Flavor: Star chef Chef Romuald Jung’s latest project is another homerun venture. The menu makes you slow down long enough to appreciate the importance of smell, texture and memory in your dining experience. Chef Romy puts his unique, masterful spin on yummy offerings like Salmon Sliders, Sourdough Bruschetta and a wide variety of gorgeous, scrumptious sushi rolls (be sure to try the Ahi Tuna Ttaki roll).
Flair: Casual, upscale dining in an open, contemporary (but not homogenized) space. The staff is gracious and obviously knowledgeable about the menu.
Kenwood Towne Centre, 7875 Montgomery Road, Kenwood, 513-791-0950. $9-$25.99.
Blind Pig Grille and Bar
Flavor: A wide variety of entrées, including daily specials. Blind Pig offers pasta and steak and everything in between. Finish your meal with a scrumptious dessert.
Flair: The Blind Pig, formerly known as Geoffrey’s, has carved wooden booths and antiques on the wall to make the atmosphere warm and inviting. The bar is decked out with a vintage gas station pump, nine TVs, including a plasma big screen, and video games. Happy hour weekdays.
5880 Cheviot Road, White Oak, 513-385-9999. Open 7 days. $10-$20.
Flavor: Chef David Falk is at the top of his game right now. The food is sophisticated and delectable, flavorful and fresh. Try the seared scallop served atop carmelized Brussels or the incredible roasted lemons for a starter or something familiar yet fanciful — like the Boca sliders: ground beef tenderloin with steamed onions and cheese. And that’s just for starters; entrées are even more amazing, and the menu changes daily.
Flair: This is a vibrant space, divided into a friendly trattoria and two dining rooms, as well as seats where you can watch the action in the open kitchen. The staff is superb, headed by the ultimate professional maitre d’, Richard Brown.
3200 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-542-2022. Open Tuesday-Saturday. A la carte entrées in the $30 range; three-course prix fixe menu $55; four-course prix fixe menu $67.
Flavor: Bootsy’s serves up fabulous flavors of food. The appetizers and tapas are amazing, including Queso Fundida (gorgeous gooey cheese dip with Spanish sausage) and duck, fish or tenderloin tacos with upscale salsas. Order ahead to get a whole suckling pig served tableside — nothing is over the top at Bootsy’s.
Flair: With the style of funk legend Bootsy Collins and the skills of premiere restauranteur Jeff Ruby, Bootsy’s is larger than life. It’s Cincinnati’s real celebrity restaurant, right across from the Aronoff Center, and the place to go for a big-city night out. Winner of “Best Tapas.”
631 Walnut St., Downtown, 513-241-0707. Open Monday-Saturday. $13-$28.
Brown Dog Cafe
Flavor: Brown Dog Cafe is the last word on gourmet wild game in this city, whether you consider game fresh wild boar or roasted turkey. The Dog offers the freshest cuts served in surprising and sophisticated ways. Nowhere else can you get a Roasted Turkey sandwich with such savory bacon and buttery Dijon sauce. Brown Dog’s other gamey selections include dishes with lamb, duck and rabbit, but you’ll also find sushi-grade fish offerings and a few veggie specialties, such as the Brie Quesadilla.
Flair: Walk in the door and you’re greeted by the scent of freshly baked bread. Design is Kenwood stylish, and so is the vibe and clientele. Restaurant motto: “Good food that is not pretentious.”
5893 Pfeiffer Road, Blue Ash, 513-794-1610. Open Monday-Saturday. $7-$26.
Chalk Food and Wine
Flavor: Menu of small plates changes often, as Chalk Food Wine focuses on using products from our surrounding farms and supporting sustainable agriculture practices. Chef Mark Bodenstein strives to serve high-quality foods with high-quality ingredients.
Flair: The chef pairs food with wine on tasting menus that showcase Chalk’s commitment to local fare. Well stocked bar and neighborhood conviviality.
318 Greenup St., Covington, 859-643-1234. Open Monday-Saturday. $6-$28.
Flavor: Sunday brunch is a hit at this gathering spot, featuring traditional biscuits and gravy, omelets and Eggs Benedict or breakfast with a twist like a sausage and egg quesadilla or hearty Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya. At dinnertime, the signature dish is Steak Nora, a filet with crabmeat and béarnaise, but casual choices abound. Try the chicken and goetta spring roll appetizer, Cajun fried oysters or Nora’s famous crab cakes — all featured on a late-night menu that will tide you over until after midnight.
Flair: Lots of live music and camaraderie, especially on summer nights when drinks follow dinner on the outdoor rooftop patio. A fantastic view and some of the best live Jazz around.
530 Main St., Covington, 859-491-8027. Open 7 days. $14-$29.
Flavor: The food in this quiet, laid-back bar in the central atrium of the Cincinnatian Hotel comes from the same kitchen as The Palace, one of Cincinnati’s premiere fine-dining spots. The menu offers a range of soups, salads, sandwiches and pasta as well as a tasty Grilled Hanger Steak with sautéed broccolini and herb-roasted potatoes. The bartender claims to make the best martini in town. Make him prove it.
Flair: Mellow and low-key, this isn’t a bustling hot spot. Tables are spaced out, providing lots of privacy for conversation, though a Jazz trio keeps things hoppin’ on weekends.
602 Vine St., Downtown, 513-381-3000. Open 7 days. $9-$17.
Daveed’s at 934
Flavor: Chef David Cook serves up delicious, sophisticated fare with artistic flair — foie gras presented as a breakfast plate, oysters as a visit to the beach, venison as a Bengals’ tailgate party — all served by a professional, friendly staff in a sleek, intimate setting. While the menu can be pricey, you can get a taste of the flavor and flair and keep it reasonable by stopping in for the Cheese Plate — artisanal cheeses with spicy apple chutney. They’re best served with Chimay, a soft and creamy Belgian beer brewed by Trappist monks who must be enlightened.
Flair: This trendy, upscale restaurant fits in well with its high-class Mount Adams neighbors. The tempting dishes and excellent wine selection complement one another, and the room’s warm and wonderful collection of expressionist art. In the warmer months, outside dining is an option. Join Daveed’s for Burger (Black Angus with a side of Parmiagiano Truffle Fries) & Beer Night on Thursdays.
934 Hatch St., Mount Adams, 513-721-2665. Open Tuesday-Saturday. $20-$36.
Food: Billed as a contemporary steakhouse with a twist (the twist being seafood and sushi), Embers’ house specialties include Baby Back Ribs, Braised Beef Short Ribs and Sweet Miso Sea Bass just to name a few. You can also find sushi and Alaskan King Crab Legs on the appetizer menu.
Flair: A classy, warm and inviting spot for a celebratory meal or a romantic date. Embers can accommodate large groups in two of their private dining rooms.
8170 Montgomery Road, Kenwood, 513-984-8090. Open 7 days. $19-$48.
Flavor: Grand Finale’s claim to fame is dessert, of course, and the Sunday brunch buffet includes not only desserts but also crepes and quiches, fried chicken livers, Belgian waffles and biscuits and gravy. Because the buffet is so excellent, the restaurant’s lunch menu often gets shoved out of the limelight, which is a shame. Try the Spunk’s Famous Crabcakes or the Classic Mixed-Up Cobb salad.
Flair: Grand Finale has seen more prom night couples and wedding proposals than the inside of a rented limousine. With a Victorian atmosphere as decadent as the desserts, the specialty is special occasions.
3 E. Sharon Road, Glendale, 513-771-5925. Open Tuesday-Sunday. $8-$30.
Flavor: Most diners who visit the Green Derby know exactly what they want already.
They specialize in fish entrées like the popular halibut, which is served baked or fried with a choice of two of their many sides. It’s also served in sandwich form on rye bread with fries. Homemade desserts include apple pie and a cream pie of the day.
Flair: The white walls and wooden tables are accented with a lot of hunter green and Hank Williams memorabilia. It’s the kind of place you’ll want to take grandma for dinner, if she doesn’t already go once a week.
846 York St., Newport, 859-431-8740. Open 7 Days. $9-$22.
Flavor: Relax at Honey for a long dinner to savor every bite and chat with the chef. They are probably best known for their fries, but everything on the short menu is delicious. Even their vegetarian options, like the tofu dish, are unexpectedly hearty. Try one of the unique cocktails like The Hendrix Experience, garnished with a huge slice of cucumber, or wine from their large collection.
Flair: Simple modern elegance with perfect lighting. Open for brunch on Sunday — get there early to secure a seat!
4034 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-541-4300. Open Tuesday-Sunday. $9-$23.
Flavor: Hugo is a truly outstanding Cincinnati restaurant with a creative, dedicated chef/owner at the helm. Sean Daly’s Low Country cooking, like fried green tomatoes, corn fritters or she-crab soup, have an unpretentious polish that takes them a notch above the ordinary. Shrimp and grits is a specialty, but there are other excellent options There is also a seven-course chef tasting menu with wine pairings.
Flair: Hugo — named for the hurricane that roared through Charleston, S.C., in 1989 — roared into Oakley bringing a torrent of good food, excellent service and Southern charm. The staff is warm and accommodating. A steady local crowd gathers at the bar for wine and small plates.
3235 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-321-HUGO. Open Tuesday-Saturday. $22-$26.
Flavor: Chef John Tomlin, formerly of the Vernon Manor, serves up delicious salads, burgers and homemade soups, but you’ll also find creative dishes like tempura-style Asparagus Fries with lemon herb aioli and peach and mustard glazed Pork Chops.
Flair: InCahoots, in a new location with better parking, is a hybrid sports bar/fine-dining establishment that aims for broad audience appeal. So you can come in for a beer to watch a game and shoot some pool, or slide into a private booth for a more intimate dinner.
4110 Hunt Road, Blue Ash, 513-793-2600. Open 7 days. $8-$22.
Flavor: Local 127 is using the local ingredients concept, and Chef Steven Geddes knows his stuff. Try the Chicken Two Ways, a fried chicken breast served over confit of the dark meat, or pork cutlet pan-fried and served with creamy cheese grits. The charcuterie is made in-house, and so is the addictive cheesecake in jar.
Flair: Waiters in black jeans and Chuck Taylors soften the tone of one of Cincinnati’s historic places for fine dining. Luckily, the food’s still exceptional.
127 W. Fourth St., Downtown, 513-721-1345. Open 7 days. $14–$29.
Flavor: Mayberry calls its cuisine “grassroots American food”; we call it yummy. For lunch there are good-sized portions of kicked-up-a-notch favorites, and for brunch and dinner there are creative small plates that change often, like braised pork belly with creamy grits, sparked with the zing of Frank’s Red Hot sauce, or “The Elvis Killer”: waffles with peanut butter mousse, banana and toasted peanuts. Chef Josh Campbell is young and talented. Someday we’ll say we knew him when.
Flair: Located between Hamburger Mary’s and Scotti’s on Vine Street. It’s businesslike at lunch, and a little romantic at dinner. The service is excellent, and bringing your own wine makes it even more of a bargain.
915 Vine St., Downtown, 513-381-5999. Open 7 days. $5-$10.
The National Exemplar
Flavor: A pillar of the Mariemont community for more than 25 years, The National Exemplar offers familiar menu favorites to its loyal supper club patrons. A full menu with breakfast, lunch and dinner selections, expect to find predictable presentations of classic American fare. Shrimp cocktail, Maytag blue cheese with marinated olives, prime rib and a hearty Tom Collins will resonate with the local Mad Men.
Flair: Imbued with lots of character and history, located in the historic Mariemont Inn and constructed in the mid-1920s as part of the unique Mariemont community. Good service and a crowd of loyal regulars give this place the feel of a well-loved club.
6880 Wooster Pike, Mariemont, 513-271-2103. Open 7 days. $18-$28.
Flavor: A factotum in the kitchen, chef Julie Francis offers a small, well-crafted menu featuring organic, locally produced ingredients whenever possible. For a local offering, try the Coriander Chile Rubbed Turner Farm Pork Chop or the Achiote Rubbed Turner Farm Chicken. Look for Nectar’s Dinner Club for a new experience. Each month, a theme ingredient is chosen and a fixed-price menu is created showcasing the ingredient. Spaces are limited, so reserve early. Nectar offers Sunday brunch.
Flair: Like the well-crafted menu, Nectar’s ambiance is simple in the best way possible. A cozy dining room with wood tables and exposed beams, it’s perfect for any occasion.
1000 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout, 513-929-0525. Open Wednesday-Sunday. $17-$26.
Orchids at Palm Court
Flavor: Chef Todd Kelly uses the finest ingredients — the tuna comes from Hawaii, the lobster from Maine and the micro cilantro travels from the Chef’s Garden in northern Ohio. Try the Roasted Duck prepared with sauerkraut, confit, grain mustard caramel, onions and potato pierogi. Not salivating yet? Let Chef Kelly prepare a tasting menu just for you (they’ll even do a vegetarian tasting for you non-carnivores). Orchids is a singular experience.
Flair: You don’t have to be an architectural geek to marvel at the craftsmanship of Orchids at Palm Court. The dining room’s Art Deco design features sweeping shapes that reach for murals on an ornate ceiling. Potted palms and mauve-colored booths fan out like seashells to provide a sense of privacy.
35 W. Fifth St., Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel, Downtown, 513-421-9100. Open 7 days. $23-$65 (for the “tasting” platters).
The Palace Restaurant
Flavor: Upscale fine dining in the heart of the city. A short seasonal menu of American fare prepared by some of the best chefs in town, including Jose Salazar. Get a good deal on Tasting Thursday (the third Thursday of each month) when a two-course dinner for two and a bottle of wine is only $60.
Flair: Located in the historic Cincinnatian Hotel, The Palace is fancy and the service is top notch. Perfect for a special occasion, business lunch or a nice breakfast. The restaurant’s bar, Cricket Lounge offers a bistro menu for more casual affairs.
602 Vine St., The Cincinnatian Hotel, Downtown, 513-381-3000. Open Monday-Saturday for dinner; 7 days for breakfast. $15-$55.
Flavor: There’s a new menu coming in July to Palomino, with signature dishes like scallops wrapped in prosciutto and pan-seared, chicken parmesan with capellini, steak frites and a veal cutlet with warm artichoke potato salad. Don’t miss the wood-oven pizzas that have helped Palomino’s reputation for an excellent happy hour.
Flair: The restaurant occupies one of the best spots downtown. From its second-story perch above Fountain Square, the city glitters, the fountain fizzes and you can forget yourself in the bright lights and clinking glasses. An open kitchen lets you see the buzz and energy that keep the food coming fast.
505 Vine St., Downtown, 513-381-1300. Open 7 days. $8-$35.
The Polo Grille
Flavor: Paying homage to The Cincinnati Polo Club, The Polo Grille’s goal is to celebrate the world-class hospitality of the Wilkens family while keeping the menu true to the flavors of the many countries where polo is popular. Tilapia Chimichurri, with lime creme, chive oil and tomato scallion rice, is popular, as are the wheat crust pizzas. Braised meats, chicken and chorizo penne and hearty Jambalaya round out the dinner menu.
Flair: Service is friendly and efficient. The restaurant is spacious and airy and decorated with polo memorabilia in tribute to the Cincinnati Polo Club, which occupied the site for more than 20 years.
5035 Deerfield Blvd., Mason, 513-701-POLO. Open 7 days. $7-$24.
Flavor: As the seasons change, so does the menu at the Quarter Bistro. You can always get pizza, pasta and burgers. We love the Mahi Mahi Tacos and the Quarter Burger. Feeling indulgent? Try the 18 Hour Short Ribs or the Dry-Aged New York Strip.
Flair: A great place to celebrate an anniversary or pop in for a quick bite before a film, the menu accommodates all occasions and budgets. Sit on the front patio if you aren’t feeling the intimate, red décor. And we’ll save you from asking: the bathrooms are next door at the movie theater.
6904 Wooster Pike, Mariemont, 513-271-5400. Open 7 days. $9-$35.
Flavor: All-beef hot dogs include the Korean (housemade kimchi, shredded, braised short ribs and pickled cucumber) and the Hello Kitty (wasabi mayo and Japanese slaw). The grilled fontina cheese sandwich gets goosed with pork belly, caramelized onions and avocado. But the showstopper is Poutine — crispy truffle fries smothered in loose cheese curds and more of that tender short rib meat.
Flair: The chef re-imagines comfort-food favorites from an exposed kitchen at the far end of this tiny, trendy shoebox of a restaurant dominated by a bar serving a great selection of Belgian ales and craft brews. This is the current “place to be seen” for Cincinnati hipsters and young professionals alike.
1212 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-421-2020. Open Tuesday-Saturday. $9-$18.
Flavor: Slims exemplifies the Northside tradition in culinary form: The eight-year-old restaurant is communal, creative and diverse and stresses the use of fresh local ingredients. The menu is eclectic, with a mix of Italian- and Latin-inspired dishes, from toasted red quinoa cakes and ceviche to taleggio risotto and agnolotti pasta. Slims makes the exotic more approachable by creating “real comfortable food.”
Flair: Dining at Slims is a unique experience. You might be seated at a long table right next to other guests in the bright and casual space. Watch the action in the kitchen from your seat or watch the plantains ripen in the window. Be sure to check out the new “Vout” menu, featuring a la carte offerings evenings Tuesday-Thursday.
4046 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-681-6500. Open Tuesday-Sunday. Prix fixe menu $45; Vout á la carte $2-$10.
Teller’s of Hyde Park
Flavor: If beer is your thing, the long list of offerings will be your favorite part of this hot spot. If not, the food is great, too. The buffalo chicken egg rolls are the kind of appetizer you will order every time. The rest of the menu is eclectic modern American with pizzas, burgers and pastas with fresh gourmet ingredients.
Flair: It used to be a bank (Teller’s, get it?) but it doesn’t beat you over the head with nostalgia and theme. Even with the big, open space and giant skylight, it’s worth the potential wait to sit on the outdoor terrace tucked in the back at least once.
2710 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, 513-321-4721. Open 7 days. $10-$30.
Flavor: Folks love the Fried Chicken and biscuits and the Southern hospitality at the Tousey House. Try the melt-in-your-mouth halibut served gratinee-style and baked to a golden brown with crabmeat, artichoke hearts and Parmesan. And save room for the Bread Pudding. The menu changes with the seasons — or with the chef’s whim.
Flair: Sit by the fire in one of the dining rooms of this Kentucky federal-style home. The two-story red-brick house with two patios for outdoor dining, lazy palm-leaf ceiling fans and white whicker couches is the perfect place to share fried green tomatoes and mint juleps. Historic Burlington is only 20 minutes from downtown Cincinnati.
5963 North Jefferson St., Burlington, 859-586-9900. Open Tuesday-Sunday. $11-$25.
Flavor: In this combination fine dining/wine bar/retail shop, the menu changes seasonally but classic dishes are always creatively (and deliciously) reconsidered. Their Fried Chicken, for instance, is served with “aged cheddar wild rice waffles, chili-tinged Ohio maple creme and braised chard.” (Not quite the Southern soul food you might expect!) Their extensive wine list also provides loads of interesting (sometimes obscure) options to pair with the cuisine.
Flair: Owner Hunter Thomas and his family have created a dynamic, convivial food and wine “experience” in the heart of downtown Milford where diners experience new flavor combinations and fine wines. The dishes feature fresh, local and seasonal ingredients, and the knowledgeable, friendly staff is eager to provide guidance on the extensive, fairly priced wine list. Winner of “Best Wine Selection.”
101 Main St., Milford, 513-831-2749. Open Monday-Saturday. $8-$30.
Flavor: Try the Stuffed Breast of Chicken with herbed goat cheese, roasted tomatoes, fennel and fingerling potatoes, which also comes in a vegetarian version, substituting a portobello mushroom for the chicken. Other recommendations include Red Snapper with bacon crawfish potato hash and Bison Strip Steak. Save room for Orange Marmalade Cheesecake, Chocolate Paté or Cookie Dough Pie with a scoop of Graeter’s Vanilla Ice Cream. They’ll send your sweet tooth into ecstasy.
Flair: View, in the Edgecliff Private Residences on Victory Parkway, transports you to a more sophisticated time with an elegant lobby that makes a striking first impression via its marble floors, chandelier and personal greeting.
2200 Victory Pkwy., Walnut Hills, 513-751-8439. Open Tuesday–Sunday. $18-$34.
Flavor: Vitor’s brings fine dining to the West Side. With specialties like Chicken Oscar (chicken breast finished with a dill and havarti compote with asparagus and black truffle aioli) and Signature Beef Medallions served with a mushroom sherry cream sauce, Vitor’s establishes itself as a dining destination. Offers many seafood options as well. Undecided? Try one of the Chef’s three to seven course selections. Vitor’s also has a great breakfast and lunch menu. We suggest their award-winning French Toast with a creme brulee and banana topping.
Flair: A quaint 1864 European-looking building, Vitor’s comes complete with an outside terrace for summer seating. Sit inside for a more formal experience.
3232 Harrison Ave., Westwood, 513-481-5333. Open Wednesday-Sunday. $15-$36.
Waterfront/South Beach Grill
Flavor: At this floating Jeff Ruby restaurant, the steaks have to share the stage with live Maine lobsters, a sushi bar and other seafood entrées. Still, the Collinsworth steak is one of the most popular choices: 12-ounce filet mignon topped with 2 ounces of Alaskan King Crab, a wild mushroom Bordelaise sauce, steamed asparagus and Béarnaise sauce.
Flair: Serves up fashionable dining on the river, where you can stop by the white-piano-topped bar that’s reminiscent of a swanky Miami dinner club with a never-ending parade of leggy women and men with big cigars. Winner of “Best Raw Bar.”
14 Pete Rose Pier, Covington, 859-581-1414. Open Monday-Saturday. $11-$72.