Brazilian restaurant lists at $49.95. The bargain-priced dinner option: The seafood salad and smoked salmon “salad” bar with marinated beef for $24.47. 441 Vine St., Downtown,

click to enlarge Orchids at Palm Court - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Orchids at Palm Court

No. 20: Orchids at Palm Court

The top-priced meals are the pan-seared lamb loin or roasted duck breast; both list at $48. The bargain-priced dinner option: Braised pork cheeks for $40. 35 W. Fifth St., Downtown,

No. 21: PostMark

The top-priced dish on this seasonal restaurant’s menu is the filet Oscar with potato pave, broccoli and king crab for $44. The bargain-priced dinner option: The Hill family chicken with romesco and new potato for $26 or the secondi pasta dish, a pumpkin risotto with mushroom and crème fraiche for $11. 3410 Telford St., Clifton,

No. 22: Court Street Lobster Bar

When doing dinner at the lobster bar, a Surf & Turf (with New York strip steak, Maine lobster tail and roasted cauliflower) with cost you $42. The bargain-priced dinner option: For $9, forgo the lobster and opt for a chicken salad roll. 28 W. Court St., Downtown,

No. 23: Primavista

Also ringing in at $42 is Primavista’s center-cut filet or their sautéed seasonal fish dish with crab. The bargain-priced dinner option: The vegetarian penne “cionni” pasta for $19. 810 Matson Place, Price Hill,

No. 24: Parkers Blue Ash Tavern

For $42, try the mesquite charcoal-grilled 10-ounce filet mignon finished with herb butter, sea salt and béarnaise sauce. The bargain-priced dinner option: The housemade veggie burger with mushroom and brown rice rings in at just $13. 4200 Cooper Road, Blue Ash,

No. 25: Cozy’s Cafe & Pub

Again, for a lucky $42, you can get a 12-ounce strip steak and sides. The bargain-priced dinner option: A vegetarian roasted cauliflower steak for $17.  6440 Cin-Day Road, Liberty Township,