Staff Picks from the 2014 CityBeat's Best Of Cincinnati guide, an annual manual to the best people, places, shops, eats and more Cincinnati has to offer — compiled by CityBeat readers and staff.
BEST PLACE TO DUNK YOUR DUSTY BALLS
Highlighting Sotto’s formidable dessert menu are the ricotta doughnuts: racquetball-sized orbs of hot, doughy deliciousness dusted in powdered sugar and served with three molten, rotating dunking sauces. Chocolate, pistachio and salted caramel options are often available. The doughnuts, which are a stunning cross between an Italian zeppole and French beignet, are among several impressive sweets offered at David Falk’s latest culinary (re)invention. Sotto, 118 E. Sixth St., Downtown, 513-977-6886, sottocincinnati.com.
BEST ESCAPE TO PARIS WITHOUT FORKING OVER A LOT OF L’ARGENT
Iconic Cincy chef Jean-Robert de Cavel added French Crust Café to his growing list of culinary accomplishments in town, but unlike Jean Ro’s Table, Crust has an intimate French bistro vibe and is only open for breakfast and lunch. Scents of fresh croissants and coffee waft throughout the petite dining area, and framed vintage travel posters of France hang on the wall and basically scream, “Go to Paris, now!” But it’s OK if you don’t have thousands of dollars to drop on a European vacation, as French Crust’s menu temporarily plugs that void for a much cheaper price. At French Crust, it’s easy to imagine you’re in Paris and not Cincinnati. French Crust Café, 915 Vine St., Downtown, 513-621-2013, jrtable.com/french-crust-cafe.
BEST PLACE TO EAT IN OTR THAT DOESN'T SERVE PBR
Don’t call it a comeback. They’ve been here for years. Get in line at the Alabama Fish Bar and you’ll be rewarded with some of the best fried fish in the city: a choice of whiting, perch or cod served atop a pile of fries resting on a bed of white bread. A side of sautéed peppers and onions and hot sauce make it a spicy, lip-smacking experience. Alabama Fish Bar, 1601 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-241-2255.
BEST FANCY NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED RESTAURANT
Orchids at the Palm Court has a stellar, national reputation and for good reason. There are no false notes here — the food is letter-perfect and the setting couldn’t be lovelier. Named one of the top 10 American restaurants by Open Table, given four stars by Forbes Travel Guide and picked as the city’s top restaurant by the Zagat Guide for the past three years, Orchids wows diners thanks to the combined talents of executive chef Todd Kelly, pastry chef Megan Ketover and maitre d’ and sommelier Charles Redmond. Signature dishes include a killer Maine lobster salad and red snapper “en papillote.” Not to mention anything sweet created by Ketover. Orchid’s at Palm Court, 35 W. Fifth St., Downtown, 513-564-6465, orchidsatpalmcourt.com.
BEST FIRE-AND-ICE PICK-ME-UP
Dojo Gelato is not your grandparents’ ice cream shop. Located in Findlay Market, Dojo handcrafts tasty small batches of gelato using special freezers imported from Bologna, Italy. If you need a caffeine boost during market shopping, order the affogato: a shot of La Terza espresso poured over your choice of gelato. The hot espresso melts some of the frozen stuff to create a bittersweet snack with a kick. And if you like your frozen treats with an attitude, Dojo serves that up, too. Their bumper stickers are based on the logos of Black Flag, Beastie Boys and other bands, and they’re known to take playful digs at other local ice creameries on social media (cough, Graeter’s, cough). Dojo Gelato, Findlay Market, 137 Elder St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-328-9000, dojogelato.com.
BEST PAVLOVIAN DOG EXPERIMENT IN OTR
In September 2013, the Loveland-based Holtman’s Donuts finally opened an OTR location, replete with a window where you can peer through and watch them make donuts, like the sensational maple bacon. Every time you come within a block radius of this shop, you will begin to salivate — even if at first you don’t know why. Homer Simpson would be so proud ... and hungry. Holtman’s Donuts, 1332 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-0903, holtmansdonutshop.com.
BEST WINTER WARM-UP
When the temperature doesn’t rise above freezing for a week, it tends to put a damper on your mood. Iris BookCafé is the perfect home away from home — during winter or otherwise — to lift your spirits. Warm up and fill up on delicious homemade, vegan soups like Thai pumpkin, vichyssoise and veggie chili. Varieties change daily but the potato leek is not to be missed. Iris also serves sandwiches, desserts (often vegan and homemade), Aglamesis Brothers ice cream, coffee and Essencha teas. During nice weather, check out the back patio — this lush, secluded space is a hidden gem. The café doubles as an art gallery and book shop, so you can browse vintage books and check out the latest photography exhibit on display while you wait for your latte. Iris BookCafé, 1331 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-2665, irisbookcafe.com.
BEST REASON TO EAT KALE
When the folks behind Bakersfield announced they would be opening a nearby restaurant/bar specializing in fried chicken and beer, we were already hooked. With around 100 beer selections, Blues music and classic American comfort food, The Eagle OTR did not disappoint when it opened in the old Vine Street post office in December 2013. You really can’t go wrong with any of the chicken, sandwiches, apps or tasty sides, but the kale and artichoke dip is not to me missed. Served in a cast iron skillet with fresh tortilla chips, The Eagle OTR totally transforms the classic dip by employing that popular leafy green veg. Much like Bakersfield OTR, The Eagle OTR offers a great bar and delicious food while maintaining a much more affordable price point than some neighboring OTR joints. The Eagle OTR, 1342 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-802-5007, facebook.com/theeagleotr.
BEST GOETTA NOT MADE OUT OF MASS PIG PARTS
If you’re from Cincinnati then you know goetta. But have you ever tried vegan goetta? Park + Vine chef Caitlin Bertsch created the dish by mixing old family recipes with her background in vegan cooking. Sandwiched between Shadeau bread with lettuce and tomato, Park + Vine’s vegan goetta is a tasty and healthy twist on the signature Cincy-centric dish. Park + Vine, 1202 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-721-7275, parkandvine.com.
BEST FORMER HOTEL RESTAURATEUR TO OPEN HIS OWN PLACE
We were sad when chef Jose Salazar left his post as the head chef of the swank The Palace restaurant inside the Cincinnatian Hotel but excited when he announced he’d open his own place. After briefly working with Daniel Wright at Abigail Street, Salazar finally got around to opening his New American joint in December. Tucked off OTR’s main drag, the eponymous restaurant is more like a café. Salazar himself can be seen in the kitchen prepping his world-fusion dishes, from fresh bread served with bone marrow butter to veal tongue a la plancha. The food is just as delicious and eclectic as The Palace, but we want Salazar to start his own Third Thursday deal (two-course dinner for two and a bottle of wine for $70), like he had at the hotel. Salazar, 1401 Republic St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-621-7000, salazarcincinnati.com.
BEST METHOD TO WATCH YOUR COFFEE BREW
A lot of countries have their own methods of brewing coffee, and Vietnam has one of most distinctive processes with Vietnamese drip coffee. Employing a metal dripper called a cà phê phin, coarsely grounded dark coffee is stuffed inside the container and held over a glass cup that may or may not contain a little condensed milk stuck at the bottom. Water fills the chamber and slowly drips, eventually filling the cup after several minutes. The slow dripper can be quite hypnotic to watch but isn’t for the impatient coffee drinker. Order the beverage either hot or cold at any of the Bao and Duy Nguyen establishments: Quan Hapa or Pho Lang Thang. For the ultimate effect, make sure you get it iced and with the condensed milk. Pho Lang Thang, 114 W. Elder St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-376-9177, pholangthang.com; Quan Hapa, 1331 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-421-7826, quanhapa.com.
BEST BRUNCH TO AVOID THE GLARE OF THE GENERAL PUBLIC
When you need a good meal to nurse your hangover but you feel like hiding in a dark hole, the Boom Boom Room at Virgil’s Café is for you. Owner Matt Buschle has a corner booth where you can draw the drapes and seclude yourself from the glare of lights, judging eyes and children. Virgil’s food is scratch-made, utilizing a garden on the property, and the draft beer selection is killer. Buschle often has off-beat contests on Facebook to engage fans and hosts impromptu pig roasts and garden parties on the porch. Try anything with the house-made Andouille sausage — it’s been featured on Food Network. Virgil’s Café, 710 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue, Ky., 859-491-3287, virgilscafe.com.
BEST VENUE TO LEARN ABOUT COFFEE AND ALSO SAVE THE WORLD
The Carabellos started roasting their own beans in their garage but eventually worked their way up to opening their own coffee house, Carabello Coffee, last year.
They source their beans from places like Nicaragua and Kenya, and the best part is every time you buy a cup of coffee or a bag of beans, some of that money is donated to the people in those countries. If you’re a coffee neophyte, the Carabellos and their staff are more than happy to teach you exactly what a pour over is. Besides the roasted beans, they have cold-brew coffee on draft — the first and only place in the area to do so. Purchase a refillable growler and get 64 ounces of coffee for $10 and save the world even more. Carabello Coffee, 107 E. Newport St., Newport, 859-415-1587, carabellocoffee.com.
BEST NONNA-APPROVED ITALIAN
Lots of Italian restaurants claim to cook “just like Grandma made it,” but few actually use authentic recipes passed down from the motherland. At Buona Vita Pizzeria, the Frommeyers use their family name (Buonavita, “the good life”) and family recipes at both of their Northern Kentucky locations. Truly a family affair, Joseph Frommeyer runs the front of house while his brother/chef Matthew runs the kitchen using recipes handed down from their Nonna. Mamma helps out in the dining room, serving her homemade cookies and other Italian treats to guests. Joseph and Matthew’s brothers Mark and Nick Frommeyer own Blue Oven Bakery and Dolce Vita Gelato, respectively. Can you imagine the food at their family dinners? Buona Vita Pizzeria, 441 Sixth St., Dayton, Ky., 859-261-6792; 405-407 Scott St., Covington, Ky., 859-261-6790, buonavitapizzeria.com.
BEST WAY TO ENJOY HALF-PRICED APPS WHILE STARING AT TOM CRUISE’S HEADSHOT
Every Thursday night, the bar inside Pompilios — called Colonel Pomp’s Tavern — proffers five half-priced apps like spinach dip and toasted ravioli. As we know, parts of Rain Man (and Airborne) were filmed at Pompilios. To pay homage, the restaurant dedicated an entire room to the film. The Rain Man Room features framed headshots of the cast, including Tom Cruise. While stuffing your face with dip and listening to live music, think about how hot a pre-couch-jumping Cruise was. Actually, Dustin Hoffman wasn’t so bad, either. Pompilios, 600 Washington Ave., Newport, Ky., 859-581-3065, pompiliosrestaurant.com.
BEST “NU” EATERY
Chef Mark Bodenstein finally has a venue where he can let his creativity flourish, and his new dining adventure is unlike any other in the area. At NuVo at Greenup there’s no menu, you just eat what the kitchen sends out, usually in seven to 10 small courses. Pay one price, plus drinks, and see how Bodenstein takes mostly familiar ingredients and cooks and combines them in ways you never thought of. This spring they will add a cocktail lounge upstairs and service on a leafy patio out back. Recently, NuVo has altered the basic set up so that diners can choose a smaller number of courses if spending three hours with seven to 10 slowly paced dishes isn’t what you had in mind. NuVo at Greenup, 308 Greenup St., Covington, Ky., 859-415-1308, nuvoatgreenup.com.
BEST REASON TO GO TO MAINSTRASSE AND DRINK WINE ON THE REG
While we mourn the loss of fun hangout Chez Nora, MainStrasse still has the Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar, Otto’s and the cream of the crop, Bouquet Restaurant and Wine Bar. If this place were downtown, you would hear a lot more about it, but the food, drink and ambience merits keeping this in your fine-dining rotation. Chef Stephen Williams takes farm-to-table seriously in sourcing the best, often local, meats and produce, and he has a deft hand with any seafood preparation he takes on. The bar offers wine flights that change weekly, and the restaurant’s frequently updated, snazzy website gives detailed info about the week’s menu specials. Bouquet Restaurant and Wine Bar, 519 Main St., Covington, Ky., 859-491-7777, bouquetrestaurant.com.
BEST GRILLED CHEESE GONE GLOBAL
Local gourmet grilled cheese and tomato soup restaurant Tom+Chee has made waves since its humble beginnings as a Fountain Square vendor in 2009. The comfort food spot — known for its decadent grilled cheese donuts — gained national attention after appearing on Man v. Food Nation, The Chew, Amazing Eats and The Today Show, but the company truly took off when founders Trew Quackenbush and Corey Ward pitched their joint to the investors on Shark Tank. Thankfully for Cincinnati, these humble owners aren’t leaving their hometown any time soon; locals can still enjoy the BBQ+Bacon (with BBQ Grippos, bacon and American cheese on white bread) or signature sammy, the Barbara Blue (blueberry compote, ham and Brie on a grilled donut) at one of their area franchises. Tom+Chee, Newport on the Levee, 1 Levee Way, Newport, Ky., 859-291-2433; Downtown, 133 E. Court St., 513-721-2433, tomandchee.com.
BEST NEW CHAIN BAR/RESTAURANT WHERE YOU PAY PEOPLE TO BE DICKS
Dick’s Last Resort is bringing its shenanigans and outrageous behavior to Newport, Ky. In the tradition of restaurants like The Weiner Circle in Chicago, their surly waitstaff provides live entertainment while inflicting rude humor upon their guests — but it’s all in good fun. Participate in the craziness or sit back and soak it all in. You may even end up wearing their infamous 2-foot-tall paper hat. Dick’s Last Resort, 1 Levee Way, Newport on the Levee, Newport, Ky., dickslastresort.com.
BEST MEXICAN SPIN ON A CLASSIC ITALIAN DISH
Avocados are usually associated with Mexican food, but if you crave the green stuff on unconventional dishes, Red Rose Pizza has an app for that! Their Avocado Garlic Cheese Bread combines your favorite Italian bread appetizer with rich avocado. Guests can also enjoy the superfood in Red Rose’s fresh guacamole appetizer, broccoli avocado soup, the Goats & Guacamole salad, May’s Funky Chicken grinder and as a pizza topping. Red Rose relocated from Panama City Beach, Fla., to College Hill in the summer of 2013. Red Rose Pizza, 5915 Hamilton Ave., College Hill, 513-620-7673, redroseonhamilton.com.
BEST VEGAN PIZZA EXPERIENCE
A hot, cheap pizza enjoyed late-night with friends over beers is one of life’s simple pleasures. But when someone in your group can’t have eggs, meat or dairy, the options get pretty slim. Luckily for Northside veg-heads, The Kitchen Factory opened in 2012 to satisfy pizza lovers of all sorts. Just pick your crust (New York City Street Thin or Cornmeal Garlic Handpress) and select your toppings to create a meaty, veggie or vegan (dairy-free cheese is $2 extra) masterpiece. Try one of their rotating unique specialty pies like paneer or lasagna or the addictive vegan “crack ‘n cheese.” Pizza available by the slice and late-night on weekends. The Kitchen Factory, 1609 Chase Ave., Northside, 513-591-3333, facebook.com/thekitchenfactoryonline.
BEST REPLACEMENT FOR NORTHSIDE'S HONEY
Along with Ruth’s Parkside Café, Northside has welcomed Bistro Grace, notable for a complete interior redesign of the former Honey restaurant and being one of the few full-service restaurants within a few miles where you can get dinner on Sunday night. Since opening in November 2013, Bistro Grace has added half-price burgers on Sundays and half-price wine bottles on Mondays, along with other weekly and nightly specials. Try the hanger steak or the duck poutine. In the works: They’ll have a beer garden when the weather warms up. Bistro Grace, 4034 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-541-9600, bistrograce.com.
BEST INDIE CHIPOTLE ALTERNATIVE
If you haven’t returned to the college stomping grounds of Clifton since graduation, you’ve been missing out on some of the best Latin American fare around. The locally owned and operated Habañero has been serving up fresh and flavorful burritos, chimichangas, tacos and salads since 1999. Hab’s staff is super friendly, knowledgeable and accommodating (like, dairy-free quesadilla accommodating). All the salsas are made in-house and you’ll be tempted to try every single one with a giant basket of their addictive homemade chips. For “fast-casual” convenience while keeping your dollars local, order your next big-ass burrito at Habañero — just head toward the bright orange building on Ludlow. Habañero, 358 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513- 961-6800, habanerolatin.com.
BEST ONCE DOWNTRODDEN NEIGHBORHOOD NOW BECOMING A FOOD MECCA (THAT ISN’T OTR)
First Over-the-Rhine underwent a life-changing makeover, then a few years later the fallow Short Vine took inspiration and went for it. Restaurants like Café de Wheels, Caribe, Alabama Que and Mio’s were the first eateries to move into the desolate neighborhood. Once condos started going up, the neighborhood’s population expanded and so did the strip on Vine. Last fall, Taste of Belgium opened a second location there, driving more people to the ’hood. Meatball Kitchen opened this year, and many more restaurants are slated to roll out soon. OTR has a litany of exceptional restaurants, but avoid the wait and head to Short Vine for more affordable yet equally diverse options. facebook.com/shortvinecincy.
BEST-KEPT SECRET WINE DINNER VALUE
If you’re not among the student, faculty or staff at the University of Cincinnati you probably haven’t tried weekday lunch at Mick & Mack’s Contemporary Café, a pleasant spot in the center of campus. But wait, there’s more. Twice a month — first and third Thursdays, year-round — they host wine/spirits tastings and “chef’s table” dinners with impressive amounts of food and drink for a mere $20 per person. For instance, on March 6 the theme was Irish whiskey and beer, including hors d’oeuvres followed by a hot buffet. It’s open to the general public, no UC affiliation required. Advance reservations are a must; check the website for the schedule and to make a reservation via email. Mick & Mack’s Contemporary Café, Tangeman University Center, Level 3, University of Cincinnati Uptown Campus, 513-556-3653, uc.edu/food.html.
BEST RESTAURANT TO EAT A GRASS-FED BURGER AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF THE AFRICAN PLAINS
When visiting the Cincinnati Zoo, there aren’t many dining options besides cheeseburgers and cotton candy. But Base Camp Café has real food, such as grass-fed beef burgers, veggie burgers and salads, made from local ingredients. Zoogoers can dine inside the refurbished dining room, or take the food outside to the sprawling deck made from reclaimed wood that overlooks the recently opened African safari exhibit. Watching a giraffe saunter by really gives new meaning to al fresco dining. To top it off, Base Camp was named the greenest restaurant in the U.S.A. — zoo or not — which basically means all of their recycling and composting helps the environment and makes the zoo an even happier place. Base Camp Café, Cincinnati Zoo, 3400 Vine St., Avondale, 513-281-4700, cincinnatizoo.org.
BEST GASLIGHT GASTRONOMY
While La Poste isn’t exactly the restaurant it was when it opened in 2010 — the founding sommelier has moved on and the focus has shifted away from blissful wine geekdom — it is still a reliable spot for very good food and drink in a neighborhood with otherwise mostly downscale eats. They’ve been doing a family-style $20 buffet dinner every second Monday, and also offer occasional wine dinners and other special events. You can always count on the rich mushroom ravioli or a roasted crimson pear salad with prosciutto and two cheeses, both on the menu since day one. La Poste, 3410 Telford St., Clifton, 513-281-3663, laposteeatery.com.
BEST STREET-FOOD FUSION
Short Vine’s newest restaurant is all about the balls — meatballs, that is. Meatball Kitchen offers the balls in vegetarian, pork and beef, but also as a taco iteration, with chicken or beef balls wrapped inside a soft flour tortilla shell and drizzled with a green salsa and a creamy cilantro condiment. It’s an interesting way to represent both kinds of street foods — the ubiquitous taco and the typical add-on of an Italian meatball — in one meal. Meatball Kitchen, 2912 Vine St., Corryville, 513-407-7405, meatballkitchenusa.com.
Sleepy Bee Café got a lot of buzz when it opened in 2013 because of its healthy breakfast and lunch choices as well as its commitment to honeybee-friendly business practices, like buying local and organic. Bees pollinate around 80 percent of the flowering crops we eat, making them a crucial component to the human food chain. But the worldwide bee crisis known as colony collapse disorder has resulted in a dramatic decline in the number of bee colonies across the globe. And while the menu is full of ethical, healthy options, chef Frances Kroner doesn’t skimp on the flavor one bit. Locals swarm for the omelets (made with local, free-range eggs), pancakes (there’s a gluten-free option), sandwiches (three-seed veggie burger) and goetta. Sleepy Bee Café, 3098 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-533-2339, sleepybeecafe.com.
BEST GRAVY-SMOTHERED FRIES SOUTH OF CANADA
Poutine is a popular Canadian specialty consisting of French fries, brown gravy and cheese curds. You may have seen variations of the decadent deep-fried dish featured at hip restaurants across the U.S. and Cincinnati recently. But for a no-frills local version, look no further than Pleasant Ridge Chili. Long famous for their fries topped with shredded cheddar cheese and gravy, the restaurant is currently celebrating its 50th year in business. Salute the establishment’s golden anniversary with a plate of Porkopolis poutine, which always tastes best in the middle of the night — PRC is open ‘til 4:30 a.m. Monday-Saturday. Pleasant Ridge Chili, 6032 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge, 513-531-2365, pleasantridgechili.com.
BEST PLACE TO EAT AND WATCH A SWISS-DESIGNED SOLAR PLANE TAKE OFF AND LAND
The tiny Lunken Airport caters to smaller, corporate planes like the Ultimate Air Shuttle, so watching planes take off and land isn’t anything terribly exciting, with the exception of the landing of the Solar Impulse last June. The Impulse, the first solar-powered plane, attempted to fly across the country without fuel and made a last-minute stop at Lunken. The Swiss-made plane drew a huge crowd at the field, along with a hive of activity at Lunken’s restaurant and bar, Sky Galley. An event like the Impulse only comes once in a blue moon, but Sky Galley is open every day with a full menu of snacks, steaks, sandwiches and booze to satiate the aviator set. (Just don’t drink and fly.) Sky Galley, 262 Wilmer Ave., Columbia Tusculum, 513-871-7400, skygalley.net.
BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT BETWEEN WALNUT HILLS AND HYDE PARK
In a town with mostly pedestrian Italian cooking, Enoteca Emilia’s rustic Italian plays in a higher league. When chef Adam Cobb took over about a year ago, it only got better. This semi-casual, small-plate oriented trattoria, notable for cut-above pizza and pasta, benefitted from Cobb’s Culinary Institute of America training and his experience in restaurants as far-flung as Spain; Columbus, Ohio; and Chapel Hill, N.C. The menu of bar snacks, cured meats and cheeses, salads and larger plates supplement the aforementioned pizza and pasta, and the all-Italian wine list beckons you to try something new. Enoteca Emilia, 2038 Madison Road, O’Bryonville, 513-834-5773, enotecaemilia.com.
BEST PLACE TO HAVE AN ARTISANAL CHEESE TRAY MADE FOR YOU
What was once everyone’s favorite pony keg has transformed itself into an alcohol and food mecca. Dutch’s Larder has become the go-to for the epicurious — those looking for the artisanal and unique in everything from charcuterie to coffee and wine. It’s the passionate pantry from which to stock your own, full of knowledgeable staff — cheesemongers, butchers, wine experts — and the sustenance you dream of. With a rotating menu, it’s gourmet burger night every Thursday and they have frequent beer dinners featuring local and craft brews, plus a staff prepared to make all the necessary arrangements for you to host your own artisanal tasting that will wow friends and family. Dutch’s Larder, 3366 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, 513-871-1446, dutchswine.com.
BEST NEIGHBORHOOD TACO JOINT NOT IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD
Mazunte is the taqueria you always wanted in your neighborhood. Simple, delicious, a great value and hip. Get the mixed taco taster — three for $9 — and sample their beer-battered fish, shredded roast pork and sangria marinated steak. With an order of guacamole, you are in paradíso, amigo. Mazunte, 5207 Madison Road, Madisonville, 513-785-0000, mazuntetacos.com.
BEST PLACE TO EAT A GYRO WHILE WATCHING TURKISH MTV
Ali Baba Mediterranean Grill on Red Bank Road is a tiny hole-in-the-wall serving up gargantuan falafel and gyro platters that won’t break the bank. Stock your plate with a variety of fresh toppings doled out by a friendly server, then sit down to watch Persian singer Mansour and others belt out hits in music videos hearkening back to MTV’s glory days. Ali Baba Mediterranean Grill, 4793 Red Bank Road, Madisonville, 513-271-0706, alibabagrille.com.
BEST GLOBAL CUISINE FROM AN UNEXPECTED SPOT
Cincinnati isn’t exactly known for its Ethiopian cuisine, but the city has a few options and Habesha is definitely worth checking out. Located in an unsuspecting strip in Westwood, between a Penn Station and an IT support business, Habesha serves up authentic Ethiopian fare with carnivorous and veggie options. The recipes are authentic, the portions big and the service quick. Habesha also hosts an Ethiopian-style coffee ceremony on weekends. So head to the West Side for your fill of injera (spongy crepe-like flatbread), kitfo (marinated minced meat) and ayib (Ethiopian cheese). Habesha, 5070 Crookshank Road, Westwood, 513-429-4890, habeshacincinnati.com.
BEST VIEW TO TAKE IN WHILE DINING AND DRINKING
With plans in motion to grow business and revitalize the area, Price Hill is a neighborhood to watch. Cincinnati Landmark Productions’ new performance space, The Incline Theatre, is set to open in Spring 2015 and one of the city’s best new restaurants already calls the Hill its home. The Incline Public House is situated on Eighth Street, atop the slope that the Price Hill Incline traveled from 1874-1943, giving diners an incredible view of downtown and the Ohio River. Nearly everything on the menu is made in-house from scratch, including their wood-fired pizzas, sandwiches, salads and small bites. Along with the food, top-notch craft beer and cocktail selections are served by a friendly, knowledgeable staff. It’s a great spot to catch up with friends over drinks, enjoy a seasonal special or take in the scenery over brunch. Pro-tip: Try the Braised Short Rib Grilled Cheese. Incline Public House, 2601 W. Eighth St., Price Hill, 513-251-3000, inclinepublichouse.com.
BEST REASON TO SHOUT, “OPA!”
Serving as a West Side staple for more than 38 years, Sebastian’s family-owned restaurant is a hidden Greek treasure. Since its establishment, the family has worked hard to be among the first to introduce authentic Greek cuisine to Cincinnati culture. The quaint corner eatery is known for its friendly atmosphere, affordable prices and, of course, delicious dishes. With mouth-watering baklava, flaky spanakopita and the hands-down best gyro in town, it’s no wonder why customers keep coming back for more. Sebastian’s, 5209 Glenway Ave., West Price Hill, 513-471-2100, sebastiansgyros.com.