The March issue of Cincinnati Magazine is always a “keeper,” as subscribers tell me. It’s one of three monthly issues each year focused on a recurring theme—Top Doctors every January, Best Restaurants every March, and Best of the City every December—that readers say they keep around the house to refer to over and over. (I hang on to every issue for years, but I’m a pack rat.)
In a normal year, our March issue would feature a ranking of the area’s top 10 restaurants and write-ups about their latest menu successes and personnel changes, along with stories on restaurant scene trends and rising stars. We spend months eating at Cincinnati’s best spots and debating the merits and shortcomings of each, because we know our readers (and local chefs) anticipate these ratings. I’ve also learned that some of you use the top 10 list to literally eat your way across the city.
Understatement alert: This hasn’t been a normal year. The food industry has been turned upside down by the pandemic, and our best restaurants haven’t been immune from the damage. Restaurant L, No. 4 on our list last year, closed permanently. Our top pick, Please, reopened recently for private dining parties but isn’t back to usual hours yet. Mita’s and Bouquet focused staff efforts on feeding furloughed restaurant workers and supplying soup kitchens, respectively. Abigail Street, Boca, Sotto, and others in our top 10 closed for long stretches and reworked their menus to offer carryout and cook-at-home meal kits.
As a result, we decided not to do a normal March issue of Cincinnati Magazine in 2021. It just didn’t feel right to scrutinize fine dining restaurants during so much uncertainty and chaos, when chefs and owners are just trying to keep the doors open and staffs employed and when the dining experience centers on cardboard to-go containers and sidewalk pickup.
Instead, this month’s issue highlights family-owned restaurants and their unique struggles to keep going during the pandemic. Keep them—and all restaurant owners—in your thoughts and prayers, and on your speed dial.