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Aug 23, 2009 10:02 PM

Recent Cincinnati picks?

Visiting Cincinnati for 3 days this week on business -- used to live there but moved away 5 years ago for Baltimore. What's new and exciting since I've been gone? I'll be staying downtown but will have a rental car. Don't need the touristy stuff (no need for Skyline or Montgomery Inn). Any and all cuisines are fine. My price point is flexible -- on expense but need to keep it within reason - don't want to spend money just to spend it.

Quick search online suggests some good options may be: Nada, Boca, JeanRo Bistro or Nectar. I'm intrigued by reviews of Cuba Cafe (love little cheap, hole in the wall places like this). Thoughts on these?

I've been to Slims', Nicola's and Mesh and while they were good, would love to try something new. I have some nostalgia for Ambar/Baba India, Lemongrass, Sabor Peruano, as well as Andy's Mediterranean, so one of those may be in the rotation while there. Not really feeling expensive steaks like Jeff Ruby's or Precinct.

What other options should I consider?

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  1. A couple of restaurants in Northside (a quick drive north of downtown and easily accessible from I-75) worth adding to your prospect list are Honey and Melt. Honey, in the original Boca location, does dinner with an emphasis on clean flavors and locally grown product. Housemade ice creams and an interesting drink selection are an added treat. Six of us dined there a couple of months ago and everyone loved it. FYI, they don’t take reservations and as I recall, their list of specials was almost as long as the regular menu posted on their website.

    Melt is more of a soup, sandwich and salad place and very veg-friendly. Lovely food, although it might be tricky to get a seat during peak lunch hour, based on my limited experience (take-out is also an option). Both are well worth checking out.

    1. I would recommend Hugo. It's on Madison Road across from Boca. Hugo serves South Carolina-style Southern dishes. I've been there several times now and have always had a wonderful experience. A few "go to" dishes for me are the Rabbit over house-made pasta or the Duck Breast served over a "cake" of grits with okra.

      You also can't go wrong with Boca. Always fantastic.

      Enjoy your trip and be sure to report back with the highlights.

      1. Most of the bases are covered. If you miss BBQ, Walt's on Colerain Avenue is about the best in town. Also, for Vietnamese, Song Long in Roselawn is terrific.

        1. Thanks for all the recommendations! I've had a great dining trip so far. Started off at Nada for dinner last night and thoroughly enjoyed my lovely sparking sangria and 3 different types of tacos -- the carnitas was my favorite, the crispy pork belly second, and the barbacoa was great as well. I ordered a side of mashed plantains which were just ok -- they were recommended by the waitress, but she didn't mention until I was eating them that they were actually (at least) half mashed potatoes mixed in with the mashed plantains.

          Enjoyed a reminiscent dinner at Baba India tonight (their saag really is head and shoulders beyond any I've had elsewhere).

          So, my dilemma is my last dinner tomorrow night -- Chalk? Honey? Nectar?
          I can't decide! Hugo sounds terrific but I'll be in the Carolinas next week so can get my fill of good southern food there.

          2 Replies
          1. re: bluepig1

            Of Chalk, Honey and Nectar, I like Honey best. Just ate at Chalk this weekend and thought it was very good but not in the "must" category (my fault; I ordered a steak and it was ordinary). Haven't been to Nectar in a more than a year.

            If you're downtown, go to the Palace and have dessert. The pastry chef there used to work at Pho Paris and Chalk, and they're the best desserts I've ever had. Sit at the bar (the Cricket) and enjoy yourself. Haven't done that yet but it's on my list.

            1. re: bluepig1

              Thanks everyone! So on Thursday night I made it to both Honey and Chalk. Unforunately, only one of them was open!! I went to Honey first based on the strong recommendations only to find that they had closed for 10 days on vacation. Oh well - that's what happens with small family-run places.

              So despite being somewhat crunched for time - I headed down to Chalk (calling them from the car to make sure they were open!) in time for a nice dinner in the bar area. Started off with the summer roasted beet salad -- interesting (unusual) presentation with hazelnut butter underneath, but the wildflower honey was lovely and the garrotxa cheese (first I'd ever had) was really yummy. The different cheese added a little bit of a twist (and a lot of flavor) on the standard goat cheese & roasted beet salad that's so common in other restaurants. The lobster risotto was really terrific -- a relatively small portion for $13, but really rich, flavorful and creamy with a few small chunks of lobster tail. Just the right balance of slightly al dente and cooked through for my taste. Had a nice Riesling paired with it. I didn't try any of the entrees as I was meeting a friend for dessert later on and the 2 appetizers with bread were adequately filling.

              Speaking of dessert - we went to Yagoot in Kenwood Mall. The good news is Cincinnati now has a tart frozen yogurt chain to rival some of the big East and West coast chains -- the yogurt itself was quite tangy and good (I had the original & strawberry flavors swirled). The bad news was that I ordered mochi, a favorite topping of mine and a fast mover in other cities. Apparently not so in Cincinnati - these mochi had clearly been sitting out for days on end as they were very hard to bite into vs the nice soft chewy texture they're supposed to be. I should have said something to the clerk but we'd already walked elsewhere in the mall.

              I ended my trip with a quick Skyline stop on my way to the airport :) . Thanks again for all the great recos - I'm excited that Cincinnati is starting to try to support some new exciting dining and hope that they won't go the way of a lot of other restaurants from my time in Cinci 5 years ago (Pigalls, Bella, Maisonette, La Normandie, Bangkok Bistro).

            2. Boca has the top food in town (Madison Rd in Oakley)

              Vietnamese: Song Long.....retro Chinese restaurant look in [once vital] Roselawn. Vietnamese menu is fantastic !!

              Tanqueria Mercado on Rt 4 in Fairfield......the real article. Menudo soup is truly the hair of the dog for hangovers. Everything is terrific..Tortas and Tacos are wonderful.

              Honey: in Northside, Cinc's up and coming edgy neighborhood. Site of original Boca (Hamilton Ave). Nice bistro-type menu /ambiance.

              Szechuan Bistro....truly authentic Cnhinese (ask for "other"Chinese menu) in a strip mall way north in the suburbs (Mason-Montgomery Rd)...this is where the ethnics are nowadays.