Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Great Lakes >
Dec 22, 2012 08:02 PM

10 days in Cincinnati with my kid!


Fortune has granted that my 8-year-old daughter and I will be spending January 9-19 in Cincinnati. We will spend two hours each day at the main campus of the Children's Hospital (nothing life-threatening, don't worry) and the rest of the time we'll be exploring and chowhounding. We don't know a soul in town (we're from Berkeley CA), and we don't have any dining itinerary aside from Graeter's and a Skyline/Camp Washington chili showdown. We'd love some help from you locals so we can organize ourselves. Here are some criteria:

At home we've got all the Mexican, Asian, and frou-frou "farm-to-table eclectic" food we need. I'd like us to eat like we can only eat in Cincinnati! So what will that look like? German food? Italian that isn't Tuscan? Does one cross the river and get a hot brown? Local institutions by the riverfront? Are you breakfast innovators? I saw on another thread a whole discussion of cream puffs--is that a local obsession, and if not, what is the preferred delivery system for sweetened carbs? What do we HAVE to try, and what will we then want to get as often as we can?

Also, we haven't booked a hotel yet. Is there a neighborhood reasonably convenient to the Children's Hospital that is good for strolling and has interesting eats?

Lastly, do you Cincinnati hounds ever dine together? We'd be up for meeting for a meal if anybody is interested or if anything is already organized. Always happy to connect with hounds! Thanks in advance and we're looking forward to our time in your fine city!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. My 13 year old & I visited Cinci for a weekend--we had a great time. Loved the Findlay Market in the (tough) Over The Rhine neighborhood You can certained have browsing & eating there. Some very local sausage products there (and my son happily ate some huge creme puff). Tasty bbq at Mr. Pig.

    If the weather is decent, walk the Roebling Bridge to KY.
    We both enjoyed the Aquarium (Newport KY).

    11 Replies
    1. re: trapani

      Please don't refer to OTR as tough-- by you mentioning Mr. Pig, I can tell you've not been to Cincinnati in a while (they closed several years ago). OTR has had a renaissance, and a good portion of it is as safe as any other city; possibly safer.

        1. re: winemdinemecinci

          OTR is tough. Not somewhere to be at night especially....with a child. Go during the day when there are crowds. There are some great restaurants there.

          1. re: Amt1108

            In the restaurant area around Vine Street there really is really of minimum concern during the evening around dinner time. As businesses continue to move into the area the neighborhood really has changed, if for no other reason the numbers of people and families in the vicinity. I really don't see going out to a restaurant in OTR for dinner as any different from taking a child to dinner in any other urban area.

            1. re: cresyd

              There's crime that exists in this area that does not get much media attention. During the last Taste of Cinci there was something like three assaults that occurred in the evening hours. Just not a place I'd highly recommend especially to out-of-towners that aren't familiar with the area. Probably better to stay near Fountain Square or the Banks.

              1. re: Amt1108

                I don't want to argue but I'm not sure what you're saying. Taste of Cincinnati is staged in an area that's closer to Fountain Square than to Over the Rhine. The only problem that I could see regarding taking a child to eat in OTR is that the restaurants are so popular that there is usually a wait to get in, and some kids aren't good at waiting. Please come visit and see for yourself - I think you'd be amazed at the variety of dining options in OTR, as well as downtown, the Banks, and at the casino, or up the hills into Mt. Adams, Clifton, and East Walnut Hills - all close to Children's Hospital - which was the original question.

                1. re: tizzie

                  Sorry I didn't clarify...the assaults happened in OTR area during the weekend of the Taste. Yes wait times are long for OTR restaurants especially on the weekends. Also I'd like to add that there are some not so kid-friendly restaurants. For instance we took a 2 year old to the Senate...not much room for the high chair, no kids meals or kid-size portions and looks from neighbors if he got loud. Mt Adams is another good suggestion. Personally I wouldn't go to east walnut hills with a family. Or Clifton...however i haven't been to the area in a few years.

                  1. re: Amt1108

                    While I think that it definitely behooves parents to make evaluations of safety when being with their children based on their own comfort level - I really do think that OTR is truly no different than most downtown/urban areas in other cities. If parents don't take their children downtown or only do during daytime, that is their judgment call that I respect - but OTR has changed dramatically in safety particularly in the area around Vine Street where the recommended restaurants are.

                    I grew up in the Cincinnati suburbs - and by the time I was 14/15 my parents let me go to Clifton, Corryville, and OTR with friends who could drive. And at that time (mid-90s), things were far sketchier than they are now. I also grew up with friends who weren't allowed to go to those places.

                    Different parents are going to have different perspectives, but compared to the 90s early 00s OTR is dramatically safer. And compared downtown areas around the US, I think it's pretty comparable.

                    1. re: Amt1108

                      If you haven't been in the area for a few years, I don't think you can really give advice.

                  2. re: Amt1108

                    Nice observation. But Taste of Cincinnati is ON Fountain Square.

                    I have been going to the area of OTR between Central Parkway and Main for many years. I have never felt unsafe. I have never been accosted. And if you're near the Square or the Banks you will miss one of the great, great areas of our city.

                    1. re: Amt1108

                      Taste of Cincinnati is at Fountain square in the heart of downtown. I live in the area and have 2 small children. Cincinnati has really revitalized downtown and is no different than many other Urban areas in terms of crime. They have many family friendly events and plenty of people frequent downtown restaurants, parks, events etc with their children and feel perfectly safe.

            2. Non food, but I think an 8 year old good enjoy parts of the Natl Underground Freedom Center Museum. Good interactive museum.

              1. Unfortunately, Children's Hospital is in a neighborhood called Avondale and it's not safe for walking. Ludlow Avenue in Clifton is close and good for walking, with a few nice places to eat (Ambar for Indian, Biagio's for Italian, plus Graeter's and Skyline, and La Poste is good for a "nice" meal). The Gateway Quarter on Vine Street in Over-the-Rhine is also good for walking around a bit. Hit Jungle Jim's in Fairfield; it's an amusement park for foodies and your kid will love it. My can't-miss place to take kids is the official Air Force museum in Dayton, about an hour north of the city. We also have a minor league hockey team, the Cyclones, if you need to kill an evening.

                1. You've asked a lot of questions, and I will try to answer many of them

                  The area around Children's Hospital is kinda sort rough. There are a few hotels in that area, but none I'd recommend, sorry. I don't know Hotels well, so I won't make any recommendations.

                  You know of our chili, and thats good - just be sure to try it in it's three major configurations - on spaghetti and topped with cheese (called a "3-way", add onions or beans to make it a 4-way, or both for a "5-way"), and on a hot dog (a "coney", a "cheese coney" if topped with cheese) and by itself in a cup.

                  You should also have a double decker sandwich (three slices of bread, sandwich fixings in the two spaces in-between) and, most importantly, goetta - which you will not likely find outside a 5o mile radius of Cincinnati: Goetta is typically eaten at breakfast, but no one will give you the stink-eye eating it at other hours of the day.

                  All three of the above (which I think collectively are your "HAVE TO TRY" items for Cincinnati) can be had at the same sitting at Camp Washington Chili. I think the double deckers at Blue Ash Chili on the northeastern side of Cincinnati are the best of their breed, though.

                  Allegedly, great corned beef sandwiches are to be had at Izzy's, a local microchain. Give it a whirl, you might like it. I do really really like the potato pancakes there. I like the pastrami and other offerings better at Rascal's Deli in Blue Ash, but they have slow rude service and fairly high prices for what you get.

                  Graeters' Ice cream has a national reputation, so you should give that a try at some point. They are most well loved for any ice cream with the word "chip" in it.

                  If you do not have a White Castle in your area, we have plenty of them here, and you should definitely give them a try at least once. Do not get them to go - eat them immediately off the grille for the best experience.

                  We also have two Original Pancake House locations, and I'd recommend one breakfast there as well

                  Hot Browns are available in the area but not a good or authentic one. I recommend a day trip to Louisville (about a 2 hour drive from Cincinnati) to the Brown Hotel where you can get the original, which is absolutely fabulous:

                  Another 1-2 hour side trip that would be VERY worthwhile is the Maid-Rite in Greenville

                  If the urge for pizza hits you while in town SKIP the local legend called LaRosas. People here grew up on and swear by this stuff, but the crust is just awful. Instead, for thin crust, hit up Brooklyn Pizza and Pasta in Montgomery or Cosmic Pizza in Hartwell or any Dewey's location for thin crusted pies, or if you'd like to try Chicago-style stuffed pizza, I recommend the local mini chain Mio's, particularly the location in Mt Washington on the east side.

                  Cincinnati has been blessed with a surge of good to great authentic bbq places in the last few years. You'll get a lot of argument on what is the best, and my choice would be Just Q'in (carryout only and only available wed-sat) in Newtown. My backup choice for bbq would be Eli's in East End, although they do not do brisket. Many people will point you to Montgomery Inn, but it is very pricey, and it is not really bbq - boiled and grilled meats rather than low and slow smoked. Someone mentioned Mr Pig at Findlay, but I am all but certain they no longer exist.

                  If you get the hankering for a top end dry aged steak, go to Ruby's downtown. High rices, high quality, and all the usual high end steakhouse amenities. It may be a bit stuffy for your 8 year old, however.

                  I think the preferred means of getting sweet carbs locally is doughnuts. Many places have a good doughnut, but none are "destinations". imho. I typically only see cream puffs around the time of Oktoberfest.

                  We have a relatively few German restaurants for a town with such strong german heritage, and I think the best of the lot is the Iron Skillet in Newtown, although it draws upon the cuisines of several eastern european countries.

                  A pretty darn good gyro can be had at Sebastian's on the west side, or at Areti's which is within the Findlay Market, already mentioned in this thread.

                  We do a lot of fish fry's in Cincinnati - mostly at churches - but I don't think there are any major ones at the time of year you are visiting.

                  For a foodie shopping experience, in addition to Findlay's be sure to make a stop at Jungle Jim's. Two locations locally, with the original in Fairfield (north of the city) and I don't have the words to describe it adequately.

                  We have a surviving Roy Rogers here in Cincinnati, one of the last of it's kind. Because the chain is trying to revive itself on the east coast, the former franchisee (under legal pressures) had to change its name recently to "Roney's", but the food and experience are the same. Highly recommended for a low end but quality meal - get a roast beef sandwich and a double-r-bar burger.

                  I really can't say that we have a really good italian restaurant locally. I hope others will chime in on that subject, as I'd like some options on this myself

                  Well, that should serve as a good start for your research/planning.

                  Oh, and please tell the folks at In-And-Out to open up here. Soon.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: TJ Jackson

                    This hits it right on the head! Also I would like to add:

                    Go to Thai Express for the Pad Thai (by the hospital somewhat, next to the university), ladies straight from just north of bangkok who barely speak english. only accepts cash. Not to be missed.

                    The Izzy corned beef (but moreso the Reuben) are both worthwhile.

                    Findley Market is great to go to as well, just to see it. But there's so many nice meats, cheeses, etc you'll be bound to buy a few things to eat. Just be watchful around the area, not that you'll get jumped but just be smart.

                    I know you say no Tuscan Italian, but really, really try out Nicola's for the best (i'm talking nationwide-good good).

                    For Mexican, Nada downtown has some of the best taco's I've had.

                    If you want some creative but simple stuff, check out Senate. Just north of downtown.

                  2. Thanks, you all have gotten us off to a great start!