What should I be doing instead of this?
Home · Articles · Best Of Cincinnati · Eats · Staff Picks

Staff Picks

By Staff · March 26th, 2010 · Eats

Best Place for a Downtown Lunch Powwow:
If you love (or are as addicted to) coffee as much as we do, there’s no better place to get your fix than Coffee Emporium (pictured), purveyors of some seriously tasty “artisan roasted” brew. More than just an emporium of coffee, the place has become a buzzing hub for everyone from police officers and white-collar business types to students and artists who meet and greet while taking in some of downtown’s best light lunch fare. The Central Parkway Salad, which features ultra-fresh spring greens, walnuts, sliced apples, feta cheese and raisins topped with balsamic vinaigrette, remains a favorite, as does the daily soup specials courtesy of Myra’s Dionysus. And the addition of several locally produced sweets (including Madisono’s gelato) is the cherry on top. Now if we can just convince them to stay open later 6 p.m.
110 E. Central Pkwy., Over-the-Rhine, 513-651-5483

Best Bold Arrival:
Chef Romy’s cooking at Aroma Restaurant and Sushi is a unique combination of understatement and bold flavor. Favorites include the Vietnamese Chicken Roll and Salmon Sliders for appetizers and the Braised Beef Ribs. You’ll never make pot roast again! 7875 Montgomery Road (beside Nordstrom in Kenwood Towne Centre), Kenwood, 513-791-0950

Best Wine Bar:
Marty’s Hops and Vine is a combination wine shop/wine bar that’s a welcome addition to the College Hill area. Marty’s serves wine by the glass, craft and import beers and light food, and they stock a great selection of bottled wine, beer, foods and gifts. The staff is friendly and helpful — it’s a fine place to while away an hour or two with friends or solo. 6110 Hamilton Ave., College Hill, 513-681-4222

Best Chicken Noodle Soup:
Suzy Wong’s has a simple but satisfying version with delicate tendrils of the enoki mushroom, the tender, snow-white chicken pieces, fat udon noodles and velvety homemade chicken broth. Just what the doctor ordered! 1544 Madison Ave., Walnut Hills, 513-751-3333

Best Rooftop Escape (Kentucky Side):
Climbing the stairs to the top of Chez Nora (the elevator is for tourists) is a ticket to another city as well. Enjoy a bite, have a glass of vino and wait for the train to rumble by. It’s like you’re suddenly in Chicago. 530 Main St., Covington, 859-491-8027

Best Rooftop Escape (Ohio Side):
Featuring tasty cuisine, an expansive wine list, hip clientele and chic décor, the rooftop at Lavomatic is like escaping to Greenwich Village without the hefty Delta fare. Cool incarnate. 1211 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-621-1999

Best No-Brainer Brunch Option:
Brunch is probably our favorite meal. If we’re still too sleepy to make a creative, adventurous or picky choice, the Mokka French Toast is our never-fail late-morning meal to start the day. Crusted in a cornflake batter and topped with creme brulee sauce and sliced bananas, the French toast is perfect (albeit a filling and heavy) with sides of breakfast potatoes and crispy goetta. You might not eat again until dinnertime (or the next day), but you’ll leave Mokka happy. 527 York St., Newport, 859-581-3700

Best Healthy Pizza:
The Clifton Natural Vegan Pizza at Mac’s Pizza Pub is topped with vegan cheese, fresh mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, black and green olives. It’s what dreams are made of — healthy pizza! Go ahead, a second slice won’t hurt. 205 W. McMillan, Clifton Heights, 513-241-MACS

Best Reason to Stay in a Bar After Hours:
Get this, you can drink at Arlin’s and instead of getting the old, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here,” line you can stay there! On Fridays from 2:30-10:00 a.m., Arlin’s offers breakfast and free pool. And, if you’re so inclined, you can start drinking again at 5:30 a.m. 307 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-751-6566

Best Weekend Breakfast Even if You Don’t Bleed Purple:
Price Hill Chili is a West Side breakfast hotspot with some of the best goetta in the city. Plan to eat well and cheaply, and plan on seeing a lot of Elder sweatshirts. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. 4920 Glenway Ave., Price Hill, 513-471-9507

Best Legislative Move:


After more delays than a city council debate, Senate restaurant finally opened to big crowds in late February. Owner and chef Daniel Wright has turned 1,000 square feet of empty space at 1212 Vine St. in OTR’s Gateway Quarter into an attraction with seating for 48, plus a bar for 16 and a 10-person communal table near the kitchen. The menu is crafty and casual — gourmet hot dogs, lobster sliders, duck-fat fries and a “PB&JF” sandwich featuring peanut butter, jelly and fois gras — and the décor is swanky. 1212 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-421-2020

Best Reason to Clean Your Plate:
Take the Cake in Northside makes cakes, of course, but they also have a café where they serve great homemade food. And, once you clean your plate, you can feel good about ordering one of their fruit tarts, éclairs, cupcakes or brownies. Hell, feel good about ordering them all at once. 4035 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-241-2772

Best Meat Men:
The butchers at Bridgetown Finer Meat have way too much fun. Stop in, join them as they sing along with the radio (often in full voice) and get yourself some of their teriaki salmon, flank steak with No. 9 marinade or turkey salad. But don’t leave until you buy a jar of the greatest bleu cheese dressing this side of France. 5135 Bridgetown Road, Bridgetown, 513-573-3100

Best Pluck:
Back Acres Farm from Georgetown, Ohio, sells small, free-range, homegrown chickens at local farmers markets, including Findlay. You have forgotten what real chicken tastes like. These will refresh your memory. Add a bag of their homemade noodles for a real Sunday supper. 937-378-4379

Best Queso for Your Dilla:
Homemade Oaxacan Mexican cheese from Queseria Cruz near Wallace Woods is local, fresh and authentic — a recipe for deliciousness. The owners also run a tiny restaurant, Taqueria Cruz, near the Anchor Grill on Pike Street. Muy bueno! 518 Pike St., Covington, 859-431-3859

Best Least Snooty New Wine Bar:
Looking for a laid-back place to hang with friends while experiencing delicious wines that you’ll never find in a pony keg? At the Wise Owl, owner and wine-guy Bryant Phillips wants you to have fun — and he slips the wine education in so casually that you won’t even realize you’re learning something. His pithy wine descriptions are witty and apt. Not in the mood for silky and sexy? Try one of their signature cocktails instead. 206 Muhlhauser Road, West Chester, 513-889-2500

Best Too Much of a Good Thing:
At Camp Washington Chili, one of the most beloved independent chili parlors around, our local variation on the brown stuff is only one of its specialties. A whole menu devoted to double-decker sandwiches are really only suggestions for pairing one thing with another in heaping little towers of toasted bread and whatever you please. Hopple and Colerain avenues, Camp Washington, 513-541-0061

Best Fresh Meal North of the 275 Loop:
Wildflower Café and Coffeehouse’s tagline says it all: fresh, local, organic and delicious. The perfect antidote to the chain restaurants that otherwise populate the northern suburbs. 207 E. Main St., Mason, 513-492-7514

Best Beehives and Hot Syrup in the Same Place:
At a time when Cincinnati is all about the Belgian waffle, Hathaway’s in Carew Tower offers soft waffles, eggy with areas close to still being batter. It’s served with syrup in small metal pots that have been heated up into a hot, fragrant, sugary and welcome addition. All the food is served by staff that might just have been here forever, with several sporting masterfully coiffed beehives that would make the matrons at the all-night diner, The Anchor jealous. 441 Vine St. in the Carew Tower, Downtown, 513-621-1332

Best Place to Take Your Time Getting the Perfect Burger:
Terry’s Turf Club is blowing up all over the place, drawing props from devoted locals to national TV-host food geeks, and for good reason, offering some of the best burgers you’ll ever taste. 4618 Eastern Ave., East End. 513-533-4222

Best Expansion:


The Bonbonerie’s new coffee shop is at 2030 Madison Road. If that address sounds familiar, it’s because that’s always been the beloved bakery’s mailing address, although customers entered from the rear of the building. The expansion into the front of the O’Bryonville shop marks an “opportunity to embrace coffee again,” explains Bonbonerie co-owner Sharon Butler, “while the bakery stays as it always was.” The new coffee shop will fill your morning java fix and continue to offer traditional afternoon tea, as well as expanded hours for dessert in the evening on Fridays and Saturdays and brunch on Sundays.

The Bonbon crew will have more chances to show off their savory skills as well as their sweets, with sandwiches served on homemade caramelized onion rolls, pretzel bread or other creative options. 2030 Madison Road, O’Bryonville, 513-321-3399

Best Reason to Avoid a Diet:
Cactus Pear’s Cheese Enchiladas are definitely on our “What would you eat for your last meal?” list. A plate of gooey cheeses and a margarita (or four) — we can die in peace. 3215 Jefferson Ave., Clifton, 513-961-7400

Best Use of Frosted Flakes:
Vitor’s Bistro version of French toast is dredged in crushed Frosted Flakes cereal and topped with creme brulee and whipped cream. It’s an orgy of sugary goodness that will alter your perspective forever. 3232 Harrison Ave., Westwood, 866-455-1020

Best Euro-Style Reply to the Giant Burrito:
It’s Just Crepes, with its self-explanatory name, hasn’t just survived its first year in downtown — it’s thrived. (A second location recently opened on Fourth Street.) These aren’t really the thin, crispy crepes of Parisian street food — they’re stuffed with all kind of sumptuous goodies. Along with daily specials, they make easy additions and alterations: We usually add spinach to a “Traditional” that comes with Swiss cheese, ham and Dijon mustard. 39 E. Court St., Downtown and 151 W. Fourth St., Downtown. 513-63-CREPE

Best Triumphant Return to the Queen City:
After dazzling guests in Florida and the Bahamas for a few years, Chef Joshua Campbell opened two businesses in Cincinnati in 2009, enriching our culinary landscape. Campbell’s creations at the World Food Bar in Findlay Market and his new restaurant Mayberry have justifiably been met with enthusiastic responses. If you haven’t been to either place, you’re missing out. Mayberry: 915 Vine St., Downtown, 513-381-5999; World Food Bar: 1801 Race St. at Findlay Market, Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-4673

Best Neighborhood for Bar Food:
Northside is home to some of the hippest bars in town. It has some good restaurants, too, and lately the line between restaurants and bars has been getting blurry. If you’re hungry at Northside Tavern, get a slice of Mike Aug’s Northslice pizza. At Mayday, a gourmet hot dog. Ko-Sho Japanese is open until midnight on weekends, and The Comet’s burritos are still awesome. Boswell Alley has a full menu, too, but if all else fails White Castle is always there for you.

Best Example of Why Downtown Is a Better Place for a Trendy Cupcakery Than the Suburbs:


Abby Girl Sweets, purveyor of lusciously decorated, freshly made cupcakes, did OK on Madison Road in Oakley, but it was dependent on people driving (and parking) for its business. But since moving downtown in January, where thousands pass by on foot every day at lunch hour, it’s been going gangbusters. That’s another indication of why downtowns — where people get out and walk and talk to each other — are best for new culinary ideas. Now how about that fresh-fruit cart? 41 W. Fifth St., Downtown, 513-335-0898

Best Bolognese:
So it’s Monday evening and you’re looking for a good deal for dinner? Check out Nicola’s, the fancy restaurant near the old SCPA in Over-the-Rhine, for an unbelievable “neighborhood” special: The Bolognese sauce over tagliatelle noodles is $13, half the usual price. You can order this only if you’re seated at the bar, but that’s part of the fun because you can talk with other folks there. There are usually some pre-meal treats and a salad. Makes Mondays worthwhile. 1420 Sycamore St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-721-6200

Best Veggie Burger:
It’s difficult to find a veggie burger at a restaurant that isn’t actually just a frozen black bean burger slapped on a bun and covered with some strange salsa-ish topping, but Mt. Adams Bar & Grill serves up a yummy version. A combination of oats, tofu, wheatgerm, sesame seeds and seasoning, this flavorful burger comes with all the standard burger toppings like lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, pickle, red onion, mustard and cheese. It’s the burger experience minus the cow. And instead of bacon, add some fat via avocado slices (or Ranch dressing). 938 Hatch St., Mount Adams, 513-621-3666

Best Classic Kosher Bagel Shop:
With a sign on the door that reads “This is an experience, not a restaurant. Owner not politically correct. Enter at your own risk,” you realize that Marx Hot Bagels is more than just a Kosher bagel deli. With more than 35 bagel varieties baked fresh daily — including Tomato, Jalapeno, Date Nut and, of course, bialy — this deli offers toppers like odd cream cheeses (horseradish, pineapple), lox, egg salad and a ton of vegetarian options including a veggie sausage, egg and cheese bagel. They also have kosher sides, breads, soups and pastries. But what really sets this deli apart besides its blazing red and blue neon décor is The Bagel Man, the king, owner and loud shouter reigning over Marx. 9701 Kenwood Road, Kenwood, 513-891-5542

Best Entrée to Share Around the Table:
Shanghai Noodles at Oriental Wok is technically an entrée unto itself, but order a plate for your table to share while you’re enjoying the other great dishes there. 2444 Madison Road, Hyde Park, 513-871-6888

Best Quick Meal on the Way to the Airport:
When we want to grab a quick bite before hopping a flight, we stop at Rima’s Diner, tucked off the Buttermilk Pike exit behind a Chipotle and a gas station. This isn’t fine dining, but everything from the huge, juicy burgers to the mashed potatoes seems to be homemade. It’s honest, good-value home cooking in a slightly dated setting, with friendly, competent staff. Not in the mood for typical highway fast food but need something more than a bag of peanuts and half a cup of Fresca? Rima’s is for you. 2520 Hazelwood St., Crescent Springs, 859-331-6444

Best Cup of Coffee in the ’Burbs:
Brave the lack of parking and ever-rumbling construction equipment around the Mason Community Center and you’ll eventually find Homemade Dreams, a snack bar that makes a mean cup of joe. Why so special? Because they offer a selection of ground-to-order, small-batch Intelligentsia coffees made one cup at a time in a rare and expensive Clover Coffee Maker that adjusts brewing time and temperature based on origin and roast to wring extraordinary flavor out of every bean. That’s why. 6050 Mason-Montgomery Road, Mason, 513-229-8555

Best Salad Dressing:
There are very few salad dressings we would go out of our way to eat, but Tano Bistro actually offers one. Their made-to-order, warm-shallot dressing is absolutely mouthwateringly delicious, and it’s definitely worth taking a drive to experience. 204 W. Loveland Ave., Loveland, 513-683-8266

Best Food to Eat With Your Fingers:


After falling in love with Emanu, the Ethiopian restaurant the Pleasant Ridge community should thank their stars to be so blessed with, we’ve made it a point to try well-reputed Ethiopian food in our travels around the country. So far, nothing beats chef Emanu Mogos’ lovingly prepared stews of spicy meats and soul-food renditions of cabbage or greens. Ethiopian is eaten with injera, a crepe-like bread with a yeasty flavor that diners use to pick up pinches of their dinner. Eating at Emanu is to enter some kind of ecstasy. We move in desperate, fast motion as soon as the food arrives, leaving only the center platter spinning and empty as we gobble it all up. 6063 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge, 513-351-7686

Best Cod Sandwich and Cole Slaw Combination:
Sunshine Fine Foods’ cod sandwich and cole slaw combo is a match made in Friday heaven, the tender fish and tangy slaw playing off each other nicely. The daily soups are usually stellar, and the friendly staff and rotating, comfort-food-laced menu make Sunshine a downtown worker’s lunchtime staple. 720 Elm St., Downtown, 513-723-1331

Best Tea and Sympathy in Over-the-Rhine:
For downtown dwellers, the drive to Oakley can seem a lot to go through for a fancy cup of tea (and being up there can feel bourgeois). So we’re glad that a wide selection of Oakley teahouse Essencha is available at Iris Book Cafe. The rooibos spiced nut is a favorite, a light, warm flavor full of forgotten memories. And what a setting! Proprietors Julie Fay and Mike Markiewicz offer up vintage vinyl and a nice selection of used books and are purists with the art they present: always elegant bodies of black-and-white photography that usually coincide with events featuring the exhibiting artists. 1331 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-2665

Best Offal Restaurant:
You don’t have to travel to London’s revered St. John Restaurant (star chef Ferguson Henderson’s temple of offal) to sample such staples as stomach and intestine. Just drive up to Jan’s Chinese and ask for their “real Chinese menu.” You might need an interpreter, but being part of the food world’s latest trend is easily within reach! 10000 Montgomery Road, Montgomery, 513-891-3100

Best Reason to Circle the Block for a Parking Space:
Otto’s on Main Street in MainStrasse is a guaranteed good time. It’s family-owned, and the setting is cozy, intimate yet lively. Sit at the bar and sip fabulous wine and nibble some fine Brie. 521 Main St., Covington, 859-491-6678

Best Hangover Cure:
The Bloody Marys at Virgil’s Café are out of this world. The bartender makes a special blend of vodka, peppers, lemon and cilantro and marinates it for a week. Wow. This cozy, charming café also has a full menu of tasty food, the perfect antidote to that pesky hangover. 710 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue, 859-491-3287

Best Downtown Lunch Sandwich:
LeBoxx Café’s Carribean Spiced Chicken Sandwich features a little bit of heaven in that cayenne mayo. We’re sure of it. That or heroin. 819 Vine St., Downtown, 513-721-5638

Best Pizza Parlor Beer Selection:
The pizza’s about as good as it gets in Cincinnati, but what really sets Dewey’s apart is its constantly evolving selection of regional brews on tap. Soon you might be able to find Dark Horse Brewery’s limited run “Three Guy Off-the-Scale Barleywine-style” ale that shows “hints of raisin, chocolate, caramel, sherry, cherry” and (of course) alcohol. And this summer look for Bell’s Oberon, a wheat brew that’s fruity and fresh with a kick of spice to keep it refreshing. Now if they’d only upgrade their perennially pedestrian wine selection to match! Multiple locations. www.deweyspizza.com

Best Attention to Detail:


It’s just too hard to pick one thing at which the Rookwood Bar & Restaurant excels. Whether you stop in for the Rookwood Benedict during Sunday brunch, the amazing Pork Belly Sandwich for lunch or really any dinner entrée, you’ll be impressed by the attention to detail in every aspect of your meal. They can’t even garnish a drink without soaking something for three weeks. The service and atmosphere are casual and polished, but most importantly everything is delicious. 1077 Celestial St., Mount Adams, 513-421-5555

Best Meal to Eat By Yourself to Avoid Embarrassment:
Chili Time’s fried egg sandwich isn’t just a sandwich, especially when you add a mound of salty, crisp French fries loaded with shredded cheese. Be sure to add cheese and pickle and wear some comfortable pants. 4727 Vine St., St. Bernard, 513-641-1130

Best Upgrade on a Diet Coke:
If you were heartbroken when Coca-Cola’s Diet Vanilla Coke receded into scarcity several years ago, you should know that Frisch’s will add vanilla or a selection of flavors to your soft drink of choice. While this is common enough at even gas stations now, the combination of crushed ice, a well-tweaked fountain drink and a dash of something special make for a really nice soda. Multiple locations

Best Holiday Fare:
Trew Quackenbush and Corey Ward created a food booth for Fountain Square during the holidays: Tom & Chee, shorthand for “Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese.” But that’s not the whole story. Their imaginative creations have left people hungering for a return engagement. www.facebook.com/4TomAndChee

Best Weird but Tasty Side Dish:
Duck Fat Fries at Chalk Food Wine. It goes exceptionally well with exotic dishes like Chalk’s wild boar or famous buffalo burger. 318 Greenup St., Covington, 859-643-1234

Best Way to Eat Out:
Chef Michael Katz has created Cincinnati’s first rolling café, Café de Wheels, a fully equipped catering truck that travels all over town to where the action is. Their burgers are scarfable, and the Cuban sandwich seems to sell out as soon as they roll into Eden Park, Northside outside a club, OTR for a Final Friday, downtown near Fountain Square or even on your own block. These guys are so hip they’re on Twitter and you can follow their schedule at www.cafedewheels.com.

Best Restaurant Return:
Aren’t we all glad to see Hamburger Mary’s back to life at in its old Vine Street space downtown? Her sass and diversity were sorely missed, so it’s great to have her back as a watering hole and restaurant where people of all stripes can mix and mingle. And who can resist those spicy fries? 909 Vine St., Downtown, 513-421-6279

Best Alternative to Cincinnati Chili:
A recurring dinner special at the warm, historic Arnold’s Bar and Grill presents their stewed lentils in lieu of Cincinnati’s thin, spiced chili (Greek in origin) over a bed of linguine and raw onion. Totally vegetarian and hearty, we can only hope it makes it to the regular menu soon. 210 E. Eighth St., Downtown, 513-421-6234

Best Wine Tasting:
Market Wines at Findlay Market has wine tastings every Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. It’s a veritable who’s who of Cincinnati notables and even some of us regular folk. 1801 Race St. in Findlay Market, Over-the-Rhine, 513-665-4839

Best Place to Resurrect Your All-but-Forgotten Grey Poupon Jokes:
Cincinnati Handlmaier Mustard Fan Club is one of only two clubs located around the world dedicated to sharing the Gemutlichkeit that is Handlmaier’s Mustard. The club meets monthly at Mecklenburg Gardens to celebrate their love for good mustard. Grab a pretzel, order a beer and open your mind. www.mustardclub.org

Best Place to Take a Sushi Virgin:


If you want to expand your culinary horizons, there’s no better place than Dancing Wasabi. The sports on the big-screen TVs and sushi chefs decked out in Bengals caps lend a sense of familiarity and comfort while you try to figure out how to (or if you want to) eat the fried shrimp head staring back at you from your plate. We recommend you do eat it … by biting its face off. It helps to have a few beers under your belt the first time. 1018 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout, 513-533-9218

Best Way to Round Up a Crowd for a Local Restaurant:
Cincinnati E.A.T.S. (the acronym means “Epicureans About Town Society”) rounds up big turnout about once a quarter to support great local restaurants. They take over an eatery on an off night and have a multi-course menu at a discounted price. You pay a flat fee, including tax and tip, in advance. (You’re on your own for drinks.) Seating is open and everyone eats together. It’s a great way to meet new people and check out a great eating establishment. Get on their e-mail list and respond quickly, since these often sell out in just a few hours. www.cincinnati.com/cincinnatieats

Best Artsy Brunch:
If you want to impress the folks or that new girlfriend/boyfriend, head to Mount Adams and have brunch at the Cincinnati Art Museum’s Terrace Cafe. The crowd is classy, the environment is cultural and local restaurateur David Cook crafted the menu. Art and food — yes! 953 Eden Park Drive, Mount Adams, 513-639-2986

Most Happening Inner-City Power Lunch Spot:
Considering that Over-the-Rhine’s Lavomatic had to be talked into reopening for lunch after suspending that service, have you tried to go there around noon on a weekday recently? It’s teeming with professionals and artistes enjoying the eclectic, electrifying close quarters, the sumptuous salads and sandwiches and the bar service. You almost need a reservation to get a seat. And with new competition Senate now open across the street, this is one busy, revived block. 1211 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-621-1999

Best Addictive Buffet:
The lunch buffet at Akash India Restaurant is so addictive, so undeniably tantalizing, we somehow find ourselves walking in even we don’t intend to. We’re surprised the staff doesn’t just give us our own permanent booth. Now if we can just convince them to keep the buffet open 24 hours, we’ll never go anywhere else ever again. 24 E. Sixth St., Downtown, 513-723-1300

Best Nostalgia for Your Sweet Tooth:


The Candy Bar in Mainstrasse has every confection in the alphabet, from Atomic Fireballs to Zero Bars, from the good stuff (like homemade chocolates from the Sweet Tooth in Newport) to the naughty stuff (like candy cigarettes) to Pez with every head but Spiro T. Agnew. Absolutely awesome. 422 W. Sixth St,. Covington, 859-261-3367



comments powered by Disqus