Amy Tobin, director of cooking school EQ at The Party Source, is also the author of Amy’s Table: Food for Family and Friends, as well as the host of Amy’s Table, Sundays at 9 am on Q102.
Brown Dog CaféDon’t let the strip mall fool you! Once inside you’ll love the intimate size and feel of Brown Dog Café. We are never disappointed by the food or the service. Because I’m a grazer, I like to order the maza to nibble on while I sip a glass of wine. My entrée choice varies but I always get the panko-fried goat cheese salad. Always.5893 Pfeiffer Rd., Blue Ash, (513) 794-1610, browndogcafe.com
Eddie Merlot’sWe stumbled upon the happy hour menu at Eddie Merlot’s quite by accident. It’s fantastic—a secret I’m hesitant to share because I don’t want to wait for a seat! We sit at the pretty bar and have a great glass of wine (at a great price) and order delicious flat breads and Kobe Beef Sliders at a mere $6 each.10808 Montgomery Rd., Sycamore Twp., (513) 489-1212, eddiemerlots.com
Keystone Bar & GrillIf it’s Monday lunchtime, you just might find me at Keystone for mac-and-cheese. It’s half price on Mondays, which gives me the excuse to order several kinds. I love them all, but I’m partial to The B.B. King, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Buffalo Springfield. I’m not really a doggie bag kind of girl, but when it comes to mac-and-cheese, well….woof!313 Greenup St., Covington, (859) 261-6777, keystonebar.com
Mirage Mediterranean RestaurantAs native Detroiters, my husband and I like the kind of authentic Middle Eastern food we could readily find there. At Mirage Mediterranean Restaurant we can get our “Detroit fix” of grape leaves, baba ghanoush, labni, spinach pie, kibbe, and shish kebab. Get the Mediterranean sampler to start. It comes with a basket of soft fresh pita. You won’t really need dinner, but do.11381 Montgomery Rd., Symmes Twp., (513) 469-0089, miragecincinnati.com
Chart HouseWhere I am eating is often as important to me as what I am eating. When I am missing the city views we enjoyed in our Chicago home, dinner at Chart House is just the ticket to ease the pain. I like to hunker down in one of their oversized booths and look across the river at Cincinnati at night. The food is well prepared, the wine list has lots of my favorites, and the service is attentive, but not too much so. I usually get the seared scallops, but like the “bronze” or “dynamite” treatment on their fresh fish selections, too.405 Riverboat Row, Newport, (859) 261-0300, chart-house.com
TrioFrom the cozy booths to the airy veranda, I like the comfortable vibe at Trio. They do great things with steak, seafood, and pasta. Even though the dinner menu is extensive, I seem to split my time between the BBQ chicken pizza and the Thai pizza. At lunch I go for the Portobello Veggie Burger. I’m never disappointed.7565 Kenwood Rd., Kenwood, (513) 984-1905, triobistro.com
Orchids at Palm CourtI wish I could afford to do the chef’s tasting menu at Orchids on a regular basis. Chef Todd Kelly and his team are artists. The room itself is a work of art. As a diner, you become part of the masterpiece purely by enjoying the sumptuousness of it all. For any special occasion, or when the world needs to just melt away, this is the place to go.35 W. Fifth St., downtown, (513) 421-9100, orchidsatpalmcourt.com
Virgils CaféThis is a regular lunch spot for me. Virgils is small and quaint with a beautiful bar. They serve up great sandwiches with house made meats. I love the Cubano with roasted pork, but I’m especially wild for the house-made pastrami reuben. They make a mean veggie burger, too.710 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue, (859) 491-3287, virgilscafe.com
EmbersWhen my first thought about dinner is “I need a drink,” I head to Embers and order a Lemon Drop. It’s swanky and not too sweet and the best one I’ve ever had. I like their sushi and steaks. They have a crazy-big 22-ounce bone-in rib eye cowboy steak that is just a spectacle—and perfect if your husband is craving a big steak! Bonus? Watching him work his way though it allows me the time to order a second Lemon Drop.8170 Montgomery Rd., Kenwood, (513) 984-8090, embersrestaurant.com
Ferrari’s Little ItalyWhen you have to walk through the bakery to get to the dining room, you know you’re going to get a great bread basket with your meal! From the winding hallways leading to small dining rooms and alcoves, to the fireplaces and wood (tree trunk!) ceiling beams, Ferrari’s feels very European to me. The menu has something for every mood, from pasta to fish to pizza. It’s always easy and always good. 7677 Goff Terrace, Madeira, (513) 272-2220, ferrarilittleitaly.com
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