Bauer has been continuously improving since its doors opened a few years ago, and it’s now one of Cincinnati’s true gems. While maintaining its roots in the peasant tradition along the Franco-German border, Chef Jackson Rouse keeps finding fresh dimensions to this cuisine. From the city’s best charcuterie and housemade pickles to several of its strongest vegetarian offerings, Bauer keeps trying new things—none of which are quite like what other restaurants are doing—and makes them extraordinary.
At a time when chefs have access to ingredients from every corner of the world, part of what makes Bauer so distinctive is the sense of cohesiveness across its menu. From cabbage rolls, with their faint note of anise from fennel confit, to the wild mushroom goulash and its similar hint of bitterness, there is a sense that these dishes belong together and complement each other. It’s like having a feast at a farm table in Alsace rather than just tasting a bunch of different things. I greet the appearance of certain dishes at Bauer, like the ratatouille, with its smoky tomatoes, basil oil, and dusting of herbes de Provence, the way I would greet old friends and am excited each time I see something new on the menu. The sense of identity and warmth in Bauer’s cooking, as well as its focus on seasonality and local sourcing, inspires a loyalty that even many excellent restaurants don’t produce. With our city’s German heritage, Bauer could be notable just for serving up first-rate versions of classics like jaeger schnitzel and sauerkraut balls, but to breathe new life into this tradition and put out such consistently exciting food makes it a special contribution to the culinary landscape.
435 Elm St., Downtown, (513) 621-8555, bauercincinnati.com