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Where to Eat 2012

By Staff · May 31st, 2012 · Dining
diningCilantro, Clifton Heights - Photo: Cameron Knight

The following collection is not a comprehensive account of Cincinnati restaurants — there are many great establishments we were unable to include due to space constraints. Find comprehensive local restaurant listings at citybeat.com


Our signatures

Arnold’s Bar and Grill
Boasting its history as the oldest continuously run tavern in town, Arnold’s is a true Cincinnati classic serving up a nice range of lunch and dinner options at bargain prices. Regulars order the Greek Spaghetti, a burger or a big plate of pasta. Dine outside on the unique patio for live music, surrounded by nothing but tall brick buildings and sky. 210 E. Eighth St., Downtown, 513-421-6234. Open Monday-Saturday. $4-$17.

Camp Washington Chili
Cincinnati-style chili at its best! 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. Not only a Cincinnati classic, but an “American Regional Classic” as denoted by the James Beard Foundation Award for Excellence. How classic are we talking? These guys have been around since 1940! 3005 Colerain Ave., Camp Washington, 513-541-0061. Open Monday-Saturday. $5-$8.

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. After enjoying a steak and a cocktail at one of the red vinyl booths, you’ll want to become one, too. The extensive menu consists of all the classic steak house options: tender, juicy steaks, seafood and chicken cooked just right, plus pasta, sandwiches, soups and salads. 3908 Harrison Ave., Cheviot, 513-662-2683. Open 7 days. $18-$31.

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.1607 Central Ave., West End, 513-381-6100. Open Monday-Saturday. $3-$45 (for whole turkeys).

Oriental Wok
Transcending the typical Chinese American menu since 1977, Oriental Wok offers 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 Kobe steak with peppercorn sauce. Excellent beer and wine selections. Owner Mike Wong and his family make every guest feel welcome. Save room for homemade dessert — sesame balls and mango pudding. 317 Buttermilk Pike, Fort Mitchell, 859-331-3000; 5038 Old Taylor Mill Road, Taylor Mill, 859-431-3000; 2444 Madison Road, Hyde Park, 513-871-6888. All open 7 days except Hyde Park, which is closed Monday. $11-$23.

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. The man has built his business on steak, and you can’t go wrong with his sirloin or the 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 or Bananas Foster. 311 Delta Ave., Columbia-Tusculum, 513-321-5454. Open 7 days. $22-$72.

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, entrees and even breakfast served all day. 4920 Glenway Ave., Price Hill, 513-471-9507. Open 7 days. $2-$15.

The Rookwood Bar and Grill
Rookwood tile and pottery is 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 specialty, 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 appetizer list, French fries with Grippos seasoning and a crazy good Pork Belly Sandwich. The dessert menu features Jeni’s Ice Creams from Columbus; try the Beer Float. The young staff has a lot of creativity and skill. A great place to impress family, friends, a date or out-of-towners. 1077 Celestial St., Mount Adams, 513-421-5555.
Open Tuesday-Sunday. $11-$27.

Terry’s Turf Club
The former owner of Neon’s nightclub in Over-the-Rhine transplanted his collection of neon signs to his new business, a gourmet burger joint known as Terry’s Turf Club. There’s no other character on the Cincinnati dining scene quite like Terry, and his little juke-joint is now a legend. The short but sweet menu centers on burgers — big, beautiful hamburgers including a tender-as-butter filet mignon burger with bearnaise. Other sandwiches start with grilled chicken or portabellas and shiitakes. Take the basics and add one of the formidable sauce options for a customized burger experience. Try the mango tequila on chicken, or the red wine and truffle on a burger with grilled onions. 4618 Eastern Ave., East End, 513-533-4222. Open 7 days. $6.50-$26.

Vinoklet Winery
You heard it through the grapevine: wines made right here in Cincinnati such as Brother Joe cabernet, Cincinnatus merlot, Sunset Blush white zinfandel, La Dolce Vita dessert Riesling and Tears of Joy chardonnay. Vinoklet is a restaurant enhanced by nature with the surrounding vineyards and a winery on the premises. Seating in the solarium or the spacious gazebo offers a panoramic view of the vineyard and beautiful sunsets. 11069 Colerain Ave., Colerain Twp., 513-385-9309. Open for dinner Wednesday-Saturday. Prices vary.


The best of international cuisine

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 and amazing. On Wednesdays, the lunch buffet offers a slew of vegan-only entrees. Features include familiar dishes like Vegetable Korma and Chana Masala, as well as unique items like the Uthapams, a South Indian style pancake. Homemade breads include the puffy pillows of cooked dough called Batura. They also carry Indo-Chinese dishes like the Gobhi Manchurian, a fried cauliflower dish smothered in a house made Manchurian sauce. 7633 Reading Road, Roselawn, 513-821-2021. Open 7 Days. $5-$10.

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. 3120 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-321-1600. Open 7 days. $6-$14.

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. They offer unique breads like the Kashmiri na’an, baked with raisins and cashews. All dishes are vegetarian and made from scratch, including their pastries. Be sure to check out their list of dessert specials. 11259 Reading Road, 513-655-2175. Open Tuesday-Sunday. $7-10.

Celebrate Zinzinnati’s heritage! Once a wedding gift from Christian Moerlein to his daughter, the historic mansion that houses this German and Hungarian restaurant and rathskeller also has a biergarten for bocce ball. Schnitzels, including Wiener Schnitzel, Italian Schnitzel, and Holstein Schnitzel are featured every Friday and Saturday evening. Traditional German fare, including potato pancakes, Sauerbraten, and sausages are made in house. They make Hungarian Goulasch and Spaetzle, and rich, creamy Chicken Paprikasch cooked in a paprika sauce with onions. Treat yourself to a bottle of ruby red Nemes Kardanka for a perfect night out. 151 W. McMillan Ave., Clifton Heights, 513-281-3600. Open Tuesday-Saturday. $8-$12.

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. Specialties include mixed vegetables cooked in a charcoal clay oven, Sabaz Tandoori, and the Lamb Rogan Josh, a turmeric-spiced dish. 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. In the evening, bring your own bottle of beer or wine. 944 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-221-8900. Open Monday-Sunday. $8-$15.

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. The variety of meat dishes include Tsebhi Beghie, lamb simmered in red pepper sauce with onions and flavored with spices; Kilwa Sega, strips of marinated beef sautéed with onions, green pepper; and various chicken dishes. There are plenty of options for vegan and vegetarians, like the Ahmelti with collard greens and lightly spiced cabbage cooked with onions and pepper. They also have Ethiopian coffee, with in-house roasted coffee beans served in a tiny glass. And don’t forget to try the goat cheese dessert special. 6063 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge. 513-351-7686. Open Tuesday-Saturday. $12-$14

Iron Skillet
Did you even know that there are eight kinds of schnitzel? At the Iron Skillet, there’s a schnitzel for every day of the week and then some, as they celebrate traditional Eastern European cuisine. The best sauerbraten and goulash in town, and wonderful desserts like a six-layer Dobosch torte filled with chocolate buttercream, or a giant cream puff oozing delicious custard. 6900 Valley Lane, Newtown, 513-561-6776. Open Tuesday-Sunday. $9-$22.

Island Frydays
You can’t miss this bright yellow building sitting in the heart of Corryville. Island Frydays offers authentic Jamaican delights. The most popular dish on the menu is the Jerk Chicken dinner served with your choice of rice, steamed vegetables and sweet plantains. For the indecisive, they offer a mixed meat plate with your choice of two types of meats, like Oxtail and Curry Goat, plus sides. They also have an Escovitch fish dinner and a Jamaican greens dinner made with callaloo. You can eat in or carry out. 2826 Vine St., Corryville, 513-498-0680. Open 7 days. $8-$10.

Kinneret Café
Kinneret Café combines cultures and dishes from around the Mediterranean, but specializes in Israeli food. Everything is made in house and they are vegan and vegetarian friendly; the only meat on the menu is fish. For a taste of everything, try the Mediterranean plate with a sampling of Israeli salads. They also serve a gourmet Greek pizza with Israeli feta, mozzarella, tomatoes, black olives, and olive oil. For some Italian specialties they offer baked ziti and eggplant parmesan. Go in for Sunday brunch and treat yourself to their Greek Omelet. 8316 Plainfield Road, Deer Park, 513-791-1777. Open Sunday-Friday. $5.50-$13.95.

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 Briyani or the Saag Paneer, and add some Vegetable Samosas to your order. Their food is friendly whether you’re carnivore or vegetarian. 313 Calhoun St., Clifton Heights, 513-961-2878. Open 7 days. $7-$10.

Mecklenburg Gardens
For a taste of Zinzinnati’s German heritage, Mecklenburg Gardens showcases some of the best German cuisine the city has to offer, thanks to Chef Mark Fullman. Their specialty is Weiner Schnitzel, a tender veal cutlet topped with dunkelweizen, a beer-based sauce with capers, butter, and artichoke; it’s served with apples and cabbage. Specialties include beer cheese soup, potato pancakes and a Sausage Duo with bratwurst and mettwurst, which are made locally. They have 16 beers on tap, most of which are German, along with some microbrews. 302 E. University Ave., Corryville, 513-221-5353. Open Monday-Saturday. $18-$22.

For some gastro pub food with Scottish influence and a cocktail or two, Nicholson’s is a hot spot to hit downtown after a show. They’re known for their Fish and Chips, but their new menu offers Duck Fat Fries and Poutine. Mark’s Bread Board, named after Chef Mark Bodenstein, is loaded with different breads, butter and house-made jams. The Meat Board features cured meats and pate. If you’re not hungry, check out one of their 90 single malt Scotches, craft cocktails or draught beer and try the Scotch Egg for a snack. Sit at the hand crafted mahogany bar or on one of their patios. 625 Walnut St., Downtown, 513-564-9111. Open 7 days. $9-$28.

Oleg’s Tavern
Oleg’s Tavern offers traditional German and Eastern European dishes, with everything made in house. The owner, Oleg Makhayev, hails from Ukraine and makes egg noodles every day along with other staples like sauerkraut and German Chocolate cake. His Beef Stroganoff is served atop Spaetzle and the Pork Chop is served with a creamy mushroom sauce. The dinner menu offers a variety of meat dishes like a salmon entrée and Assorted German Sausages. Go in for breakfast and try the omelet with sauerkraut. 11929 Montgomery Road, Sycamore Twp., 513-774-0700. Open Tuesday-Sunday. $9-$14.

Pho Lang Thang
Located in the heart of Findlay Market next to Madison’s, 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. Their salads are piled high with shredded cabbage, bamboo shoots, pickled red onion and carrot, with an optional meat or tofu topping, all sitting in an edible rice cracker bowl. They also serve Vietnamese coffee sweetened with condensed milk and brewed right on the table into your glass. 112 W. Elder St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-376-9177. $5-$9.

Riverside Korean Restaurant
For authentic Korean dishes, Riverside Korean Restaurant is an excellent choice. They offer traditional rice-based Dolsot Bi Bim Bop with mixed vegetables. Or try something new from the Adventure Dinner menu, like the Sam Gyub Sal Bo Sam, a marinated pork belly dish. All dishes are served with a delightful selection of side dishes, called ban chan, such as spicy kimchi, dried radishes and shiitake mushrooms. 512 Madison Ave., Covington, 859-291-1484. Open Tuesday-Sunday. $12-$36.

Sabor Peruano
This South American restaurant showcases some of the traditional cuisine Peru has to offer. Some of the popular items from their stout menu include the Seafood Soup with Fish, calamari and shrimp. Try Bisteck a la Pobre, steak with rice, fries, fried banana and egg, or the Ceviche served cold and topped with citrus-studded fish. The Tallarines Saltado de Vegetales is a veggie spin on spaghetti. This authentic restaurant offers unfamiliar dishes with no pandering to the unadventurous. 7105 Dixie Hwy., Fairfield, 513-860-0349. Open 7 days. $4-$13.

Shaan Indian Cuisine
Located in Hyde Park, Shaan Indian Cuisine provides Northern Indian cuisine 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. They offer fine dining service and a menu saturated with a mix of sauces, meats and vegetables to please everyone at the table. 3880 Paxton Ave., Hyde Park. 513-533-3100.
Open 7 days. $9-$12.

Sung Korean Bistro
For a break from the ordinary downtown dinner, Sung Korean Bistro hits the spot. They serve traditional Korean dishes like hot stone bowl Dolsot Bibimbab, 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. 700 Elm St., Downtown, 513-721-SUNG. Monday-Saturday. $15-$20.

Taste of Belgium
Taste of Belgium has expanded beyond their Findlay Market stand, adding a full service restaurant in the Gateway Quarter in Over-the-Rhine, and it’s wowing diners at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Hot, fresh Belgian waffles make delicious breakfast sandwiches, but there are also healthy fruit and yogurt parfaits. Later, the waffles get topped with a fried chicken breast covered in hot sauce and maple syrup. The crepe station prepares sweet and savory crepes, like the Nati Crepe with Goetta, made fresh to order. At dinner, the sophistication goes up a notch with mussels, steak frites and Belgian specialties. Exclusive selection of Belgian beers. 1135 Vine St. Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-3280; 513-333-7744. Open 7 days. $5-$25.

Located in a strip mall in Hartwell, Teranga brings Senegalese fare to the Cincinnati area. 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. Their menu is small, but they do change a few items for lunch. 8438 Vine St., Hartwell, 513-381-3280. Open 7 days. $5-$10.


Hidden gems the crowds haven’t discovered

Cilantro Vietnamese Bistro
Tucked away next to an alley and the side of Papa Dino’s in Clifton Heights, Cilantro’s small space is easily missed when driving around the neighborhood. Cilantro offers Vietnamese cuisine at a price you can’t beat. One of their most popular items is the Vermicelli Noodle Bowl made with noodles and bean sprouts suspended in a savory broth. Banh Mi sandwiches are packed with warm pork shoulder, liver pate, pickled carrot, daikon, cucumber, cilantro and jalapeno. Cilantro keeps the Clifton community warm with their steaming, delicious bowls of Pho, Hu tieu and Sate. They’ve also got a few appetizers, including Fried Spring Rolls. 2516 Clifton Ave., Clifton Heights, 513-281-1732. Open 7 days. $6-$7.

Cosmic Pizza
Cosmic specializes in New York-style thin-crust pizza, available with a variety of fresh, tasty toppings. While pizza is the main attraction, other options include Homemade Mac and Cheese, the Beef BBQ Sandwich and steak hoagies. 7 Woodsdale Ave., Wyoming, 513-761-1234. Open Tuesday-Saturday. $5-$12.

Eli’s BBQ
Eli’s BBQ has settled into the East End, and owner Elias Leisring is starting to get big time recognition for his excellent work. Go now while you still can beat the crowds. Eli’s specialty, the Pulled Pork Sandwich, is a good intro to his amazing BBQ 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. All of the sides are vegetarian friendly and pair perfectly with the sandwiches. Try the Mac and Cheese, Mashed Potatoes, Baked Beans or the Jalapeno Corn Bread. It’s BYOB so don’t forget your six pack. 3313 Riverside Drive, East End. 513-307-8318. Open 7 days. $5-$8 cash or check only.

Gordo’s Pub & Grill
What’s not to love about a pub with more than 100 microbrews and incredible gourmet burgers? Right! Their two standbys are the Jean Robert, with goat cheese and blue cheese, and the Gordo’s burger topped with Boursin cheese, poblano peppers, sauteed onions and smoked bacon. Gordo’s burgers are served with, of course, steak fries. Standard pub appetizer classics like wings, quesadillas, bruschetta and baked mushrooms are perfect with a microbrew on draught. 4328 Montgomery Road, Norwood, 513-351-1999. Open 7 days. $10-$12.

House of Sun
One of those ask-for-the-Chinese-menu restaurants that goes way beyond the typical beef with broccoli. A great find for Saturday and Sunday mornings, you’ll love the traditional Chinese breakfast, 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. 11959 Lebanon Road, Sharonville, 513-769-0888. Open 7 days.

La Badiya
Just off the interstate in Erlanger, Ky., La Badiya is a place where meat eaters and vegetarians can feast together in harmony on an array of Mediterranean platters. Begin the meal with the starter combo for a taste of their specialty dips like hummus, tabbouli, garlic dip and baba ghannoush served with a basket of pita bread. Then move on to a shish combo, with meats that are seasoned, skewered, then grilled or the veggie combo with grape leaves, spinach pie and hummus served with your choice of a side. Along with the meat platters are an array of seafood platters like the salmon dish or shrimp sautéed with mushrooms. 599 Donaldson Road, Erlanger, Ky., 859-898-0203. Open 7 days. $5-$18.

Sukhothai Thai Cuisine
If you’re looking for strictly Thai cuisine, Sukhothai Thai Cuisine restaurant is the place. They offer exotic dishes like the mango prawns that are stir-fried in a tamarind sauce or the Tamarind Crispy Duck. There are familiar options like stir fries and noodle dishes like Pad Thai with your choice of meat and House Fried Rice, but with so many unfamiliar options, like the Deluxe Stir Fry menu, it’s hard not to wonder what a Cashew or Pine Nut Stir Fry tastes like. All of the dishes can be made vegetarian friendly, with vegetables or tofu. 8102 Market Place Lane, Montgomery. 513-794-0057. Open Monday-Saturday. $6-$18.

Taqueria Cruz
Tiny and off the radar, Taqueria Cruz caters to the patrons of the laundromat next door. But don’t let that deter you from stopping in to try genuine, authentic pollo tacos or carnitas burritos. If the owner’s children are around, they can help translate for you. 518 W. Pike St., Covington, Ky. 859-431-3859.

Taqueria Mercado
For some authentic Mexican street-style tacos, Taqueria Mercado offers your typical savories on top of tortillas like carne asada, barbacoa, lengua (tongue) and al pastor served along side a lime wedge, onion and cilantro, and fajitas with your choice of grilled steak, chicken or shrimp. Sounds typical, but Taqueria Mercado is a notch above the rest in quality and authenticity. Go in Sunday morning for a not-so-typical American brunch and 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. 100 E. Eighth St., Downtown, 513-381-0678; 6507 Dixie Hwy., Fairfield, 513-942-4943. Open 7 days. $3-$15.

Taqueria Yolandita
Another hidden gem for the adventurous eater, Taqueria Yolandita is the tiny taco trailer outside a grocery at the corner of Quebec Road and Queen City Avenue. 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. Think you can eat Taqueria Yolandita’s tacos while driving? Think again. 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. Be sure to try the torta — a thick Mexican sandwich — slathered with mayonnaise and avocado, and stuffed with barbacoa. 2157 Queen City Ave., Fairmount/Westwood, 513-551-0828. $5-$7.

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 Sea Food Clay Pot. Other popular dishes include crispy Tofu Ramrong with a perky peanut sauce, Chicken Coconut Soup made with fresh lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves mixed with chunks of chicken. Try their Thai Namtip Spicy Fish. 5461 North Bend Road, Monfort Heights, 513-481-3360. Open 7 days. $3-$16.


Food scenesters seen here

A Tavola
Armed with a pizza oven from Naples, Italy, A Tavola strikes a resounding chord of authenticity while re-defining the perfect pie. A Tavola’s playful selection of signature pizzas are a blend of the familiar coupled with the exotic. The thin, irregularly shaped pies are crispy, with just a hint of chewiness, a smoky vehicle for their inventive toppings. Whet your appetite with their stuffed dates, filled with house sausage, wrapped in smoky bacon and topped with tomato sauce. 1220 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-246-0192. Open Tuesday-Saturday. $5-$16.

Abigail Street
Sporting a fresh Food & Wine magazine Best New Chef award, Senate owner Daniel Wright has introduced another sure-fire winner to Over-the-Rhine’s trendy Gateway Quarter. The Mediterranean-inspired menu of small plates revels in Italian, Spanish, Turkish and Greek influences, with unique twists only Chef Wright could pull off. Wines are available on tap, by the bottle or the glass. 1214 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-421-4040. Open Wednesday-Sunday. $10-30.

A trip to Chef David Falk’s 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. Or indulge in the Chef’s incredible seven-course tasting menu at $95. Pacing between courses is deliberate. Wine pairings are meticulous. Ingredients are fresh and local. Boca is currently in Oakley, moving downtown in 2013. 3200 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-542-2022. Open Tuesday-Saturday. A la carte entrées $14-$50; three-course weekend tasting menu $57; four-course weekend tasting menu $69.

Bouquet Restaurant and Wine Bar
Working closely with local sources, Bouquet’s farm-to-table approach means a fresh, frequently rotating menu packed with seasonal ingredients. Elegant small plates, entrees and thoughtful wine pairings set the stage for an intimate dining experience in Covington’s historic MainStrasse Village. 519 Main St., Covington, 859-491-7777. Open Tuesday-Saturday. $5-$32.

As the more classy little sister of neighboring Green Dog Café, Buz offers plenty to distinguish its level of sophistication. It features full table service, a bountiful wine selection and an environmentally friendly menu in an elegant, exposed brick dining room. But Buz still knows how to let her hair down. Pick from a whimsical list of “Bar Doeuvres,” including the addictive Cheese Doughnuts: beignets with crab and Gruyère dipped in a side of curried remoulade. 3543 Columbia Pkwy., Columbia-Tusculum, 513-533-2899. Open Tuesday-Saturday. $4-$25.

Cumin Eclectic Cuisine
Executive Chef Owen Maass is a culinary fashionista. Strutting down his gastronomic runway are seasonal, fresh, wickedly creative designs you’re almost ashamed to eat. Marvel at the Seared Scallops placed in a smoking glass bowl with an artful smear of pea puree, duck fat potato and flaming shiso. At Sunday brunch, the fried “Funnaffle” waffle is a must-have, with brie, speck ham, green apple, maple syrup and brown butter balsamic reduction. 3520 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, 513-871-8714. Open Tuesday-Saturday. $8-$30.

Enoteca Emilia
Italian small plates and wood-fired pizzas dominate this popular Italian Wine Bar headed up by Chef Jeremy Luers, formerly of Boca. An impressive collection of cured meat, artisan cheese and pasta plates perfectly compliment Wine Director Pete Sedgwick’s selection of reds and whites. Enoteca’s cicchetti snacks, like the nduja and bacon-wrapped Stuffed Figs topped with marinara, are legendary. 2038 Madison Road, O’Bryonville, 513-834-5773. Open 7 days. $4-$20.

Jean-Robert’s Table
If you’re stopped at the corner of Seventh and Vine heading north and see flying pigs, snails and a giant, leering rooster, don’t be alarmed: It’s just the quirky mural decorating the side of Jean-Robert de Cavel’s newest restaurant. The casual, upscale menu of French-American cuisine includes perfect foie gras, sweetbreads seared in duck fat and the French Chateau Burger with Bleu cheese, caramelized onions, tomato and bacon on a fluffy brioche bun. 713 Vine St., Downtown, 513-621-4777. Open Monday-Saturday. $10-$40.

Jimmy G’s
The ’50s retro nightclub vibe of the place is the first thing you’ll notice as you meander down the staircase to the red-hued, subterranean dining room. From there, it’s all about the food. Chef Jimmy Gibson ensures his new steakhouse is like no other in Cincinnati, from his smoky, tender, wood-grilled octopus soaked in a sherry reduction, to his arsenal of grilled, dry-aged steaks and classy martinis. 435 Elm St., Downtown, 513-621-8555. Open Monday-Saturday. $8-$38.

La Poste Eatery
Residing in a former post office in Clifton’s Gaslight District, La Poste embraces the theme with a sophisticated twist. The menu headings read like a deconstructed letter to Mom (postage, body, salutation and postscript). The seasonal menu items and sommelier wine selections are delivered with a smile. Tasty wild mushroom flatbreads, house made pastas and braised meats are part and parcel here. 3410 Telford St., Clifton, 513-281-3663. Open Monday-Saturday. $10-$27.

Lavomatic Café & Urban Wine Bar
The first of the trendy eateries to hit the revitalized Gateway Quarter, Lavomatic still spins some of the most memorable lunch, brunch and dinner hits in town. The tempura battered swai fish tacos are served on grilled tortillas, topped with a carrot and cabbage slaw and drizzled with sriracha mayo. Parmesan Tabasco grits with sauteed shrimp, house biscuits and bacon jam elevate Lavomatic’s Saturday and Sunday brunch. Wash away the hunger with this OTR pioneer. 1211 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-621-1999. Open 7 days. $10-$30.

Local 127
Chef and Master Sommelier Steven Geddes leads his diners on an expedition of New American cuisine featuring wholesome, locally sourced ingredients. The menu is frequently updated in tune with the best area farmers have to offer. Recent instant classics include the Porkopolis, with slow-cooked baby back ribs, tenderloin and sausage served on a bed of white bean ragout and red wine reduction. Choose from an extensive wine list or let Chef Geddes treat you to his custom pairings. 413 Vine St., Downtown, 513-721-1345. Open 7 days. $14–$29.

Cincinnati native Chef Julie Francis finely crafts a small menu filled with locally sourced, organic ingredients. Nectar’s monthly Dinner Club special is the perfect way to introduce yourself to the chef’s meticulous preparations. The Dinner Club promotes a theme ingredient and its farmed source on a five-course, fixed price menu. Sunday brunch is also available, featuring pastured eggs, local honey and fresh baked breads. 1000 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout, 513-929-0525. Open Wednesday-Sunday. $17-$26.

Nicola’s Restaurant
A celeb-spotting treasure, Nicola’s renown is undeniable. One of Cincinnati’s top restaurants, its menu of house made pastas, gnocchi and creamy risotto 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 Lavender Panna Cotta. 1420 Sycamore St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-721-6200. Open Monday-Saturday. $12-$40.

Orchids at Palm Court
Nestled inside Carew Tower, Orchids hosts a breathtaking art deco feast for the eyes, a perfect backdrop for Chef Todd Kelly’s seasonal menus of refined elegance. The Seared Foie Gras with vanilla pound cake, mango chutney and mizuna and the Blue Cheese Beignets with spiced honey and Asian pears exemplify Kelly’s enticing technique. 35 W. Fifth St., Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel, Downtown, 513-421-9100. Open 7 days. $23-$65 (for the “tasting” platters).

The Palace Restaurant
Food & Wine magazine award winner Jose Salazar dazzles with his seasonal menu of fine, upscale fare. Located inside The Cincinnatian Hotel downtown, it’s the perfect venue for a night of pampering. For an affordable, luxurious meal with an international flare, try their Tasting Thursdays deal, offered every third Thursday. It features a pre-fixe dinner for two and a bottle of wine for only $60. 602 Vine St., The Cincinnatian Hotel, Downtown, 513-381-3000. Open Monday-Saturday for dinner; 7 days for breakfast. $15-$55.

Via Vite
A stylish backdrop to Fountain Square’s “The Genius of Water,” Via Vite showcases Chef Nicola Pietoso’s casual take on Northern Italian cuisine. Crispy, wood-fired pizzas and hearty pastas hearken to the motherland, while entrees of braised lamb shank and bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin smothered in Grandma’s peperonata lead the diner on a classic Italian journey. 520 Vine St., Downtown, 513-721-8483. Open 7 days. $10-$33.

Virgil’s Cafe
That his restaurant has appeared on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives testifies to the impact Chef Matt Buschle is having on the Bellevue community. Freshly baked bread and scratch-made, pressure-smoked Andouille sausage are highlighted in several dishes and sides. New Orleans-inspired fare is well within Virgil’s wheelhouse, and the Andouille Po’ Boy, Chicken Ettouffee and Shrimp Creole with creamy cheddar cheese grits prove it. 710 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue, Ky., 859-491-3287. Open Wednesday-Monday. $10-$25.


The best diners & old favorites

A Taste of Julia’s
Julia Pitts, owner of A Taste of Julia’s, loves cooking and loves people. She serves up Southern-style favorites like fried chicken, meatloaf and liver and onions. A Taste of Julia’s offers buffet dining on Sundays, and a la carte and entree meals, along with family meal specials, Wednesday through Saturday. 6025 Dixie Hwy., Fairfield, 513-942-1800. Open Wednesday-Sunday. $8.50-$12.50.

The Echo
The Echo is a Hyde Park favorite, located just off Hyde Park Square. Sit at the U-shaped Formica counter or grab a table and order breakfast, lunch or dinner. Customer favorites include the Echo burger (served with tartar sauce), the open-faced turkey sandwich, the Rueben and meatloaf. The Echo has weekly specials and always serves up homemade pie. 3510 Edwards Road, Hyde Park, 513-321-2816. Open 7 days. $6-$11.

Grandview Tavern & Grille
You’ll have a hard time finding a better cheeseburger (a grilled Angus half-pounder), and the Sweet Potato Fries are definitely the best in town. The Braised Short Rib and the Oven Roasted Sea Bass shouldn’t be missed. 2220 Grandview Drive, Fort Mitchell, Ky., 859-341-8439. Open Monday-Saturday. $9-$28.

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 plentiful fish entrees. You’ll want to save room for dessert, too. The Green Derby has been around since 1947; it’s easy to see why. 846 York St., Newport, Ky., 859-431-8740. Open 7 Days. $9-$22.

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. Come hungry and hope for good weather so you can enjoy the beer garden. 2500 Dixie Hwy., Fort Mitchell, Ky., 859-331-3767. Open 7 days. $16-$29.

Habits Café
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. Try Mama Jo’s vegetable soup or one of the many burger variations. 3036 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-631-8367. Open 7 days. $7-$17.

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. 441 Vine St. (inside the Carew Tower), Downtown, 513-621-1332. Open Monday-Saturday. $4-$9.

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) compete with traditional classics like meatloaf and BLTs. 2715 Madison Road, Hyde Park, 513-871-9201. Open Tuesday-Sunday. $4-$13.

J&J’s Restaurant
This old-school diner serves food like huge double-decker sandwiches, good chili and 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. 6159 Glenway Ave., Westwood, 513-661-2260. Open Monday-Saturday. $5-$8.

Olives boasts the Deep Dish, not quite a pizza but more than just a sandwich. Served open-faced, you can choose from Steak and Cheese, Chicken Fajitas, Chicken Pot Pie, or an Italian version with sausage and veggies. Olives’ brunch selections (complete with buffet and omelet station) are perfect Sunday companions. 342 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-221-4200. Open 7 days. $8-$21.

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. 703 Monmouth St., Newport, Ky., 859-431-7455. Open 24/7. $3-$10.

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. 3853 Race Road, Bridgetown, 513-574-0222. Open 7 days. $10-$20.

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. The Schoolhouse Restaurant will be celebrating 50 years of operation in 2012. 8031 Glendale-Milford Road, Camp Dennison, 513-831-5753. Open Thursday-Sunday. $9-$17.

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. 8322 E. Kemper Road, Symmes Twp., 513-489-7044. Open 7 days. $11-25.

Sis’s Family Affair
Sis’s Family Affair is truly that, a down-home diner where the youngest members of the family help bus the tables and fetch more sweet tea, while grandma’s recipes are cooking in the kitchen. Breakfast served all day. 837 Monmouth St., Newport, Ky., 859-431-3157. Open 7 days. $9-$15

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. Well known for its hearty, fresh food, with the best vegetarian omelet and deluxe hash browns in the city. The owners buy most of their products at nearby Findlay Market. Try the Big Tucker, a double-decker burger with cheese and special sauce. Other standbys include biscuits and gravy and the fried cod sandwich. Daily specials and dessert selections make Tucker’s a reliable lunch counter standby. 1637 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-721-7123. Open Monday-Saturday. $4-$7.


Established hall of fame eateries

Chart House
With the Waterfront’s closing, Chart House claims the best riverside view. An upscale chain restaurant, Chart House serves steak and seafood with New England, Caribbean and Southern influences. Start with a pile of Oysters on the Half Shell, Lobster and Shrimp Spring Rolls or beautifully seared Ahi Tuna. Signature entrées include Grilled Citrus Salmon and a succulent New York Strip. 405 Riverboat Row, Newport, 859-261-0300. Open 7 days. $14-$50.

Eddie Merlot
Offering upscale dining in a central location, this chain serves everything from shrimp cocktail to Chateaubriand (carved table-side), from spinach salad to massive desserts. The service is outstanding. If you’re looking for a place to take your fiancée’s parents, this is it. 10808 Montgomery Road, Blue Ash, 513- 489-1212. Open 7 days. $25-$61.

There are 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 house-made compound butter or a variety of “extras” like cabernet sauce or sauteed onions. Try the Tiger’s Eye sushi or Vietnamese-style Baby Back Ribs. Whatever you do, come hungry enough to try the Oreo Stuffed Donuts for dessert. Embers also offers a gluten-free menu and the staff assures that all precautions are taken to avoid cross-contamination. 8170 Montgomery Road, Kenwood, 513-984-8090. Open 7 days. $17-$61.

Grande Finale
Operating at the same location, an historic building in Glendale, since 1975, Grand Finale serves up everything from steak and lobster to crepes and outrageous desserts. Try the Bacon, Lobster and Tomato Deviled Eggs or the Herbed Filet Mignon Brochette. No worries for your vegetarian table-mates: Grand Finale has plenty of veggie fare. 3 E. Sharon Road, Glendale. 513-771-5925. Open Tuesday-Sunday. $15-$32.

Meritage offers upscale Classic American cuisine, ranging from Steamed Mussels to Surf and Turf. Don’t miss the Bone-In Pork Chop, served with bourbon cream sauce. Meritage also boasts an extensive wine cellar and signature cocktails. 1140 Congress Ave., Glendale. 513-376-8134. Open 7 days. $17-$60.

Myra’s Dionysus
With eight soups available each day, loads of vegetarian options, international flavors and home-baked desserts, you can’t go wrong, and you can’t beat the prices. Try the Gado Gado, the Pulao or the Red Bean Mole. 121 Calhoun St., Clifton Heights. 513-961-1578. Open 7 days. $4-$10.

Otto’s is the little restaurant that could. Its humble beginnings as a sandwich shop have given way to a polished yet casual eatery with a small, well-crafted menu bolstered by creative seasonal specials. The Fried Green Tomatoes and Shrimp and Grits will make you forget your table manners.
521 Main St., Covington, 859-491-6678. Open Monday-Saturday and Sunday brunch. $23-$33.

Paula’s Café
For the best lunchtime burgers in the city, head to Paula’s. Order your burger with the balsamic-laced onions and Swiss on a grilled Shadeau Bakery wheat bun, and watch your companions have fits of jealousy. The chicken salad, the BLT and the carrot cake all deserve their crowd-pleaser status. 41 E. Fourth St., Downtown, 513-381-3354. Open Monday-Friday. $4-$8.

Quarter Bistro
The Zagat-rated Quarter Bistro is a Mariemont institution, as is the Lobster Mac & Cheese it offers. 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 here (seasonally) is wonderfully charming. 6904 Wooster Pike, Mariemont, 513-271-5400. Open 7 days. $10-$32.

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. We love 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. 1737 Section Road, Roselawn, 513-351-7631. Open Monday-Saturday. $7-$16.

Trio offers something-for-everyone American-style menu items with an upscale twist. Choose from many great salads, sandwiches, pastas, steaks, gourmet pizzas or seafood and pair your meal with a nice glass of wine from the extensive wine list. The Filet Oscar, the Trio Meatloaf and the Grouper Hemingway are customer favorites. 7565 Kenwood Road, Kenwood, 513-984-1905. Open 7 days. $11-$45.

York Street Café
This eclectic café is the perfect first-date restaurant. Built in the 1880s, the building today holds a beautifully decorated café, lounge with live music and an art gallery, along with a terribly romantic garden patio. The food not only matches the elegance of the décor, it surpasses it. Order a “Conversation Board” and let the words flow. The Grilled Salmon might just bring you to tears. 738 York St., Newport, 859-261-9675. Open Tuesday-Saturday. $12-$25.


The breakfast joints

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

Coffee Emporium
Since 1973, owner Tony Tausch has been treating Cincinnati to his artisan roasted coffees, premium teas and spicy ciders. Now with five locations, it’s easier than ever to savor his barista-prepared drinks along with a tasty lineup of grilled panini sandwiches, fresh-baked pastries and hearty quiches. 110 E. Central Pkwy., Downtown, 513-651-5483; 301 E. 4th St., Downtown, 513-621-0500; 3316 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, 513-321-5943; Gallagher Student Center, Xavier University, 513-745-4902; 303 Broadway St., Downtown, 513-621-0500. Open 7 days. $2-$7.

Corner BLOC Coffee
Armed with a delightful assortment of craft brewing methods, Corner BLOC earns its reputation for serving some of the best cups of joe in the city. All dairy comes from Snowville Creamery, giving that frothy latte an extra touch of wholesomeness. There’s free Wi-Fi and plenty of space to sip artisan brew while getting some work or studying done. 3101 Price Ave., Price Hill, 513-429-4548; 49 S. Miami Road, Cleves, 513-655-4992. Open Monday-Saturday. $1-$4.

Half Day Cafe
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. 1 Wyoming Ave., Wyoming, 513-821-2323. Open Monday-Saturday. $3-$11.

Mammoth Café
Size isn’t everything, right? Don’t kid yourself. Mammoth lives large, from its cavernous room of cozy furnishings, to its line of fresh-roasted coffees complimented by a vegetarian-friendly menu of delicious wraps, paninis and scones. Sink your teeth into a Pot Roast Panini, with tender pot roast, Swiss cheese and spicy mustard on ciabatta bread. 515 Monmouth St., Newport, 859-291-8875. Open 7 days. $2-$8.

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 varieties. Lunch and dinner options include burgers and hearty grinder sandwiches. For a true taste of Cincinnati, try the Goetta Grinder, a generous slab of goetta topped with grilled peppers, onions and pepper jack on a buttery, seasoned hoagie bun. 500 Monmouth St., Newport, 859-581-3700. Open 7 days. $5-$9.

Rohs Street Café
With a host of knowledgeable, volunteer baristas on hand, this not-for-profit coffeehouse close to UC 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, or enjoy a light lunch with their soup of the day. Stop back over the weekend for live music. 245 W. McMillan Ave., Clifton Heights, 513-381-7647. Open Monday-Saturday. $1.20-$4.45.

Sidewinder Coffee and Tea
Not many coffeehouses can say they have a house bunny. So when someone in Northside whispers, “Follow the white rabbit,” they’re probably referring to Patrick, the furry tenant hopping about at Sidewinder. The café offers locally roasted fair-trade and organic coffees, espresso drinks, spirits, blended and loose-leaf teas in an attractive room filled with local artwork. Tasty sweet and savory treats abound, including a veggie sandwich with roasted red peppers, cucumbers, spinach, hummus and provolone. 4181 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-542-8321. Open 7 days. $1.50-$7.25.

Maybe you enjoy only the smell of coffee, but would rather have a beer or mixed drink in your hand. Sitwell’s is the place for you. This diminutive Clifton coffee shop offers a fine line of artisan coffee, local and imported beer, a full bar with signature cocktails and even fancy milkshakes. Listen to live music and poetry readings while munching on a New York Egg Sandwich with two scrambled eggs and colby cheese on a toasted croissant. 324 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-281-7487. Open 7 days. $4-$9.

Sugar N’ Spice
Huge fluffy omelets and “wispy-thin” pancakes have made Sugar n’ Spice a bonafide breakfast institution for more than 70 years. Lunch highlights include third- and half-pound burgers, double deckers and signature sandwiches. For a trip down Memory Lane, try the salmon platter with two generous salmon patties, home fries or grits and a side of toast. 4381 Reading Road, Paddock Hills, 513-242-3521. Open 7 days. $3-$11.

Take the Cake
Even if you haven’t been to their cafe, there’s a good chance you’ve seen Take the Cake’s baked goods offered in restaurants and coffeehouses throughout the city. A fantastic array of seasonal desserts are updated daily on a giant chalkboard, along with their eclectic brunch menu. Whether its cakes, brownies, cookies or a plate of the owner’s famed Shrimp & Grits, there’s a little something for discerning foodies and sweet tooths alike. 4137 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-241-2772. Open Tuesday-Saturday. Prices vary.


Maybe not a dime, but a damn good value

This year Adriatico’s moved from a hole-in-the-wall carryout and delivery location to brand new digs — their renovated sports bar on McMillan Street. They now have a huge draft beer selection and 64-ounce growlers to go, but they still deliver the spicy, garlicky sauce, oversized pepperonis and super-thick crust that they’re known for. Good luck finding calzones like theirs, too. It’s “madness” every Monday and Tuesday with specials that the kids can’t turn down. 113 W. McMillan St., Clifton, 513-281-4344. Open 7 days. $6-$18.

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. 521 Madison Ave., Covington, 859-261-6121. Open Monday-Saturday. $7.95-$12.50.

Bakersfield OTR
Part bar, part taco joint, all classy. Located in one of the narrow buildings of the Gateway Quarter on Vine Street, Bakersfield specializes in gourmet tacos, quality tequilas and whiskeys and hand-crafted margaritas made the old fashioned way — not from a pre-made mix. There always seems to be a wait for a table. That must tell you something. 1213 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-579-0446. Open Monday-Saturday. $3-$8.

The Comet
Burritos. Big delicious San Francisco-style burritos. The Comet is 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 along with black or pinto beans, rice, Monterey Jack cheese, and your choice of homemade salsas. Or have the same in a quesadilla, nachos or tacos. Sunday brunch is all the rage here nowadays, with a creative rotating menu. Obligatory jukebox shout out: It rules! 4579 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-541-8900. Open 7 days. $4-$9.

Cincinnati’s original foil-wrapped Latin fare. Habanero 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. 358 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-961-6800. Open 7 days. $6.79-$7.79.

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. Offering terrific Hall Fun (wide rice noodles stir-fried with a ginger soy sauce) and Lard Cha (udon noodles stir-fried in a garlic sauce with bean sprouts, scallions and eggs) along with more typical options like Pad Thai and Singapore Noodles. Their soups are great, too. Try the spicy and intense Tom Yum soup with shrimp. 135 W. Kemper Road, Springdale, 513-671-4949. Open Monday-Saturday. $5.50-$9.50.

Mad Mike’s Burgers and Fries
At Mad Mike’s you’ll be mad about the burgers. Choose from their creative signature offerings like the Rockefeller with blue cheese, cranberry chutney, beer battered onions, cilantro mayo and lettuce or something more approachable like the Outlaw with lettuce, tomato, pickle, grilled onion and mad sauce. Hot dogs and vegetarian options available as well. A little off the beaten path, but worth seeking out. 6420 Dixie Hwy., Florence, Ky., 859-647-6444. Open 7 days. $4.49-$7.99.

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. 2507 Chelsea Drive, Fort Mitchell. 859-341-0707. Open Tuesday-Sunday. $4.50-$8.50.

The “Q” is for barbeque, the specialty at SmoQ. It’s all done slow and low in a big ’ol smoker — everything from their award-winning ribs to pulled pork to the SmoQ’d Fried Chicken. You’re likely to find your favorite Southern specialty here as well, be it a Kansas City Strip, blackened Catfish or the Chicken and Waffle: a buttermilk fried chicken breast served on top of a sweet potato-pecan waffle, with maple butter and syrup. You have to try it at least once. 275 Pictoria Drive, Springdale, 513-671-7667. Open 7 days. $7.99-$26.99.

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. But there are also several fish options and a veggie burger rounding out the selections. The list of sides is impressive, and make sure you save room for dessert — the homemade berry cobblers are stellar. Walt’s has three locations: the original “Barbeque Barn” on Colerain Avenue in White Oak, one in Harrison (with a drive-thru) and one in Hamilton. 6040 Colerain Ave., White Oak, 513-923-9800; 1055 New Haven Road, Harrison, 513-367-9258; 1242 Main St., Hamilton, 513-868-9258. Open 7 days. $6-$20.


Places that have a “bonus”

Dinner and a Hookah:
Andy’s Mediterranean Grill
Expect maximum Mediterranean flavor at Andy’s, from the signature Shish Tawook, a marinated chicken kebab that’s won awards at Taste of Cincinnati, to authentic stuffed-grape leaves and many varieties of baklava and Turkish coffee. Guests rave about the Labneh (Lebanese yogurt spread) and the crisp Macedonian Tzatziki Salad. There are lots of combo platters if it’s just too hard to choose. 906 Nassau Ave., Eden Park, 513-281-9791. Open 7 days. $6-$24.

Dinner and a Swing:
Dee Felice Cafe
If you’re looking for more of an experience than just dinner, swing in to Dee Felice Cafe. Along with spicy New Orleans-style dishes you’ll enjoy great live Jazz performed on a raised stage behind the bar Tuesday through Sunday. The star dish here is the Crawfish Etouffee, a generous pile of crawfish tails with vegetables and spicy sauce over rice. Or try the ravioli appetizer and the Deep Fried Oysters. It’s a popular place, so call ahead. 529 Main St., Covington, 859-261-2365. Open 7 days. $15-$37.

Dinner and a Brew:
Moerlein Lager House
At the Lager House, beer is king. A major anchor of the riverfront retail and residential development known as The Banks, Moerlein Lager House celebrates Cincinnati’s brewing tradition and brings the Moerlein brand to life. Touting 15,000 square feet of space, two bars, three kitchens and sweeping views of downtown and the riverfront, the Lager House is a destination in itself. With a large something-for-everyone menu of burgers and pastas and fancier dishes like Filet Mignon and Cedar Roasted Salmon, Lager House is sure to please. 115 Joe Nuxhall Way, Downtown. 513-421-2337. Open 7 days. $10-$28.

Dinner on the Rocks:
MOTR Pub does two things 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. We also adore the St. Francis Mac and Cheese. Try the Migas Tacos with egg, crispy potatoes, cheese and chorizo with a bloody mary during Sunday brunch. 1345 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-6687. Open 7 days. $5-$8.

Dinner and a Lesson:
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 staff the kitchen and dining room in this teaching restaurant. Don’t be put off by the teaching aspect; these students have worked long and hard to be hand-picked to work in the Summit kitchen, and the service staff earns high marks. Top notch food at reasonable prices paired with an extensive wine list make this a restaurant for the city to be proud of. 3250 Central Pkwy., Clifton. 513-569-4980. Open for dinner Thursday-Saturday. $19-$26.

Dinner and a View:
View Cucina
Formerly called “View,” View Cucina is a classy space inside the Edgecliff building with a beautiful view of the river and Northern Kentucky, along with a great patio. With the new name came the addition of some authentic Italian dishes like Chicken Cacciatore, but longtime patrons will still find old favorites like the Slow Roasted Short Ribs and the Candied Bacon Jam Scallops. Or pick a few dishes from the small plates menu. Mark your calendar for brunch on Sunday because you will want to stop in for one of everything. 2200 Victory Pkwy., Walnut Hills, 513-751-8439. Open Tuesday-Sunday. $17-$36.

Dinner and a Song:
Vito’s Café
For a magical evening, Vito’s combines original and familiar Italian dishes with great music performed by a pianist and the singing servers. We promise it’s not corny; they skillfully perform classic melodies, show tunes and even opera arias. The sauces and flavors of each dish are rich, complex and satisfying, and the food is truly well prepared — from Veal Chop Milanese with caramelized Brussels sprouts, to Shrimp Puccini with risotto alla parmigiana and much more. 654 Highland Ave., Fort Thomas, 859-442-9444. Open Wednesday-Sunday. $8-$30.


Pick up and go places

Aglamesis Brothers
When you stop in to Aglamesis to treat yourself to a scrumptious sundae or a frosty soda-fountain shake, it’s like stepping back in time. This a classic 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. 3046 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-531-5196; 9899 Montgomery Road, Montgomery, 513-791-7082. Open 7 days. Price vary.

Alabama Fish Bar
Cod, perch or whiting battered, deep-fried and handed over in a more-than-generous portion on a bed of fries with a slice of bread. Slap some condiments on it and eat as much as you can stuff in! The fish bar keeps it plain and simple and there’s nothing wrong with that. 1601 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-241-2255. Open Monday-Saturday. $7-$8.

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. 2030 Madison Road, O’Bryonville, 513-321-3399. Open Monday-Saturday. Prices vary.

Dutch’s Larder
Dutch’s established itself as a wine and bottling shop in 1947 and has recently expanded into a deli/grocery. Not only do they have an enormous selection of wine and craft beer, they now have an upscale deli with an impressive selection of charcuterie and gourmet cheeses and pantry staples like quinoa and red rice. 3366 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, 513-871-1446. Prices vary.

Fresh Table at Findlay Market
Your one-stop shop for local, fresh fare is Fresh Table at Findlay Market. Meredith Trombly, Louis Snowden and their staff do all the hard parts — finding the best locally sourced ingredients, cooking 40–50 delicious and beautifully presented dishes every day. The salads are amazing and so is the selection, and a handful of vegan-friendly house-made dressings only add to the taste. Baby back ribs and grilled wild-caught salmon highlight the main courses at this constantly evolving eatery. 1801 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-3774. Open Tuesday-Sunday. Prices vary.

Picnic and Pantry
An offspring of Northside favorite, Melt, Picnic and Pantry offers an abundance of locally grown whole foods and gourmet take-home salads and sandwiches. 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. 4163 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-681-8600. Open 7 days. Prices vary.

Salt of the Earth
Salt of the Earth is a great place to stop in for lunch or get your carryout dinner. The menu features massive sandwiches with toppings like goat cheese and roasted red peppers. This place caters to vegetarians and carnivores alike. 4760 Red Bank Road, Madisonville, 513-272-3650. Open Monday-Saturday. $7-$20.

What’s For Dinner?
You might not know what you are going to order — the menu changes daily — but you can be assured it will be good. Deli sandwiches and side salads are great in to-go lunch boxes. Food cases are filled with better-than-homemade casseroles, side items and desserts ready to reheat and devour. 3009 O’Bryon St., O’Bryonville, 513-321-4404. Open Monday-Saturday. $6-$18.h


Where bread and buns meet fillings with flair

Fred and 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 for Easter. There are soft chocolate chip cookies and fresh baked pies, and at Fred and Gari’s, a brownie is a vegetable. 629 Vine St., Downtown, 513-784-9000. Open Monday-Friday. $3-$10.

Goodies Barbecue
Goodies is a family-run restaurant where pulled pork and smoked rib tips are the specialties. The sauce is so good that it’s bottled and sold in stores. Step further into the South with a side of collard greens or some red beans and rice, and treat yourself to peach cobbler or chess pie. 5841 Hamilton Ave., College Hill, 513-542-4663. Open Monday-Saturday. $5-$20.

Rascal’s NY Deli
What are the signs of modern civilization? Indoor plumbing, a literate population and a good deli, right? Rascal’s is that deli – the real deal. They serve the best pastrami that’ll ever pass your lips. Moist, not fatty, and oh, so tender. The Avocado Melt is a grilled feast of gooey Swiss cheese and avocado slices with Russian dressing on marble rye. Rascal’s has soul food for your Yiddish heart: chopped liver, blintzes, knishes and kugel — four more reasons to head to Blue Ash. 9525 Kenwood Road, Blue Ash. 513-429-4567. Open 7 Days. $3-$15.

City View Tavern
Home of the best Bloody Mary in town (some would argue anywhere), and 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, catsup and home-grown tomatoes — when in season. And City View has possibly the best view of downtown of any restaurant in the ’Nati. 403 Oregon St., Mount Adams, 513-241-8439. Open 7 days. $3-$7.

Vegan and vegetarian diners aren’t an afterthought at Northside’s eclectic deli, Melt. But no worries, the carnivorous can feast, too. A plethora of sandwiches, wraps, soups and salads tempt every palate, and with two separate dining rooms and a large patio, there’s space for everyone. The soups are made from scratch, and the sides are superb. 4165 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-681-6358. Open 7 days. $4-$10.

Tom + Chee
What began with a stand on Fountain Square has become a permanent restaurant with two current local locations, plans for a new Walnut Street location and an open restaurant in Louisville, Ky. Tom + Chee offers twists on the traditional grilled cheese sandwich. Who doesn’t crave a grilled cheese and tomato soup? The BBQ & Bacon features Grippo’s barbeque chips, bacon and American cheese, but we dare anyone to be able to resist the Grilled Cheese Donut – featured on the Food Channel — where you can add egg, bacon, turkey or goetta, and definitely go ahead and get it dipped in French toast batter and deep fried.. 1 Levee Way, Newport, 859-291-2433. 133 E. Court St., Downtown, 513-721-2433. Open 7 days. $3-$5.

Wildflower Café
With locally 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. The “slow-foods” are made from scratch — no microwaves here — but the wait is worth it. Have a glass of wine and enjoy the idyllic view from the patio, as a friendly staff is more than happy to present a mouthwatering, soul-warming meal. 207 E. Main St. (Route 42), Mason, 513-492-7514. Open Tuesday-Saturday. $9-$24.

Zip’s Café
Zip’s has been doing burgers right since 1926, and generations of Eastside Cincinnatians call Zipburgers their favorite. The meat arrives fresh daily from Avril-Bleh & Sons; the lightly toasted honey-egg buns are from Klosterman’s. For those who need more than just a burger and fries, Zip’s offers the Train Wreck — a burger, split mettwurst and shaved ham — a tantalizing trio. 1036 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout, 513-871-9876. Open 7 days. $4-$8.

Zola Bar & Grill
Burgers and wings are done right at Zola’s. Nine different burgers and nine flavorful wing sauces lend to a variety of options. A full bar in combination with live music Tuesday-Saturday and great location make this a happenin’ place to be. 626 Main St., Covington, 859-261-7510.
Open 7 days. $5-$12.



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