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Great Places to eat in CIncinnati

There has been discussion about Cincinnati chili, and goetta, and dive places in Cincinnati, but good food has not really been discussed. Okay, yes it has, but a new discussion is warranted.


Where do you like to eat?

Northern KY is open. Southeastern Indiana is open. Greater Cincy in general.

Let's start an open discussion!!

Good food in the Greater Cincinnati area, for me, leaves a lot to be desired. Here are my favorites:

Dee Felice: Great ambience. I always love eating here. Best escargot in the area. And the jazz band plays above the bar!! It is something to experience!!

Main Strasse {in Covington, KY}, in general is where I send people from out of town. It is much better than Newport!!

Just a start. I know a lot about Cincinnati, and I know a lot about food.

Cincinnati is not the end all, beat all, when it comes to food.

But what do you like?

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  1. No, it's not. But there are some very good places on all ends of the pricing spectrum if you search them out. Curently, we like Slim's and Honey in Northside, Hacienda in Clifton, Knotty Pine on the Bayou in N. KY, and Barbecue Revue on Madison. Jean-Ro's Bistro downtown is very good. also. Others???

    1. I'm going to vigorously disagree with you. I think there's plenty of good food in this city. We're not New York or Chicago or San Francisco, but we're also not Orlando or Columbus. I think there's some terrific high-end dining here (JR's, Boca, Daveed's or Pho Paris to name a few, and the new Red in Hyde Park is supposed to be terrific). There's good Indian and good Chinese/Asian. I recently had a meal at a new cigar bar up in Butler County that was just terrific. I think the Mexican food here is largely undiscovered. We have a distinctive regional specialty (yes, that would be Cincinnati chili).

      Cincinnati's problem is geographic. The hills and the river split up the town, making it tough to go from east to west, north to south. Because of that, people don't travel far from home, and maybe that makes it hard for restaurants to draw from a larger area. There are pockets in this town where the restaurant coverage could be better (Northern Kentucky, the West Side) but if you're willing to drive an extra 10 or 15 minutes, or 45 minutes total on occasion -- and in addition, take some risks -- you can find lots of good food.

      That said, we have lousy pizza and we need better bar food, and then there's the whole grilled-chicken-caesar salad scourge, but that's a national phenomenon, not a regional one. Regardless, I can find a good meal every night for a couple of months in Cincinnati and not eat in the same place twice.

      Like, what is it you're looking for?

      6 Replies
      1. re: johnbycz

        I posted a bunch of my favorites on the recent chili thread so won't repeat everything. What I will say is that I think Barresi's is one of the finest restaurants I've been to anywhere--and that includes my past days of expense account business travel on the east coast.

        I'm surprised at your geographic analysis. We have north-south interstate highways, as well as a couple of limited-access east-west roads. I agree people often don't seem to want to travel far from home, but I don't think highway inaccessability is the reason.

        That said, please share where you've found good Chinese food, especially in the older parts of town. The bad Chinese food I've had in this astounds me. I like the Blue Gibbon, but driving there does get old, and some variety would be nice.

        1. re: Emm

          The Szechuan Wok in Silverton is our favorite. After eating at PF Chang and having to admit I enjoyed what I ate at a chain Chinese restaurant, I finally got to China Gourmet (Hyde Park) and vowed never again to set foot in PF Chang. I like the noodles at Bangkok Bistro in Hyde Park, and Soong Long in Roselawn for Vietnamese. I've also heard great things about Uncle Yip's and the House of Sun (the one up north, not the one downtown), but as yet haven't been to either. There's also a Korean place in Covington I've been meaning to try. I haven't been to Blue Gibbon in years, but I always liked their orange-flavored beef.

          As for the geography, the interstates in this town run north-south and around (275) but not east-west. I live in Anderson Township, which has only a handful of decent places to eat (El Coyote, El Ranchito, ATP for burgers and Pelican's Reef). Try get from there to Maury's Tiny Cove in Delhi (good steaks and honest drinks, BTW), or to Kenwood, or to Jungle Jim's. It takes frickin' forever. And for me, it's easier to name restaurants that aren't on the interstate than those that are. The river and the hills in this town create pockets of commerce (think Mount Lookout, Hyde Park and Madiera), and for some reason people just don't want to venture that far.

          1. re: johnbycz

            Uncle Yips used to have great dim sum but last I heard they had lost their dim sum chef. It was kind of a destination for us on the way to Jungle Jim's. I was sorry to hear about losing the chef.

            We have eaten at Parker's Blue Ash Grill. It has been a couple of years since we were there. They had french fries that were transcendental. I hope they still are.

            1. re: johnbycz

              Have you been to Nectar ,. It is too darned Loud, but the food is good. I love Bankok bisto's Crispy Pad Thai--must have at least once in a while. Has anyone eaten at Slims? We tried to go--it was closed --and ended up at Honey, where the french fries with chili sauce are driving me mad to get back there.

              1. re: johnbycz

                Finally made it to Szechuan Wok and thought it was very good, much better than the norm for this area. I admit I love the ambience of Chinese places which were first decorated sometime around 1955 and haven't changed a bit. This one fits that bill, too. My orange chicken was barely breaded, which was nice. Also it had just enough ginger to enhance the flavor, as opposed to the overpowering amount used many places. Appetisers (egg roll and pot stickers) were crispy and delicious. Hubby said he will order his Kung Pao chicken a little spicier next time.

                1. re: Emm

                  Cool. It's a family-owned place and the owners have talked recently about selling. I hope that doesn't happen for a long time. I always complement the owner for not turning the place into a buffet, a movement that's killing Chinese food in this town.

          2. John - have you been to to
            Paradiso or Clough Crossings on Clough?
            Mio's in Mt Washington?
            Salem Gardens?
            Betta's in Mt Lookout?
            The Iron Skillet in Newtown?
            Roy Roger's in Eastgate?

            Oddly, I know people who rave about both Pelican's Reef and El Coyote but I have never had a good meal at either

            1. Paradiso -- yes. Great pizza (when I said this town has lousy pizza, I mean your basic pie is doughy, undercooked and cheap on the toppings. There are places like Pomi's, Dewey's and Paradiso that are good, and Mio's is probably the best of the chains locally.)
              Clough Crossings -- yes, but not in a while. I will say the parking lot is usually full.
              Mio's -- yes. The pizza is better than average, but the rest of the menu is pretty weak.
              Salem Gardens -- yes. I can walk there from my house, and it's a shame it's so terrible. Mostly it's bad service and the dumbest waitresses on the face of the earth. I've been eating chicken wings since 1972 and Salem Gardens is the only place that's ever served them to me rare. I once asked a waitress if the Friday fish fry was fresh, and she said yes; she brought it to me and the fish was square. It's certainly popular but I've had too many bad experiences there.
              Betta's -- yes. It's decent. (My favorite place in Mount Lookout Square is Sushi Ray. Zip's is overrated.)
              Iron Skillet -- yes, I love the Hungarian/German food, terrific paprikash, terrific schnitzels. The rest of the menu isn't that good.
              Roy Roger's? I know where it is; haven't been there. Is there something that makes it outstanding?

              El Coyote is one of the few places around that will cook steaks black-and-blue (also called Pittsburgh). I also love their empanadas and fajitas carnitas, and their mac-and-cheese, and I think their margaritas are the best in town. The problem with El Coyote is it's starchy (tortillas, tortilla chips, mac-and-cheese and mashed potatoes). I enjoy it more when I lay off the chips and salsa. Pelican's Reef seems to have a real cook in the kitchen. They do mussels over pasta with a homemade tomato-and-roasted-red-pepper sauce that's very good. Good chance that's where I'm having dinner tonight.

              1. I'm a former Cincinnatian (living in NYC) who returns often and I am blown away at how good the food is in Cincinnati. And Cincinnati has a rich fine dining tradition and history also with the Maisonette, Pigall's, La Normandie, etc.

                I was just in town recently and ate at Pho Paris, Daveeds and JeanRo Bistro. All extremely good restaurants. And in the past I have eaten at and loved the Montgomery Inn and the Palace.

                1 Reply
                1. re: livetotravel

                  I do agree Pho Paris is impecable. We go there for most of our family celebrations. And I loved Honey when I ate there with a friend . Even though the West Side is a mystery for me:). But my family had one of the worst meals of our lives at Jean Ro Bistro. Just awful. So pelican reef is good. I haven't eaten there for a few years, because it was....um...not memorable when it first opened. I will try it again. El Coyote is always good, but, as an earlier poster mentioned, starchy. You can manage that better nowdays, because they have added some green to the menus. My husband loves their fish--go figure.

                2. Chinese-wise, I'm not overlly impressed, but Pacific Moon Cafe can easily compete with a lot of the dim sum in San Francisco. Try the asparagus/shrimp dumpling, beef noodle, har gao, sui mai, and ha yeung. Those are my personal favorites.

                  1. BOCA is my favorite. Great service, outstanding food, upbeat atmosphere - love it! I grew up in New Orleans and Dee Felice is a poor excuse for cajun/creole. Good entertainment, but I do have the question the expertise as someone who considers it tops for food.

                    TOTALLY agree w/the last comment about Pacific Moon. Their overall offerings have definitely taken a nose dive in quality, but their Dim Sum is tops.

                    El Coyote is okay but not as good as it used to be either (though I truthfuly haven't been in a while). The best mexican we've found in town in Rincon in Eastgate. Great mole, chili verde and tamales. The Roy Rogers in Eastgate is awesome. I don't know what makes them so good, but their Roast Beef sandwiches w/their sauce and horsradish are to die for.

                    Oh, I love the BBQ Chicken Pizza from Dewey's and the brisket and the mac&cheese from BBQ Review. And fish sandwiches w/tartar sauces and pumpkin pie from Frischs. Really good rich Red Curry Chicken at Thai Delight Cafe on Montghomery Rd. Okay, that's it, I better stop cause I'm making myself too hungry!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: cincinnatilisa


                      Re: Dee Felice: I was really commenting on the escargot, and the ambience, with the jazz and bar scene. I didn't mention anything about it's comparison to New Orleans cuisine.

                      I was actually just trying to start a new post, because so many people were talking about good/bad Cincy restaurants on the Cincy Chili thread.

                      I do have other likes and dislikes, but gosh, I was just trying to start a discussion that people coming to Cincinnati could appreciate, and possibly, use. My objective was not to offend.

                      I work in a hotel, and have the opportunity to send people to places. There is not much I can recommend in Downtown CIncy anymore. All of the remaining restaurants are pretty high-end {Jean Robert's restaurants, Jeff Ruby's, the Palace, etc.} Not everyone coming to Cincy is on an expense account.

                      Newport on the Levee is geared toward younger person, IMHO. MainStrasse is a little more unique.

                      I recently ate at Red's in Hyde Park Square. It was excellent!! I had a great Savory Mushroom & Tasso Bread Pudding that was to die for. I can only hope they make it in a location that has seen many restaurants go under. A lot of restaurants don't stay open long enough for me to even try.

                      Aioli was great, but haven't been to Nectar yet. I love Dewey's Edgar Allan Poe and Green Lantern pizzas.

                      Oh~Downtown, Campanello's has great red sauce~good italian food. And late night at Shanghi Mama's is a unique experience with decent food {even if somewhat "Americanized Asian"}.

                      I have experienced some restaurants where the quality of food is iffy, but been back at a later time to experience fabulous food, so sometimes going once doesn't always give you a good overview. Different people have different experiences. There's nothing wrong with that!! ;^}

                    2. I lived in the Cincinnati area for many years, and though I moved away in 2003 I still check this board now and then. I miss several Cincinnati restaurants.

                      My favorite, without a doubt, is Riverside Korean in Covington. Always excellent food, and the family that owns it and that takes care of you (usually) when you eat there is so nice.

                      I also used to enjoy Song Long, the Vietnamese place up north (Rosemont) and Shanghai Mama's downtown.

                      I love Tuckers in Over-the-Rhine. Great breakfast. Fresh basil in the homefries.

                      I miss Dewey's Pizza and Aglemesis Brothers Ice Cream.

                      My wife and I used to occasionally, when it was late and almost everything else was closed, sit in the bar in the Omni Netherland Hotel and have cheeseburgers and shrimp cocktail and martinis. That was fun.

                      There was a little African/Ethiopean place in, I think, Pleasant Ridge that had wonderful food, cheap.