Editor’s Letter, March 2020: Celebrating Cincinnati’s Restaurant Scene

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Illustration by Lars Leetaru

Think of a great restaurant experience you’ve had lately, and what comes to mind? The food, of course—maybe an amazing appetizer or an exotic main dish you’ve always wanted to try. The wine or a signature cocktail. The feel of the place—the beautiful wood floors, the cool art on the walls, the friendly hubbub, the quiet elegance.

As much as anything, and probably more, your evening was memorable thanks to the people who took care of you. The hostess at the front door, perhaps a valet, the bartender, the guys setting up your table and filling water glasses, and finally your server—all of them set the tone before you’ve eaten a bite of food. Smiles and attention to detail put you in the right mood right away. Distraction and sloppiness are difficult to recover from.

And then there are the stars of the evening, the mostly anonymous folks in the kitchen. If you’re at one of our area’s top 10 restaurants, the owner is likely back there, too, working away alongside his or her staff. Cincinnati’s dining scene has grown and matured so much in the past decade, a testament to these chef-owners and dozens of others who create works of art and science every night of the week.

Behind each great restaurant experience, for the most part, is a chef with a love for hospitality and a vision for satisfying your cravings, even ones you didn’t know you had. Family stories help make each place distinctive, whether it’s Jose Salazar’s childhood visits to Colombia (Mita’s), Jean-Robert de Cavel’s culinary training in France (Restaurant L), or Wassim Matar’s Lebanese recipes (Phoenician Taverna). Every menu tells a story, sings a song, or paints a picture that will stay with you long after you pay the bill.

Besides recognizing today’s top restaurants and celebrating the past decade’s explosive growth, our “Where to Eat Now” cover package also introduces you to a handful of up-and-coming faces in Cincinnati’s dining world. Keep an eye out for their new adventures and pop-up projects. You never know where you’ll find that next remarkable experience.

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