We set out to uncover (and tuck in at) as many hole-in-the-wall Greater Cincinnati diners as we could. And guess what? When it comes to purveyors of cheap, tasty comfort food, this area doesn’t lack for top-notch dives. Arm yourself with a handful of Prilosec and prepare to take the plunge.
Originally published in the issue of November 2016; updated and expanded April 2018
Goetta, Lettuce & Tomato Double-Decker: You gotta love a classic with a twist. While the BLT always inspires nostalgia (it’s the signature dish for many diner fans), subbing goetta for bacon takes this sandwich to “meal of the day” level. Literally. It’s hard to summon much of an appetite after consuming one of these sandwiches. Open 24/7, cash only.
438 Pike St., Covington, (859) 431-9498
Marx Hot Bagels
Vegetarian Matzo Ball Soup: Marx is keeping it kosher, which is why you won’t find any poultry amongst the matzo here. Large pieces of tender, bias-cut carrot, celery, and onion mingle with a baby fist-sized matzo ball that’s just dense enough to sink to the bottom. While the soup itself is filling, we also appreciate the crunchability of their complementary bagel chips. Open 7 days a week.
9701 Kenwood Rd., Blue Ash, (513) 891-5542, marxhotbagels.com
Stack of Buttermilk Pancakes: Anyone can dress up a boring stack of flapjacks with piles of whipped cream, powdered sugar, chocolate chips, and macerated fruit. Parkside Café employs no such meddling. In addition to nailing the ideal balance between fluffy centers and toasted edges, they add a subtle splash of vanilla to the housemade buttermilk batter—making for a stack so deliciously simple, using anything more than butter and syrup is grounds for dishonorable discharge from the Breakfast Industrial Complex. Open 7 days a week.
1026 E. McMillan St., Walnut Hills, (513) 221-2026, parksidecafe.info
Dolmathakia Dinner: Unless you’ve actually sat down and hand-rolled a pan of stuffed grape leaves, you’re probably not aware that this dish is a genuine labor of love. Sue Sebastian, wife of the omnipresent Alex, makes these exquisitely briny dolmathakia herself. It’ll ruin you for the flabby-flavored prefab ones forever. Open Monday-Saturday.
5209 Glenway Ave., Westwood, (513) 471-2100, sebastiansgyros.com
Sis’s On Monmouth
Ketchup-Smothered Meatloaf Dinner: Nothing says “stick to your ribs” quite like meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Fortunately, Sis’s doesn’t mess around with a timid little smear of tomato product atop the meat. They full-on smother that loaf with plenty of Heinz. Open 7 days a week.
837 Monmouth St., Newport, (859) 431-3157, sisonmonmouth.com
Stephens’ Old Village Restaurant
Open Face Turkey Dinner: Slice after slice of lean turkey breast is piled onto white sandwich bread before being smothered in savory turkey gravy. Expect tryptophan levels to spike almost immediately. Drive home with every window down in an effort to stay awake. Open Tuesday-Sunday.
3323 Harrison Ave., Cheviot, (513) 661-6840, stephensoldvillage.com