Best of the City: Food


Gluten-Sensitive Loaves

Blue Oven Bakery

Attention wheat-avoiders: Blue Oven Bakery’s spelt bread is an excellent locally-made option for Cincinnatians with gluten sensitivities. Just be aware of the two catches: it’s made alongside wheat loaves, so it’s not officially gluten-free; and it’s sometimes unavailable, because spelt flour can be hard to find. But when it’s in stock, this spelt bread is a rare treat—sturdy, flavorful, and especially tasty when it’s toasted.


Parkside Café

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 batter of their buttermilk pancakes. It makes for a stack so deliciously simple, using anything more than butter and syrup is grounds for dishonorable discharge from the Breakfast Industrial Complex. Walnut Hills,

Old Favorite in a New Spot

Melt Eclectic Café

The esteemed grub-hub of vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters alike since 2005, Melt relocated this summer to a bigger home on a more prominent Northside corner. You’ll still find old favorites on the menu—Yee-Haw BBQ sub, Joan of Arc melt, so-good-you-don’t-miss-the-meat vegan chili—along with mouthwatering new additions like The Maureen, a tuna club named after beloved Northside philanthropist Maureen Wood; a new bar and seasonal cocktail menu crafted by Molly Wellmann; and a happy hour carte du jour. Northside,

Gatsby Moment

The Bar at Palm Court

One of the few places in the city where you can step inside and truly be transported to a different world. On Friday and Saturday nights when a good jazz band is playing, there’s no better place to sip a drink or get brave and head out for a jitterbug. Downtown,

Eating Well With Kids in Tow

Senate Blue Ash

Your kids will eat the fancy hot dogs without a word of complaint. Afterwards, head out to the futuristic playground at Summit Park. Signs indicate that it’s strictly forbidden to slide down the AstroTurf hills on pieces of cardboard. Now who would possibly think of doing that? Blue Ash, (513) 769-0099

Drink Backstory

Liquid Knowledge at Coppin’s

In 1907, John Coppin put his last few dollars on a horse named Knowledge and won enough money to build the department store that now houses the Hotel Covington and this restaurant. Served in its own elegant Rookwood stein, the drink is a complex floral, gingery delight. Definitely not a bad bet. Covington,

Heart-y Reuben


Available only on Thursdays, the I “Heart” Reuben uses trimmed beef hearts cooked low and slow with pastrami spices then layered with sauce and spicy dill Fab Ferments kraut on Sixteen Bricks rye. Chef Ethan Snider has turned something—well, a little weird and gross—into a local treasure. Montgomery,

Gummi Heaven

Chamoda’s Candy Café

The chocolates are great and the service warm and welcoming, but what really sets Chamoda’s Candy Café apart is its off-the-wall homemade gummi bear flavors, from Sangria to Banana Split to Fuzzy Navel. Pretty in Pink (grapefruit) and Creamsicle are particularly fantastic. Gummi some of that. Sharonville, (513) 782-0977

Carbo-Loading in OTR

Regular offerings include the “urban sourdough” (a standard loaf), a rye version, a baguette, and a sunflower loaf with dried cherries. It’s really good at breakfast with a schmear of salted butter. And with so much bread around, Allez knows something about sandwiches, too. The chicken salad comes with fennel and arugula, and ham and cheese gets an Italian makeover with soppressata, provolone, and tomato. 1208 Main St., Over-the-Rhine,

Brown Bear Bakery
Is there anything Blair Fornshell can’t bake? She’s been winning hearts and minds on the local festival circuit since 2012, and now she’s put down roots in OTR. Try the croissants, the Beareo cookies (her version of an Oreo), the Earl Grey cake with citrus glaze, or the salted chocolate chip cookies. Or, you know, just take whatever’s left, since the case empties out fast. 116 E. 13th St., Over-the-Rhine,

Shadeau Bakery
OK, so Shadeau isn’t new. But it is under new ownership. Stop in on your way home for a classic Parisian-style baguette, multigrain rolls, or a salt-top rye, plus ciabatta, bagels (Fridays only), a menu of sourdoughs, and Wurzelbrot, a twisted Swiss baguette-style variety. And then there are the pastries. They vary by day and season, but be careful: They might just distract you from your bread errand. 1336 Main St., Over-the-Rhine,

Street Food As Fine Art

Papadi Chaat at Bombay Brazier

A plate of fried, doughy wafers. Freshly chopped peppers and onions. Boiled chickpeas and a mess of mint chutney, yogurt sauce, and chaat masala. Bombay Brazier gets the whole tangy, spicy, addictive dish of Indian street food just right, and somehow makes it elegant to boot—at least for the instant before your table starts tearing it apart. Montgomery,

Grocery Experience

Clifton Market Happy Hour

Every Friday, Clifton Market Happy Hour features themed samplings. Food items are paired with drinks—all prepped with ingredients found exclusively in the store. For $5 per person, shoppers get tastes, details on recipes, and the inside scoop on the local brews or wines. It’s a sure-fire way to walk away with a new side for dinner—just don’t forget the items you actually came for. Clifton,

Illustration by Gabriel Corbera - Folio Art

BBQ News

Forgot the Larder closes at 4 p.m. on Sundays? Fear not: Every other Sunday around 6 Bee’s Barbecue pops up on Dutch’s back patio to dish out 15-hour smoked brisket, smoked pulled chicken, and killer sides from owner Brendan Hague (brother of the Larder’s chef Patrick). Get there early: They usually sell out by 7:30.

In Milford, at the intersection of Wolfpen-Pleasant Hill and Ohio Route 131, the Pickles & Bones Barbecue truck—owned by fine-dining veterans Josh and Nicole House—has been smoking pork, turkey, and mind-blowing brisket, plus housemade (truckmade?) sauces, sides, desserts, and, naturally, pickles. They hope to have a brick-and-mortar in the same parking lot by the end of the year.

Across the river, two renowned Cincinnati establishments joined together in culinary matrimony this summer when Eli’s BBQ opened another location inside the Newport Kroger. You’ll never have to shop hungry again.

Illustration by Matthew Billington

Chinese Food MVP

KungFood Chu’s AmerAsia

While it looks like a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant, Amerasia truly takes things to the next level. There’s the extensive craft beer selection, the made-from-scratch preparations (this is not gloppy red sweet-and-sour sauce, people!), and the spice, from the tongue-tingling Dragon’s Breath wontons to the heat scale that uses ghost peppers at level seven. Eat in and get a kung-fu movie on the side, or take your entrée to go. Whichever you choose, you will be back. Covington,

Surprise Bar Menu


Judging by the approximately 25-square-foot open kitchen at the back end of the bar, you’d be impressed if Longfellow’s was able to put out a good charcuterie plate. Which they do. But they also serve up a red curry plate, a tomato tartine with pickled fennel and smoked ricotta, a carrot salad that gives Metropole’s a run for its money, and a PB&H: tahini, peanut butter, and spicy honey on sourdough. It’s all delicious—and pairs perfectly with their cocktails and vinyl jams on Sundays. Over-the-Rhine,

Venezuelan Takeout


Javier Almeida came to Cincinnati from Caracas, Venezuela, seeking medical care for his daughter. He stayed, and brought the flavors of his home country to Deer Park. Entrées are available—the plate of beef, black beans, and plantains is classic South American comfort food—but dip overflowing arepas and perfectly cinched empanadas into a vat of the cilantro sauce at a sidewalk table for an authentic street food experience. Deer Park,

Ice Cream Truck

Green Man Twist

Four Walnut Hills residents working on affordable housing for a decade decided to develop a business that would offer employment as well as bring people together. Meet their ice cream truck, named for (and primarily posted up at) Green Man Park on McMillan. The cold stuff like the Green Man Cone—smiling soft serve with a chocolate dip hat and green sprinkles for a body—is made from local products. Walnut Hills,

Mediterranean Desserts


Dessert at most Mediterranean cafés (in Cincinnati, anyway) often begins and ends with baklava. But a little diversity is always good, and Clifton’s Baladi turns it out. Formerly Mediterranean King, Baladi’s bakery case is filled with treats like warabat, shredded filo dough filled with heavy cream, topped with sugar syrup and pistachio; and kunafa, filo dough filled with ricotta cheese and cream, topped with sugar syrup and pistachio (noticing a trend?). And baklava, of course. Clifton, (513) 221-7222

Restaurant Relocation

 Katharina’s Cafe-Konditorei

It was great before; it’s practically perfect now. Clearly we’re superfans, but even casual observers won’t believe the transformation. What was once a crusty Newport dive bar is now an airy eatery with two floors of seating and a biergarten. Katharina’s also got an expanded menu and a new full bar with a half-dozen German brews on tap. That bakery case, however, is as gorgeous as ever. Newport,

Turkish Coffee Buzz

Sultan’s Mediterranean Cuisine

Middle Easterners say Sultan’s Turkish cuisine is as authentic as it gets in Cincinnati. It’s no surprise the place has mastered Turkish coffee, too. Every demitasse-sized cup is strong and black and includes the requisite deposit of thick grounds at the bottom; order it with sugar, and they do it up right by boiling it straight into the brew. Just beware: one cup and you’ll be buzzing for hours. West Chester,

Bagel Delivery

Lil’s Bagels

It’s 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and all you really want is to slap a schmear of cream cheese on a fresh bagel. That’s why Lil’s Bagels exists. Lil’s delivers homemade bagels and tubs of cream cheese on Thursdays and Fridays to homes in Northern Kentucky and within the city limits, offering the classic bagel flavors you’d expect and new offerings like Old Bay and za’tar. Order two days in advance, and, if you’re paralyzed by choice, Lil will pick your baker’s dozen.

Doughnut Deliciousness

We visited five independent, family-owned doughnut shops to sample their finest homemade fried dough offerings, and are we stuffed! Each is housed in a cozy neighborhood storefront that immediately transports you back to a simpler time when doughnuts were still one of the major food groups.
Here are our favorites at each stop:

Apple fritter: North College Hill Bakery, North College Hill

Clunker: Bonomini Bakery, Northside

Chocolate round: Florence Bakery, Florence

Raspberry jelly filled: St. Lawrence Bakery, Price Hill

Maple glazed topped with bacon: Holtman’s Donuts, Over-the-Rhine

Coconut Macaroon

Gaslight Gourmet Cookies

Coconut macaroons might be the best possible version of a Girl Scout Samoa cookie, with golden brown coconut flakes molded into chewy domes. Gaslight Gourmet Cookies delivers three different versions, each worth a try, but the best has a base dipped in white chocolate. The thin base layer adds a welcome creamy texture. Pro tip: Stop by at the end of the day and, if you’re lucky, you might score a free cookie or two. Clifton, (513) 873-7777

Quick Trip to Maine

Court Street Lobster Bar

What does it take to lure nightlife to West Court Street? Chowder, local beer, white-washed tables, and toasted rolls crammed with chunks of lobster and crab. Styled like a New England seafood shack, the friendly vibe of this casual joint may not dispel the gray days of winter, but it makes summer vacation feel just a little bit closer. Downtown,

Photograph by Wes Battoclette

Eating Challenge

The Terminator at Mecklenburg Gardens

You think it would be the size of the sausage that would be your downfall. After all, the 38-inch, six-pound monstrosity is every bit the Schwarzeneggerian creation it claims to be. But you’d be incorrect. It’s the size paired with the sweat-inducing spiciness of the mett that will be your demise. Mecklenburg says that only six brave souls have completed the challenge over the past 10 years of its existence. After deploying four adult men to conquer the beast to no avail, we want to meet those eaters. Corryville,

Vegetarian Transformation

Phoenician Taverna Kibbeh

Normally made with lamb or beef, who would guess that a vegetarian kibbeh made with walnuts and pumpkin could be so utterly satisfying? With hints of cinnamon and allspice, Owner Wassim Mattar’s innovative dish doesn’t attempt to duplicate the original, but creates its own sweet-and-savory reality. Mason,

Bowl-Scraping, Slurpable Soup

Abigail Street Bouillabaisse

A bowl of spicy, garlicky, saffron-y bouillabaisse, with pieces of grilled bread to mop up every last drop, is hard to beat on a cold day. (Also hot days and those in-between ones.) It’s often impossible to choose at Abigail Street, but the bouillabaisse is an I-could-eat-this-forever standby. Over-the-Rhine,

Dine-In Grocer

Epicurean Mercantile Co.

The chefs behind Fresh Table at Findlay Market opened a grocer, a lovely (and practical) stop with its gourmet items, prepared foods, and extensive wine and beer selection. At the in-store counter restaurant you order and pay at the iPads for dine in or carryout. We recommend the Cobb salad. Over-the-Rhine,

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