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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!

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  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 http://www.findlaymarket.org/hours/. 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).

    10 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.

          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: http://www.roadfood.com/photos/2764.JPG. 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: http://www.roadfood.com/insider/photo...

                Another 1-2 hour side trip that would be VERY worthwhile is the Maid-Rite in Greenville http://www.greenwave1974.com/maidrite....

                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!

                  1. As a former employee of Cincinnati Children's hospital, I also want to say that the main cafeteria is not a terrible place to eat. Which is especially good, because the neighborhood where it is, is really horrible for walking around - both safety wise and the amount of hills.

                    While the Clifton Gaslight district is closeby (and lovely to walk around), there aren't really hotels there. I remember this bed and breakfast from when I lived in the neighborhood (http://www.gaslightbb.com/) but don't know anything about its quality.

                    In terms of proximity to Children's - I would recommend finding a hotel downtown. It's a fairly straight shot from downtown to the hospital, and there are a range of restaurants in that area that are nice that you can walk to. Unfortunately, near the hospital and a place to walk around - your best bets would be trying to find a bed and breakfast in the Clifton Gaslight district or Hyde Park.

                    Another thought is that there is the Marriot Kingsgate which essentially is embeded in the Children's Hospital/University Hospital complex. No real walking options, but you could walk to the hospital and then drive to places more interesting when you're finished with appointments.

                    1. > German food

                      Probably gonna have to visit Columbus, ~90 mins northeast of
                      Cincy on I-71.

                      Desserts? Grand Finale in Glendale.

                      1. There is a new Hampton Inn right across from the hospital. If you want to stay close, I would recommend that hotel. It has free parking, is very clean, and the staff is friendly. The Marriott Kingsgate is right there as well, but I find it to be overpriced and overrated and the parking garage is annoying. However, if you don't mind staying a short car ride away, then I would recommend staying downtown.

                        1. Thanks for the help, you people are awesome! We're gonna be staying at the Embassy Suites in Covington--anything to check out there? And if we go to Brown's for a hot brown, is there anything else chow-worthy?

                          And really, don't worry about us getting jumped, I'm from Brooklyn. Which makes me have to add, interesting about the universality of Mexican food now--there certainly weren't tacos in Brooklyn when I was growing up, and I'll bet there weren't in Cincy either. Who have they displaced? What other, older, immigrant group has made a dent in the dining scene there?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: heidipie

                            Not so worried about you getting jumped, but the neighborhood to the east of the hospital (Avondale) is just not a place to wander for a walk between appointments.

                            In terms of immigrant groups that have made a dent in the dining scene, the most prominent mark is that Cincinnati chili is basically an American variation of Greek(Skyline)/Macedonian(Empress) cooking. Early to mid-20th century dent - but it's still here. (that being said I don't know of any Greek restaurants in Cincinnati I'd recommend - the Corinthian near the hospital is a big no)

                            In the hospital/university area the biggest immigrant food dent by far has been Indian food. On Ludlow Street (in Clifton) I believe there are 3 Indian restaurants - 2 next door and one right across the street (plus an Indian grocery store). In my opinion Ambar India is the best of the options.

                            While there are definitely much better places now to get tacos (inparticular La Mexicana in Newport KY, close to Covington), I think a lot of the immigrant marks in Cincinnati aren't so specific to the city (more region specific Asian options, better Mexican). Over the past decade Toyota has put in a number of factories in the region, and with it has brought some great Japanese restaurants, such as Jo An in Erlanger KY. There are also some really good Korean options (Riverside Korean in KY, Korean House in Mason, OH).

                            Song Long is a Vietnamese restaurant that was open in Cincinnati (Section Road) by displaced immigrants from the Vietnam War era. I remember it from my childhood as being excellent - but would check for verification if it has held up. There's also a mark to be found by Lebanese immigrants to the region, best done by Floyd's (in Clifton Heights, quite close to the hospital). It's near the university and mostly a lunch/early dinner place (much less crowded for dinner) and the food there is excellent. It's close to Myra's - which is a classic university town international vegetarian friendly restaurant - but I think that Floyd's is far better.

                            If anything the immigrant (food) community that has been displaced or quieted the most has probably been the German restaurants. Mecklengberg Gardens and Lendhart's (both in Clifton near the hospital) have been around for ages - but I've never eaten in either. And most people that I knew growing up that would go to German restaurants would do so with their family only once or twice a year.

                            And after a (very) long culinary trip - I will leave you with admitting that I have never had a Kentucky hot brown in northern Kentucky. I more associate those with being further south in Kentucky - but I am the first to admit that I have some large holes in my Cincinnati area dining (never tried Cincinnati chili for a start.....).

                          2. Since you're staying in Covington, consider some of the Newport, KY (around the aquarium) options for walking/shopping/dining.

                            The tiny town of Bellevue, KY is next to Newport--there's a tiny candy/ice cream shop on the "Avenue" (main traffic street, AKA Rt. 8) called "Snyder's." Get the opera cream. Never had a chocolate quite like it. Grew up there and it's still a favorite when I go back. Used to have the best banana ice cream, too, but don't know about it these days.

                            Sad about Avondale's decline--used to work there in the 70s; some of the homes had been mansions (sadly hacked up into apartments). One I was in had an upstairs ballroom and a huge cedar-lined closet for m'lady's off-season fur storage. And, oh, the kitchen. Different times.

                            2 Replies
                              1. re: TJ Jackson

                                Thanks! (And for the proper spelling, too. Memory cells are dying by the day...)

                            1. Just wanted to add that even though it will be January, the Zoo would be a wonderful place to stop by. Also, the Cincinnati Museum Center would be fun as well. There is a Children's Museum, Natural Science Musuem, Historical Society and an IMAX.

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: emmyru

                                Consider also a trip to Eden Park for the planetarium and museums.

                                1. re: pine time

                                  Also, it has been a long time but the cafe at the art museum used to be fairly nice and I believe the art museum is now free.

                                  1. re: emmyru

                                    The center we're going to at the hospital has kids come from all over the world to see their specialists, and they offer families free/discount admissions to all these places you're mentioning. Very excited about all of this!

                                    1. re: heidipie

                                      Really glad to hear that. Way back in the day, I used to volunteer at Childrens and it is a great hospital. Best of luck to you.

                                    2. re: emmyru

                                      Admission is indeed free. And if you go to the Cincinnati Wing, you can see the only artifacts in any museum in the world donated by my family.

                                      The cafe there is quite good.

                                2. I'd like to add if you are ever in the area around Easter, I recommend you get ahold of some Papa's Cream Eggs - more specifically, the Opera Cream variety. They are only made locally http://www.cincy2u.com/files/2241887/...

                                  You'll also want to try a regionally important beverage - Ale-8-1 http://ale8one.com/

                                  Here's one last regional product I know you will enjoy - pulled creams. Yes, it sounds like the name of a bad porno movie, I know. http://www.newsomscountryham.com/pulc...

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: TJ Jackson

                                    Ale-8-1 is local to you guys? Wow, I have an ancient Ale-8-1 bottle up in the attic next to my 7-Up bottle.

                                    And OMG, TJ, I was salivating reading about Col. Newsom's Country Ham and the Old Mill Store... until I google-mapped it and realized it was four hours away. Now THAT would be a treat for the kid and me, some of that old-time southern ham action...

                                    1. re: heidipie

                                      Ale-8-1 can be had locally, although not EVERYWHERE locally.

                                      The Col Newsom's link as only to give you a pic of the pulled creams, which can be bought at Northern Ky Remke's -- sorry if I came off as claiming Col Newsom's is local

                                  2. Hello! I'm a dining writer from Cincinnati's alt weekly, and while you've gotten a lot of advice, and I agree with some but not most of it. If you're staying in Covington, there are great restaurants close to your hotel. In Mainstrasse, Bouquet is a bit too sophisticated for kids, but you'd like Otto's, which is next door, or for something casual, Cock and Bull or Goodfella's (enormous!) pizza. There's a fun Chinese restaurant on Madison (straight ahead from your hotel) called Amerasia. Lots of fun. Whackburger is another block or two from there, and if you'd like to try homemade authentic German sausage, Wunderbar is terrific. If you want to start your day with something sweet, I'd suggest Queen City Cookies' bacon schnecken, which is incredibly good and can't be found anywhere else. It can be found at Findlay Market, along with so many other of our city's best treats. I hope you enjoy your visit, and if you need any details, please email me at amitchell at citybeat.com.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. Findlay Market is definitely a great place to check. However, it will be very quiet in January. If you go, go on a Saturday or Sunday as the temporary merchants will be there.

                                      You definitely want to check out Over-the-Rhine (OTR) and take a walk by (the newly remodeled) Washington Park and Music Hall. There are several great restaurants in the area, mostly on Vine St. between 12th and 14th (Taste of Belgium, Senate, Abigail St, Bakersfield, A Tavola, Quan Happa, Kaze) but also a couple off center like Mayberry on Main st. or Anchor on Race st.

                                      You'll certainly find things you won't find in California. For a new Cincinnati favorite, check out Taste of Belgium (full disclosure, I own the place).

                                      TOB makes Li├Ęge-style waffles; the best waffles in town (nobody here would contest that!). What you really need to try are our Waffle n'chicken (see picture). Our new restaurant (12th and Vine) has also been selected as one of the top 100 kid-friendly restaurant in America by Urbanspoon.

                                      If you're staying in Covington, you should walk over the Roebling bridge to go to Cincinnati, even to OTR. I bet it will remind you of the Brooklyn bridge. The ice rink on Fountain Square might still be open (I'd need to check on the dates).

                                      On the KY side of the river, Mainstrasse is nice and walking distance from the Embassy Suite. The Newport Aquarium is also pretty neat and yes, the zoo is open year round and right now you can see a really cute baby giraffe.

                                      Have fun in Cincinnati!

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: jefouill

                                        a waffle and an orval might just hit the spot one of these days. thanks!

                                        1. re: jefouill

                                          In case you've never had Liege-style waffles, they are somewhat different from your everyday American waffles. They are made with crystals of pearl sugar in them, and the sugar caramelizes as they bake. So they tend to be somewhat sweet, and you'll probably find they don't need additional syrup. They're really wonderful. (I REALLY wanted to get to Taste of Belgium on my trip to Cinci a few months ago, but the timing just didn't work out.)

                                          >> If you're staying in Covington, you should walk over the Roebling bridge to go to Cincinnati, even to OTR.

                                          That would be a rather long walk, especially in winter. Just to give you a sense of distance, starting at the Embassy Suites in Covington and proceeding north, it's 1.0 mile over the Roebling Bridge to Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati, another 1.1 miles from there to Findlay Market in Over-the Rhine, and then another 2.4 miles from there to Children's Hospital.

                                          1. re: nsxtasy

                                            When calculating a walk from Over-the-Rhine to the hospital area you also have to add a major hill in a part of town that isn't continuously connected by sidewalks.

                                            One of the fun exhibits that I remember from the Cincinnati history museum part of the Union Terminal museum complex is that they have a model of what downtown/Over-the-Rhine/the West End and parts of the neighborhood around the hospital used to look like in the 20s/30s (I think that's the era....)

                                            1. re: nsxtasy

                                              We have walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, so the length shouldn't be a problem, we'll just see how the weather is. I'd approach it basically as a "walk to get hot chocolate in Fountain Square" sort of trip.

                                              1. re: heidipie

                                                The BEST hot chocolate in the city is from Dojo Gelato at Findlay Market - it rivals Angelina's in Paris! Dojo's affogado is also a real treat!

                                          2. I suspect you might want to look into Tom & Chee, a themed restaurant based on grilled cheese and tomato soup. Your progeny will probably love it, and so will you.