Chris Schwarz's Blog

WIA 2011: Where to Eat in Cincinnati

Food is one of my constant obsessions – right behind woodworking. So whenever people visit our fair city, I am prone to force some restaurant recommendations upon them.

Hence, this blog entry for Woodworking in America next week.

I don’t much care for chain restaurants, so these are going to be local places that locals like.

1. Nada. I mention this one first because if you want to eat there, you should pick up the phone now and call. Don’t use Open Table because you won’t get in. This is a fantastic Mexican restaurant. It is the opposite of a Chi-chis. Crazy good and fresh food. And a cool restaurant location to boot.

2. Mayberry. I hesitate to mention this place because it is small and fills up. But it is awesome. It’s BYOB (which saves you money). And the menu is small. Everything is awesome. Get the tater tot casserole and the mac and cheese (made with some blue cheese). And anything with pork belly. The restaurant is a total DIY effort. The chef and the servers renovated the building themselves.

3. Local 127. This place has been going through some changes, but it is still a fantastic farm-to-plate restaurant. And it is a bargain. I’ve never had a bad meal from these people. They are underdogs in the Cincinnati food world, but it makes them try harder.

4. A Tavola. A new pizza restaurant in the “Gateway Quarter” of Cincinnati’s urban center. This is a very hip restaurant and deserves its status. It’s a beautiful room in a newly renovated section of the city’s old German quarter. One of the owners, Jared Wayne, is a woodworker who built all the tables in the place (nice work). They make everything on-site. Their cheese. Bacon, Sausage. And they have a huge wood-fired oven. Yum. Great beer.

5. Senate. Next door to A Tavola is Senate, one of my favorite new restaurants in the city. They specialize in these crazy-good hot dogs (like one wrapped in proscuitto and covered in bechamel sauce and a fried egg). Plus other great street food: poutine with shortribs, marrow, duck fat fries and so on. Great beer and wine list. Not too expensive.

6. Lavomatic. Across the street from those two restaurants is a nice gastropub in an old laundromat. Ask to eat on the roof. Good food with a wildly varying menu.

7. Dewey’s. It’s one of the few really decent pizza restaurants in the city. It wasn’t a chain when it started here in Cincinnati. But it is now. And it is excellent. All the crust is fresh and thrown right before your eyes. There are several locations near Covington, including one in Newport and in Crescent Springs. The crust is thin and the ingredients are fresh and (if you like) somewhat unusual.

8. Cock and Bull. If you like beer plus fish and chips, then the Cock and Bull is a must visit in Covington (you can walk there from the convention center). On a nice night the pub spills onto the square and you feel like you are in England.

9. Keystone. This is the closest good restaurant to the convention center. They have a crazy selection of different kinds of macaroni and cheese (with steak tips!). Good beer. Kind of a sports bar at times. Sunday brunch here is amazing.

10. Take the Cake. Speaking of brunch, if you are in Cincinnati on Sunday morning and need brunch, this little Northside bakery has the best brunch in town. Get the steak and eggs. Make someone else get the bread pudding/french toast. And force a third minion to order the biscuits and gravy. As you leave, get a carrot cake cupcake for later.

11. The Anchor Grill. I hesitate to mention this place. Smoking laws are flaunted here. They take only cash. It is in a weird building where time has stood still for 60 years. But the food is high greasy spoon. Especially late at night. It’s at the end of Mainstrasse in Covington — a perfect place to soak up some alcohol before heading back to your hotel.

12. Nicholson’s. A downtown Scottish restaurant. Good beer. Good scotch. Good tavern food. Amazing ambiance.

13. Jeff Ruby’s. Catty-corner to Nicholson’s in downtown Cincinnati. The best steak I have ever had. And it is where I had my first kiss with a transvestite jazz singer. Pricey. But dang well worth the money (I am talking about the food at this point. Really.).

14. Tom+Chee. The best grilled cheese in the world. You can get it a crazy number of ways. Great tomato soup. There are two locations. One in downtown Cincinnati. The other in Newport. They have a grilled cheese donut. I kid you not. I have not had the guts to try it.

There are many more places to eat, but if I tell you all of them, I might not be able to get a table myself.

— Christopher Schwarz

9 thoughts on “WIA 2011: Where to Eat in Cincinnati

  1. rburwell

    Chris- great list! I’m in on Thurs morning, any particular favorites for lunch? …and, I thought I was supposed to have 3-way Chili somewhere – guide me on guru!

  2. ccarse

    I’ve got an interesting story about Local127 and their potato foam. It involves me and a friend being absolutely COVERED in potato foam sitting at our table while our wives laughed hysterically. Only disappointing thing is they just gave us a couple damp cloths and we were never visited by a manager or offered any compensation. We were going to go out afterwards but had to go back to the hotel to change because we stunk of potato. Lol. After an email to them they made it right though.

    Nada is amazing.
    Take the cake, ditto.

    What’s the official twitter #hashtag for WIA?

  3. lbjhb

    A transvestite jazz singer? I can’t beleive you volunteered that. Would have thought that Meghan might have let that slip. What about the pig place on the eastern end of Cincinnati along the river (can’t remember the name anymore).

      1. John Cashman

        Did you ever notice that all the transvestite singers seem to favor jazz? Why aren’t there more transvestite country singers?

        And we’re still waiting for Megan’s response.

  4. John Cashman

    I can’t make it to WIA this year, so I’m not sure why I read through this entire list. Maybe because I’m hungry. But I’m glad I stuck with it so I could get to number 13.

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