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Downtown Cincinnati

I'll be staying in downtown Cincinnati at the Millenium for one night next week and am seeking a dinner recommendation. Anything worth seeking out within a reasonable distance (say a mile or two)?

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  1. If you have not had it before, your must try for a single night in Cincinnati is Cincinnati style chili

    That said, the top three regional specialties in Cincinnati (the aforementioned chili, goetta, and double decker sandwiches) can all be had at Camp Washington Chili, just a 2-3 mile run up I-75 from downtown, Open very nearly 24 hours a day.

    The most popular restaurant in Cincinnati is (arguably) Montgomery Inn, where the specialty is ribs. Ribs with bbq sauce, not bbq in the true sense as the meat is not smoked, but good eats nonetheless, imho. Get the house vinegrette dressing for your salad and the saratoga chips as your potato choice. Located on the river on the southeast tip of downtown

    For 5 star dining, you want Jean Paul's at Pigalls. The chef there is a local celebrity, well liked, and there have been nothing but raves about his food. On 4th street within a fgew blocks walk of your hotel.

    I see you have an interest in beer from the threads you have participated in....you may then have an interest in the microbrews at the Rock Bottom Brewery right on fountain square, a very short walk from your hotel. Also, across the river in Newport Ky is a outpost of Munich's own Hoffbrau House (http://www.hofbraeuhaus.de/). Mediocre food, but pretty good beer.

    I say all that without any foreknowlege of your available transportation, budget, and culinary preferences. I'd offer more suggestions if I had a better idea of what you're looking for.

    1. TJ -

      Thanks for your ideas. I found your thread on Roadfood and you are truly an incredible resource.

      I've been to Cincinnati a few times before (though not in about 5 years) and have been to Camp Washington several times. If I had free time at lunch I'd go there but I want something a little more leisurely for dinner.

      Here's my initial intinerary:

      I'm planning on breakfast at Hathaway's to try the goetta (which I have not previously tasted) as that is within walking distance of my hotel.

      I'm definitely planning to sneak out of my conference to get some ice cream at Graeter's, which is among my favorites. Oddly, I couldn't find the downtown location listed on their website. Is it still open and does it truly close at 6:00?

      But dinner is my main concern and while Pigalls sounds great, I'm seeking something less upscale but still unique. The boiled ribs at Montgomery Inn were a turn-off, frankly, and Rock Bottom is a chain.

      One place that I would be interested in hearing more about is Mejana. A good German place would be interesting, too (as that cuisine seems to be on the wane in this country). Something central European, an unusual Asian, or something very creative or funky would also be up my alley.

      Thanks for your help!

      1. The Graeter's downtown close at the end of last year and will not likely be returning. In the meantime, Cafe Martin on Vine between 8th and 9th (across from the Public Library) has licensed a ice cream counter from Graeter's, and is serving some of their ice creams there. I think you're pretty much stuck with cones and cups - none of the fancy stuff - but that's your best bet.

        There are no German restaurants downtown, and this cuisine is on the wane in this very German City. Your best bet for German is Wertheims in Covington and Lendhardt's in Clifton. Both are about 2-3 miles from your location. Both are a little bit hit and miss on the eating experience.

        Montgomery Inn is a place people either love or hate. I like it pretty well, as does most of my family. A good meal can be had there no matter what you get from an extensive menu that has much more than just ribs. But if you've already bbeen there, and didn't like it, I agree you should pass this time.

        Less expensive and less formal than deCavel's 5 star place is his Bistro, JeanRo's, which is on Vine just north of 4th, also within easy walking distance of your hotel. http://www.bistrojeanro.com/

        Unique and less expensive - Arnold's. This is one of the oldest operating eating establishment in Cincinnati, dating back to 1861. http://www.roadfood.com/Forums/topic....

        I've not been into Mejana, and asian/indian cuisine is also not an area I am strong in, but other Cincinnati contributors can (and most probably will) help here.

        1. I've not been eating downtown recently, a trend I'm hoping to reverse soon, but not in time to report before your visit. So, my suggestions are based on others' recommendations:

          *JeanRo's -- I've heard great things about it from many people, and if the food and service are anything like Pigall's, it will be a lovely meal for you. (See TJ's post for website)

          *Vinyl -- a newly opened restaurant in an old space (it was "The Diner" for many years). Friends who ate there last week said the food was good, the music was cool and the clientele was eclectic -- they really enjoyed it. A review from CityBeat (http://www.citybeat.com/current/diner... if you're clicking this week; http://www.citybeat.com/2006-10-11/di... is the permanent link) indicates that the food is hit or miss depending on who's cooking, so maybe go for a drink and an appetizer to test the water, and split if it's not good? The website isn't opening on my mac, but hopefully you can access it: www.vinylcincinnati.com

          Enjoy your visit, and please let us know where you end up!

          3 Replies
          1. re: tapas

            Fair warning - I've not been to Vinyl, so I can't speak to the eating establishment itself, but the location is a fairly long walk from where you will be staying and is in a somewhat rough neighborhood called Over the Rhine. Not as big a deal as a lunch destination, but you said this as for dinnerm and it gets dark by 6 at the moment, so.....if you decide on this place, take a cab both ways.

            1. re: TJ Jackson

              Good point, TJ -- thanks for adding that.

            2. re: tapas

              A few things:

              1.) Montgomery Inn ribs are NOT boiled. I don't know where that comes from. When I saw that yesterday I emailed the owner, and he said emphatically NO, the ribs are not boiled.

              2.) Ruby's at Seventh and Walnut puts up a good meal, and the crowd is likely to be livelier than Jean Robert's. Specialty is really big steaks, and good drinks; the place is a bit over the top, and expensive, but the meals are good.

              3.) Two Italian restaurants downtown are worth mentioning. Scotti's on Vine has been there for decades. It's a bit old-style (thick red sauce) but the meals are always good. Also, Roma Trattoria on Walnut across from the Aronoff Center -- I had a plate of gnocchi there a while back and I've been dying to return.

              4.) For a relatively cheap lunch -- Mejana has a buffet that's good. But I also like Penn Station, a local cheesesteak chain with fresh-cut fries. Also also, there's a hamburger joint on Vine between Ninth and Court, used to be called Hamburger Mary's and I can't think of the new name. Really good hamburgers. Business crowd during the day, gay bar at night. And, of course, there are three Skylines downtown; my favorite is at Seventh and Vine.

            3. I used to live in Cincy. My two favorite restaurants are...

              Teak Thai in Mt. Adams. Great curries and pad thai.

              The National Exemplar.(www.nationalexemplar.com) located in Mariemont inside the Mariemont Inn. I have had everything on the menu and have never had a bad meal. Best prime rib I have every had!

              1. Downtown, and in walking distance, Campanello's is good Italian.

                The Southbank Shuttle will take you to Newport or Covington. I recommend the Main Strasse district. There are many good restaurants there.

                1. I think I weighed in on Ruby's once before--I agree the food is excellent quality standard steakhouse fare. For my middle-class budget it's expensive enough to put it in special occasion territory. But I decidedly don't want TV sets visible in my special occasion dining room, which is why I don't go there anymore. Ruby is a good restauranteur, I just wish he'd get an implant of a little class.

                  1. I have just returned to my hotel room from a terrific dinner at JeanRo's and man, was I impressed.

                    I had the twice cooked tender pork chop with a side order of green beans and let me lay my southern prejudices on the line right now. I like my pork tender and I can't stand crunchy green beens. I know that may not be fashionable but that is just the way I am.

                    As I'm sure you know, most pork chops are fairly tough these days as the "other white meat" cuts down on its fat content so that it can be politically correct. Well this pork chop just about falls off the bone; in fact it did fall off the bone come to think of it. Apparently, they cook these chops all day and then wrap them in foil and steam them to get just the right texture.

                    And the green beens, too, were cooked through enough so that the crunch was gone but unlike the southern green beans of which I am very fond, these were finished off with lots of sauteed garlic. Very nice.

                    Finally, and this is for you, TJ, as you noticed I am a beer lover, this is one of the few upscale restaurants that care as much about beer as they do about wine. All of the beer selections were interesting, with several Belgians and domestic craft brews representing a variety of styles.

                    Thanks very much for the recommendation. I did eat well tonight. Tomorrow to Hathaways to try the goetta for breakfast.

                    1. Glad you liked it.....I do not think you will be impressed with Hathaways per se, as most see it as a dirty old coffee shop, but I do hope you like the goetta

                      1. I'm glad you enjoyed JeanRo's ... it's now moving closer to the top of my "must eat there soon" list. And thanks for inspiring me to eat downtown asap. Mission accomplished last night.

                        My husband and I ate at Vinyl around 9:30. The menu is really interesting ... I can't remember enough to list the items in detail, but our server's description of the menu as "globally influenced" is correct. There are about 10-15 small plates and salads, several options of mini-burgers (three small burgers served with a side salad), and several "TV Dinners" (entrees with a side and a brownie). We tried the Bundle of Bread small plate -- stacks of flatbread and a few pieces of fluffy bread with various dips and cheeses. The standout dips were the cheese fondue (this can be ordered as a small plate, and I'd probably get it next time), garlic puree and sesame cream cheese. We also ordered the falafel mini burgers -- cute and tasty. Our server was kind and competent -- she explained the menu (we could have figured it out, but it was a nice tour) and also let us know that it was perfectly acceptable and even encouraged to order in waves ... no need to order all at once.

                        I'd highly recommend Vinyl -- just be prepared for the loudish music and the "sceney-ness" of it all. (That's not a complaint, just a comment ... I enjoyed both.) It's nice to see a restaurant in Over-the Rhine busy, and I hope to help it continue! See links in my post above to get the location, hours, etc.

                        And a side note -- as we were driving on Vine Street last night, we saw a "Graeter's" neon sign hanging in the space across from the library ... is that still LeBoxx? Anyway, there may still be hope of eating Graeter's downtown.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: tapas

                          A Vinyl update from a recent Saturday night dinner: the menu has changed, and it now seems more upscale "expensive" than upscale "diner." The TV dinners are gone (though the single entrees, such as steak, scallops with mac and cheese, etc., that were part of the TV dinnersremain), and there are fewer small plates. Fewer vegetarian plates as well -- I think the falafel burgers were the primary option. I was sorry to see that the fondue didn't make the cut ... it was so tasty! I'd still recommend it, but it's not the same as it was.

                          1. re: tapas

                            I ate at Vinyl when it first opened, and thought it was good.

                            However, a few Saturdays ago, I returned to find the food very poor. I had the mini lobster burgers, and they were so fishy, I couldn't eat them. And the "greens", that were previously vinegar-soaked cooked greens, were now a few pieces of mixed greens, a couple of slices of apple, and a vinegarette for $6.00.

                            My friend and I pitched in $20 a piece {$40 on a $33 check}, and got up to leave, barely touching our food. Someone, who I assume, was the manager followed us out of the restaurant, asking us what was wrong with our meal.

                            When we stated our complaints, he told me lobster was fishy and Cincinnati seafood was fishy. When speaking of the "greens", he stated that we did not have the "palate" for the kind of food they were serving.

                            I found this all very insulting. I have never had lobster {or any good seafood} that tasted as fishy as the supposed "lobster" burgers I had. And I've never had a restaurant employee {owner, whatever} follow me out of an establishment to tell me I was wrong. Not very good business IMHO.

                            FYI, we were not rude in any way. We left the full bill amount, plus proper tip. My friend and I both work in the business. AND, there was only one other table there at 10:30 on a Saturday night.

                            If this is the way Vinyl is going to do business, I predict they will not last much longer. I, for one, will not be back.

                            1. re: soozycue520

                              I've had a similar experience at Vinyl. My impression is that the owners are concerned more with appearances and having a "trendy" crowd than they are with actually having a good restaurant. The food has steadily declined since their opening and the snootiness has risen. I'd love to see OTR comeback and be a big entertainment district and draw for downtown, but this is not the way to do that.

                          2. re: tapas

                            It's right next to LeBoxx - it's called Martin's Cafe and is run by the Grammercy Hotel. And yes, you can get Graeter's there. The place is pretty good - I've been there for lunch a few times, and the items are appetizing and reasonably priced.

                          3. Check earlier in this thread for the Graeter's info :-)

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: TJ Jackson

                              Wow -- I usually read much better than that! So sorry, and thanks for keeping me honest in this thread, TJ :)

                            2. Here are two good places in Newport, Kentucky, across the river from Cincinnati. Pompilio's in Newport, across the river in Kentucky, is a terrific Italian restaurant, not fancy but lively with good food and reasonably priced. York Street Cafe , also in Newport, is a fun place, a little more expensive (entrees about $13 to $22), with good food and the owner's somewhat bizarre but entertaining collection of stautuettes and other knickknacks.

                              1. I can give you a few suggestions. I would try:

                                Skyline (All over the place)
                                Larosa's (All over the place)
                                Montegory Inn (DownTown)
                                Grater's Ice Cream (All over the place)

                                Also, if you do make it to Skyline, I would suggest taking a few of their cans of chili home with you and making the famous Skyline Chili Dip. Here are some instructions on how to make it if you take some of the chili home with you: http://www.lusciousrecipes.com/Skylin...