Joe Tucker has done a marvelous job of running a de facto Swiss Embassy in the volatile heart of Over-the-Rhine. A few weeks ago when I opened the door at Tucker’s, Joe turned from frying a Big Tucker double-decker burger and shouted “Hi.” A couple of construction workers laughed over steak, eggs, and home fries. Then a guy rushed in, plopped on a counter stool, and challenged Joe to flip up some pancakes to go before his bus got there. A couple of businessmen whispered a deal over lunch specials. Everybody feels welcomed here. You’d think the delicate atmosphere of this oasis would have been shattered when two masked gunmen burst in, injuring Carla, Joe’s wife, and paralyzing 18-year-old patron Ranisha Burgin. But at re-opening a few days later the restaurant was so swamped with OTR residents and regulars showing support that Joe ran out of food by 1:30. As much as the friendliness, people will be back for the food. Joe is possibly Cincinnati’s premier fry cook. He has the ability to make a turkey club magical, where you have to stop after each bite and let your mouth recover from the overwhelming conjugality of yum. Until you’ve tried it, you just wouldn’t think that a curried tuna salad sandwich could be a mystical experience. Tucker’s is surprisingly vegetarian friendly too, with Joe’s meatless twists on greasy-spoon standards. Nice to see that the magic the Tucker family has practiced at this place for 65 years is strong enough to weather the worst and that Tucker’s remains the friendliest little place on Vine.
1637 Vine St.(513) 721-7123.
Prices: $4–$8. Breakfast and lunch seven days.
Originally published in the May 2011 issue.