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Dining Scene: Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati

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Pittsburgh and Cincinnati diners--

This week, I was having a debate between the various dining scenes in Cincinnati (my home) and Pittsburgh (my friend's home). We were trying to decide how to describe each city's strengths and weaknesses in dining. We're both pretty "boundary-less" diners-- we'll happily eat great roadside grub and pub food, and also go to four-star restaurants (IF the quality is worth it!).

So, here's how I described Cincinnati's dining scene: great for cheap local food (chili parlors, barbeque), great for high-end dining (Pigall's, Boca, Nicola's, etc), OK for some kinds of ethnic (Indian, sushi), but pretty much lacking in the "middle range" of the spectrum.

And as for Pittsburgh, I heard: really good casual and bar food (brewing company), good Italian, some decent ethnic in certain neighborhoods, but not great for fine dining.

Problem is, neither one of us knows the other's city very well! Thought I'd put it out to the intelligencia of my fellow Hounds. My questions:

-Which city has the edge in Cuisine?
-What are the pros and cons in your mind?
-Finally, just to understand your tastes, what are your favorite dining spots in each town?

These cities are alike in so many respects, interested to see if the same is true of dining!

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  1. Interesting question. I can speak to Pittsburgh but not to Cincinnati. Pittsburgh has some older places that are or aspire to be fine dining, like Le Mont, Common Plea, Grand Concourse, and Heyholde. I think the Heyholde might be the real deal. A newer trend is places that serve what might be fine dining in bistro settings. This would be Bistro 19, Nine on Nine, Sonoma Grille, and Eleven. Some people would include Six Penn in this group. Red Room Café is a likely suspect. I hesitate to name only these places because as soon as I do, I think of other places that may (or not) be as interesting, such as Café Allegro, Le Pommier, or Dish.

    This is with-out including Italian Restaurants. They are all over the area and range from neighborhood joints to outstanding. When I hear about a new, exceptionally great Italian restaurant on the other side of town, I take it with a grain of salt, simply because every area has them.

    Pittsburgh even has a couple of German style places, including Penn Brewery and Max’s Allegheny. But to me these are beer hall type places. I would suppose that Cincinnati has a big edge in German restaurants.

    I certainly am not trying to be all-encompassing here, and I suppose I’ll get chewed up, but let the conversation begin.

    1 Reply
    1. re: yayadave

      I like the way you classified some restaurants as being "older" (presumably more traditional?) places versus newer. Sounds like what is missing is fine dining in a modern/refined setting. I've noticed this area to be lacking in a lot of "central U.S." cities, including Cincinnati, with one or two exceptions.

      I had read there was a concentration of Italian restaurants in a couple of neighborhoods, but interesting that they're scattered all over. I think Cincinnati is in a "chain-only" Italian climate!

      German food in Cincinnati is abundant, but not always of top quality. Many folks point out the Hofbrauhaus (owned by the Munich hall of the same name), but frankly the place is kitchy and has as much American on the menu as German. (Fun atmosphere, though.) Mecklenberg Gardens is truly great German, but most of the others are just OK. By the way, why is it that every German restaurant feels "old"? I'm sure it's not that way in modern Germany!

      Other thoughts from folks that can weigh in one way or the other?