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Nov 17, 2012 03:59 PM

Cincinnati Weekend

I'm going to be in Cincinnati the weekend of December 7th for a football game and am looking for some restaurant ideas. We'll be staying downtown at the Garfield Suites Hotel and will be there from the Friday to the Sunday. I'm the only foodie in a group of four so I need a good range of restaurants, and reasonably priced is always good. I always like to sample the local cuisines and I understand that we need to eat some chili. Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

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  1. Stay away from the chain Cincinnati Chili restaurants unless you like overcooked spaghetti with lots of glop on top.

    2 Replies
    1. re: pasuga

      On the other hand, please do try our Cincinnati chili if you have an open mind about regional specialties, as have many, many respected food writers over the years.

      1. re: jmckee

        Yes and based on where you're staying I'd suggest Camp Washington.
        Don't just stick with the chili either. Get yourself a sample of Goetta as well.

        Your non foodie friends will surely be happy with double decker sandwiches.
        I should point out that, from my experience, Cinci folks love mayo. If you get a sandwich, expect a ton of it.

        Be forewarned though, Cinci chili isn't like chili as you know it. It's more like a spaghetti sauce and I find the best comparison is it tastes like the meat component in the Greek dish Pastichio. Or maybe Moussaka.


    2. Right across the street from the Garfield House (a great place to stay, btw) is Jean-Robert's Table, which is very good. Down the street, a few block's, is Scotties--an old timey red sauce joint that used to be very good (haven't been in a while). Not too far away is Tucker's in Over the Rhine. Nada isn't too far away, and gets a lot of love, but I haven't been there; it's Mexican. Can't help you with the Cinci chilli as I'm not a fan, but there's a Graeter's Ice Cream downtown on Fountain Sq, and Graeters is a Cinci institution.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Niki in Dayton

        I ate dinner at Jean-Robert's Table in September, and loved it. They have a knack for delicious food and nicely composed plates, with a variety of tastes and textures. Thoroughly excellent.

        If you're interested in a terrific buffet Sunday brunch before the game, go to the Cincinnati Hilton Netherland Plaza, just a few blocks walk from the Garfield Suites and on the way to the stadium. It's a lavish buffet, with all the usual stuff - a carving station, made-to-order omelets, lots of fish dishes, a dessert buffet, etc. Fill up and you'll be stuffed for the rest of the day, LOL! They start serving at 10:30 and they accept reservations. It's $29.95/pp and attire is business casual. Allow a little extra time to walk around the hotel; it was built in 1931 in the Art Deco style and has been completely restored, so it has gorgeous marble, wall sconces, etc. Check out the photos below of the entrance and the dining room. (They set up the buffet around the bar shown in the last picture.)

        1. re: nsxtasy

          All good recommendations. Scotti's is 100 years old this year. If you walk up Vine Street, across Central Parkway, you'll find the Gateway Quarter, an area of bars and restaurants that's really lively these days. There's Senate (hard to describe but foodies love it), A Tavola (wood fired pizza), Bakersfield (fancy tacos), the Lackman (beer), Lavomatic and a few more. On weekends count on waiting an hour or more for a table at most of these places.

          By all means eat the chili. There's a Skyline at Vine and Ninth. And if Jean-Robert's is on your radar, get reservations now.

          1. re: nsxtasy

            Good call on Cincinnatian it also has a great get away from it all martini bar.


        2. I used to work across the street from your hotel so a few more ideas...

          Marrakech Cafe is right down the street and has what I consider to be the best gyro in the city. Izzy's is also just down the street and has some interesting sandwiches and potato pancakes. Tom and Chee is just a couple blocks away on Court Street and you can try the famous doughnut grilled cheese. Also, Fusian is close by. It's sushi but uses the Chipotle-model where you walk down the line and build your roll. Definitely not traditional sushi but delicious nonetheless.

          My favorite food destination in Cincinnati is Findlay Market. I would recommend having lunch at Pho Lang Tang and then getting a waffle for dessert from Taste of Belgium. Go all out and get some gelato from Dojo too.

          Also, on Saturday, the City Flea will be having a holiday market in Washington Park. This would be a great chance to try all of the food trucks.

          Oh, one more... Moerlein Lager House is a great opportunity to try some Cincinnati beers and eat some great food as well. I really like their meat and cheese plate - make sure you get the goetta!

          13 Replies
          1. re: jordanhamons

            Oh, and two other Cincinnati staples you should potentially try are Montgomery Inn and LaRosa's. Montgomery Inn is famous for ribs and the Boathouse is the closest location to you. LaRosa's is pizza and there is not a location downtown but I think they probably deliver downtown. I think the Clifton location would be closest if you wanted to go there.

            1. re: jordanhamons

              I have to disagree here - these are certainly long-time Cincinnati institutions but neither is very good.

              LaRosa's is beloved mainly for it's unique sauce but the crust is terrible. Avoid.

              Montgomery Inn is known for it's ribs, but they are boiled then grilled and then drowned in sauce - advertised as bbq, but it is definitely not, and it is very expensive as well. Avoid

              A large percentage of restaurants downtown are closed on Sunday, so be sure to check their schedule before you go.

              1. re: TJ Jackson

                I'm very interested to try MI's ribs for the very reason above. One says great, the other, avoid. I'd like to make up my own mind.

                I'm a bit wary because I don't want to go and not like them. My mom makes boiled, grilled, lots of sticky sauce ribs and they're great. So that whole process isn't a deal breaker for me.


                1. re: Davwud

                  Montgomery Inn and LaRosa's tend to be restaurants that people either love or hate. I'm not from Cincinnati but I've lived here for a few years now and I happen to like them both. I'm not saying that it's the best ribs or the best pizza I've ever had but I like them for what they are: Cincinnati institutions. Maybe the tastes for these are acquired, kind of like Cincinnati Chili?

                  1. re: jordanhamons

                    full disclosure: I've lived in Cincinnati for all but two years of my life - Davwud, you know this to be true from RF

                    I just dont like Montgomery Inn advertising that they do barbeque when they simply don't, and I vastly prefer a low and slow smoked product over a boiled one. YMMV.

                    LaRosa's could be good - they have a unique sauce - if they'd ever put together a decent crust - - - - but all their crust variations are terrible

                    1. re: TJ Jackson

                      I'm a Cincinnati native who returns annually to visit my parents - and I can not stress enough passing on LaRosa's. It is true that the sauce is distinctive and could be interesting, but for the years of having it at so many school events and the like, I'd have a hard time recommending it.

                      For downtown, I am a fan of Nada's and also Shanghai Mama's ( on 6th Street. I no longer live in Cincinnati, so perhaps quality has dropped in recent years, but I used to eat there regularly.

                      1. re: cresyd

                        LaRosa's used to be great when I was back in college in the 80's, but I swear their sauce and crust recipes have changed. I recall in the old days that the sauce had a nice kick, but I think they dialed back the spices in favor of more sugar. Way too sweet now. I also don't recall their pizza being as greasy as it is today.
                        Montgomery Inn-ribs fall off the bone and are tender (i.e, way too mushy for me). The sauce is thin and sugary. But some people like them that way. I prefer a dry rub myself.

                    2. re: jordanhamons

                      One thing I should point out. We were in Findlay, Ohio and a few people that worked at the hotel told us about this place called Tony's. Said they had the best ribs anywhere around. Award winning and all that.
                      Upon arrival we were amazed to see trophies all over the place, ribbons, you name it, awards.

                      The ribs were spectacularly dreadful. Clearly boiled to the point where the meat was mushy and almost like stewed meat on a bone. No amount of sauce could hide it.


                      1. re: Davwud

                        That's funny, Davwud, because four years ago I had the exact same dreadful experience, only at a different award-winning barbecue restaurant in Findlay. It was called the Red Pig Inn. Boiled, flavorless ribs, drenched in flavorless sauce. I left most of it over.

                        Fortunately, they have closed their Findlay location. Unfortunately, they still have a location in Ottawa, Ohio. LOL!

                        1. re: nsxtasy

                          It makes me thing that people in the I75 corridor like their ribs that way. That's fine, I don't have to eat 'em.


                      2. re: jordanhamons

                        I grew up in Columbus and moved to Cincinnati to go to college. I didn't need to acquire a taste for LaRosa's, Montgomery Inn, or Skyline Chili -- I accepted and enjoyed them for what they were, the local institutions. They're different from what you'll find elsewhere in the country, yes, but that's what you'll find when visiting any new city. New tastes to try.

                2. re: jordanhamons

                  The market is on my radar already. Thanks for the food truck tip - those are always fun. Great suggestions everyone and will definitely fit in many of them when we get there tomorrow. Thank you!

                  1. re: KLD1967

                    so tell us how it went, KLD.......