Cincinnati – Late Saturday Afternoon, Findlay Market, Sunday Brunch, Downtown Dinner
I’m planning a trip to Cincinnati in a few weeks, to catch a couple of baseball games. I’m looking for absolutely delicious food, money no object. My time frame is limited, and that creates various constraints for what I want to do. My questions concern where to eat three meals: an early dinner Saturday afternoon, Sunday brunch, and Sunday dinner downtown. I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but I know the more information I give, the better the recommendations might fit what I’m looking for. Help me find the best that Cincinnati has to offer!
FINDLAY MARKET / LATE SATURDAY AFTERNOON DINING
I’m going to be arriving downtown at Fountain Square at 2:00 pm and want to be at Great American Ball Park when they open the gates at 5:40 pm. In between will be my main meal of the day. I won’t have a car, but I’m pretty good finding my way around using public transportation. There are two ways I could go on this, and they’re not even mutually exclusive. (a) I’ve been reading about Findlay Market. It’s not far from downtown, well served by numerous bus routes. It sounds interesting enough to check it out, and maybe “graze”. I’m not sure what’s good there, and whether it’s possible to eat enough to make a dinner out of it. (b) If there’s a really great restaurant that is open all afternoon, or even one that starts serving dinner by 4:00 (*maybe* 4:30), that would work. I know there are some chain places downtown (Palomino, Rock Bottom, and Crave near the ballpark) that are okay and would qualify, but I’m wondering whether there is something better and more creative than that. What about Via Vite, which opens at 4:00; is it any good?
So my questions are these:
1. Where can I go for a nice dinner at a place that’s near downtown and open all afternoon (or by 4:00 or so)? Via Vite? Anywhere else?
2. Is Findlay Market a “don’t miss” destination for foodies?
3. Is there enough prepared food at or near Findlay Market to make a meal out of it?
I’m meeting friends for Sunday brunch, and I want to knock their socks off. They can pick me up at my hotel (not sure where yet) and then drop me off at the ballpark afterwards, so I have a bit of flexibility on location. But not on time; I’d like to be back at GABP by 11:30.
Sunday brunches tend to fall into three categories. First, there are breakfast-focused restaurants, which are usually also open for breakfast during the week. A downside of such places is that they don’t usually accept reservations, and waits to be seated can be lengthy. Second, there are restaurants that are only open for dinner and maybe lunch during the week, but have a special Sunday brunch menu, served a la carte. Many such places accept reservations. Third, there are some restaurants, often in hotels, where they do a big all-you-can-eat buffet. I don’t have any preference for one type versus another. I did some research on the ‘net, and found a bunch of places in the first category, but nothing in the other two, which I would also like to consider. Both Half Day Café and Annabel’s sound great to me, with HDC getting props for a bigger menu, Annabel’s for being closer to downtown. Other places whose menus I looked at include Take the Cake, Mokka, Nada, Melt, and Tucker’s.
So the question here is simple: Where would you go for Sunday brunch, for absolutely great food that will impress your friends and your taste buds?
DOWNTOWN SUNDAY DINNER - SIT-DOWN / CARRY-OUT
At the Sunday ballgame, first pitch is at 1:10 pm. Afterwards, I need to leave for the ride home from Fountain Square at 6:30 pm. Baseball games typically last around three hours, start to finish; however, I can't count on leaving the game at a particular time, since it might be an extra inning thriller that goes 4-5 hours, or it might be a blowout which I wouldn't mind leaving before it ends. And I'll need to be at FS 15-30 minutes early. Therefore, this will be a two-part question.
a. Sit-down dining. Let's say I have two hours between the end of the game and my departure. That ought to be enough time to have a nice sit-down meal in between. I would need a place downtown that's open late afternoon on Sundays. And I’m not big on steakhouses. I’ve found two strong possibilities, Nada and Via Vite, based on their websites. Are these any good? Chains like Crave, Rock Bottom, and Palomino are also possibilities. Any thoughts on these, and/or any other recommendations?
b. Carry-out. Let's say I have an hour between the game and my departure. That wouldn't be enough time to stop and eat anywhere, but I would have time to pick up a meal for carry-out, which I could take with me. (If need be, I could phone in the order ahead of time.) Any recommendations? I don't plan on eating much at the ballpark. I suppose I could call one of the sit-down places I mentioned in the previous paragraph to see if they can do carry-out. I was just wondering if there is anywhere else that’s really set up for carry-out, like a deli or sandwich place.
I promise to report back afterwards on where I went and how everything was.
I can't answer all of your questions, but here's what I know. There is definitely plenty of food at Findlay Market, all kinds of good stuff for grazing or sit down. You won't starve there. On a nice Saturday, it is really crowded, so plan accordingly for your time. I've only been there once, and can't wait to go back and eat some more! As for Sunday dinner, most restaurants are closed downtown. However, the Montgomery Inn Boathouse is open, and in my opinion, worth going to. You will need a cab to get there and back, not sure if you can walk from where you're staying, probably not a safe idea anyway. In case you're not familiar with Montgomery Inn, they are famous for their ribs. I am not a big fan of their ribs, but they have lots of other excellent choices on the menu, and quite a nice wine list (at the Boathouse location, anyway). The atmosphere there is great, overlooking the river. Ask the concierge at your hotel for advice also. Hope this helps and you find great food and have a great time.
Personally, I've never had good food from Montgomery Inn. The ribs are mushy and the sauce is extremely sweet, and the other things I've ordered from the menu have all been sub-par. YMMV, of course. I do like Nicholsons (which is a British pub kind of place) and had a decent meal at Via Vite. You are from the Chicago area, which has great Mexican, so Taqueria Mercado and Nada (both of which I like) probably aren't going to impress.
A few things on the Boathouse ribs: 1.) It's one of the highest grossing restaurants in the country, so I feel safe in saying most people like them. My daughter was a vegetarian till she became pregnant, and one of the first things she wanted after she started eating meat again were the ribs. They are not prepared on premises, however, and I've had racks of ribs there that were not -- how you say? -- young. If your ribs are dry, send 'em back. 2.) Ask for the sauce on the side. 3.) Get the Saratoga chips. 4.) If you dine in, try to get a window seat, upstairs. 5.) It's not as close to the ballpark as it looks, and it's long walk to Fountain Square. And whether Nada is authentic or not, their pork belly taco is one of the best things I've ever eaten.
1.) I would absolutely recommend Findlay Market, just because it's a lot of fun, especially this time of year when there are many farmers in. You'll find enough food to graze on. My favorite place to eat there is Pho Lang Tang (Vietnamese) or Tucker's (a block away). There's also a beer garden, and when the wind blows right you can smell the brewing from the nearby Samuel Adams brewery. And get ice cream from Dojo.
2.) Downtown dining -- if you're looking for casual, first choices would be Nada or Nicholson's, or even Taqueria Mercado. Scotti's is decent red-sauce Italian, and the restaurant is literally 100 years old. Up Vine Street in Over-the-Rhine you'll find Senate, A Tavola and Bakersfield, with the Lackman for beers. On Main Street in OTR you'll find Mayberry for dinner and Japp's for really great cocktails. As for the places near the ballpark, Moerlein has great beer and OK food. There's a new soul food restaurant there, Mahogany, but I can't vouch for it. And though it's a chain I like Rock Bottom.
3.) I avoid brunches because I always eat too much and then can't get off the couch the rest of the day. The Palm Court at the Hilton Netherland downtown has a high quality brunch buffet but it's pricey. The room alone -- restored Art Deco -- will knock your friends' socks off. I also like the Greyhound Tavern in Fort Mitchell for the fried chicken. I usually just go for an honest plate of eggs. There's a First Watch downtown, and I also like Camp Washington Chili for breakfast.
4.) Takeout on a Sunday afternoon? Can't think of much, don't know what's open. There's a Chipotle on Fountain Square.
If you're going to the Reds game I highly recommend Morlein Ale House. It's one of the few non chains by the park with fantastic views, local brews and a pretty big menu. On game days it will get very crowded.
In addition to the rec of Tacqueria Mercado (the best Mexican food around and they do carry out) I would also recommend Nicholson's on Walnut about a block from Fountain Square. They're open on Sundays and have a ton of imports on draft. It's still one of my favorite places to eat.
The Green Dog http://www.greendogcafe.net/features.... is open for brunch but you'd have to take a short cab ride to get there. I've not been yet but hear good things about the food and they seem to have an eclectic menu.
I would strongly recommend against the Half Day Cafe - not because the food is bad, but it's potentially further away from the stadium than you want to get. If you're in the Wyoming neighborhood, then it's a lovely place to get a nice brunch. But it's not worth that kinda drive if you want to make the game time.