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DC chowhounds visiting Cincinnati area. Any recs?

  • k

Washington DC chowhounds will be visiting the Northern KY, Cincinnati area next month. Any recommendations? We love just about any type of chowhound-worthy food.

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  1. You must try the chili. You'll either love it or hate it, but it's an essential part of the Cincinnati dining experience. Don't let anyone lead you to Gold Star, please. Skyline, Skyline, Skyline! I recommend a 3-way and a coney.

    For finer dining, there are many good options downtown. My girlfriend and I rang in the new year at Bella once and it proved a wonderful experience. The lamb chops melted in my mouth and her sea scallops possessed the most wonderful combination of texture and flavor. Also, the service was top notch! I've never been, but Maisonette is Ohio's only 5 star restaurant (for what it's worth).

    For dessert, you are in luck. I don't agree with Oprah on many points, but the deliciousness of Graeter's Ice cream is one. Also, Busken Bakery makes the best frosted sugar cookies I've ever had.

    Hope you have a good time!


    1. Yes, Skyline and Graeter's are a must. Montgomery Inn Boathouse for ribs. For fine dining, Maisonette and its 5-star rating or Jean-Robert at Pigall's. Or any of the close Jeff Ruby's places (Jeff Ruby's, The Waterfront, The Precinct) for steak. Jean-Ro Bistro is a nice French Bistro (www.bistrojeanro.com) with good food. In Northern Ky, Dee Felice Cafe for Cajun food and dixieland jazz...call ahead the music changes nightly.

      Link: http://www.bistrojeanro.com

      2 Replies
        1. See the link provided below for more Cinti/NKY info

          Link: http://www.roadfood.com/Forums/topic....

          1. If you have time/want an excursion, go East on route 50 (Columbia Parkway) to a little town called Mariemont. It was built in the early 1900s as a model town (modeled after a town in England) and it has retained tons of charm from then. The town is on the National Register for Historic Landmarks.

            When you hit the town center (route 50 goes directly through) you'll see on your left the Mariemont Inn, in which there is a terrific restaurant called the "National Exemplar" - nice setting, excellent food (melt in your mouth filet mignon). Also in the town square (right next to the movie theater) is another restaurant called "The Quarter" with a menu that changes, but is good. Nice atmosphere. And, to top it off, there's a large Graeter's in the town center as well for dessert! (other side of the theater) If it is nice out, the square and town are nice for a walk.

            Admission: I grew up there and my parents still live there, so I love it!

            6 Replies
            1. re: Cintigirl

              Oddly enough, the best pizza in town for my dollar....Mio's....is also located right on that same block with the Quarter et al mentioned in the previous posting. Thin or Chicago style, both great, but if you haven't had a Chicago style stuffed pizza before, get one here, very authentic and easily as good as Giordanos in Chicago

              1. re: TJ Jackson

                TJ, for various reasons we have not had Mio's pizza here. But we ate a lot of Giordano's when we lived in Chicago. Between Mio's stuffed and Uno's here in Cincinnati, which would you pick?

                1. re: MikeH

                  Yes, Mio's is very good; didn't mention it because the other person seemed to be "finer dining" oriented! (I confess to a partiality for LaRosa's pizza and sauce - I've been eating it all my life and Mio's is a relative "newcomer" to the square, having been there only a little more than 15 yrs or so! I always pick up cans of it on visits home)

                  I've lived in Chicago and had Uno's, Giordano's, and other famous brands of Chicago deep dish. You cannot go wrong with Mios. But you can't get Mio's outside of Cinti, I believe, while Uno's is a national chain at this point. So go local!

                  1. re: Cintigirl

                    I love Mio's when the pizza first hits my plate and for the first few bites, but by then end of my first piece I've had enough. I think LaRosa's is more "Cincinnati" since it does have a very unique flavor, and Mio's is more of a Cincinnati take on Chicago style pizza.

                  2. re: MikeH

                    The UNo's franchise's are pale shadows of the original in Chicago. Don't even bother with them.

                    The one in Beechmont even closed due to lack of business.

                    Mio's is what you want.

                  3. re: TJ Jackson

                    Mio's has a great veggie pizza but what really sets them apart from all the other pies in Cincinnati is their signature sesame seed crust. They coat the edges of the crust with oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds and then bake it off. The seeds toast up in the oven and make for an outstanding flavor to accent the pizza.

                2. In addition to all mentioned above. I'll make these additions

                  Fine(ish) Dining:
                  Boca in Oakly
                  Daveeds in Mt Adams
                  Primavista (Somewhat near downtown)
                  Beluga in Hyde Park (Asian Fusion and Sushi)

                  Zips in Mt Lookout is consistantly voted as having the best burgers in town.

                  And definitely try the chili if you've never had it.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: ang99

                    Agreed that Zips is considered have really good hamburgers, though personally, I don't get it. For a great basic burger, I vote for Quatman's in Norwood.

                    1. re: CincinnatiLisa

                      Would take Quatman's over Zip's. I've eaten at both within the last 2 weeks, and Zip's is good, but Quatman's is the quintessential burger. Got to love a place where the beverage is included in the special, and you can choose beer. Also they feature a "lunchmeat" sandwich, but I've never tried one...you get a choice of "lunchmeat" from their meat case.

                      For pizza, I'd recommend Dewey's in Oakley. I think they have a couple of other locations, too. They are great.

                      1. re: sudiepav

                        There is a thread further up about Dewey's Pizza in Missouri, but I always thought it was local to Cincinnati w/the one in Oakley being the original (I live near the one in Symmes). The MO thread mentions the speciality pizzas (Green Lantern, Edgar Allen Poe) so it seems like the same place. Have they expanded or was I mistaken in thinking Dewey's was local?

                        1. re: CincinnatiLisa

                          Andy DeWitt started Dewey's in Cincinnati (he worked for a similar concept while living in Seattle and virtually duplicated the concept to his liking when he opened Dewey's Pizza in Cincinnati in 1998) however his father once owned (and maybe still owns, I'm not certain) the St. Louis Cardinals. Hence the Dewey's Pizza in the MO thread. It is the same concept and owned by the same person.

                          Hands down Dewey's makes the best 'gourmet' pizza in Cincinnati.

                      2. re: CincinnatiLisa

                        Quatmans is much, much better than Zip's

                        Parking is a problem at both of these places

                    2. Be certain to sample our three local "specialties" while you are here:

                      Cincinnati style chili. There are Skyline's and Goldstar's all over the place dishing this stuff out, but go to one of the true chowhound type places for the best stuff: Camp Washington Chili, Blue Ash Chili, or Price Hill Chili. Get a cheese coney and a 3, 4, or 5 way (the latter two depend on you liking diced raw onion and/or beans)

                      Goetta. Camp Washington and Price Hill both serve breakfast, so get you some there while you're gettign your chili fix. One order can be split easily for sampling among 3-4 people.

                      Double Decker sandwich. All three above chili parlors offer this, with Blue Ash making (imho) the best.

                      That all said, have the responses given thus far covered what you are looking for?

                      1. c

                        You have received some great advice so far, and most of what I'd recommend echos previous posts. For what it's worth, here is my two cents:

                        Skyline for Chili
                        Fine Dining: Boca and Jean Robert at Pigalls. He has a Vietnamese/French fusion place called Pho Paris which I have yet to try but is supposed to be excellent. Primavista is my fav for italian and it does have a great view.
                        Ice Cream: Graeters - try something w/chips (mocha chips is my favorite) - sometimes you'll find a chip the size of a golf ball due to the way their ice cream is made.
                        Steakhouse: Jeff Ruby's (or any that he owns - Precinct, South Beach Grille, Carlo & Johnny's)

                        Enjoy Cincinnati - I think we have more great food to offer than most would expect.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: CincinnatiLisa

                          Pho Paris is very good. Had dinner there about 6 weeks ago. Different foods, different sauces. Nice wine list. Good, friendly, helpful service. We will go there again.

                        2. I agree that Cincinnati has more good restaurants than one might expect. I'd add two of my favorites to the list. If I were visitng and could dine at only one restaurant, it would be Riverside in Covington. Odd as it may seem, this among the best Korean restaurants I've enjoyed anywhere. Riverside is tiny--I think about twelve tables--so reserve, especially on weekend evenings. The food is wonderful and the staff is friendly. It's a family operation, although occasionally you might get a server who is not a family member. You can get Korean standards such as (delicious) bimbimbap or exotic offerings from their "adventure" menu.

                          Another fun place is Shanghai Mama's. It's in downtown Cincinnati at 216 E. 6th Street. It's open until (I think) 3 am Friday and Saturday nights. The food is fresh and creative; not your usual Chinese. Really fun after midnight on weekends. There aren't many other options at that hour in Cincinnati.

                          For what it's worth, my two cents' worth on ice cream and chili places: First, although I have friends who love Graeters and who cannot visit Cincy without going there, I've never understood their fascination. The ice cream is okay, but it's not really outstanding. Much better is Aglamesis Brothers in Oakley. The ice cream is just plain better. (Although if you're a vegetarian, be advised that at least some flavors contain gelatin. Don't know why.)

                          As for chili, what is the deal with Skyline and Goldstar? The chili in those places is bland, bland, bland! Why would you want to eat that? Is it just the tradition? I don't get it.

                          Link: http://www.citybeat.com/2002-02-28/di...

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Alec

                            THANK YOU everyone for all the fantastic recommendations. My husband and I have been in the Cincinnati area many times, but just briefly and with no companion foodies around. I was in need of some great chowhound recs which all of you so kindly provided. Since we were, and are, staying in Northern KY, I am familiar with Dixie chili (okay) and I have been to Riverside! Which was just great, but I hesitate to say so because it's so tiny and I'd like them to have room for us when we visit in April. We've also been to Daveed's which we thoroughly enjoyed, but now I need to try all the other great recommendations. Pho Paris sounds intriguing because we have so many Vietnamese restaurants around here, but nothing so interestingly fusion. Their website makes me drool.

                            My husband and I are planning on retiring in the Cincinnati area. I am thrilled there are so many wonderful restaurants and devoted chowhounds. And once we have more time to explore, we'll venture more into Cincinnati neighborhoods.

                            Thank you!

                            1. re: Kristine

                              Glad we were of help to you.

                          2. a few suggestions/observations, in case you haven't made your trip yet...

                            1) cincinnati doesn't have great food, so don't get your hopes up. if you just have average expectations you'll be fine, but if your expectations are high you'll be disappointed.

                            2) maisonette is way overrated. food is okay at best, service is pretentious and annoying. waste of money (just my opinion). pigall's is way more worthwhile for the money, much higher food quality and great service that's more relaxed and informal. love this restaurant.

                            3) slim's is a great restaurant in northside, very unique and menu changes weekly.

                            4) all the pizza in this town is lousy. don't even waste a meal by trying it, unless you're just desperate for food. instead try different versions of cincinnati chilli (gold star, skyline, etc.).

                            5) national exemplar/mariemont inn is very good. yes, older crowd, but enjoyable atmosphere and excellent food. i think it's best for sunday brunch. another suggestion for mariemont is dilly deli. live music on fri and sat nights, usually starting at 7:30. amazing wine and beer menu (probably most extensive in cincy) with very fair prices. food is overall excellent. not amazing, but great value and very tasty. outdoor dining available. good evening is to eat at dilly deli, ice cream at graeters, then movie at the mariemont theater, then coffee at starbucks...all within a few hundred hards of each other in a charming town.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: razfamily

                              Um, the Maisonette has been closed for a while. So it really doesn't matter what anyone thinks about it. However, due to the new Toyota plant in Kentucky there have been a bunch of great new Japanese and Korean restaurants opening in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area. So those are becoming quite good. The Korea House up in Symmes Township/Mason is really good. Another good ethnic find is Samarkand Cafe (also in Mason) which is Uzbekistani food. The staff speaks next to no English, but the menu has pictures that answer lots of questions.

                              From a food point, unfortunately the most interesting finds are moving away from the city center and are located in either Kentucky or the outskirts of Cincinnati, typically in Mason. However, from a fine dining standpoint, the city center still has quality finds in Jean Pigal's (downtown), Boca (Oakley), Slims (Northside), and Nectar (Mt. Lookout).

                            2. Uh, the Maisonette and Pho Paris and Bella are closed.

                              Please do not leave DC, where you can go to Pizzaria Paradisio, and hope to get pizza. If you insist, only go to Dewey's. Everywhere else is a tomato paste disaster. Instead, go to Slim's, in Northside, or Boca, or Jean-Ro Bistro.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: holuh3

                                Ok I have been to Pizza Paradiso and was unimpressed. Deweysis ggod. Sorry Pho paris is closed --it was a great restaurant. The one that has relpaced it has lukwarm at best reviews-don't think i will bother. Went to a fun place on the east side ( where there is little restaurant action) called The Foreign Exchange, last night and liked it.

                                1. re: holuh3

                                  Chalk Food+Wine has replaced Pho Paris. It's supposed to be good, but doesn't sound particularly fascinating.

                                2. jean robert at pigalle...2 thumbs UP!!! on the pricey side but way worth it!

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: rtv

                                    Tragically, Jean Robert at Pigalles recently closed their doors (oddly, the same day that they received the honor of being crowned one of just 3 four-star restaurants in the state of Ohio. Cincinnati lost a gem.

                                    1. re: miscellaneous

                                      Not to be too picky, but they're not closing until the end of February.