If you are coming to Woodworking in America next week, you probably are going to eat something at some time during your trip here. If you’d just like to eat junk in or near your hotel, that’s fine by me. But if you happen to obsess about food (or have a spouse who obsesses about food), then here is a short list of places to eat that are all close to the Northern Kentucky Convention Center.
Within Walking Distance
Greenup Street is just a couple blocks east of the conference and home to three good places at which I eat fairly regularly.
For dinner, try Chalk Food + Wine. It’s a fairly casual bistro that uses lots of local ingredients (one employee here raises pigs for the restaurant). There are always a couple good beers on tap and a good list of reasonable wines by the glass. It’s more lively than romantic.
Across the street is Keystone Bar & Grill. What I dislike about Keystone is they allow smoking in the bar area (there’s a nonsmoking room). What I really like about the place is the amazing macaroni and cheese. They must serve it about 10 ways, including my favorite: with mushrooms and steak tips. Keystone also puts on one of the best Sunday brunches in the city.
In that same block is Greenup Cafe. It has great breakfasts. Good French pastries. Good coffee. And a nice garden out back in which to soak up the sunshine and almond croissants.
If you walk a couple blocks west and south of the convention center you will find Covington’s Main Strasse area, a strip of restored buildings filled with all manner of restaurants, shops and bars. It is lively on a weekend night.
My favorite place is the Cock & Bull, an English pub with excellent fish and chips (covered in panko!) and always good English beer on tap (plus some Belgian ales). On a nice night they open up all the windows and walls of the place and it spills out onto the square. Very European and nice. And cheap!
Catty-corner to the Cock & Bull is Chez Nora. Cincinnati is a long way from New Orleans, but this place might fool you. They’ll have a big brass band on stage on the ground floor with a lively bar. Good food. Upstairs it’s quieter. Be sure to hit the rooftop bar. Best view of the city.
Just a block or so south is Bouquet, a restaurant and wine bar. Yes, I like wine, too. Good, inventive American food. Very friendly service. A nice romantic place to take your spouse after you buy a Sauer & Steiner plane.
Across the River
If you are willing to walk or drive across the river to downtown Cincinnati, then there is a whole big world of food awaiting you, including my favorite restaurant in the city, Nada. Go early or get a reservation. It is the best Mexican food in town, but not your typical burrito. The dÃ?Â©cor is modern and high-end meets Mexican wrestling flick.
Across the street is Nicholson’s, a huge Scottish pub and restaurant. Tons of single-malt scotches. Great beer. Good high-end bar food. And all the fixtures are from Scotland.
Try Local 127. This is a “locavore” restaurant that features lots of produce and meats from the Queen City. It’s kind of down-home cooking meets Iron Chef meets Cincinnati. Very reasonably priced for what you get. Friendly staff.
Like crepes? (They are just really thin pancakes, Ricky Bobby.) Do not miss It’s Just Crepes. We go every couple weeks. Cheap. Fast. Dang good.
One of my regular haunts is The Bistro. It’s a casual bistro. Amazing french fries made with duck fat. Belgian ales on draft. Mussels. Traditional French country cooking. I’ve eater here about 50 times.
If it is 2 a.m. and you want Chinese, hit Shanghai Mama’s. They make their own noodles from scratch. Open way late and populated by the people who work in the downtown restaurants.
Do you like steak? Do you have money? The best steak I’ve ever had is at Jeff Ruby’s. This is a steakhouse where James Bond would go if he were in town. Beautiful trophy wives. Lots of wood paneling. Money everywhere. A jazz combo in the corner. But the steak…. you can eat at the bar and watch the people.
On the other side of the coin is Taqueria Mercado. Authentic Mexican food served by Mexicans. Tripe. Tongue. Amazing chorizo. Cheap. Good beer. And it’s usually empty at dinnertime (it is crazy at lunch).
That should get you started. I have 10 more places in mind that I haven’t mentioned but this entry is getting long. A good place to look for more information is UrbanSpoon’s Cincinnati page.
– Christopher Schwarz