My obsession with food is almost as all-consuming as my love for woodworking. I’ll eat almost anything, except the junk served by large chain restaurants.
So if you are thinking of a way to lure your family to Cincinnati next weekend (April 15-16) for the Lie-Nielsen show in our offices (details here), feel free to print out this list and leave it at the dinner table for your spouse to find.
And if you want the complete list of the restaurants I like and dislike, check out my reviews on Urbanspoon here. Yes, I am a food nerd, too.
Note: I like cuisine that is both high and low. So I’m going to separate the list into “Dives” and “Dining.” Let’s start with my favorite dives.
Located downtown in a neighborhood that is in “transition,” this old-school diner is one of my favorite places to get breakfast. It’s also one of the most colorful places to eat in the city. Some days you sit next to drug dealers. Other days it’s a city councilman. Amazing pancakes, home fries, omelettes and goetta (a local dish. Look it up. No, don’t.)
Taqueria Mercado 3
Though not as much a dive as its two sister restaurants, the downtown location of this Mexican restaurant is the real deal for the local Mexican population. Get the tacos. And, if you are brave, get the tripe tacos. If you are from Texas, don’t bother, however. This place is as good as we have got here in the Midwest.
Gordo’s Pub & Grill
This joint is between our office and downtown. From the outside it looks like a blue collar bar. But on the inside it looks like… a blue collar bar. But look closer. Gordo’s has an amazing beer list and seriously good burgers on homemade buns. Example: roasted poblanos, mushrooms, onions, smoked bacon, boursin and mayonnaise on a handmade burger. Yum.
Take the Cake
Best Sunday brunch ever. Take the Cake is a Northside bakery that Megan turned me onto. I have dreams about the steak and eggs. Good dreams that cannot be discussed on a family-oriented website. They also have dang good shrimp and grits. The best biscuits and gravy in town (I’m from the South – I’m licensed to say that). And they make a thing that somehow combines bread pudding with French toast.
I want to dislike this restaurant. It has the look of an overpriced bistro filled with spoiled lawyers, trophy wives and the eternally tanned. But the food and service are so tremendous, that I always leave this place with my jaw on the floor. Expensive, but worth it. Boca is less than 10 minutes from our office.
Make your reservations now because it can be tough to get into this downtown Mexican restaurant. And that’s because everything on the menu is crazy good. Crispy pork belly tacos. Homemade sopas topped with braised beef. I eat myself sick every time we go.
This is a Lowcountry restaurant (across the street from Boca, actually) that has shrimp and grits that would pass muster in Charleston. It’s more expensive than it should be, but if you like Southern food that is awash in complex flavors, you will not be disappointed.
This restaurant is the subject of foodie wars in our town, so ignore any negative reviews. They are mistaken. This is a farm-to-table restaurant that has been open for a couple years now. It is well-priced and the food always blows me away. Get the potato skins. Yes, you read that right.
A favorite of the local food bloggers, this lively downtown restaurant features food that is a mix between French and classic Cincinnati. What Jean-Robert (the chef) can do with a pork chop will amaze you. And some claim this to be the best burger in town. It can be tough to get a table, so call now.
— Christopher Schwarz