Where to Eat Later

Dining options for every type of craving

Oct 19, 2016 at 4:07 pm

click to enlarge Tucker's - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
* Indicates winners from CityBeat’s 2016 Best of Cincinnati® issue. Restaurant listings are compiled from CityBeat dining reviews and are edited for space.


* Arnold’s Bar and Grill

Open since 1861, Arnold’s is the oldest continuously running tavern in town, complete with dark wood walls, vintage memorabilia and a big ol’ bathtub in the dining room, rumored to have been used to make gin during Prohibition. A Cincinnati classic, it serves up a nice range of lunch and dinner options — pasta, sandwiches and burgers, plus vegan and gluten-free options — at bargain prices. Enjoy a local draft in the outdoor beer garden and almost daily live music. Named as one of the best bars in America by Esquire magazine. $7-$18. 210 E. Eighth St., Downtown, 513-421-6234, arnoldsbarandgrill.com.


Serving only local beers on draft, Arthur’s is a relaxed gathering place on Hyde Park Square. The menu includes salads, soups, sandwiches and — their specialty — burgers with deals on “burger madness” days. Includes a late-night menu. $8-$12. 3516 Edwards Road, Hyde Park, 513-871-5543, arthurscincinnati.com.


The bar has been reopened and renovated, and the new menu contains the same inexpensive items from yesteryear, except now with more vegetarian-friendly dishes. $4-$14. 1686 Blue Rock St., Northside, 513-681-8100, boswellalley.com.

BrewRiver GastroPub

Chef Michael Shields, who earned his chops under Emeril Lagasse, opened BrewRiver GastroPub with craft beer and thoughtfully paired New Orleans-leaning cuisine in mind. Try the curried beef short rib poutine or Decatur Street Muffaletta with a rotating list of more than 50 handpicked, locally brewed drafts, bottles and cans. When the weather is nice, grab brunch on the patio — a bacon-infused cake donut, chicken and waffles or barbecue shrimp and grits — with a view of the Ohio River. $9-$22. 2062 Riverside Drive, East End, 513-861-2484, brewrivergastropub.com.

City View Tavern

A hillside dive and home of one of the best spicy bloody marys and best views in town. The burgers are damn tasty, too. Meet Big Ted: six ounces of griddle-cooked, handmade beef patty with American cheese, brown mustard, lettuce, pickles, mayo, onion, ketchup and home-grown tomatoes (when in season), served in a plastic basket with a bag of chips. $3-$7. 403 Oregon St., Mount Adams, 513-241-8439.

Habits Café

A classic neighborhood bar and grill. The dinner menu changes a bit with the seasons, but you can always get Potato Rags at Habits. Hash browns on steroids, Potato Rags are smothered in cheese, bacon, onion, tomato and ranch dressing. There’s a french fry version, too. Saturday and Sunday, brunch features a make-your-own bloody mary bar. $6.25-$15. 3036 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-631-8367, habitscafe.com. 

Holy Grail Tavern & Grille

With more than 15 high-definition TVs, a plethora of beers on tap and great pub grub, this is a prime sports spot at The Banks. Munch on classic fare like ball-park pretzels, angus burgers, wings and wraps, with outdoor seating directly across from the Reds stadium. $7-$10. 161 Joe Nuxhall Way, Downtown, 513-621-2222, holygrailcincy.com.

Howl at the Moon/Splitsville

Half TGI Friday’s on steroids, half luxury bowling alley, Howl at the Moon/Splitsville has everything. The menu — pizza, sushi, burgers, nachos, taco salad, brownie sundaes — goes on and on. The sushi is surprisingly delicious for a classy bowling alley-restaurant tackling Asian fusion, the pizza is massive and delicious with a thick bready crust and the burgers are comforting. $9-$15. 145 Second St. East, Downtown, 513-421-2695, howlsplitsville.com/cincinnati-oh.

* 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, pizza, epicurean appetizers and a slew of craft cocktails and draft beers; they have a monthly beer series called Meet the Brewer during which beer-ophiles can sample suds from local breweries such as Blank Slate and MadTree. $7-$14. 2601 W. Eighth St., Price Hill, 513-251-3000, inclinepublichouse.com.

Keystone Bar & Grill

This neighborhood joint offers a variety of tasty comfort food. Huge plates of pasta, a rockin’ quesadilla menu, build-your-own-burgers (including turkey or veggie options) and weekend brunch. When a restaurant dedicates an entire menu to its macaroni and cheese varietals, you know they are serious about grub. $7-$15. Multiple locations including 313 Greenup St., Covington, Ky., 859-261-6777; 249 Calhoun St., Clifton Heights, 513-221-5397; 3384 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, 513-321-2150, keystonebar.com. 


When a celebrity opens a restaurant, customers likely fall into two camps: those who go there for the celeb brand, or those who actually enjoy the food, drink and ambiance. For Over-the-Rhine’s sports bar Lachey’s, it works both ways. The real winner here is the extensive drink menu; along with beer, wine and cocktails on tap, there are bottles, cans and a section devoted to both bloody marys and boilermakers. As for food, the menu (designed by celebrity chef Brian Duffy) wavers between fried foods such as tater tots and wings and healthier dishes like a heaping kale salad. Bonus: 90-inch TVs and a running sports ticker flank the bar. $8-$16. 56 E. 12th St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-275-0740, lacheys.com.

* Moerlein Lager House

Moerlein Lager House celebrates Cincinnati’s brewing tradition in a giant restaurant and brewery with sweeping views of downtown and the riverfront. Offers a large something-for-everyone menu of burgers and pastas, plus fancier dishes like filet mignon and squash wellington. With 24 beers on tap — house brews and other crafts — plus more than 60 in bottles and cans, there’s a drink for every taste. Tours of the in-house brewery available. $10-$28. 115 Joe Nuxhall Way, Downtown, 513-421-2337, moerleinlagerhouse.com.


MOTR Pub does two things really well: rocks your face off with loud music and sweaty crowds and serves up one hell of a burger. But fret not veg-heads — you can get a veggie burger or veggie BLT. There’s also the spicy St. Francis Monastery mac and cheese. Try the Migas Tacos with egg, crispy potatoes, cheese and chorizo with a bloody mary during Sunday brunch. Now open for lunch. $5-$9. 1345 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-6687, motrpub.com.

Northside Yacht Club

The fare might be best described as bar food with a creative twist — meat, cheese and fries, your basic high-fat, low-cost, satisfying stuff, but all meats are smoked in house and sides range from caramelized Brussels sprouts to kale slaw. Fan favorites include short-rib grilled cheese, smoked chicken wings with housemade sauce and poutine with duck fat gravy. For vegetarians, there’s also a large salad and vegan Cincinnati chili served over fries. Full service brunch on weekends, with Tiki-themed cocktails. $4-$15. 4227 Spring Grove Ave., Northside, 513-541-0528, facebook.com/northsideyachtclub.

* 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 6,000-barrels-per-year brewery and restaurant features meat platters, salads and sandwiches that focus on tri-tip beef — similar to prime rib. The creative beer selection boasts brews made with local goods — everything from locally roasted coffee to artisan chocolate. $7.50-$20. 1429 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-334-1393, taftsalehouse.com.

Tap House Grill 

A locally owned restaurant and bar featuring 34 beers on tap, focusing on local and regional breweries. They also offer a build-your-own burger menu. $9-$20. 8740 Montgomery Road, Montgomery, 513-891-TAPS, taphousecincy.com. 

Wurst Bar in the Square

Mount Lookout’s Wurst Bar in the Square has tricked-out sausages showcasing local meats from Wassler’s Meat Market, along with vegetarian dogs (stuffed with apple and potato), and a carefully selected lineup of craft beer and mixed drinks. The Hans Gruber, a “ruthless” German brat, is topped with peppers, shaved onion and Vienna Dusseldorf mustard. $5-$9. 3204 Linwood Ave., Mount Lookout, 513-321-0615, wurstbarinthesquare.com.


Alabama Que

In 2008, Bellamy, Ala. native Dwan Ward founded barbecue joint Alabama Que, otherwise known as the “home of turkey tips,” in the West Side before bringing the restaurant to Corryville in 2012. After the move, Dwan, a former firefighter and football player, began catering through word of mouth; today, it’s a popular haunt for professional athletes and celebrities like A.J. Green, Snoop Dogg and Wale. All items are non-pork based, making Ward’s grub available to a wide variety of eaters; greens and green beans are made with smoked turkey, baked beans are entirely vegetarian and meat is cooked on separate grills and cut with different knives. $3.50-$21. 2733 Vine St., Corryville, 513-376-8781, alabama-q.com.

City BBQ

This regional chain was named one of the best in America by Men’s Journal. They put out some dang tasty barbecue, including mouth-watering beef brisket and a good and sloppy pulled-pork sandwich. Mix and match your sauce and meat. $7-$30. Multiple locations including 10375 Kenwood Road, Blue Ash, 513-257-0362; 7706 Voice of America Centre Drive, West Chester, 513-755-0518; 2760 Alexandria Pike, Highland Heights, Ky., 859-415-4544; citybbq.com.

* The Eagle OTR

The Eagle is nested inside a retired post office and has a relatively small menu, comprised of fried chicken, sandwiches, some 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, antibiotic-free and sourced from Amish farms. You can get a whole chicken for $16, a half chicken for $8 (white and dark meat) or a quarter of a chicken for $5. The kale and artichoke dip is a must. $8-$16. 1342 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-802-5007, facebook.com/theeagleotr, theeagleotr.com.

* 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 an all-beef hot dog topped with pulled-pork crispins and coleslaw. Try the mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, baked beans or the jalapeño corn bread. The East End location is BYOB, so don’t forget your six-pack. $5-$8; cash only. 3313 Riverside Drive, East End, and on the south side of Findlay Market, 1801 Race St, Over-the Rhine. 513-533-1957, elisbarbeque.com. 

Green Derby

Most diners who visit the Green Derby know exactly what they want before they walk in the door. The Derby Salad is a favorite, served with hot bacon dressing. Try the halibut sandwich on rye or one of the Derby’s other plentiful fish entrées. You’ll want to save room for dessert, too. The Green Derby has been around since 1947; it’s easy to see why. $9-$19. 846 York St., Newport, Ky., 859-431-8740, greenderbykentucky.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. $10-$29. 2500 Dixie Highway, Fort Mitchell, Ky., 859-331-3767, greyhoundtavern.com. 

The Hitching Post

“World’s Best Fried Chicken” is this diner’s claim to fame, but you should try their outstanding breakfasts — especially Uncle Bubba’s Ultimate Omelet. Burgers and Tall Stacks (overstuffed double-decker sandwiches) complete with traditional classics like meatloaf and BLTs. $4-$13. 2715 Madison Road, Hyde Park, 513-871-9201, hydeparkhitchingpost.com.

Huit Craft BBQ

The menu reflects an intriguing mashup of cultures: Flavors from Indonesia, the Americas, China and Southeast Asia are found in Huit’s spicy tribute to the pig, the chicken and the cow. But their barbecue tofu helps keep those pesky vegetarians happy. This energetic dining spot is bringing new life to Court Street, with good hours for residents, including evenings and Saturdays, and their ramen is a big, fat bowl of heaven. $7-$24. 29 E. Court St., Downtown, 513-381-4848, huitfoodbar.com.

Just Q’in

Just Q’in’s second location in Walnut Hills is huge compared to the Newtown original — an easy-to-miss little cube of real estate mostly used for carry out and sort of permanent food truck, which is how the place began. Owner Matt Cuff launched his pursuit of cooked meats by entering (and winning) barbecue competitions in South Carolina. If you don’t want pork, brisket, chicken or ribs, you can get wings, rib tips or even do a platter of sides since each one is only two bucks. Just Q’in’s version of macaroni and cheese is truly delicious. The color is deep and the texture is hearty, and you can tell that real cheese has gone into the making of this dish. $6.50-$27. 975 E. McMillan St., Walnut Hills, 513-386-4848; 6901 Valley Ave., Newtown, 513-271-6555, justqin.com.

Montgomery Inn

World-famous for its ribs, Montgomery Inn has been a staple in Cincinnati for more than 60 years. Along with ribs, the Inn offers barbecued spring chicken, silver salmon, pulled-pork sandwiches, burgers, salads and more, including everyone’s favorite: Saratoga chips served with their famous barbecue sauce. $8-$35. Multiple locations including 9440 Montgomery Road, Montgomery, 513-791-3482; 925 Riverside Drive, Downtown, 513-721-7427; 400 Buttermilk Pike, Fort Mitchell, Ky., 859-344-5333; montgomeryinn.com.

Nashville Hot

Nashville Hot is owned by a past president of local favorite Tom+Chee, David Krikorian. The chicken can be ordered in four spice levels with cutesy names: 1) Yankee Mild; 2) Midwest Medium; 3) Southern Heat; and 4) Nashville Hot. The meat is very moist — it’s soaked in a buttermilk brine before frying — and the seasoning is aggressive but reasonable. The dinners come with two sides; try the original and fresh Tennessee Caviar and the loaded baked potato salad. There are multiple local beers available, including one from Covington’s Braxton Brewery on tap, as well as sodas and housemade milkshakes. $8-$11.50. 564 Buttermilk Pike, Crescent Springs, Ky., 859-360-6632, nashvillehot.com.

Ollie’s Trolley

Ollie’s special seasoning spices up everything from grits and eggs at breakfast to a hearty lunch of barbecued turkey tips. Start with the Ollie burger and fries and stay for the ribs with homemade macaroni and cheese and lemon pound cake for dessert. This cooking feeds your soul. $3-$45 (for whole turkeys). 1605 Central Ave., West End, 513-381-6100, facebook.com/olliesburger.


With pimento dip served with Ritz crackers, Cheerwine and Red Neck Frito Pie, barbecue palace Pontiac takes low-class grub to a self-aware, higher level. Along with their pulled pork, their smoked brisket, turkey, kielbasa and veg are a beautiful thing. St. Louis ribs available by the slab. $9-$23. 1403 Vine St. Over-the-Rhine, 513-579-8500, pontiacbbq.com.​

Ron’s Roost

Family owned and operated since 1960, Ron’s Roost has the best fried chicken around. If the weather is cooperative, sit on the covered patio and enjoy the hot bacon slaw (a West Side staple), German sauerbraten, mock turtle soup and homemade cream pies. It’s easy to find: there’s a giant fiberglass rooster on the roof. $10-$20. 3853 Race Road, Bridgetown, 513-574-0222, ronsroost.net. 

Schoolhouse Restaurant

With the menu written on an ancient blackboard, you might expect (and maybe want?) a metal lunchbox to come to your table bursting with bologna sandwiches and Twinkies. What you’ll get, and be thrilled by, is delicious classic American fare served family-style. Among your choices: fried chicken, baked cod, meatloaf and roast beef. $9-$17. 8031 Glendale-Milford Road, Camp Dennison, 513-831-5753, theschoolhousecincinnati.com.

Silver Spring House

Dubbing itself “The Chicken Joint,” Silver Spring House definitely serves up some delicious chicken. Marinated in citrus juices and spices, it’s grilled and succulent. If you’re not in the mood for chicken, you can choose pork ribs, salmon, burgers and a variety of sandwiches. Vegetarians need not fear — there are options for them, too. $11-$25. 8322 E. Kemper Road, Montgomery, 513-489-7044, thesilverspringhouse.com.


The “Q” is for barbecue, the specialty at SmoQ. It’s all done slow and low in a big ’ol smoker. You’re likely to find your favorite Southern specialty here as well, be it a Kansas City strip, blackened catfish or chicken and waffles: a buttermilk-fried chicken breast served on top of a sweet potato-pecan waffle, with maple butter and syrup. $7.99-$26.99. 275 Pictoria Drive, Springdale, 513-671-7667, smoqbbq.com.

Walt’s BBQ

The menu is made for meat-lovers and includes many slow-smoked specialties like pulled pork, ribs, roasted chicken, brisket and more. $6-$20. 6040 Colerain Ave., White Oak, 513-923-9800; 746 NW. Washington Blvd., Hamilton, 513-868-9258, waltsbarbeque.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, the new owners have lightly tweaked classic menu items, adding fried green tomatoes to the chicken livers and increasing the steak quality. $12-$30. 3300 Madison Pike, Fort Wright, Ky., 859-360-2222, waltshitchingpost.com.


27 Bar + Kitchen

Only open on weekends when the rest of us 9-to-5-ers are off, Newport’s 27 Bar + Kitchen is a stylish brunch and dinner spot on Monmouth Street (aka Route 27, hence the name). The restaurant, which prides itself on being as farm-to-table as possible, offers dishes for brunch like breakfast tacos, a chef’s-choice frittata and elote dip, along with traditional morning cocktails. The dinner menu includes choices like a steak salad, blackened catfish and bourbon-glazed porkchop. $7-$16. 720 Monmouth St., Newport, Ky., 27barkitchen.net.

Bacalls Café

An Art Deco dreamland complete with a custom piece of frosted glass depicting Union Terminal and a phone booth tucked in the corner. Classy, but Bacalls still has TVs on which you can watch the game. The menu has something for everyone including soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, burgers, pasta and other entrées. Serving meals and booze to locals and visitors in College Hill for more than 26 years, they must be doing something right. $9.95-$14.50. 6118 Hamilton Ave., College Hill, 513-541-8804, bacallscafe.com. 

Bellevue Bistro

Bellevue Bistro is one of those places that you wish there were more of: a small neighborhood café where the food is made from scratch, the coffee is worth having three cups and the service is efficient and friendly. The super-cozy eatery specializes in brunch bakes, burritos, sweets, savories and six different types of benedicts — choices like Kentucky Hot Brown, Spicy Mett and Veggie Benny (sweet potatoes, squash, avocado, cheddar jack) served over biscuits, with two fried eggs and homemade sauce. For lunchier choices, there are sandwiches served on pretzel or French bread, salads and soup, plus a devious homemade bacon jam. $8-$11. 313 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue, Ky., 859-581-5600, bellevuebistro.com.

Blue Oven Toast Bar

If you’re someone who loves toast, Blue Oven Bakery Toast Bar at Findlay Market is a must-stop before any Saturday-morning marketing (or just for a good 10 a.m. gluten binge). The bar serves up thick slices of fresh Blue Oven bread, toasted and slathered with yummy things, like sweet cream and homemade strawberry jam or homemade peanut butter and honey-roasted peanuts. $3-$5. Findlay Market, 1801 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, blueovenbakery.com.

Bistro Grace

The impressive Bistro Grace offers quality entrées on artsy, square plates. The bar serves local beers on tap, with a couple dozen more by the bottle and a 45-bottle wine list, including 17 available by the glass. Eight “signature cocktails” round out the drinks list. Try the hanger steak or the duck poutine. Also offers seasonal chef specialities. $12-$20. 4034 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-541-9600, bistrograce.com.

Bow Tie Café

Coffeehouse and café that brews Chicago’s intelligentsia coffee and espresso, served in drip, pour-over and mixed coffee drinks — along with coffee cocktails. The expansive food menu features breakfast, weekend brunch, burritos, wraps, subs and salads. $2.75-$8. 1101 Saint Gregory St., Mount Adams, 513-621-CAFÉ, bowtiecafe.com.

Brontë Bistro

Brontë, located inside Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Rookwood, is a cozy, relaxed location to enjoy a book and a great meal. It has a lot to offer, including coffee, a full bar, starters, salads, sandwiches, home-cooked entrées and dessert. $6-$15. 2692 Madison Road, Norwood, 513-396-8970, josephbeth.com/bronte.

Café de Paris

Feast on lunch and breakfast selections like salade niçoise, croque madame or a satisfying café bagel, topped with scrambled egg, fresh butter and a slice of tomato. Follow lunch with a Parisian espresso in the colorful and quaint downtown escape in the heart of Garfield Park. $5-$10. 17 Garfield Place, Downtown, 513-651-1919.

Cheapside Café

With a menu featuring kale salads, breakfast sandwiches with pimento cheese and modern espresso drinks (like the bubbly chinotto, with housemade tonic, espresso and soda), along with an interior decked out with a white floor, rustic wood seating and live plants, the ambiance feels decidedly West Coast — especially when you glance at the patio. The focal point of Cheapside’s al fresco seating is a large wooden tepee, constructed out of slatted cedar, in which you can sit at a bright red table while enjoying your smoked turkey on salted rye and soda made with locally foraged finds. Cheapside plans to open a second location in 2016. Cheapside Corner (1200 Main St., Over-the-Rhine) will focus on handmade ice cream and milkshakes as well as the coffee the spot is known for. $5-$11. 326 E. Eighth St., Downtown, 513-345-6618, cheapsidecafe.com. 

Collective CAC

A partnership with local craft coffee shop Collective Espresso, the café inside the Contemporary Arts Center allows you to eat and drink surrounded by both local and international artists and their installations. The current menu features all-day breakfast, with sandwiches, salads and snacks available until 2 p.m. daily. But if you have a hankering for a cortado in the evening, the café offers light bites and coffee service until close — which isn’t until 9 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. Also serves wine, beer and cocktails. $7-$10. Contemporary Arts Center, 44 E. Sixth St., Downtown, 513-345-8400, contemporaryartscenter.org/visit/caf.


Located in the heart of historic Mariemont, Dilly bistro and bottle shop serves lunch and dinner daily, with entrées like Ohio-raised strip steak, fresh Atlantic salmon and housemade pasta. Paying tribute to their origins as a deli, you’ll also find satisfying sandwiches, housemade soups and their famous beer cheese. Eat or sip a glass of beer or wine on their giant two-level English-courtyard-style patio. Guests can also choose a bottle of wine from their in-house bottle shop to enjoy with their meal for retail price plus a small $5 corkage fee. $7-$25. 6818 Wooster Pike, Mariemont, 513-561-5233, dillycafe.com.

French Crust Café 

French Crust Café is cozy, seating just 26 people, and serves both breakfast and lunch. Fresh fruit tarts and other pastries are served with coffee throughout the day. The lunch menu includes homemade soups, quiche, casseroles and assorted sandwiches. As is the case with sister restaurant Jean-Robert’s Table, French Crust Café sources ingredients as locally as possible. $5-$14. 1801 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, jrtable.com/french-crust-cafe.

Gabby’s Café

A family-owned restaurant serving American cuisine with Italian flair. Signature pizzas include The Capone with cappicola, salami, pepperoni, sausage, olives, banana peppers, mozzarella, provolone and parmesan. Specialties include eggplant parmesan, Greek vegetable pasta and gluten-free zucchini linguine. $8-$17. 515 Wyoming Ave., Wyoming, 513-821-6040, gabbyswyoming.com.

Half Day Café

Seasonal menu items with fresh, locally sourced ingredients make this popular Wyoming mainstay a breakfast and lunch standout. Try the thick-sliced mango-butter rum French toast, and for lunch, indulge in the carnitas with slow-roasted pulled pork in a rich mole sauce. $3-$11. 1 Wyoming Ave., Wyoming, 513-821-2323, halfdaycafe.org.

Hang Over Easy

Aside from being a legit breakfast and brunch spot, Hang Over Easy is also a nighttime spot with bar hours until 2:30 a.m. — so you can get drunk and cure your hangover all in one place. Try the chicken and chorizo skillet, with peppers, onions, home fries, melted queso and egg, all scrambled up and cooked in a skillet, served with toast. $3-$8. 13 W. Charlton St., Corryville, 513-221-5400, hangovereasycincinnati.com. 

Harvest Bistro & Wine Bar 

About a year ago, La Poste’s founding owner sold the business to Angela Willett, who morphed the restaurant into a farm-to-table concept and renamed it Harvest Bistro & Wine Bar. One of the restaurant’s strengths is a high level of service. The much-appreciated wine orientation of the old La Poste hasn’t been abandoned, thanks to the ongoing participation of Willett’s husband, Joe Clark, a wine expert who is in charge of the cellar. The roasted beet and kale salad, heaped with golden and red beets, slices of watermelon radish, thinly sliced Brussels sprouts and candied hazelnuts, is topped with a tangy citrus vinaigrette. Second courses range from a bowl of mussels to a burger, a veggie entrée and a seafood special. Harvest is a worthy successor to this old favorite. $10-$32. 3410 Telford St., Clifton, 513-281-3663, harvest-bistro.com.

Inspirado at Madison Gallery

After many years as a corporate chef for Kroger and making the rounds at many of the top kitchens in the city, chef Baron Shirley landed in a place of his own with Inspirado at Madison Gallery in downtown Covington, and as the name suggests, the Madison Avenue restaurant/gallery offers diners a chance to enjoy their meals while surrounded by changing local art displays. Inspirado is Spanish for “inspired” or “full of inspiration,” which is evident in the form of Shirley’s super-eclectic menu with dishes like cemita, a Mexican braised-pork shoulder sandwich; gulyas, or Hungarian goulash; prawn laksa from Malaysia; and a good old Kentucky hot brown. $7-$25. 715 Madison Ave., Covington, Ky., 859-261-7600, inspiradocov.com.

Iris BookCafé

A combination of an art gallery, bookshop, coffee shop and wireless café, Iris BookCafé is a locavore’s dream. The sandwich bread is from Shadeau Bread, which is almost directly across the street, meats are from Avril’s on Court Street and ice cream is from Aglamesis. And there are both meat and veggie options on the sandwich menu. $5-$10. 1331 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-2665, irisbookcafe.com.

Kitchen 452

Combinations of sweet and savory lead to seasonal dishes such as a pear salad and a hot ham and Swiss sandwich, with crunchy slices of tart green apples. All sandwiches are made with Shadeau breads, and all salads are dressed with homemade vinaigrettes. $4-$8. 2714 Woodburn Ave., East Walnut Hills, 513-559-0452, kitchen452.com.


Whether it’s their corn flake-battered French toast topped with bananas and crème brulee or their eggy arsenal of inventive frittatas, Mokka makes a mean breakfast. Vegetarians will love the California, veggie and Greek frittatas, while carnivores can tear into the three-meat and Green Goat (spinach, chicken and goat cheese) varieties. Lunch and dinner options include burgers and hearty grinder sandwiches. $5-$12. 500 Monmouth St., Newport, Ky., 859-581-3700, mokkasunset.com.

Om Eco Café

Om Eco Café features fresh, local and organic coffee, tea, soups, salads and sandwiches. Coffee is shade-grown, the apothecary bar features more than 100 herbs to add to cocktails and tea and they even have homemade biscuits for dogs. Lots of veggie-friendly options here. $5-$11. 329 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-381-3436, aquariusstar.com.

* O Pie O

While Findlay-Market-famous for their sweet pies, O Pie O’s restaurant also does savory — pot pies, quiche, empanadas, etc. And they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner with a selection of both types. The pie crust anchors the menu with a flakiness that truly melts in your mouth and tastes just as lovely and buttery whether filled with sweet or savory ingredients. $5-$11. 1527 Madison Road, East Walnut Hills, 513-274-3238, opieo.com.

Piccolo Wine Room

Conceived as a wine bar, Piccolo offers wines by the six-ounce glass or two-ounce taste, or you can select a bottle from the shop next door and pay $10 corkage. The menu rarely repeats from one week to the next but usually will include a soup and a salad, a hearty burger or meat dish and perhaps another sandwich and two or three entrées for a total of six choices. The setting, the bonhomie and food and drink make for a splendid experience. $6-$13. 23 Village Square, Glendale, 513-771-6612, facebook.com/piccolowinebar.

Purple Poulet

Dayton, Ky.’s Purple Poulet brands itself as a Southern bourbon bistro, emphasis on the bourbon —and the hospitality and service. They boast an extensive bourbon collection, one of the largest in the area, and the spirit is woven into many of their dishes. The Fried Chicken and Waffle features four pieces of fried bird — a leg, wing, breast and thigh — atop a plate-sized waffle. The KY Coq Au Vin is flavorful and light. The bourbon-brined chicken breast is juicy and stark white, and the red-wine bacon gravy is full of flavor. $12-$32. 603 Sixth Ave., Dayton, Ky., 859-916-5602, purplepoulet.com.

Quarter Bistro

A romantic bistro offering seasonal cuisine and sophisticated ambiance. The 18-hour short ribs are to die for and the Q’s pizzas are nothing short of divine. There’s a lovely wine list at Quarter Bistro, and outdoor dining in the historic Mariemont town square is wonderfully charming. $10-$37. 6904 Wooster Pike, Mariemont, 513-271-5400, facebook.com/qbcincy. 

Ruth’s Parkside Café 

Located in a factory bay at the American Can Building, Ruth’s offers diners a mix of comforting, well-known classics from the owners’ former restaurant Mullane’s, such as the spinach sauté and red beans and rice, as well as new dishes. Everything is from scratch, and there is plenty for vegetarians and carnivores alike. $4-$15. 1550 Blue Rock St., American Can Building, Northside, 513-542-RUTH, ruthscafe.com.

Sleepy Bee Café

A family-friendly breakfast and lunch spot. Much of Sleepy Bee’s food is sourced locally from farms with bee-friendly practices, including Holistic Acres eggs; Marksbury Farms’ humane, pasture-raised meats; and potatoes, sprouts and microgreens from nearby growers. Expect a healthy wait on weekends for healthy and hearty brunch fare. $6-$12. 3098 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-533-2339; 9514 Kenwood Road, Blue Ash, 513-241-2339, sleepybeecafe.com. 

York Street Café

Built in the 1880s, the building holds a beautifully decorated eclectic café, a lounge with live music and an art gallery, along with a terribly romantic garden patio. Order a Conversation Board, with samplings of different appetizers, and let the words flow. $12-$25. 738 York St., Newport, Ky., 859-261-9675, yorkstonline.com.


Americano Burger Bar

Because our country is a melting pot of traditions, Americano has taken the American staples we all love and elevated them with international flavors. In addition to burgers, you can order German- or Chicago-style hot dogs, Russian slaw, New England clam chowder, paprika-topped corn on the cob and classic starters like wings and beer cheese. They have 10 burgers on the menu, ranging from The Argentinean (chimichurri, grilled onions, provolone cheese and mayo) to the hilariously named Florence Y’all (taleggio cheese, portobello, arugula pesto). You’ll be full after the burgers, but save room for one of their frozen custard shakes. They come in vanilla, chocolate and strawberry flavors and as a root beer float. For a few extra bucks, you can add booze. $8-$14. 545 Race St., Downtown, 513-345-6677, americanoburgerbar.com.

* Flipdaddy’s Burgers & Beers

A classic joint offering craft beer (135 tap handles at their four locations) and 16 signature burgers. Add a kick to your dish with the Chuck Norris, a locally sourced beef patty topped with fire-roasted green chile and jalapeño compote, lettuce and pepper jack cheese. Or go German with The Oktoberfest burger, topped with horseradish cheddar, grilled onion, sauerkraut, pickles and bacon Dijon on a pretzel bun. The rotating drafts pour local and regional craft brews; try a craft beer sampler for $9. $8-$17. Multiple locations including 165 Pavilion Parkway, Newport, Ky., 859-431-BEER; 7453 Wooster Pike, Mariemont, 513-272-BEER; 12071 Mason Montgomery Road, Symmes, 513-677-BEER; 8863 US Route 42, Union, Ky., 859-371-BEER, flipdaddys.com.

French Fry Heaven

French Fry Heaven, a brick-and-mortar franchise on Calhoun Street, is the only Ohio branch of the fast-growing chain. French Fry Heaven is open all day (11 a.m.-3 a.m.), so it caters to college kids, both sober and drunk. They offer about 18 signature Belgian frites with toppings, but some of the items confound. Before ordering, ask yourself: Do you want hot dogs on your fries (The Ball Park)? Beef and peas (Shepherd’s Pie)? Pancakes and maple syrup (Sunset)? The entire concept begs the question: What can’t you pile on top of fries? French Fry Heaven, thankfully, doesn’t list nutrition info on their website, so you can take the ignorance-is-bliss approach to the caloric intake of your meal. $4-$10. 206 Calhoun St., Clifton Heights, 513-221-2070, frenchfryheaven.com.

Mr. Gene’s Dog House

Mr. Gene’s menu — for both the weenies-on-wheels food truck and brick-and-mortar location — features hot dogs, metts and Italian sausages with traditional sides of fries and onion rings. A portion of Mr. Gene’s profits are donated to charities, so pig out! Find Mr. Gene’s on Twitter (@MrGenesDoghouse) for truck location updates. $2-$10. 3703 Beekman St., South Cumminsville, 513-541-7636, mrgenesdoghouse.com.

Gordo’s Pub & Grill

What’s not to love about a pub with more than 100 microbrews and incredible gourmet burgers? Their two standbys are the Jean Robert, with grape compote and goat and blue cheeses and the Gordo’s burger, topped with Boursin cheese, poblano peppers, onions and smoked bacon. A Xavier hangout. $10-$12. 4328 Montgomery Road, Norwood, 513-351-1999, gordospub.com.

Mad Mike’s Burgers and Fries

Choose from their creative signature offerings like the Rockefeller, with blue cheese, cranberry chutney, beer battered onions, cilantro mayo and lettuce, or the Goliath, which features two grilled cheese sandwiches for buns because why not? $4-$8. Multiple locations including 6420 Dixie Highway, Florence, Ky., 859-647-6444, madmikesburgers.com.

* Quatman Café 

A no-frills burger joint with two locations — an original in Norwood, and a second in Mason — that frequently wins best burger accolades from local publications (including this one). Founded in 1966 by Albert Imm and Ken Talmage, this icon is known for cheeseburgers, chili, soup and cold beer. Daily specials rotate between cheeseburgers and fries and other sandwiches, like barbecue pork and hot ham and cheese. Another famous dish? Their mock turtle soup. $3-$8. 2434 Quatman Ave., Norwood, 513-731-4370; 224 W. Main St., Mason, 513-229-0222, quatmancafe.com.

The Root Beer Stand

The restaurant makes secret-recipe root beer (available by the jug) using water from the property’s 280-foot-deep well and family-recipe chili for their famous foot-long coney dogs. Prices vary. Memorial Day-Labor Day. 11566 Reading Road, Sharonville, 513-769-4349, therootbeerstand.com. 

* Senate

Pushers of beer, wine and gourmet street food. Senate’s mission is to present upscale street food, and they do a terrific job of it, grabbing national attention from the likes of the New York Post, Forbes and more. The menu plays heavily on hot dogs, from gourmet Chicago dogs to more interesting dog-of-the-days and quirkily named dogs like Hello Kitty 2.0, a beef hot dog with wasabi mayo, ponzu-wasabi slaw, bacon, wasabi peas and sesame seeds. The truffle fries are a must-have, as are the cocktails. The Senate Cookbook is available now and a second Senate location is slated to open fall 2016 in Blue Ash’s Summit Park complex. $9-$25. 1212 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-421-2020, senatepub.com.

Silver Ladle

Silver Ladle is a “fast casual” restaurant that serves a variety of hearty sandwiches, a dozen soups, fresh salads, gluten-free options and its own twist on Cincinnati-style chili and coneys. Burger fans will be happy to see a stout lineup of five “stuffed” burgers, and the five sandwich offerings are far from skimpy. $5.99-$8.29. 580 Building, Between Walnut and Main streets, Downtown, 513-834-7650; 7917 Beechmont Ave., Anderson, 513-954-4828, silverladle.com.

* Terry’s Turf Club

There’s no other character on the Cincinnati dining scene quite like Terry, and his little juke-joint is a legend — the hard-to-miss exterior glows with friendly neon signs. The short but sweet menu centers on burgers — big, beautiful hamburgers including a tender-as-butter filet mignon burger with béarnaise. Other sandwiches start with grilled chicken or portobellos and shiitakes. Take the basics and add one of the formidable sauce options for a customized burger experience. $6.50-$26. 4618 Eastern Ave., East End, 513-533-4222.

Tickle Pickle

Back-alley, Earth-conscious, locally sourced Rock & Roll burgers are exactly the kind of thing one would expect to find in Northside. And Tickle Pickle happens to serve just that. Patrons order their Rock-themed burgers — like the Nom Petty (with mushrooms, Swiss cheese and mayo), Bread Zeppelin (American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo and ketchup) and Grateful Shred (shredded pulled-pork on a pretzel bun with spicy slaw and grilled onions) — from the counter and then take a seat. Choose from one of the 11 side options for an additional fee. Vegans have one burger option on the menu, the Buns N Roses, and can also opt for non-dairy versions of thick and creamy milkshakes. $7.50-$9. 4176 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-954-4003, ticklepicklenorthside.com.

Zip’s Café

Zip’s has been doing burgers right since 1926, and generations of East Side Cincinnatians call Zipburgers their favorite. The meat arrives fresh daily from locals Avril-Bleh & Sons and the lightly toasted honey-egg buns are from Klosterman — also local. For those who need more than just a burger and fries, Zip’s offers the Train Wreck, a burger, split mettwurst and shaved ham. Now offering bacon! $4-$8. 1036 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout, 513-871-9876, zipscafe.com. 


ZBGB is long and narrow New American restaurant and gastropub conforming to the space constraints of most OTR buildings, with about 90 seats total. Start with the carbonara mac and cheese. It’s a mac and cheese take on spaghetti carbonara — a classic preparation that starts with pancetta and ends with egg stirred in at the last moment so it can cook in the heat of the other ingredients. ZBGB’s version comes in a mini cast iron skillet with a very lightly cooked egg yolk perched perkily on top. The burgers are huge. The Italian comes on a semolina roll with bacon and mozzarella topping. The condiments are made in-house and one of the tastiest options is the pickled vegetables, a four-ounce Mason jar with crisp-tender pickled cauliflower, carrot slices and green beans. $9.50-$14. 1438 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-744-9242, zbgb.co.

Zola Pub & Grill

Nine different burgers and nine flavorful wing sauces lend to a variety of options at Zola. A full bar in combination with live music Tuesday through Saturday and a great location make this a happenin’ place to be. $5- $12. 626 Main St., Covington, Ky., 859-261-7510, zolapubandgrill.com.


20 Brix

Cutting-edge cuisine with more than 100 wines. $10-$36. 101 Main St., Milford, 513-831-BRIX, 20brix.com.

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, entrées and thoughtful wine pairings set the stage for an intimate dining experience. $5-$36. 519 Main St., Covington, Ky., 859-491-7777, bouquetrestaurant.com.

Brown Dog Café

An ever-changing and eclectic menu featuring sustainable fish, wild game, plenty of vegetarian dishes and homemade pasta. Complement your meal with a wide array of craft cocktails, wine and beer. Located in Summit Park. $8-$40. 4335 Glendale MIlford Road, Blue Ash, 513-794-1610, browndogcafe.com.


Features full table service, a bountiful wine selection and an environmentally friendly menu in an elegant, exposed-brick dining room. Pick from a whimsical list of “Bar Doeuvres,” including the addictive cheese donuts: beignets with crab and Gruyère dipped in a side of curried remoulade. $4-$25. 3543 Columbia Parkway, Columbia Tusculum, 513-533-2899, buzrestaurant.com.

Cooper’s Hawk

A wide-ranging menu accompanies the winery’s housemade wine. $7-$35. 8080 Montgomery Road, Kenwood, 513-488-1110, coopershawkwinery.com.

E+O Kitchen

E+O stands for “Earth + Ocean,” and the menu, which encompasses lunch, dinner and weekend brunch, is based on wholesome and organic ingredients. You’ll find Asian influences in dishes like the ahi tuna poke — cold and tender raw tuna mixed with crispy seaweed, carrots and mushy avocado — and miso-marinated black cod. For brunch, the fusion expands to eggs, like the egg nachos (scrambled eggs, gravy, beef and cheese) and egg sandwiches, like the Eggwich (eggs, cheese, turkey sausage and syrup). $6-$27. 3520 Edwards Road, Hyde Park, 513-832-1023, eokitchen.com.

* Grand Finale

Operating at the same historic building since 1975, Grand Finale serves up everything from steak and lobster to crepes and outrageous desserts. Try the bacon, shrimp and sun-dried tomato deviled eggs or the herbed filet mignon brochette. No worries for your vegetarian tablemates: Grand Finale has plenty of veggie fare. $12-$38. 3 E. Sharon Road, Glendale, 513-771-5925, grandfinale.info.

Grandview Tavern & Grille

Great cheeseburgers (a grilled Angus half-pounder) and sweet-potato fries. The braised short rib and the oven-roasted sea bass shouldn’t be missed. $9-$38. 2220 Grandview Drive, Fort Mitchell, Ky., 859-341-8439, grandviewtaverngrille.com.

* Krueger’s Tavern

The menu is broken up into snacks, sandwiches, sausages, “greens” and sides. The Lincolnshire sausage is bursting with herby flavor, served over colcannon — a tart, creamy take on mashed potatoes, with wilted kale and Guinness-braised onions. Their sandwich section is equally appealing; it features a Cuban, Krueger’s take on the sloppy joe, an eggplant parm sandwich and an awesome, crunchy housemade veggie burger. Try their beer cocktails — beer plus booze! $5-$10. 1211 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-834-8670, facebook.com/kruegerstavern.

Live! at the Ludlow Garage

Acoustic concerts in the renovated Ludlow Garage cellar have been well-received, and the upstairs restaurant and bar remains open five nights a week, even when the concert venue is dark. Chef Steve Hermes, formerly of The Anchor-OTR, worked to create the menu, which consists of three appetizers, two salads, six entrées, five flatbreads and a daily soup. There’s also a separate “tapas” menu that serves the music venue on concert nights. Entrées hit all the right notes — the hand-cut strip steak with wild mushroom ragu is stellar. The saag paneer flatbread, with curried paneer, spinach, tomato, red onion, cilantro and Srircha-ranch dressing, is one of several vegetarian offerings. Finish with a Woodford Reserve Manhattan sundae. $6-$22. 342 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-221-4111, liveattheludlowgarage.com.

Main Bite

Main Bite creates delicious, seasonal fare with crafty culinary cocktails (featuring muddled or puréed fresh veggies and fruits) to go with each nibble. All of the sauces and dressings are made in-house. This isn’t a tapas-style restaurant, but the portion sizes are shaved down, so one dish won’t stuff you. $8-$15. 522 Main St., Covington, Ky., 859-261-2483, mainbiterestaurant.com. 

Maribelle’s eat + drink

With a homey feeling, diners can see — and actually eat — inside the kitchen. Some favorites include a Brussels sprouts starter, with toasted walnut, shaved fennel and a sunny-side up egg; burger with cheese curd and duck-fat bacon mayo; and a turkey sandwich with peach butter and tomato on a pretzel bun. Saturday and Sunday brunch specials include cornmeal pancakes, housemade goetta and a sunny-side egg sandwich with truffle aioli and Gruyère. $7-$16. 3235 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-321-9111, maribellestavern.com.

Marty’s Hops & Vines

This College Hill wine and beer emporium offers weekly wine tastings with six healthy pours accompanied by cubed cheese and crackers. Half the shop is retail, selling bottle craft beers and local and international wines, and the other half is a bar and restaurant. Their newly expanded menu consists of salads, baked subs and an individual build-your-own pizza. $7-$10. 6110 Hamilton Ave., College Hill, 513-681-4222, martys-hopsandvines.com.

The Mercer OTR

The Mercer OTR fills the niche for those diners looking for easy parking, a sense of space, delicious flavor and gracious service in OTR. The scallops starter, which, though plural, is indeed just two scallops, is amazing. The menu is wide, but the chef excels in seafood and mushrooms in combination, like in the branzino: two crisp filets perched on fregola sarda and maitake mushrooms. $8-$37. 1324 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-421-5111, themercerotr.com.


With a menu focused on dishes cooked in a custom-built wood-burning fireplace, the restaurant is a showcase for the area’s sustainable farmers and producers, and the menu features an ever-changing list of hearth-roasted meat and fish, along with vegetables, grains and housemade charcuterie. Offers breakfast, lunch, dinner and bar bites, including incredibly interesting smoked grapes. $8-$32. 609 Walnut St., Downtown, 513-578-6660, metropoleonwalnut.com.


Cincinnati native chef Julie Francis finely crafts a small menu filled with locally sourced, organic ingredients. Sunday brunch is also available, featuring pastured eggs, local honey and fresh-baked breads. $7-$25. 1000 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout, 513-929-0525, dineatnectar.com.


The pinotage wine is glorious. Try the balsamic tofu for dinner with caramelized kale and honey-curry cream sauce. For brunch, Benedict Otto’s substitutes fried crispy flatbread and smoked salmon for the English muffin and ham of a traditional eggs Benedict. It’s delicious, a bit rich and a true indulgence. $7-$31. 521 Main St., Covington, Ky., 859-491-6678, ottosonmain.com.

Packhouse Meats

Waiters and waitresses get paid either $10 per hour or 20 percent of their food sales — whichever is higher — so there’s no tipping at Packouse, which serves up meatballs in a variety of formats. Pick a packed meat (quinoa, turkey, fried chicken, etc.), then a gravy and stick them in a bowl, on a sandwich or in a salad. $7.50-$9.50. 1004 Monmouth St., Newport, Ky., 859-415-2312, packhousemeats.com. 

The Presidents Room

The Presidents Room restaurant inside The Phoenix has a traditional feel, but with some whimsical touches that welcome a younger crowd. The menu is modern American with Italian and German influences, visible in dishes like Pork Osso Bucco or the sauerkraut balls with Black Forest prosciutto. It should be on your radar if for no other reason than that the pine nut tart is a dessert with more buttery goodness than your standard after-dinner sweets, topped with a special honey-lavender gelato and savory black pepper honey. $9-$39. 812 Race St., Downtown, 513-721-2260, thepresidentsrm.com.

Red Feather Kitchen

Red Feather serves up from-scratch housemade dishes using the best possible ingredients. Described as New American, the chef-driven menu reflects a diversity of global influences; small plates range from shrimp and grits to falafel and entrées run the gamut from a burger with boursin cheese and candied bacon to a fava bean agnolotti with curry. The restaurant is an unpretentious, approachable, neighborhood spot that serves fun food that people enjoy. $8-$84. 3200 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-407-3631, redfeatherkitchen.com.

Red Roost Tavern

The Hyatt Regency’s farm-to-table Red Roost Tavern joins top-notch hotel eateries downtown. Red Roost’s philosophy is: “Food. Thoughtfully Sourced. Carefully Served.” They emphasize harvesting produce within a 100-mile radius of the restaurant. $12-$34. 151 W. Fifth St., Downtown, 513-579-1234, cincinnati.hyatt.com.

The Rookwood

Rookwood tile and pottery is a large part of Cincinnati’s heritage, and the restaurant that inhabits the former pottery building is putting its stamp on Cincinnati as well. Great food and well-crafted cocktails are their specialties, served in the main dining room, the loft or inside one of the pottery’s old kilns. The menu has some unique Cincinnati dishes: Hanky Pankys on the small plates list, french fries with Grippo’s seasoning and a crazy-good pork belly sandwich. The young staff has a lot of creativity and skill. $6-$27. 1077 Celestial St., Mount Adams, 513-421-5555, therookwood.com.


The eponymous restaurant from chef Jose Salazar mixes old and new to create an approachable yet refined farm-inspired menu. Salazar offers creative dishes including cured and potted items, like housemade rillettes, terrines and charcuterie. There are also comfortable choices like burgers, fish and pasta. Seasonal, farm-fresh specials frequently pop up on the changing menu, as do staple favorites like the little fried oyster sandwich with kimi, local radish sprouts and garlic mayo. The wide-ranging drink menu features thoughtful craft beers, cocktails and wines. Now offers lunch and limited reservations. $9-$31. 1401 Republic St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-621-7000, salazarcincinnati.com.

Somm Wine Bar

Somm’s snacks range from marinated olives, mixed nuts and pickled vegetables to bondookies, Lithuanian yeast rolls filled with crispy bacon and caramelized onions. And don’t be afraid to ask which wine from Somm’s selection should be paired with your bondookie (or olives or pickles). That’s the bar’s stock in trade — excellent pairing wines with approachable menu descriptions so you can choose what drink goes with which dish or ask your server, who will undoubtedly have an excellent suggestion.$4-$28. 3105 Price Ave., Price Hill, 513-244-5843, sommwinebarcincinnati.com.

The Summit

Class is in session! Yes, this restaurant is inside a school. Culinary and hospitality students at the Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State are handpicked to staff the kitchen and dining room in this teaching restaurant. Top-notch food at reasonable prices paired with an extensive wine list make this a restaurant for the city to be proud of. $10-$28. 3520 Central Parkway, Clifton, 513-569-4980, facebook.com/thesummit.mci.

Tano Bistro

A contemporary bistro with a seasonally changing menu. $9-$37. 2204 W. Loveland Ave., Loveland, 513-683-8266, foodbytano.com.

Tela bar + kitchen

Tela bar + kitchen serves pub grub executed at a much higher level than you can find in the northwest suburbs. Serving both lunch and dinner six days a week, Tela does steady business and really rocks on weekends. Rock & Roll cognoscenti will appreciate the numerous music references, starting with the restaurant’s name, taken from a song title by the owners’ favorite band, Phish. The pub-grub slant is apparent at the top of the dinner menu, with items such as pretzel nuggets, chicken wings and poutine. What brings this fare to a “higher level” might be such twists as preparing the wings as confit or adding pork belly to the poutine. $6-$25. 1212 Springfield Pike, Wyoming, 513-821-8352, telabarandkitchen.com.

Teller’s of Hyde Park

Located in the historic Hyde Park Savings and Loan building, Teller’s offers unique ambiance, 30 beers on tap, a plethora of wine and a comprehensive menu with pastas, pizzas, salads, steak and more. They also offer a back patio and the option to eat inside of a bank vault. $7-$32. 2710 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, 513-321-4721, tellersofhydepark.com.


Trio offers something-for-everyone American-style menu items with an upscale twist. Choose from many great salads, sandwiches, gourmet pizzas and seafood and pair your meal with a nice glass of wine from the extensive wine list. The filet mignon, the Trio Meatloaf and the soy-glazed seabass are customer favorites. $11-$40. 7565 Kenwood Road, Kenwood, 513-984-1905, triobistro.com.

Walhill Farm

By using what is readily available from the 250-acre farm itself and local farms nearby, the restaurant provides guests with higher-quality products at a lower price point. Walhill Farm raises Black Angus cattle, Berkshire pigs, chickens and other animals sustainably, free from antibiotics and fed with crops from the farm’s acres of pasture. They even have a butcher shop on the premises, where they prepare most of their cuts. $7-$25. 857 Six Pine Ranch Road, Batesville, Ind., 812-934-2600, walhillfarm.com.

Wildflower Café

With local farm-raised, grass-fed beef and an extensive wine list that features products from Cincinnati-area vineyards, Wildflower is dedicated to producing the freshest and best-quality food at an honest price. Foods are local, sustainable and seasonable to offer peak freshness. $9-$24. 207 E. Main St., Mason, 513-492-7514, wildflowergourmetcafe.com. 

Wise Owl

Expect thoughtful and consistently excellent wine recommendations in an inviting atmosphere at this wine bar and tapas restaurant. The menu includes small plates, like a charcuterie board and bruschetta, plus more filling options like a variety of sliders (braised short rib or beef tenderloin) and some light seafood dishes. Wine available by the glass and bottle. $7-$15. 6206 Mulhauser Road, West Chester, 513-860-9463, wiseowlwinebar.com.


You could dine every night for a week and sample a new pot of mussels from a different locale around the world each time. Preparations include classic French, Mediterranean, Thai and New Orleans, among others. But don’t get stuck on the mussels: You’ll miss out on a half-dozen flatbreads and great appetizers like eggplant fries dusted with confectioner’s sugar and a spicy-sour dipping sauce. $6-$17. 1400 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-744-9852, zulabistro.com.



Coffee and more than 500 bottles of boutique wine, plus food and artwork, in the middle of Hyde Park square. Prices vary. 2734 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, 513-321-2525, awakeningscoffeeandwine.com.

Bean Haus Bakery & Café

A MainStrasse coffee café and bakery. Prices vary. 640 Main St., Covington, Ky., 859-431-2326, facebook.com/beanhaus.

* BLOC Coffee Company

BLOC earns its reputation for serving some of the best cups of joe in the city from local roaster Deeper Roots. All dairy comes from Snowville Creamery, giving that frothy latte an extra touch of wholesomeness. Find everything from cortados and con pannas to chemex and Hario manual brews. The breakfast and lunch menu features tasty egg sandwiches, artisanal toast and build your own sandwiches, served on Sixteen Bricks bread. $3.25-$8. 3101 Price Ave., Price Hill, 513-429-4548, bloccoffeecompany.com.

Carabello Coffee

Husband-and-wife owners Justin and Emily Carabello roast and sell their coffee on the premises, but they’re also entrenched in local and international philanthropy, giving much of their profits to Third World coffee regions in Nicaragua and Kenya. Also carries frozen ice pops called Bello’s Bike Pops. Prices vary. 107 E. Ninth St., Newport, Ky., 859-415-1587, carabellocoffee.com.

Coffee Please

Local coffee roaster in Madeira’s town square, offering pastries, sandwiches, salads and soups. $5-$10. 6930 Miami Ave., Madeira, 513-271-4700.

* Coffee Emporium

A Queen City staple with multiple locations, Coffee Emporium has been serving up artisanal roasted beans for decades (they’re the city’s oldest coffee house) and offers up some of the best breakfast pastries in Cincinnati. Lunch options are simple and hearty, with daily homemade soups. A hip, laid-back atmosphere makes it feel like you’re at a book club meeting with 20 of your friends. Prices vary. Multiple locations including 110 E. Central Parkway, Downtown, coffee-emporium.com.

Collective Espresso

Big-city-style espresso and coffee bar. Offers cool blends like cortados and espresso lemonade. Collective also helms the café inside of the Contemporary Arts Center, which offers a limited food menu along with the same craft coffee drinks. $3-$7. 207 Woodward St., Over-the-Rhine; 4037 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-399-7207, collectiveespresso.com. 

* College Hill Coffee Company

Full espresso and coffee bar with a hearty café menu and gift shop. Free music and Wi-Fi. Prices vary. 6128 Hamilton Ave., College Hill, 513-542-2739, collegehillcoffeeco.com.

Fuel Coffee

Coffee shop, breakfast, brunch and lunch. Prices vary. 2726 Riverside Drive, East End, 513-257-1858, facebook.com/fuelcoffeecincy.

HD Beans and Brews Café

A coffee shop, bar, café and sports haven in one. Fair-trade coffee, more than 100 local and national microbrews and wines. Prices vary. 6721 Montgomery Road, Silverton, 513-793-6036, hdbeansandbrews.com.

Highland Coffee House

Not your traditional coffeehouse — Highland doesn’t open shop ’til 5 p.m., and alongside a bunch of coffee drinks and a full bar, there are delights like boozy milkshakes, iced Thai coffee and fresh cookies. Prices vary. 2839 Highland Ave., Corryville, 513-861-4151, facebook.com/officialhighlandcoffeehouse.

Kitty’s Coffee

Hot or iced coffee, tea and sandwiches. $2-$8. 120 E. Fourth St., Suite 5, Downtown, 513-721-2233.

Left Bank Coffeehouse

Serves Deeper Roots coffee as well as snacks and pastries from local purveyors including Savor Catering, Shadeau Bread, Grateful Grahams and more. $2-$7. 701 Greenup St., Covington, Ky., 859-431-4655, leftbankcoffeehouse.com.

Lookout Joe

Small but mighty, Lookout Joe in the heart of downtown can roast with the best of them. Serves fair-trade beans from around the world as well as a great selection of pastries, bagels and smoothies. Also in Mount Lookout, hence the name. Prices vary. Multiple locations including 3181 Linwood Ave., Mount Lookout, 513-871-8626; 15 W. Seventh St., Downtown, 513-241-0281, lookoutjoe.com.

Newberry Bros. Coffee

What started as a fair-trade organic coffee roaster and coffee shop in the Mansion Hill neighborhood of Newport has become a full-fledged café and wine bar (with an awesome patio). Newberry Bros. Coffee roasts small batches of beans sourced from family farms in Sumatra, Peru and Guatemala. And if that’s not enough to get you in the door, their from-scratch daily pastries, deli sandwiches, more than 60 wines by-the-glass and 500 different bourbons and whiskies should be. Prices vary. 530 Washington Ave., Newport, Ky., 859-261-9463, newberrybroscoffee.com.

Point Perk

A coffeehouse that trains and employs individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities from The Point. Serves craft coffee drinks and is one of the only locations in town to serve the delicious Lil’s Bagels. Prices vary. 43 W. Pike St., Covington, Ky., 859-292-PERK, facebook.com/thepointperk.

Reality Tuesday Café

Longstanding Northern Kentucky coffeehouse and bakery. Prices vary. 1518 Dixie Highway, Park Hills, Ky., 859-261-4939, facebook.com/realitytuesdaycafe.

Redtree Art Gallery and Coffee Shop

Fair-trade and organic coffee within a gallery setting. Prices vary. 3210 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-321-8733, redtreegallery.net.

Roebling Point Books & Coffee

Local independent bookstore with interior coffee shop. $2-$5. 306 Greenup St., Covington, Ky., 859-815-7204, roeblingpointbooks.com.

Rohs Street Café

This not-for-profit coffeehouse close to the University of Cincinnati fully embraces ethical sourcing by offering only fair-trade coffees and teas. Choose from a selection of locally roasted La Terza coffees to sip with a fresh pastry. $1.20-$4.45. 245 W. McMillan St., Clifton, 513-381-7647, rohsstreetcafe.com.

Sidewinder Coffee & Tea

The café offers locally roasted fair-trade and organic coffees, espresso drinks, spirits, blended and loose-leaf teas. Tasty sweet and savory treats abound, including a veggie sandwich with roasted red peppers, cucumbers, spinach, hummus and provolone. $1.50-$7.25. 4181 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-542-8321, sidewindercoffee.com.


Maybe you enjoy the smell of coffee, but would rather have a beer or mixed drink in your hand. This Clifton coffee shop offers a fine line of artisan coffee, local and imported beer, a full bar with signature cocktails and even fancy milkshakes. Food choices include salads, breakfast, sandwiches and options for vegetarians and kids. $4-$9. 324 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-281-7487, facebook.com/sitwells.coffeehouse.

Trailhead Coffee

Newport, Ky.’s Reser Bicycle doesn’t just sell bikes — they also sell really good coffee at their coffee outpost Trailhead. It’s currently the only place in town where you can get a whole bag or a cup of Portland-originated Stumptown Coffee, which is like the gold of coffees. Using rotating roasts and Brown Bear Bakery’s salty caramel syrup, they make a great somewhat-sweet drink called The Grizzly (try it). The best part of the shop? Their baristas are knowledgeable and not intimidating like those at some craft coffee joints. Prices vary. 648 Monmouth St., Newport, Ky., 859-261-6187, reserbicycle.com/pages/trailheadcoffee.

Urbana Café 

Urbana Café’s storefront in Pendleton offers about 20 items on the coffee menu, including more experimental options like the caffé frizzante — espresso is poured into a highball glass and then topped with San Pellegrino carbonated mineral water. In-house baked goods range from Italian donuts to European shortbreads to a toast bar. $1.24-$5. 1206 Broadway St., Pendleton, 513-813-3133, urbana-cafe.com.

Velocity Bike & Bean

Full-service bike shop that serves coffee. $2-$5. 7560 Burlington Pike, Florence, Ky., 859-371-8356, velocitybb.com. 


Avril-Bleh & Sons

A historic Cincinnati butcher and meat market with attached deli and takeout. Established in 1894. Prices vary. 33 E. Court St., Downtown, 513-241-2433, avril-blehmeats.com.

Bottle & Basket

Bottle & Basket offers an abundance of locally grown whole foods and gourmet take-home salads and sandwiches. Picnic-perfect. A knowledgeable staff of chefs develops the menu and supplies more than enough produce, dairy and meat to make that special dinner without a trip to the megastore. Now under the umbrella of the locally expanding Wellmann’s Brands with sister restaurant Melt. $5-$12. 1400 Republic St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-6325, facebook.com/bottleandbasket.


Dutch’s established itself as a wine and bottling shop and open-air pony keg in 1947 and has expanded into a deli/grocery. Not only do they have an enormous selection of wine and craft beer, they also have an upscale deli with an impressive selection of artisan charcuterie, gourmet cheeses, sandwiches, sausages and pantry staples. They embrace both old-world techniques and the new wave of domestic artisans. Prices vary. 3378 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, 513-871-1446, dutchscincinnati.com.

Fred & Gari’s

Fresh meats roasted daily draw a crowd during downtown lunch breaks — along with the charm and hospitality of the staff. No packaged deli meats here: The chicken breasts are oven-baked and artfully sliced by hand, and the ham is just like mama made. There are also soft chocolate chip cookies and freshly baked pies. $3-$20. 629 Vine St., Downtown, 513-784-9000, facebook.com/fredgaris.

Fond Lunch and Deli

An organically inspired lunch stop that does locally sourced deli and ready-made meals. $7-$14. 10764 Montgomery Road, Montgomery, facebook.com/fondorganiclunchanddeli.

Fresh Table at Findlay Market

Meredith Trombly, Louis Snowden and their staff do all the hard parts — finding the best locally sourced ingredients and cooking 40-50 delicious and beautifully presented dishes every day. Baby-back ribs and grilled wild-caught salmon highlight the main courses at this constantly evolving eatery. Try the eggless egg salad. $5-$12. 1801 Race St., Findlay Market, Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-3774, freshtable.biz.

Gilpin’s Steamed Grub

If you really need a steamed sandwich, like their My Cousin Vinny (pepperoni, ham, bacon, banana peppers, cheese and barbecue chips on a pretzel bun), a steamed burger or a really creative vegetarian snack at like 11 p.m. on a Sunday, they’ve got you covered. Alternately, if it’s 2 a.m. Thursday-Saturday, you can get the Doritos sandwich off the drunk menu, with turkey, cheese, lettuce, honey mustard, dressing and Doritos — nacho cheese or Cool Ranch. Prices vary. 2504 W. Clifton Ave., Clifton, 513-431-6939; 37 E. Seventh St., Downtown, 513-421-4223, eatgilpins.com.

Gramma Debbie’s Kitchen

Old-fashioned comfort food, cooked and ready for you to take home. $5-$12. 1801 Race St., Findlay Market, Over-the-Rhine, 513-421-4726, facebook.com/grammadebbiesatfindlaymarket.

The Gruff

The Gruff is a gourmet market/deli, a bar and a pizzeria/restaurant all working in tandem. The restaurant does brick-oven pizzas and hot sandwiches, with Graeter’s ice cream and Covington’s Piebird pies and milkshakes for dessert. You can even order food and beer through the drive-thru. Prices vary. 129 E. Second St., Covington, Ky., 859-581-0040, atthegruff.com. 

* Izzy’s

A Cincinnati tradition, Izzy’s serves a reuben we can all be proud of. Sandwiches such as the Reuben-ator and the Izzy’s Mex showcase their delicious corned beef. $5-$10. Multiple locations including 800 Elm St., Downtown, 513-721-4241; 610 Main St., Downtown, 513-241-6246, izzys.com.

Revolution Rotisserie

Revolution specializes in hormone-free, preservative-free roasted Amish chicken on a number of pita sandwiches named after revolutionaries — Marie Curie, Thomas Jefferson, Gandhi, 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 draft and bottled beer, wine and house punch. $8-$13. 1106 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-0009, revolutionrotisserie.com.


A gourmet grilled cheese and tomato soup shop with a famous grilled-cheese donut. Featured on Shark Tank. Prices vary. 125 E. Court St., Downtown, 513-721-2433; Newport on the Levee, Newport, Ky., 859-291-2433, tomandchee.com. 

Total Juice Plus

Total Juice Plus has been serving natural fruit smoothies, wraps and fresh-squeezed juices to the weekday downtown population for more than a decade. They use all-natural flash-frozen fruit, extol the benefits of fresh juice and make excellent wraps with a Mediterranean lean. $3.25-$9.50. 631 Vine St., Downtown, 513-784-1666, totaljuicecincy.com.

The ’Wich on Sycamore

Quality made-to-order sandwiches with roasted meats. $5-$10. 425 Sycamore St., Downtown, 513-421-9424, facebook.com/thewichonsycamore.


Anchor Grill

Taking its blazing neon “We May Doze, But Never Close” sign to heart, the Anchor Grill stays open 24/7, offering round-the-clock breakfast fare along with lunch and dinner comfort-food classics. The diner ambiance is unmatched, from the sassy-yet-personable waitresses to the vintage ’50s animatronic miniature band moving in sync with jukebox selections. $4-$12. 438 Pike St., Covington, Ky., 859-431-9498.

Blue Ash Chili

This family-owned chili parlor, established in 1969, not only offers traditional Cincinnati-style chili with coneys and three-, four- and five-ways, but also a menu loaded with sandwiches, burgers, salads and sides. Featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. $3-$8. 9565 Kenwood Road, Blue Ash, 513-984-6107, blueashchili.com.

* 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 started work at the chili parlor in 1951. $5-$8. 3005 Colerain Ave., Camp Washington, 513-541-0061, campwashingtonchili.com.

Dixie Chili

Founded in 1929 by “Papa Nick,” Dixie Chili has classic, secret-ingredient Cincinnati-style chili with cheese and onions on spaghetti. $1.50-$7. Multiple locations including 733 Monmouth St., Newport, Ky., 859-291-5337; 2421 Madison Ave., Covington, Ky., 859-431-7444, dixiechili.com.

The Echo

Customer favorites include the Echo Grill (baked ham, Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato served with tartar sauce), an open-faced turkey sandwich and the Hot Mess (layers of home fries, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, gravy and cheese). The Echo has weekly specials and always serves up homemade pie. $4.50-$11. 3510 Edwards Road, Hyde Park, 513-321-2816, echo-hydepark.com.


The old-fashioned flavors of the soda fountain are found at Hathaway’s, including the best darn chocolate shake in town. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped through a time portal to the 1950s. Get a plate lunch or a burger, but if you’re there for breakfast (and when isn’t it time for breakfast food?) don’t miss the French toast and goetta. Hathaway’s does them both exactly right. $4-$12. 441 Vine St., Carew Tower, Downtown, 513-621-1332, facebook.com/hathawaysdiner.

J&J Restaurant

This old-school diner serves huge double-decker sandwiches, good chili, cheese coneys and all-day breakfast at a great price. Tucked into a strip mall, this is a no-frills neighborhood staple with lots of regulars and quick service. $5-$8. 6159 Glenway Ave., Westwood, 513-661-2260.

Pepper Pod

Open 24 hours a day so you can get your fried-pickle fix whenever the craving hits — and once you have the Pepper Pod’s fried pickles, the hankering will hit you often. The meatloaf goes very quickly in the evening, so get there early. Greasy spoon dining at its best, the Pepper Pod is a Newport legend. $3-$10. 703 Monmouth St., Newport, Ky., 859-431-7455.

Pleasant Ridge Chili

A local chili joint that just celebrated 50 years. Offers chili to-go and late-night eats. $3-$9. 6032 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge, 513-531-2365, pleasantridgechili.com.

Price Hill Chili

Generations of West Side patrons have grown up on this iconic, family-owned restaurant’s diverse, fairly priced menu. Having expanded several times over the years, there are now multiple dining areas and a full-service cocktail lounge called Golden Fleece attached. What sets them apart from other chili joints is the full menu of sandwiches, sides, entrées and even breakfast served all day. $2-$15. 4920 Glenway Ave., Price Hill, 513-471-9507, pricehillchili.com.

Rima’s Diner

There are old-school diners that try too hard to resurrect the past, and then there are diners that authentically live in the past to the point where you feel like everything is trapped in amber, including yourself. Covington, Ky.’s Rima’s Diner follows the latter logic — in a great way. Elvis paraphernalia exploded inside the restaurant, from knickknacks of Fat Elvis to ephemera of handsome younger Elvis to his vinyl record sleeves hanging on walls. $5-$10. Rima’s Diner, 635 Madison Ave., Covington, Ky., 859-261-7800, facebook.com/rimasdiner.

* Skyline Chili

A locally based chain of chili parlors founded by Greek immigrants in Cincinnati in 1949. Their Cincinnati-style chili is poured over spaghetti or hot dogs along with chili burritos, fries and baked potatoes. Their vegetarian version is almost as tasty with black beans and rice. $4-$9. Multiple locations including 290 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-221-2142, skylinechili.com.

Sugar n’ Spice

Huge, fluffy omelets and “wispy-thin” pancakes have made Sugar n’ Spice a bona fide breakfast institution for 75 years. Lunch highlights include third- and half-pound burgers, double-deckers and signature sandwiches. $3-$11. 4381 Reading Road, Avondale, 513-242-3521, sugar-n-spice-restaurant.com.


Truly an Over-the-Rhine institution (same family since 1946!) and an “everyman” restaurant. Solid, Midwestern staples for hungry, working people. Features a full breakfast menu complete with a variety of omelets, pancakes and egg dishes. Try the Big Tucker, a double-decker burger with cheese and special sauce. Other standbys include biscuits and gravy and the fried cod sandwich. Recently recovered after a kitchen fire closed the restaurant for more than a year. $4-$7. 1637 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, facebook.com/tuckersrestaurantotr.


Elephant Walk Injera & Curry House

One genius way to set yourself apart in Cincinnati’s sea of Indian restaurants is by also serving Ethiopian food. Elephant Walk Injera & Curry House boasts a large, double-sided menu — Northern Indian on one side, traditional Ethiopian on the other. But what’s really awesome (besides the 3-7 p.m. daily half-price bottles of wine, which includes organic Ethiopian wine) is the 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. daily lunch buffet. It has both Ethiopian and Indian dishes, so you can sample all you can eat of both country’s cuisines and gorge yourself on naan and injera. $4-$30. 170 W. McMillan St., Clifton Heights, 513-526-1555, elephantwalkcincy.com. 


The cuisine comes from eastern Africa, specifically sharing dishes from Ethiopia and Eritrea, which neighbors Ethiopia to the north. Guests can delight in communal platters of meat and vegetable stews, meant to be scooped up with injera flat bread. There are plenty of options for vegans and vegetarians, like the Ahmelti with collard greens and lightly spiced cabbage cooked with onions and pepper. $10-$22. 6063 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge, 513-351-7686, emanuea.com.


Family-run restaurant with true Ethiopian dishes and Ethiopian-style coffee ceremony. $7-$15. 5070 Crookshank Road, Westwood, 513-429-4890, habesharestaurantandcafe.com. 


They offer dishes like kebabs with fish or shrimp and whole grilled tilapia, with the head on or off, served with sides of couscous or steamed noodles. It’s a great place to try West African dishes such as Mechoui (stuffed lamb leg with onion sauce) and Charwarma (chicken or beef in a mustard sauce served in flatbread). $5-$10. 8438 Vine St., Hartwell, 513-821-1300, terangaenterprise.com.


Banana Leaf Modern Thai

Find all your Thai favorites, like massaman curry, drunken noodles and pad Thai goong. $6-$25. 101 E. Main St., Mason, 513-234-0779, bananaleafmodernthai.com.

China Gourmet

China Gourmet has been serving fine Chinese cuisine since 1977. The menu at China Gourmet is not your typical gigantic Chinese menu with hundreds of items. It is divided into sections of classics, what’s new and traditional favorites, each with just a handful of choices. $8-$26. 3340 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, 513-871-6612, thechinagourmet.com. 


“Eat well. Eat fresh. Eat often.” These three sentences serve both as a tagline and as a personal philosophy for local restaurateur Darren Phan, owner of Cilantro Vietnamese Bistro, Clifton’s brothy, herby, vermicelli-filled landmark. A collection of family recipes and flavors brought over from the motherland serve as the heart from which joy and laughter still pump. $5-$9.50. 235 W. McMillan St., Clifton Heights, 513-281-1732, eatatcilantro.com.

* Cloud 9 Sushi

An unpretentious sushi joint serving half-price sushi all day, everyday, with a selection of more than 50 different rolls. $5-$20. 1018 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout, 513-533-9218, cloudninesushi.com. 

Fortune Noodle House

You know your carbs are made with love when a restaurant dedicates an entire employee just to their production, but here’s the thing: Everything else at Fortune is delicious, too. Fortune sits on the corner of Calhoun and Clifton streets, perfectly situated for international students at the University of Cincinnati to get a taste of home and for local students to try something new. They currently have no liquor license, but offer a plentiful selection of flavored and bubble teas. $7-$15. 349 Calhoun St., Clifton Heights, 513-281-1800, fortunenoodles.com.


Fusian’s fast-casual approach, in which you choose your own custom sushi roll, prompted many to coin the restaurant the “Chipotle of sushi.” They offer a diverse selection of non-traditional sushi proteins, including steak, chicken and roasted tofu, but the classic tuna and salmon rolls remain among the most popular. $6-$9. Multiple locations including 600 Vine St., Downtown, 513-421-7646, fusian.com. 

House of Sun

A great find for Saturday and Sunday mornings, you’ll love the traditional Chinese Dim Sum, with long, sweet fried breadsticks, small sausage-filled steamed dumplings, the scallion pancake with egg and the most delicious Sesame ShaoBing with beef — all bargain-priced. $6-$11. 11959 Lebanon Road, Sharonville, 513-769-0888, houseofsuncincy.com. 


Sushi, sashimi and Robotayaki grill (traditional Japanese charcoal grill) offerings abound in the cozy Ichiban dining room. Tapas-style small plates, dishes to tempt carnivores and a dizzying variety of noodle dishes round out the menu. Belly up to the sushi bar or bring a group and dive into the half-price sushi menu while enjoying a warm sake or Asian-inspired cocktail. $10-$60. 1020 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout, 513-321-8686, ichibancinci.com.  

* Kaze

The old Cincinnati Color building on Vine Street is such a landmark that it would have been dreadful had it been torn down. Thankfully, Japanese gastropub Kaze saved it. With a distinct bar and dining room, favorites are the pork belly buns and kobe sliders, with cucumber pickled kimchi-style and a rich Korean barbecue sauce. The huge patio and attached bar do daily happy hours, with food and drink specials and frequent late-night dance parties. $5-$39. 1400 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-898-7991, kazeotr.com. 

* KungFood Chu’s AmerAsia

Quaint and comfortable with a huge beer list, AmerAsia might be Covington’s best-kept secret. Offering all the usual Chinese dishes and a list of chef specialties, AmerAsia’s 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. $7.50-$18. 521 Madison Ave., Covington, Ky., 859-261-6121, facebook.com/kungfoodchu.

Lemon Grass Thai Cuisine 

Fresh and authentic casual Thai, Lemon Grass is a favorite hidden gem spot. Reasonable priced farm-fresh spring rolls to signature pad Thai. $8-$15. 2666 Madison Road, Hyde Park, 513-321-2882, lemon-grasscincy.com.

Le’s Pho and Sandwiches

The menu is simple yet extensive, offering both traditional Vietnamese dishes as well as those that cater to less adventurous palates. The banh mi, a traditional Vietnamese sandwich, comes complete with your choice of chicken, beef, pork, teriyaki or dac biet (a hearty combination of pork and pâté), topped with pickled carrot, onion, cilantro, jalapeño and just the right amount of mayonnaise. But the dish you will most often find in front of Le’s customers is the pho, with a heaping serving of Vietnamese broth, rice noodles, meat, vegetables and herbs. $4-$6. 3 E. Court St., Downtown, 513-721-9700.

Lulu’s Rice & Noodles

It’s not a Chinese restaurant, it’s a noodle shop! Serving up inexpensive steaming bowls of various Asian rice and noodle dishes garnished with vegetables and seafood or meat. Their soups are great, too. Try the spicy and intense Tom Yum soup with shrimp. $5.50-$9.50. 135 W. Kemper Road, Springdale, 513-671-4949. 

Oriental Wok

Transcending the typical Chinese American menu since 1977, Oriental Wok and the Wong family offer upscale, innovative, fresh and delicious chef-prepared cuisine that’s never boring — from five-spice tofu over stir-fried spinach to sea bass with black bean and garlic sauce or a steak with peppercorn sauce. Excellent beer and wine selections. $11-$34. 317 Buttermilk Pike, Fort Mitchell, Ky., 859-331-3000; 2444 Madison Road, Hyde Park, 513-871-6888, orientalwok.com.

* Pho Lang Thang

Located in the heart of Findlay Market, Pho Lang Thang offers dishes like hot pho soup, spring rolls and the ever-popular banh mi sandwiches, which come sprinkled with assorted pickled vegetables and your choice of meat or tofu. They also serve Vietnamese coffee sweetened with condensed milk and brewed right on the table into your glass. $5-$11. 114 W. Elder St., Findlay Market, Over-the-Rhine, 513-376-9177, facebook.com/dothelangthang.

Quan Hapa

“Hapa” is the word for a mixed-race Asian or Pacific Islander — the perfect nomenclature considering the food is an iteration of the best dishes and spirits from Korea, Vietnam, Japan and Hawaii. Their menu is delineated into sections of small plates, okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes), noodles and ramen. Dishes are mostly shareable, like the DIY salad rolls and Hapa wings. $4-$13. 1331 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-421-7826, quanhapa.com.

* Riverside Korean Restaurant

For authentic Korean dishes, Riverside Korean Restaurant is an excellent choice. They offer traditional rice-based dolsot bi bim bap with mixed vegetables, a sunny-side up egg and your choice of beef, chicken or tofu. All entrées are served with a delightful selection of traditional side dishes called ban chan. Floor tables available. $12-$36. 512 Madison Ave., Covington, Ky., 859-291-1484, riversidekoreanrestaurant.com.

Shanghai Mama’s

Shanghai Mama’s menu gives you the option of mixing and matching proteins with starches. The noodles are homemade, thick and rustic and very delicious. And Mama’s is very vegetarian-friendly. There are several seitan dishes, including veggie cashew chicken and the Happy Buddha. $6-$25. 216 E. Sixth St., Downtown, 513-241-7777, shanghaimamas.com.


In addition to being the name of the most widely known Thai beer, Singha translates as “guardian lion,” a national symbol common throughout Southeast Asia and China. What sets Singha apart from other local Thai restaurants is a section of Thai noodle soups, sushi rolls made with black rice — instead of sticky white rice — and several dishes in a menu section called Singha’s Special Entrée. The Black Pearl roll has a highly unorthodox ingredient: mozzarella cheese. It sounds weird but totally works. $5-$21. 2912 Wasson Road, Hyde Park, 513-351-0123, singhacincinnati.com.

Song Long

We’re lucky to have Song Long’s authentic Vietnamese food in town. Family-run, Song Long is often busy enough to have a line out the door on weekday nights. Try the Bahn Xeo crepe stuffed with bean sprouts and shrimp, or the Gui Con with its clear, cool rice paper and blend of fresh cilantro sprigs and vermicelli doused with peanut sauce. Not fancy, just fantastic. Also offers a selection of Chinese specialities. $4-$23. 1737 Section Road, Roselawn, 513-351-7631, songlong.net.

Stone Bowl

Stone Bowl’s somewhat slapdash appearance belies its tasty food. The mostly Korean menu — sometimes there’s sushi — offers up delicious pancakes, noodles and rice dishes; it’s the perfect family-friendly fare if you can keep small fingers off of the piping-hot stone bowls. $8-$30. 3355 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-533-9600, stonebowloakley.com. 

Sukhothai Thai Cuisine

Features exotic dishes like mango prawns stir-fried in a tamarind sauce or tamarind crispy duck. There are also familiar options like stir-fry and noodle dishes like pad Thai with your choice of meat and house fried rice. All of the dishes can be made vegetarian-friendly with vegetables or tofu. $6-$18. 8102 Market Place Lane, Montgomery, 513-794-0057, sukhothaicincy.com.

Sung Korean Bistro

For a break from the ordinary downtown dinner, Sung Korean Bistro hits the spot. Sung serves traditional Korean dishes like hot stone bowl dolsot bibimbap, sizzling with your choice of meat and a spicy chili bean paste served on the side. Try the doeji galbi pork rib dish, which packs a sweet-and-spicy flavor combo served with rice. For an appetizer, try the haemul pajun: wheat flour pancake with egg, shrimp, crabmeat, squid, green onion and pepper. They also serve sushi for dinner. $6-$25. 700 Elm St., Downtown, 513-721-7864, sungkoreanbistro.com.

Teak Thai

With three floors of dining, a full bar and a large outdoor patio area, Teak Thai has the room to accommodate throngs of Thai and sushi lovers. It also has the food to keep them coming back for more. Thai curries, soups, stir-fries, sushi and sashimi all vie for space alongside noodle dishes and house specialties like seafood claypot and crispy duck. $5-$20. 1051 Saint Gregory St., Mount Adams, 513-665-9800, teakthaicuisine.com.

* Thai Express

A favorite stop for inexpensive, good Thai food and friendly service. The tiny, no-frills kitchen puts out some very tasty Thai food. Everything is cooked in one of the two giant iron woks, and nothing on the menu is outside a student’s budget. Most dishes come with your choice of tofu, chicken, pork or shrimp. All-time favorites are pad Thai and the red curry with chicken, spring rolls or the Waterfall beef salad. $5-$11. 213 W. McMillan St., Clifton, 513-651-9000, facebook.com/thaiexpresscincinnati.

Thai Namtip

Located in a strip mall, Thai Namtip has a rather unassuming location, but diners who know good Thai food make regular pilgrimages to this spot. Their specialty is the orange chicken, with breaded chicken breast drenched in a tangy orange sauce with vegetables and cashews. Another specialty is the Seafood Clay Pot. $3-$16. 5461 N. Bend Road, Monfort Heights, 513-481-3360, thainamtip.com.

Wild Ginger

Many Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese dishes complement the creative sushi menu. A recent expansion added a Hibachi grill to the mix. Try the Heema Roll, with shrimp tempura, asparagus and avocado, topped with yellowfin tuna and sprinkled with crabmeat and tempura flakes. $10-$22. 3655 Edwards Road, Hyde Park, 513-533-9500, wildgingercincy.com.


Caribe Carryout

A Caribbean carryout with dishes like empanadas, stews, coconut chicken, black beans and more. $3-$7.50. 2605 Vine St., Corryville, 513-221-1786, caribeonvine.com.

Island Frydays

This bright-yellow building sitting in the heart of Corryville offers authentic Jamaican delights like jerk chicken, sweet plantains, oxtail and curry goat. Featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. $7-$15. 2826 Vine St., Corryville, 513-498-0680, islandfrydays.com. 


Allyn’s Café

The sheer number of menu items you’ll find at Allyn’s will surprise you. There are Cajun specialties like fried gator, jambalaya and red beans and rice; slow-cooked ribs; Tex-Mex treats like enchiladas and chimichangas; and standard pub grub like hot wings, fries and sandwiches. There is also a menu for the kids and beverages for adults (try the margaritas). $9-$17. 3538 Columbia Parkway, Columbia Tusculum, 513-871-5779, allynscafe.com.

Dee Felice Café

If you’re looking for more of an experience than just dinner, swing into Dee Felice Café. Along with spicy New Orleans-style dishes, you’ll enjoy great live Jazz performed on a raised stage behind the bar. The star dish here is the crawfish étouffée, a generous pile of crawfish tails with vegetables and spicy sauce over rice.  $15-$37. 529 Main St., Covington, Ky., 859-261-2365, deefelicecafe.com.

* Knotty Pine on the Bayou

Louisiana cooking featuring alligator, lobster bisque, oysters, fried catfish and frog legs with a mess of sides. Be sure to ask about the nightly special. $8-$30. 6302 Licking Pike, Cold Spring, Ky., 859-781-2200, knottypineonthebayou.com.

Mardi Gras on Madison

Latoya Foster and her husband Randy, originally from Algiers Point, La., were among the first pioneers to establish a foothold in the Cincinnati food-truck movement with their popular New Orleans to Go eatery. Now they’ve parlayed their mobile success into Mardis Gras on Madison, a café featuring classic Cajun and Creole dishes. Foster invents the menu each morning, serving up items like catfish tacos, black beans and rice, fried okra and shrimp po’ boys from opening until they’re gone. Prices vary. 1524 Madison Road, East Walnut Hills, 513-873-9041, facebook.com/mardigrasmad.

Swampwater Grill

Southerners will feel right at home. An ample lineup of classic Louisiana favorites like jambalaya, gumbo, po’ boys and red beans and rice are paired with a selection of hardwood-smoked ribs, barbecue chicken and pulled pork. $8-$20. 3742 Kellogg Ave., East End, 513-834-7067, swampwatergrill.com. 


Cock & Bull Public House

Cock & Bull serves award-winning fish and chips and better-than-average pub grub, including excellent crab cakes and build-your-own burgers. The atmosphere is convivial, and the beer selection is fantastic — 60 beers on tap. $7-$17. Multiple locations including 2645 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, 513-533-4253; 601 Main St., Covington, Ky., 859-581-4253; 275 E. Sharon Road, Glendale, 513-771-4253, candbpublichouse.com.

Molly Malone’s

Northern Kentucky’s own Irish Pub, Molly’s has a great mix of Irish and American fare for lunch, brunch and supper, and serves pizza and appetizers until the wee hours. With 28 draft beers, trivia, karaoke and live music seven nights a week, Molly’s will fill your dance card. $7-$15. 112 E. Fourth St., Covington, Ky., 859-491-6659, covington.mollymalonesirishpub.com.


For some gastropub food with Scottish influence and a cocktail or two, Nicholson’s is a hot spot to hit. They’re known for their fish and chips, but their new menu offers duck-fat fries and shepherd’s pie. If you’re not hungry, check out one of their 90 single-malt scotches, craft cocktails or draft beer. $9-$29. 625 Walnut St., Downtown, 513-564-9111, nicholsonspub.com.


Le Bar a Boeuf

Jean-Robert de Cavel’s Le Bar a Boeuf (French slang for ‘beef bar’) is set in The Edgecliff high-rise residences in East Walnut Hills, boasting stunning views over Eden Park and the Ohio River. The city’s most beloved restaurateur opened the bar to specialize in ground meat served with potatoes and veggies, with a selection of sauces, cheese and garnishes to dress. The bison topped with goat cheese and ‘forestiere’ mushroom-based sauce is perfect in every way. $9-$25. 2200 Victory Parkway, East Walnut Hills. 513-751-2333, jrcincy.com. 

Jean-Robert’s Table

The casual, upscale menu of French-American cuisine includes foie gras, local chicken with potato croquette and the French Chateau Burger with blue cheese, caramelized onions, tomato and bacon on a fluffy brioche bun. A Duo of Snail & Frog Leg appetizer is also available, served with a crawfish beignet, kale and chablis reduction. For lunch, the four-course $15 French Lunch Tray changes every week and is available only at the bar. $12-$38. 713 Vine St., Downtown, 513-621-4777, jrtable.com.

* Taste of Belgium

Hot, fresh Belgian waffles make delicious breakfast sandwiches, but there are also healthy fruit-and-yogurt parfaits. 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. Exclusive selection of Belgian beers. $5-$25. Multiple locations including 1133 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-4607; 2845 Vine St., Corryville, 513-394-7105; 3825 Edward Road, Rookwood, Norwood, 513-396-5800, authenticwaffle.com. 


* Hofbräuhaus

The first authentic German Hofbräuhaus in America modeled after the legendary Munich location. Traditionally decorated rooms, beer brewed onsite, a huge biergarten and German dishes make this a fun dining option. $4-$16. 200 E. Third St., Newport, Ky., 859-491-7200, hofbrauhausnewport.com.

Iron Skillet

Did you even know that there are 10 kinds of schnitzel? The Iron Skillet celebrates traditional Eastern European cuisine with a schnitzel for every day of the week — and then some. $6-$26. 1020 Ohio Pike, Withamsville, 513-561-6776, laszlosironskillet.com. 

Katharina’s Café-Konditorei

Katharina’s is a family-run operation, with the entire staff hailing from Mainz, a small town in Germany. The traditional German menu is bilingual and offers breakfast and lunch — meat, breads, cheeses and, of course, cake — in an authentic kaffee haus environment. $4-$13. Moving to a new location at Eighth and Washington streets, Newport, Ky. Find updates at katharinascafe.com.

Mecklenburg Gardens

For a taste of Zinzinnati’s German heritage, Mecklenburg Gardens showcases some of the best German cuisine the city has to offer. Their specialty is wiener schnitzel, a tender veal cutlet topped with lemon; it’s served with German fried potatoes and cabbage. They have 16 beers on tap, most of which are German, along with some microbrews. One of the best biergartens in the country, and one of the oldest restaurants in Cincinnati. $8-$20. 302 E. University Ave., Corryville, 513-221-5353, mecklenburgs.com. 


Wunderbar! is one of those restaurants that’s considered a “hidden gem.” The authentic German-inspired menu features housemade wursts with locally sourced meats, like the restaurant’s super popular currywurst — a peculiar invention of post-World War II Germany. It’s a spiced sausage served with a ketchup-Worcestershire-curry sauce. The rotating sausage menu is written on a blackboard behind the bar, but a must-try is the Riesen Brezel, a gigantic, plate-sized pretzel that easily complements any of the bar’s more than 35 beers. $7-$12. 1132 Lee St., Covington, Ky., 859-815-8027, facebook.com/wunderbar.covington.3.


Akash India

Authentic Northern Indian cuisine with a lunch buffet and Indian beer. $8-$15. 24 E. Sixth St., Downtown, 513-723-1300, akashindia.net. 

* Ambar India

Perhaps the classiest of the Indian restaurants along Ludlow Avenue in Clifton, Ambar touts a neat and simple dining room with white tablecloths and consistently good service. $8-$20. 350 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-281-7000, ambarindia.com. 

Amma’s Kitchen

Amma’s serves only vegan and vegetarian Indian food, but you won’t miss the meat when the flavors are this complex. Homemade breads include the puffy pillows of cooked dough called batura. They also carry Indo-Chinese dishes. $5-$10. 7633 Reading Road, Roselawn, 513-821-2021, ammaskitchen.com.

Baba India

Baba is known for its gentle blending of herbs and spices, featuring authentic cuisine from Northern India. Try the savory tandoori oven dishes, exotic curries, excellent naan and various mango juice beverages. $6-$14. 3120 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-321-1600, babarestaurant.com.

Bombay Brazier

Owners G. and Rip, who own the original Bombay Brazier in Lexington, Ky., bring style and class to a cuisine popularized by buffets, Americanized dishes and rushed, overcrowded dining rooms. What’s their philosophy? Northern Indian recipes done the only way they know: authentically. $12-$28. 7791 Cooper Road, Montgomery, 513-794-0000, bombaybraziercincy.com.

Brij Mohan Indian Sweets & Restaurant

Brij Mohan features authentic northern Indian cuisine specializing in desserts and street-food-style dishes. Try the malai kofta, a creamy onion and tomato sauce with mixed vegetable balls, or homemade cheese dishes like spicy chili paneer or saag paneer with spinach. All dishes are vegetarian and made from scratch, including their pastries. $7-$10. 11259 Reading Road, Sharonville, 513-769-4549.

Deep India

Deep India’s simple, cheaper take on takeout is welcome in the Clifton brotherhood of Indian restaurants. Head to the counter to order, and then wait for your giant Styrofoam container of saag to come out. You can either eat in at one of their fast-food-style tables or take your Goliath order home and make a few meals out of it. $7-$10. 211 W. McMillan Ave., Clifton Heights, 513-421-6453, deepindiacincinnati.com.


Sitting at the bottom of Ludlow Avenue right across from Cincinnati State, Dusmesh is a foodie favorite, offering Northern Indian food made fresh with organic produce. Vegans can substitute coconut milk in any of their dishes. If you want to sample a little bit of everything, check out the lunch buffet. $8-$15. 944 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-221-8900, dusmesh.com.

Grill of India

Amol India, an established Indian restaurant on Ludlow Avenue, has transformed into Grill of India. It is now operated under completely new ownership by the same family that brings North College Hill’s Swad of India to Cincinnati (which is a seal of approval for most Cincinnatians). The restaurant’s daily lunchtime buffet offers not one but two buffet tables and a free ice cream buffet. $7-$15. 354 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-961-3600, grillofindiacincinnati.com.


With only a few seats in house and every dish served in a Styrofoam container, it’s no wonder why the emphasis is on the food. Krishna offers budget-friendly Indian fare without compromising the quality. Go in for the lamb biryani or the saag paneer, and add some vegetable samosas to your order. Their food is friendly whether you’re carnivore or herbivore. $7-$10. 313 Calhoun St., Clifton Heights, 513-961-2878. 

New Krishna

Specializes in a wide variety of North Indian foods. Includes a lunch and dinner buffet. $8.50-$15.99. 11974 Lebanon Road, Sharonville, 513-769-6266, newkrishnarestaurant.com.

Shaan Indian Cuisine

Located in Hyde Park, Shaan Indian Cuisine provides Northern Indian specializing in saag dishes, like the chicken saag and the saag paneer. The Chane Ki Chat is a blend of fruit and vegetables mixed with chickpeas served cold as an appetizer that you don’t normally see, but don’t miss the spicy lamb vindaloo or the ginger lamb. $9-$12. 3880 Paxton Ave., Hyde Park, 513-533-3100, shaanindian.net. 


The former owners of Dusmesh opened this spot that’s friendly to all: gluten-free eaters, vegans, bring-your-own-beer types and those who just love excellent garlic naan. $9-$15. 1810 W. Galbraith Road, North College Hill, 513-522-5900, swadtasty.com.


15 North

Wood-fired pizzas are the centerpiece of this restaurant. The Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizzas are smallish — about six slices per pizza — and come with toppings like a Black & Blue (tomato sauce, olive tapenade, blue cheese, pepperoni, roasted onion, Kalamata olives) and Harvest (onion and garlic purée, mozzarella, squash, cherry tomatoes, red pepper, basil). The small plates consist of bruschetta, caprese salad and roasted olives, and even three sandwiches: a veggie, an Italian and a prosciutto. $9-$14. 15 N. Fort Thomas Ave., Fort Thomas, Ky., 859-441-0967, 15northpizza.com.

* Adriatico’s

Adriatico’s has a huge draft beer selection and 64-ounce growlers to go, plus spicy, garlicky sauce, oversized pepperonis and the super-thick crust that their pizzas are known for. Good luck finding calzones like theirs, too. It’s “madness” every Monday and Tuesday with specials that the college kids can’t turn down. The Bearcat pizza will feed your entire party. $6-$53. 113 W. McMillan St., Clifton Heights, 513-281-4344, adriaticosuc.com.

* A Tavola

Armed with a pizza oven from Naples, Italy, A Tavola strikes a resounding chord of authenticity while redefining the perfect pie. Their playful selection of signature pizzas — such as the Fig + Prosciutto, Sweet Pea + Bacon or Sausage + Sage — are a blend of the familiar coupled with the exotic. Whet your appetite with their stuffed dates, filled with house sausage, wrapped in smoky bacon and topped with tomato sauce. $5-$20. 1220 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-246-0192; 7022 Miami Ave., Madeira, 513-272-0192, atavolapizza.com.

Bella Luna

Ideal for a lively night out with friends. Features authentic recipes from Italy’s Sicily and Calabria regions — must-haves include the mushroom ravioli stuffed with portobello and topped with sweet pepper sauce and gorgonzola as well as eggplant parmesan. They also offer a gluten-free menu. $9-$26. 4632 Eastern Ave., East End, 513-871-5862, bellalunacincy.com.

Betta’s Italian Oven

Plenty o’ choices here to give any local Italian chain a serious run for its money. Familiar favorites include antipasto, soups, salads and Italian and NYC-style sandwiches, but pizza is the real word. The wood-fired oven produces tasty, thin-crust pies like the Quattro Stagioni with kalamata olives, prosciutto, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, and breadsticks including the spicy pepperoni sticks. There are plenty of regulars filling the tables every night — always a sign of a consistently good meal. $8-$14. 3764 Montgomery Road, Norwood, 513-631-6836, bettasitalianoven.com. 

Buona Vita Pizzeria

Lots of Italian restaurants claim to cook “just like Grandma made it,” but few actually use authentic recipes passed down from the motherland. At Buona Vita Pizzeria, the Frommeyers use their family name (Buonavita, “the good life”) and family recipes. Truly a family affair, Joseph Frommeyer runs the front of the house while his brother/chef Matthew runs the kitchen using recipes handed down from their Nonna. Mamma helps out in the dining room, serving her homemade cookies and other Italian treats to guests; plus cousin Ralph drops off his Dolce Vita Gelato. $5-$18. 441 Sixth St., Dayton, Ky., 859-261-6792, buonavitapizzeria.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.  $9-$22. Multiple locations including 3014 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-731-7755; 7767 Kenwood Road, Kenwood, 513-791-1616; Newport on the Levee, Newport, Ky., 859-431-9700, deweyspizza.com. 

Fireside Pizza

Since opening a brick-and-mortar version of their popular wood-fired pizza cart last year, Fireside Pizza has been able to attract a crowd to the up-and-coming East Walnut Hills neighborhood. With the family-friendly vibe, old school Ms. Pac-Man game and the fact that it’s located inside an actual historic firehouse, Fireside’s appeal transcends its nicely singed wood-fired pizzas. $4-$20. 773 E. McMillan St., Walnut Hills, 513-751-FIRE, firesidepizzawalnuthills.com.

Forno Osteria + Bar

One of the city’s First Families of Food — the Pietosos of Nicola’s and Via Vite — have brought upscale-casual Italian cooking to the East Side with Forno, serving what they describe as “Italian comfort food.” The restaurant is one large dining room with an open kitchen showcasing the brick ovens and a large bar. In addition to a selection of red- and white-sauced pizzas, the menu lists six pasta plates and five meat- and fish-based entrées. $11-$30. 3514 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, 513-818-8720, fornoosteriabar.com.

* Goodfellas Pizzeria

The place to be when you stumble out of the bar at 2 a.m. (or for lunch), Goodfellas makes their dough fresh every morning and their sauce in-house. They also offer subs, calzones and a multitude of delectable dipping sauces. A bourbon bar is upstairs. $5.95-$32. 1211 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-3625; 603 Main St., Covington, Ky., 859-916-5209, goodfellaspizzeria.com.


A chain of local pizzerias that’s been dishing up pies for 60 years, as well as pasta, salads, sandwiches and more. The sauce and crust are both a tiny bit sweet. $5-$25. Multiple locations, 513-347-1111, larosas.com.

Mac’s Pizza Pub

It’s kind of a collegiate Chuck E. Cheese. There are games, live music, sports and food — good food with vegan options. Mac’s pizza has won numerous awards, and the rest of its menu ain’t too shabby, either. $3.50-$20. 205 W. McMillan St., Clifton Heights, 513-241-MACS; 6309 Wooster Pike, Mariemont, 513-271-MACS; 2920 W. US-22, Maineville, 513-677-MACS; 604 Main St., Covington, Ky., 859-431-MACS, macspizzapub.com.

Mellow Mushroom

Choices are endless at this groovy pizza joint. Choose from an extensive list of specialty pizzas including the Holy Shiitake Pie or opt to craft your own creation. $5-$25. Multiple locations including 9238 Floer Drive, West Chester, 513-860-0888; 3804 Paxton Ave., Hyde Park, 513-321-2555, mellowmushroom.com.

Newport Pizza Company 

The pizzas are excellent, of course, and the vegetarian options are much better than average since Newport Pizza roasts most of their veggies themselves. Best thing on the menu, though, is the Antipasti Basket with salami, pepperoni, capicola ham, asiago and fresh mozzarella, manzanella olives, banana peppers, Roma tomato, fresh basil and a big fat head of roasted garlic. $5-$17. 601 Monmouth St., Newport, Ky., 859-261-4900, newportpizzacompany.com. 


A make-your-own pizza place with toppings ranging from sausage and pepperoni to artichoke and gorgonzola cheese. $4-$8. 128 W. McMillan St., Clifton Heights, 513-221-1300, pieology.com.

* Pompilios

This restaurant, where the toothpick scene in Rain Man was filmed, has been offering classic family Italian since 1933. Can’t go wrong with any pasta dish. Play a game of bocce ball on the back court or grab a beer-and-burger special in the attached Colonel Pomp’s Tavern. $7-$28. 600 Washington Ave., Newport, Ky., 859-581-3065, pompilios.com.

Ramundo’s Pizzeria 

Try the pizza challenge — two people, 10 minutes, one 24-inch pizza. Winners get their photo on the wall. $3-$36. 3166 Linwood Ave., Mount Lookout, 513-321-0978, ramundospizzeria.com.

Red Rose 

Avocados are usually associated with Mexican food, but if you crave the green stuff on unconventional dishes, Red Rose Pizza offers it in the form of a fresh guacamole appetizer, broccoli avocado soup, the Goats & Guacamole salad, May’s Funky Chicken grinder and as a pizza topping. $6-$68 (for a 28-inch pizza). 5915 Hamilton Ave., College Hill, 513-620-7673, redrose-collegehill.com.

Santo Graal

Santo Graal fills a niche at The Banks for an affordably priced restaurant that gives sports fans and concertgoers a respite from the crowds. The food is familiar, mainstream Cincinnati Italian, and you can get a decent bottle of wine. $10-$15. 180 E. Freedom Way, The Banks, Downtown, 513-721-7222, santograalbanks.com.


Family-owned for a century, Scotti’s must be doing something right. Their large menu features just about every pasta imaginable and nearly 20 different varieties of veal dishes. Finish off your meal with a bottle of wine and you’ll be full for days. Multi-colored tiles plaster the walls, and candles drip layer upon layer of wax on Chianti bottles at every table, providing a little light to the otherwise dimly lit dining room. $18-$31. 919 Vine St., Downtown, 513-721-9484, scottiscincinnati.com.

* 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 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. $7-$75. 118 E. Sixth St., Downtown, 513-977-6886, sottocincinnati.com. 

Strong’s Brick Oven Pizzeria

Strong’s Brick Oven Pizzeria is not just another pizza joint. The dough is thin, with beautiful crisp air pockets that bulge out of the pizza. It is golden, charred and chewy. The toppings are tossed on top deliberately but asymmetrically — rustic in every sense. $9-$18. 336 Monmouth St., Newport, Ky., 859-291-6836, strongsbrickovenpizza.com. 


In Italian, “Taglio” means “pizza by the slice” and the restaurant focuses on large slices of gas-fired New York-style pizza (hand-tossed, thin crust, real cheese). The concept is simple: walk up to the counter, order a slice or a whole pizza, grab a six-pack or a bottle (or two) of wine from their booze wall, go home and stuff your face. They make all of their meats in-house but import the ricotta and mozzarella from Italy. $3 slice; $14-$26 pizza. 3531 Columbia Parkway, Columbia Tusculum, 513-321-0454, eattaglio.com.


A beverage drive-thru with above-average pizza, including the Lotta Trotta big-ass pizza. $6-$35. 3501 Werk Road, Westwood, 513-451-5555, trottaspizza.net.

Via Vite

Via Vite showcases chef Cristian Pietoso’s casual take on Northern Italian cuisine. Crispy, wood-fired pizzas and hearty pastas hearken to the motherland, while entrées of braised lamb shank and bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin smothered in grandma’s peperonata lead the diner on a classic Italian journey. $10-$38. 520 Vine St., Fountain Square, Downtown, 513-721-8483, viaviterestaurant.com.


* Abigail Street

The Mediterranean-inspired menu of small plates revels in Italian, Spanish, Turkish and Greek influences, with unique twists only chef Daniel Wright (winner of Food & Wine’s 2012 People’s Best New Chef: Great Lakes Region) could pull off — chorizo-stuffed dates, grilled octopus, batata and more. Wines are available on tap, by the bottle or the glass. $5-$16. 1214 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-421-4040, abigailstreet.com.

Ali Baba

Ali Baba Mediterranean Grill is a tiny hole-in-the-wall serving up gargantuan falafel and gyro platters that won’t break the bank. Stock your plate with a variety of fresh toppings doled out by a friendly server, then sit down to watch Persian singer Mansour and others belt out hits in music videos hearkening back to MTV’s glory days. $5-$10. 4793 Red Bank Road, Madisonville, 513-271-0706.

* Andy’s Mediterranean Grille

Expect maximum Mediterranean flavor at Andy’s, from the signature Shish Tawook, a marinated chicken kabob, to authentic stuffed grape leaves and many varieties of baklava and Turkish coffee. $6-$35. 906 Nassau St., Walnut Hills, 513-281-9791, andyskabob.com.

Kinneret Café

This veg-friendly, Kosher spot combines cultures and dishes from around the Mediterranean, specializing in Israeli food. Everything is made in-house and the only meat on the menu is fish. $5.50-$16. 8316 Plainfield Road, Deer Park, 513-791-1777, kinneretcafe.com. 

Marrakech Moroccan Café & Grill

The chefs, who hail from Marrakech, serve up Mediterranean staples, plus a variety of tajines, flavorful stews slow-cooked in a conical earthenware pot, and bastilla, a sweet-and-savory chicken pie layered with scrambled eggs, shredded chicken, caramelized onions, ground almonds, confectioners sugar and cinnamon. Don’t miss out on the Moroccan mint tea. $5-$12. 341 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-442-2233, facebook.com/cliftonmoroccancafe.

Mirage Mediterranean

Owned by two Armenian-American brothers, Mirage features authentic family recipes that have been passed from generation to generation. Most dishes hail from around the Black Sea, including kebabs, Russian borscht, khinkali dumplings and Mikado cake. $5-$20. 11381 Montgomery Road, Mongtomery, 513-469-0089, miragecincinnati.com.

Phoenician Taverna

A hidden gem in a Mason stripmall, Phoenician Taverna specializes in Lebanese and Mediterranean cuisine, all made in-house — from the pita bread to the sausage stuffed in natural casings. For entrées, find shawarma, mouzat (braised lamb shank in tomato sauce), mashawi and ouzi (braised met over rice). Plenty of hot and cold vegetarian mezza (appetizers) abound. $10-$23. 7994 Mason Montgomery Road, Mason, 513-770-0027, phoeniciantaverna.com. 


Serving as a West Side staple for more than 38 years, Sebastian’s family-owned restaurant is a Greek treasure. With mouth-watering baklava, flaky spanakopita and the hands-down best gyro in town, it’s no wonder why customers keep coming back for more. $4-$10.50. 5209 Glenway Ave., West Price Hill, 513-471-2100, sebastiansgyros.com.


Authentic Mediterranean cuisine. Owner and executive chef Mustafa Koylu prepares a wide selection of excellent kebabs, and the menu also reflects Ottoman specialties and traditional appetizers (grape leaves, hummus, cacik), along with plenty of vegetarian entrees. $7-$35. 7305 Tyler’s Corner Drive, West Chester, 513-847-1535, sultanscincinnati.com.


The Arepa Place Latin Grill

Owner and chef Isis Arrieta-Dennis and her husband make everything from scratch using an arepa recipe passed down from Isis’ mother, who owns her own restaurant in Cartagena, Colombia. The grill has six different arepas, stuffed with cheese, beans and plantains, and then your choice of beef, chicken or both, sourced from Findlay’s Mackie Quality Meats. The grill is currently open at Findlay Market during the weekend. $5-$10. 1801 Race St., Findlay Market, Over-the-Rhine, facebook.com/thearepaplacelatingrill.

* Bakersfield OTR

Part bar, part taco joint, all classy. Bakersfield specializes in gourmet tacos (pollo rojo, pastor, huitlacoche, etc.), quality tequilas and whiskeys and hand-crafted margaritas made the old fashioned way — not from a pre-made mix. $3-$9. 1213 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-579-0446, bakersfieldtacos.com.

Calle Cantina

Calle means “street” and cantina means “bar,” and that’s exactly what you’re getting: a no-frills watering hole/street-food restaurant that feels like a worldly destination you’d come across on your travels. They have a sparse menu: fresh veggie, chicken or carnitas tacos; tostados; loaded nachos; and chips and salas or guac. On a given day, Calle offers about three kinds of seasonal margs, along with red or white housemade sangria. $3-$12. 950 Pavilion St., Mount Adams, 513-721-6977, callemtadams.com.


This Mexican restaurant attached to Western Bowl bowling alley is an area favorite. Prices vary. Multiple locations including 6385 Glenway Ave., Western Hills, 513-574-1639, cancunmexicanrestaurantes.com.


Cazadores is one of the city’s most underrated restaurants. It’s locally owned, boasting four decent-sized, clean and rarely crowded restaurants in the Greater Cincinnati area. They even recently started sending a guy around to the tables with a cart to make fresh guacamole. $6.50-$15. Multiple locations including 750 Ohio 28, Milford, 513-831-3300, cazadores-restaurants.com.


Located just a hair off the beaten path in Over-the-Rhine, Ché is nestled on Walnut Street, down a block from 16 Bit Bar+Arcade. The three “cheese” empanadas are basically quesadillas with an additional ingredient: de espinaca features baby spinach, queso y cebolla has sautéed onion and jamon y queso comes with classic ham and cheese. Then there are the meat-centric ’nadas. The de carne has cumin- and paprika-spiced beef and the spicy smoked pork belly also features caramelized onion and cheese. The real surprises are the shrimp scampi, the Buffalo chicken and the Breakfast, with country-style sausage, scrambled eggs and cheddar cheese. $3-$9. 1342 Walnut St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-978-1706, checincinnati.com.

The Comet

A neighborhood bar with tons of bottled beer options and a limited Mexican-inspired menu available from 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Choose chicken, beef or jerked tofu for your burrito or have the same in a quesadilla, nachos or tacos. $4-$8. 4579 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-541-8900, cometbar.com.

Django Western Taco

The al pastor pork pairs with tequila-soaked, grilled pineapple and fragrant chopped mint. Vegetarians can enjoy a delicious veggie taco. Seafood stew features a mix of yellow fin tune, mussels, clams and shrimp in a garlic tomato broth with okra and cotija cheese. Django’s take on guac boasts pistachio, Serrano pepper and cotija cheese. $6-$18. 4046 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-542-3664, djangonorthside.com.

El Camino

Co-owner Sean Morgan and chef Brad Johnson’s Puerto Rican and Cuban street-food-inspired eatery serves up easy Latin American dishes. El Camino’s tostones, which are deep-fried plantains, come with a side of garlic ketchup. They’re crisp, crunchy and, miraculously, not at all greasy. The Cubano sandwich is delicious, standard and comforting. Their huge empanadas have rotating fillings. And the flan is silky, with smoky caramel. $3.50-$8. 1004 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout, 513-376-8328, facebook.com/elcaminocincy.

El Rancho Grande

One of the largest local Mexican chains. $2-$10. Multiple locations including 6475 E. Galbraith Road, Kenwood, elranchogrande.info.

Frida 602

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 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. The vegetarian chickpea and Brussels sprout tacos are the best. Also a must: the queso dip. $8-$14. 602 Main St., Covington, Ky., 859-815-8736, facebook.com/frida602.

* Gomez Salsa

Open until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, Gomez’s walk-up taco window has it all: mahi-mahi tacos with slaw and Baja sauce, chips with pineapple salsa, taco salad bowls and owner Andrew Gomez’s greatest invention, the Turtle Shell. Take a tortilla, stuff it with rice, beans, sour cream, lettuce, salsa, meat, veggies and cheese, layer in a tostado for crunch, put some cheese on the top and then brown it. It’s a fat little crunchy burrito envelope, a walking taco. And the Turtle tastes even better if you stumble over after imbibing at the adjacent HalfCut, a craft beer café of sorts. Now open for lunch and brunch. $3-$9. 107 E. 12th St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-1596, gomezsalsa.com.


Cincinnati’s original foil-wrapped Latin fare. Habañero opened in 1999, before most of us had even heard of that national burrito chain. Known for their more creative burrito options like the Mad Max (with fried tilapia) and the Calypso Chicken (with adobo-glazed chicken breast and pineapple salsa), along with various quesadillas and signature salsas. $2.50-$8. 358 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-961-6800, habanerolatin.com. 

La Mexicana

Home of some of the city’s best tacos: tacos al pastor with delicious marinated pork shoulder, barbacoa, carne asada, lengua (tongue) and sesos (brains; they wash down perfectly with a cerveza). For vegetarians, wide-ranging fillings include seasoned pumpkin flower, corn truffle, hongos, beans and queso fresco. This inexpensive and authentic menu has been known to incite cravings after as little as one visit. $3-$10. 642 Monmouth St., Newport, Ky., 859-261-6112.

* Mazunte 

Pozole is a traditional Mexican soup with pork, chicken, hominy, red radish, onions, avocados, cilantro, limes, Mexican oregano and tostadas. And a steamy bowl of pozole from Mazunte is like a soft kiss of authenticity from Oaxaca, Mexico. Owner Josh Wamsley wanted to create a dining experience to match those he had as a hungry English professor in that Mexican state, a place he calls the “unofficial mecca of Mexican cuisine.” It’s a refreshing and authentic culinary surprise, considering the restaurant’s location in a Madisonville strip mall. $7.25-$9.25. 5207 Madison Road, Madisonville, 513-785-0000, mazuntetacos.com.


Chef Jose Salazar is a continent away from his mamita and the hand-cranked mill she still uses to grind corn for arepas and empanadas, but his restaurant, Mita’s, is a tribute to her spirit and to Spanish and Latin American food. Some of the more intriguing dishes at Mita’s use familiar ingredients in new ways. The fresh emerald-green sauce for the short-rib empanadas is unexpectedly minty, and the beef is tucked into cornmeal crusts so light and crisp that it lifts the dish to the sublime. The bar at Mita’s is a great place to get familiar with mezcal, the underexplored spirit-of-the-moment — the Mezcal Manhattan is getting lots of buzz. $7-$39. 501 Race St., Downtown, 513-421-6482, mitas.co.


Friendly service and fresh, affordable food have kept Montoya’s a neighborhood staple for more than 20 years. Patrons rave about their authentic Mexican dishes like chilaquiles, their signature spicy Pirata Plate and anything with mole. Great margaritas are the cherry on top. $2.25-$11. 2507 Chelsea Drive, Fort Mitchell, Ky., 859-341-0707. 


Modern Mexican. Outstanding guacamole tops beer-batter-fried hake on crisp, Baja-style tacos. The ceviche zings with notes of orange and chipotle. Churros, classic fried dough with cinnamon and sugar, are a sweet way to wrap it up. Great location next to the Aronoff Center downtown, and the patio is a big attraction when nice weather beckons. $6-$22. 600 Walnut St., Downtown. 513-721-6232, eatdrinknada.com.

Rio Grande 

Serves up good strip-mall Mexican, with the giant portions and plentiful margaritas you’d expect. $2-$10. 34 Carothers Road, Newport, Ky., 859-292-8750.

Taqueria Mercado

Fajitas come with your choice of grilled steak, chicken or shrimp. Go in Sunday morning for a not-so-typical American brunch; get their spicy chilaquiles with chorizo and pair it with their Michelada — it’s like a bloody mary, but with your choice of light or dark beer mixed with tomato juice, lime juice and hot sauce. $3-$15. 100 E. Eighth St., Downtown, 513-381-0678; 6507 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, 513-942-4943, taqueriamercado.com.

Taqueria Yolandita

Taqueria Yolandita is a tiny taco trailer. The menu is brief, but you’ve still got a tough choice — you’ll want to try everything. Overstuffed tacos, priced at three for $6; burritos, quesadillas and tortas, all $7 each. An order of three is a sit-down, eat-with-a-fork feast, heaped high with braised meat, fresh avocado, chopped onions and cilantro, quartered lemons — not limes — and slices of crisp radish. $5-$7. 1881 Westwood Ave., Price Hill, 513-551-0828. 


Oasis Russian Fusion

A Russian restaurant that holds back a little on the traditional fattening ingredients Russian meals are known for. Find beef stroganoff, Georgian chicken tabaka, goulash, dumplings and pastry appetizers. $8-$18. 8697 Fields Ertel Road, Symmes, 513-247-9755, oasisrussianfusion.com.


Alfio’s Buon Cibo

Italian for “good food,” the restaurant aims to wed Italian and Argentinian cuisine. The menu is dotted with Italian (baked ravioli, bruschetta) and Argentinian (empanadas, grilled lamb) dishes, but steers more toward the former. And, as both countries are located on coasts, there’s always fresh seafood. $7-$33. 2724 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, 513-321-0555, alfios-cincy.com. 

Boi Na Braza

Brazilian Steakhouse with a lot of fancy meat on sticks delivered tableside by gauchos, plus a salad bar. $48.95. 441 Vine St., Downtown, 513-421-7111, boinabraza.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. $15-$60. 114 E. Sixth St., Downtown, 513-542-2022, bocacincinnati.com. 

The Celestial

Whet your appetite on drunken mussels with applewood-smoked bacon, Blue Moon beer and orange zest or delectable crab cakes with chili pasilla aioli. Whether you choose the Celestial Oscar, crowned with lump crabmeat, or the roasted Cornish game hen, you will not be disappointed. Desserts include a classic crème brulee and chocolate-crusted cheesecake. $8-$60. 1071 Celestial St., Mount Adams, 513-241-4455, thecelestial.com.


Jean-Robert de Cavel and Richard Brown have teamed up to revive classic fine dining with elevated cuisine, impeccable service and refined decor. Housed inside Great American Tower, the restaurant serves seasonally inspired French cuisine with “Parisian flair, a little New York attitude, and an abundance of Cincinnati charm.” Chose from three- or seven-course high-end tasting menus. $89-$190. 221 E. Fourth St., Downtown, 513-760-5525, jrcincy.com.


Meritage offers upscale classic American cuisine, ranging from pan-seared scallops with lemon butter and Thai-glazed salmon to a Cajun goat cheese-crusted filet. Don’t miss the bone-in pork chop served with bourbon cream sauce. Meritage also boasts an extensive wine cellar and signature cocktails. $10-$40. 40 Village Square., Glendale, 513-376-8134, meritagecincy.com.

Nicola’s Restaurant

A celeb-spotting treasure, Nicola’s renown is undeniable. One of Cincinnati’s top, Zagat-rated restaurants, its menu of housemade pastas and secondi piatti — branzino, bistecca and scallop piccata — are among some of the thoughtfully conceived dishes transporting patrons to the heart of Italy. Indulge in wine-paired tasting menus, or cap off your meal with a dessert of panna cotta with strawberry or tiramisu. $12-$40. 1420 Sycamore St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-721-6200, nicolasotr.com.

Orchids at Palm Court

Nestled inside Carew Tower’s historic Art Deco Hilton hotel, Orchids hosts a breathtaking feast for the eyes — a perfect backdrop for weekly seasonal menus of refined elegance made with local ingredients, including some from the hotel’s rooftop beehive and herb garden. Chef Todd Kelly’s AAA five-diamond menu features creative, fresh cuisine paired with an award-winning wine list and delicious desserts by pastry chef Megan Ketover. $9-$60 (for the chef’s tasting prix fixe platters). 35 W. Fifth St., Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel, Downtown, 513-421-9100, orchidsatpalmcourt.com.

The Palace Restaurant

Seasonal menus of fine, upscale fare at a four-diamond restaurant — including a menu just for vegetarians and vegans. $75 for five courses; $95 for nine, with a la carte pricing in between. 601 Vine St., The Cincinnatian Hotel, Downtown, 513-381-3000, palacecincinnati.com. 


With a breathtaking city view, Primavista wins frequent reader’s choice and magazine awards such as “most romantic,” “best date spot” and “best dining with a view.” They offer fine Italian dishes from all regions, specializing in veal and fish, with sauces made in-house. The gnocchi sautéed in sage butter with pancetta melts in your mouth, and the bread pudding is excellent. Includes special menus for vegans, vegetarians and those with a gluten intolerance. $7-$39. 810 Matson Place, Price Hill, 513-251-6467, pvista.com.


Alabama Fish Bar

Get in line at the Alabama Fish Bar and you’ll be rewarded with some of the best fried fish in the city: a choice of whiting, perch or cod served atop a pile of fries resting on a bed of white bread. A side of sautéed peppers and onions and hot sauce make it a spicy, lip-smacking experience. $7-$8. 1601 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-241-2255, alabamafishbar.com.

* The Anchor-OTR

Located in a historic building at the corner of Washington Park, Anchor OTR offers impressive-quality seafood. The raw bar selections are tempting, and they also offer interesting starters: crawfish beignets, grilled calamari and deviled eggs with smoked salmon. Beachside classics like hush puppies and lobster rolls will transport you to the coast. The salads change seasonally and the Longshoreman’s Bloody Mary gets a lot of local attention — a bloody mary with vodka, housemade pickles and your choice of shrimp, oyster or lobster claw. $6-$32. 1401 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-421-8111, theanchor-otr.com.

Eddie Merlot’s

An upscale chain of prime-aged steak and seafood. House recommendations include a romaine Waldorf salad with maple apple-cider vinaigrette, sesame calamari, chateaubriand for two and a bone-in filet. $8-$95. 10808 Montgomery Road, Montgomery, 513-489-1212, eddiemerlots.com.


There is a seemingly endless variety of Thai/sushi/Asian restaurants in our city. How about a steakhouse/sushi joint? That’s what you’ll find in Embers. Steaks are aged 28 days and are served with housemade compound butter or a variety of “extras” like truffle sauce or caramelized onions. Try the pickled veggie sushi or crunchy eel sushi to start, and then dig into some Vietnamese-style baby-back ribs. $17-$63. 8170 Montgomery Road, Kenwood, 513-984-8090, embersrestaurant.com.

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill

Wood-fired steak and seafood restaurant. Find aged ribeye, New York strip, slow-roasted prime rib, coconut shrimp and pecan-crusted trout, along with signature salads, appetizers and burgers. $11-$45. 5075 Deerfield Blvd., Mason, 513-234-9032, mason.firebirdsrestaurants.com.

Jag’s Steak and Seafood

This upscale steakhouse and piano bar does everything from innovative meals to craft cocktails and extensive wine choices to live music. For dinner, opt for sushi or the raw bar to start, followed by a West Chester Chop salad (with bacon, egg, cheddar, tomato, cucumber and onion) or signature entrées, like the black truffle filet, chateaubriand for two or vegetarian portabellos with goat cheese and tomato. $9-$99. 5980 West Chester Blvd., West Chester, 513-860-5353, jags.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 (queen?) at Ruby’s. $7-$80. 700 Walnut St., Downtown, 513-784-1200, jeffruby.com.

Lisse Steakhuis

A Dutch-inspired steakhuis. Start with smoked whitefish pate or bitterballen, a mixture of ground meat, rolled in panko breadcrumbs and then deep fried. For dinner, move to the coast with Faroe Island salmon, or the farm, with a Dutch filet — a barrel-cut filet grilled a la plancha, seasoned with salt and pepper and served over hutspot cake (mashed potatoes, carrots and onion). $10-$72. 530 Main St., Covington, Ky., 859-360-7008, lisse.restaurant.

Maury’s Tiny Cove

Maury’s has been packed full of flavor and West Side tradition since 1949. The dimly lit 1940s supper-club vibe will have you feeling like a regular on your first visit. The extensive menu consists of all the classic steakhouse options: tender, juicy steaks, seafood and chicken cooked just right, plus pasta, sandwiches, soups and salads. Look for the steer drinking a martini on the sign. $8-$31. 3908 Harrison Ave., Cheviot, 513-662-2683, maurys-steakhouse.com.

Pelican’s Reef 

For 20 years, the laid-back island oasis Pelican’s Reef has been serving up super-fresh seafood in Anderson. While much of the expansive menu features breaded and fried items with plenty of tartar sauce — choices like fried oyster po’boys or broiled grouper stuffed with crab meat, wild rice and cornbread stuffing — none of the restaurant’s diehard fans are complaining. $6-$24. 7261 Beechmont Ave., Anderson, 513-232-2526, thepelicansreef.com. 

* 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 baseball greats. But there are other options, like blackened diver scallops or something from the tableside service menu like seafood fettuccine alfredo for two. $14-$82. 311 Delta Ave., Columbia Tusculum, 513-321-5454, jeffruby.com.

Tony’s of Cincinnati 

A luxury steakhouse operated by Tony Ricci, former GM of Jeff Ruby’s The Precinct, serving USDA prime meats with all the toppings you could want — Oscar, au poivre, sauce béarnaise. Also features a raw bar, indulgent pastas, non-steak entrées and classic steakhouse sides. $10-$67. 12110 Montgomery Road, Montgomery, 513-677-1993, tonysofcincinnati.com.

Washington Platform

Established in 1875 (and reestablished in 1986), the saloon is home to an annual oyster festival, lobstapalooza and crab carnival. $4-$32. 1000 Elm St., Downtown, 513-421-0110, washingtonplatform.com.


The Elusive Cow

The owner of The Elusive Cow, Jim Fisher, wanted to create a space where eaters of every kind can sit down and enjoy something off the menu. Focused on sustainable and organic farms, the food supports the omnivore in us all, including dishes with bison, tofu, fish and, of course, hamburgers. $6.95-$12. 519 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue, Ky., 859-291-0269, theelusivecow.com. 

* Green Dog Café

Sustainable, organic and stylish. Many selections are Mexican- or Mediterranean-inspired, others are unique vegetarian or vegetarian-capable wraps, bowls and sandwiches. The poultry is locally pastured, the fish is organic and sustainably sourced, the pork is antibiotic free and the restaurant itself focuses on environmentally processes and products. They also serve Jeni’s Splendid ice cream. $5-$15. 3543 Columbia Parkway, Columbia Tusculum, 513-321-8777, greendogcafe.net.

Happy Chicks Bakery

The Northside café and bakery offers cakes, cookies, cupcakes, pies and more, all with fresh, seasonal flavors, and light lunch options, including sandwiches, salads and soups that are all freshly prepared from non-processed foods and are free from preservatives and animal products $4-$7. 4035 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-386-7990, happychicksbakery.com. 

Loving Hut

The mission behind Loving Hut is to offer affordable, healthy, vegan cuisine. The restaurant’s environment was created using many found, reclaimed and reused materials. For disposable goods like containers, cups and utensils, they choose biodegradable and/or recyclable products. Tons of paninis, wraps, sandwiches and burgers to choose from. $5.50-$8. 6227 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge, 513-731-2233, lovinghut.us.

* Melt Eclectic Café

Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free diners aren’t an afterthought at Melt. But no worries, the carnivorous can feast, too. A plethora of sandwiches, wraps, soups and salads tempt every palate. Sandwiches include items like the veggie cheesesteak made with seitan and The Rachel, a smoked turkey sandwich with red cabbage, apple sauerkraut and Swiss cheese. $4-$10. 4165 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-681-6358; relocating in 2017 to The Gantry, 1580 Blue Rock St., Northside, meltcincy.com.

* Off The Vine Juice Bar

We’re not talking smoothies — we’re talking nutrient-dense, cold-pressed juice funneled into a pint-sized glass container. Juice heads can stop by and purchase an 8-ounce juice or 16-ounce juice in a reusable glass bottle that can be returned and recycled. Customers also will be able to purchase a set of juices and homemade nut milks for a one, three or five-day juice cleanse. $6-$10. 1218 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-305-6020, facebook.com/otvcincy.

Park + Vine

A vegan lunch counter with items like smoky potato salad, fresh kale and barbecue sliders, alongside local favorites Blue Oven Bakery and Shadeau Breads. All items are available gluten-free. $5-$8. 1202 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-721-7275, parkandvine.com.

Rooted Juicery + Kitchen

From coolers housing a rainbow display of juices to vegan meal bowls to a mini bakery, Rooted is out to prove that plant-based eating offers a vast variety of flavors and quality options. The Mexican grain bowl (quinoa, black beans, guacamole, walnut crumble, cashew cheese) is a favorite in the bowl category. Everything is as locally sourced as possible. $4-$12. 3010 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-351-2900; 6844 Wooster Pike, Mariemont, 513-271-0432, rootedjuicery.com.

The Weekly Juicery

The juicery boasts an almost entirely gluten-free and vegan menu, and the staff is sensitive to just about every allergy imaginable. Their weekly juicing programs offer three, four and five-day juicing regimens in the $27 to $54 price range. 2727 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, 513-321-0680, theweeklyjuicery.com.


* Abby Girl Sweets

A from-scratch cupcakery with two locations and special, seasonal flavors. Prices vary. 4773 Glendale Milford Road, Blue Ash, 513-335-0898; 41 W. Fifth St., Downtown, 513-335-0898, abbygirlsweets.com.

* Aglamesis Brothers

A classic 1900s ice cream parlor at its best, wooing foodie visitors from all around the country with its unblemished reputation for quality. The Raspberry Hot Fudge and the Banana Classique shakes are chart-toppers. Prices vary. Multiple locations including 3046 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-531-5196; 9899 Montgomery Road, Montgomery, 513-791-7082, aglamesis.com.

Bluebird Bakery

Twin Peaks’ Agent Dale Cooper was onto something with his interest in pairing a cup of coffee with a slice of pie. And at Bluebird Bakery in historic Glendale’s quaint village square, their from-scratch seasonal pies, made with farm-fresh eggs, sweet butter and real garden-fresh fruit, are as authentic as it gets. Prices vary. 29 Village Square, Glendale, 513-772-5633, bluebirdbakery.com.

* The BonBonerie

Have your cake and eat it too as the BonBonerie crew shows off their savory skills. Scones, coffee and quiche adorn the breakfast menu, but the real treat is for those with a sweet tooth. The dessert menu features tortes, cakes, pastries and old-fashioned cookies to please everyone. $5.50-$15. 2030 Madison Road, O’Bryonville, 513-321-3399, bonbonerie.com.

Brown Bear Bakery

Cincinnati pastry artist Blair Fornshell does not have her own storefront yet. Unlike a lot of commercial bakeries in the city, Blair uses all-natural ingredients to create so-beautiful-you-almost-feel-bad-about-eating-them desserts, such as vanilla bean scones, oat flour salty chocolate chip cookies, cacao nib rochers and brown butter cranberry almond streusel muffins. Prices vary. brownbearbakes.com.

Buona Terra

European-style street food and gelato. Savory crepes — with fillings like pesto, turkey, fontina and spinach — are made with buckwheat-based batter and sweet crepes — with fillings like lemon curd, Nutella, pastry cream and brown sugar — are made with something similar to pancake batter. They also serve colorful French macarons. $3-$8. 1028 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout, 513-386-9356, buonaterragelato.com. 

Busken Bakery

Busken Bakery opened in 1928 and quickly became a Cincinnati staple with bakery counters in grocery stores, 24-hour drive-in bakeries and delicious donuts, bread and apple pies. Their award-winning baked goods can be found in Remke-Bigg’s stores, UDF locations and 10 bakeries around the city. Hyde Park location open 24/7. $2-$6. Multiple locations including 2675 Madison Road, Hyde Park, 513-871-2114, busken.com.

* Dojo Gelato

Authentic Italian-style gelato. Dojo Gelato loves to create unexpected flavor profiles — guacamole, bellini, honey lavender, Vietnamese coffee, etc. And they use fresh, seasonal ingredients in their creations. $2-$8. Findlay Market, 137 Elder St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-328-9000, dojogelato.com.

* Graeter’s Ice Cream

Since its founding in 1870, Graeter’s French Pot Ice Cream, handmade chocolate confections and fresh-baked goods have become traditions in the Queen City. Today, the Graeter family still faithfully uses century-old recipes and methods of production. $2.75-$5.75. Multiple locations including 511 Walnut St., Fountain Square, Downtown, 513-381-4191, graeters.com. 

Hello Honey

Everything is homemade and handcrafted from scratch at this hidden-gem ice cream parlor downtown. Rotating creative and decadent flavors — like chocolate cayenne, honey lavender, pistachio, espresso brittle and salted caramel — are also free from artificial ingredients. That means they’re healthy, right? 633 Vine St., Downtown, 513-977-0300, facebook.com/hellohoneyicecream. 

* Holtman’s Donuts

In September 2013, the Loveland-based Holtman’s Donuts finally opened an OTR location, replete with a window you can peer through and watch them make donuts, like the sensational maple bacon. Homer Simpson would be so proud... and hungry. Prices vary. 1332 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-0903; 1399 State Route 28, Loveland, 513-575-1077, holtmansdonutshop.com.

Macaron Bar 

In the past, the closest thing Cincinnati had to Paris was the Eiffel Tower replica at Kings Island. Now we have Macaron Bar, the only local bakery and coffee shop specializing in the brightly colored French pastry, which offers traditional and seasonal macarons, with flavors like salted caramel, Earl Grey tea and pistachio. They’ve recently expanded into multiple storefronts in town, and into Kentucky. Prices vary. Multiple locations including 1206 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, macaron-bar.com.

Maverick Chocolate

A bean-to-bar chocolatier in Findlay Market, made with ethically sourced cocoa beans. Prices vary. 129 W. Elder St., Over-the-Rhine, facebook.com/maverickchocolate. 

OTR Candy Bar

The shop feels a bit like the candy store from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, chock full of sticky sweets, an entire table devoted to out-of-the-box candies. Then there’s an actual bar upon which a sharply dressed candy barista will make you a float using the vintage soda of your choice, dressed with a piece of old-fashioned stick candy. $2-$10. 1735 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-2765, otrcandybar.com.

Schneider’s Sweet Shop

An old-time corner candy and ice cream store serving the area since 1939. Prices vary. 420 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue, Ky., 859-431-3545, schneiderscandies.com.

* Servatii Pastry Shop & Deli

Fourth-generation family bakery, started by great-grandfather George in Muenster, Germany. Known for their pastries, desserts and especially for their soft pretzels, which you can get in all sizes from six ounces to three pounds. $2-$8. Multiple locations including 511 Walnut St., Fountain Square, Downtown, 513-421-2253, servatii.com.


Grown-up ice pops made from unique combinations of fresh ingredients and unexpected flavors, like papaya rosemary, Thai basil lime, peach Sriracha and many more. $3. 1437 Main St., Over-the-Rhine; 3096 Madison Road, Oakley, streetpops.com. 

Sweet Petit Desserts

Taren Kinebrew specializes in tiny treats at her aptly named shop, Sweet Petit Desserts — macarons, chocolate-covered strawberries, petit fours, even layered cake push-pops. And while the third-generation baker and her team whip up sweets for the shop and special events, they can also teach you how to do it. Call to sign up for the next scheduled class or grab a group and book a private class for up to six people. After learning all her baking secrets, they send you home with a kit so you can recreate the miniature magic. Prices vary. 1426 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-443-5094, sweetpetitdesserts.com.