Best Seats Bar None


Dinner for one can feel a little lonely, but at any of the following bars you can count on intensely satisfying non-pub grub and good conversation with your newfound bartender buddy.

Abigail Street
Call it a gastro-vinateria. If you’ve gotta have a burger, the lamb sliders with date ketchup are a fresh, grown-up riff on the drive-thru staple. But where else in town can you get grilled octopus with fried chickpeas and wash it down with a glass of Pinot Gris on tap?

The National Exemplar
Technically a hotel bar, the 1920s Tudor revival style feels anything but HoJo. The aged paneling, fireplaces, and half-timbered ceiling make this one of the coziest spots for food and drink in town. Tuck into the braised beef short ribs with barley, glazed carrots, and hazelnut gremolata.

Slowly savor a bowl of agnolotti with sunchokes or tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce at this Sycamore Street mainstay while bartenders eagerly expound on the heavily Italian wine list, stocked with gems aplenty.

The Rookwood
Ready to get a little rowdy? Grab your noisy crew and stake out the kiln seating for some virtually soundproof socializing. Munch on the candied bacon and truffle-flavored deviled eggs but save plenty of room for the Berkshire pork belly.

Jean-Robert’s Table
The kitchen is confident that the barflies who nosh at this favorite French restaurant come for the food. While the foie gras torchon, surf and turf tartar, and skate wings bathed in vinegar sauce are all top-shelf, many also come back for longtime bartender Jeannie Murray’s signature joie de vivre.

Originally published in the March 2014 issue.

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  • PhilipG

    I loved the article concept, since many Cincinnatians find themselves eating lunch and dinner “a la solo contemptuous,” and are looking for a welcoming face and camaraderie. To your list I must add the following:
    A Tavola – where the drinks, pizza, and small plates Italian style are enhanced by the warmth of bartender extraordinaire, Aaron Strasser, who never fails to introduce himself and make you feel welcome. It’s interesting that table servers almost always introduce themselves in that often phony tone, where as bartenders almost never share their name. I wonder if that’s part of the Bartender Magna Carta?
    The Bar at Palm Court – lies within that gorgeous room at the Hilton and uses the same kitchen as Orchids. If you can find a seat at the bar during tourist lulls, the bartenders are friendly, the food scrumptious, and conversation flows readily, with locals and visitors extolling the virtues of our Cincinnati.
    Salazar – is what I consider Cincinnati’s best new restaurant. The small size of the room makes noise reverberate loudly which actually helps you feel less self conscious when dining alone. The food is wonderfully urbane and the warmth and friendliness of the owner-chef Jose permeates the entire place. The bar is the friendliest location in town, and you will see strangers passing forks down the bar, sharing and tasting each other’s food. It’s a wonderful place to be.
    Via Vitae – the literally son of Nicola’s, carries a unique “downtown vibe” at its Fountain Square location. Christian, the handsome owner, chef, and offspring of Nicola’s patriarch, is often seen hugging and kissing customers, making then all feel special. While the bar could be larger, it is “Grand Central” for conversation, and locals and visitors alike share thoughts, ideas, and tastings.

    There are a ton of places I could mention, like Betty Bar, Tavern on the Hill in Mt Adams etc., but suffice it to say, Cincinnati is an oasis for the solo diner. Enjoy!