Best of the City: Food


→ Healthy Food Joint
Rooted Juicery + Kitchen
It’s both vegan and gluten-free but you don’t need to be either to enjoy Rooted. In a world of bagged greens, the wraps, bowls, and salads here stand apart as creative, fresh, and tasty. Yes, juices are pricey (sold individually or as a cleanse set) and dessert quality can be hit or miss (to be fair, there’s only so much you can do with chocolate, dates, and chickpea flour). But if you’re open to healthy eating—or just need a better lunch spot—this is the place. Oakley,

Rooted Juicery + Kitchen
Rooted Juicery + Kitchen

Photograph by Jeremy Kramer

→ Pho
Sorry OTR, this one goes to the ’burbs. Fire up the GPS: You’re headed out to Symmes Township for a minimal ambiance, maximum flavor foodie experience. Each enormous bowl of delicately fragrant pho dac biet is jam-packed with rice noodles, beef brisket, tripe, meatballs, and rare slices of round eye steak. On the side, a plate of basil, bean sprouts, jalapeños, and lime that rivals the size of most side salads. Consider it dinner for two. Days. Symmes Township,

Fast Food Upgrade
OTR is kind of a grown-up food court. We don’t hate it.

Krueger’s Tavern Krueger’s Burger
A pair of house-ground patties, shredded lettuce, onion, American cheese, house pickles, and “special sauce” on a challah bun—it’s a Big Mac homage that won’t leave you shamefully hiding the wrappers under your car seat. It’s also a good way to ease  the unsure into OTR’s restaurant scene. Over-the-Rhine,

The Eagle Fried Chicken Sandwich
You can order a chicken sandwich just about anywhere, so if you do, it should be worth it. This one is: colossal deep-fried breast, creamy cole slaw, spicy mayo, and house pickles on a soft sub bun. It’s a satisfying replacement for your Chick-fil-A hankering—especially when it hits on a Sunday. Over-the-Rhine,

Gomez Salsa Turtle Shell
If we’re all being honest here, there is no substitute for Taco Bell. But Gomez’s turtle shell comes close. This hipster offspring of the Crunchwrap Supreme packs your favorite meat, rice, beans, cheese, and salsas in a burrito, then gets topped with a crunchy tostado, wrapped into a pentagon, and sealed on the griddle with some cheese to keep it all together. Over-the-Rhine,

Authentic Poutine
Northside Yacht Club
Poutine is all over Cincinnati menus, so most eateries feel that in order to stand out, they need to tszuj up the traditional fries-gravy-curds combo by adding everything from short ribs to pickled peppers. But not the guys at Northside Yacht Club, who stick to the basics: thick-cut (but crispy!) French fries, brown gravy, and cheese curds that are properly “squeaky”—that is, rubbery, but in a good way. And that’s it: how you make the most authentic poutine this side of Niagara Falls. Northside,

Po’ Boy
New Orleans To Go
The metric ton of fried catfish (or oysters or shrimp, if you’d like) stuffed inside a soft bread roll the size of your femur alone is probably enough to crown the po’ boy at the New Orleans To Go food truck (and Mardi Gras on Madison, the truck’s pop-up bricks-and-mortar location). A po’ boy is supposed to be filling, working-class food, after all. But really, it’s the spicy honey. Oh lawd, the spicy honey. The sweet sauce with a Cajun kick—which is also sold by the bottle—makes the sloppy sandwich worthy of the Big Easy.

→ Afternoon Pick-Me-Up: Affogato
You’ve hit the 2 p.m. slump. Do you need coffee or something sweet? The answer: Daily Double! Meet the affogato, a shot of espresso atop ice cream. Three of the best spots are places that make the sweet stuff in-house.

Buona Terra Gelato
Exhibit A: They offered samples to help us choose a gelato flavor (the tiramisu won). Exhibit B: the perfect glass-cup presentation. Exhibit C: the silky La Terza espresso poured on top. Mt. Lookout,

Buona Terra Gelato with La Terza espresso
Buona Terra Gelato with La Terza espresso

Photograph by Jeremy Kramer

Old Milford Parlor
Why yes, creamy whip does get even creamier (and frothy!) as it melts with Oakley Artisan Roasters espresso. The cup is large and you’ll still never be ready for it to end. They also offer it in milkshake form. Just saying. Milford

Dojo Gelato
This Findlay Market dojo will certainly show you the way with two scoops of gelato (we went with vanilla and Vietnamese coffee) and Deeper Roots beans. Affogato translates literally from Italian as “drowned”—as your sorrows will be, too. Over-the-Rhine,

→ Novel Use Of Beets
Krueger’s Tavern Veggie Burger
Beet is the new black (bean), at least as far as alt-burgers are concerned. Krueger’s housemade patty blends beets—with the fuchsia interior to prove it—and grains, though by some alchemy doesn’t have that earthy beet taste. Crisped on the outside, the patty stays intact through the last bite, and the greens, crunchy house pickles, pesto mayo, provolone, and challah bun mean you’ll never ask Where’s the beef? again. Over-the-Rhine,

→ Beer For A Year
We’ve got suds for every season. 

January: Urban Artifact Kicksled Winter Spiced Stout
Super creamy, with enough nutmeg, vanilla, and rum undertones to remind us of eggnog, Urban Artifact’s spiced milk stout is more approachable than the brewery’s sour and tart beers. And at 7.1 percent ABV, it’s strong enough to warm you up without knocking you out cold. Northside,


Photograph by Aaron M. Conway

February: Braxton Brewing Company Ignitor Maibock
In the weeks leading up to Bockfest (2017: March 3–5), the bock beers start flowing. We like ours traditional, and Braxton’s maibock is just that: hopped with German noble hops, with a gentle sweetness from pilsner malts. Bock on, Braxton. Covington,

March: Mt. Carmel Brewing Company Springtime Ale
Botanical beer is a growing trend, but Mt. Carmel has been brewing their flower-infused springtime ale since before it was cool: The fresh and very floral Scottish-style mild ale, made with 8 pounds of heather tips, has been consistently good since it was first released in spring 2010. Mt. Carmel,

April: MadTree Brewing Company Rounding Third Red IPA
It’s an all-American IPA to pair with an all-American pastime. MadTree releases this dry-hopped red IPA just in time for Reds Opening Day. A caramel-like sweetness from a heavy dose of malts balances the bitterness of the four kinds of hops. Columbia Township,

May: Streetside Brewery Raspberry Beret Berliner Weisse
Berliner Weisse is a sour German wheat beer fermented with lactobacillus culture. This one’s flavored with real raspberry puree for a juicy tartness that marries well with the beer’s pucker. Days before Streetside’s grand opening, it won Best of Show at the 2016 King of Ohio beer competition. East End,

June: Rhinegeist Puma Pilsner
It’s cold, dry relief on a hot, soggy day. Rhinegeist’s pilsner is the perfect summer beer, and an exemplary specimen of the classic German lager, down to the all-German malt and hop bill. We like to pair it with the panoramic view of the city from the brewery’s rooftop bar. Over-the-Rhine,

July: Listermann Brewing Beets Me Beet Hefeweizen
The banana and clove you smell and taste so strongly in Hefeweizens are actually phenols and esters, a byproduct of the yeast strain. Listermann’s addition of earthy, deeply sweet beets tones down the intensity of the fruit and spice for a beer that’s less heady, more rooted. Evanston,

August: Nine Giant Instant Crush Saison
Not one for norms, Nine Giant doesn’t do seasonals or tasting flights. If you can’t decide without a taste, the saison is always a safe bet—and a no brainer during the last hot weeks of summer. It’s crisp and citrusy, with just enough musty funk to get your taste buds grooving. Pleasant Ridge,

September: Blank Slate Brewing Company Turn for the Wurst
When most breweries are tapping traditional Oktoberfest beers, Blank Slate’s getting culinary with the style. They hit theirs with rye and smoked malt in the mash, then infuse it with fennel seed, fresh sage, caraway seed, and black pepper. It’s the best of the wurst beer. Das ist gut. East End,

October: Fifty West Brewing Company Home Sweet Home Brown Ale
Pumpkin beer is a thing, but not really our thing. We prefer pumpkin spice in pie form and our fall seasonals a little more savory—like the brown ale from Fifty West, brewed with sweet potatoes, molasses, sage, cinnamon, toasted pecans, and vanilla beans. Columbia Township,

November: Ei8ht Ball Brewing Home Alone Chocolate Milk Stout
Pretty much as nuts as Kevin McCallister’s room service bill in Home Alone 2, Ei8ht Ball’s chocolate milk stout is made with cocoa powder, cocoa nibs, walnuts, almonds, chestnuts, and hazelnuts. It pairs well with fatty, salty meats, like the kind the brewery gives out on Free Bacon Fridays. Bellevue,

December: Taft’s Ale House Mt. Auburn Winter Brown Ale
A beer that tastes and smells exactly like maple syrup—made without a drop of actual maple syrup. Taft’s brown ale gets its sticky, sappy quality from honey and a pound of dried candy cap mushrooms, which contain the same compound that gives maple syrup its signature scent. Over-the-Rhine,

→ Coffee Class
La Terza
Tours at La Terza start every Saturday at 11 a.m. and include tastings of three different coffees, plus a chance to try your hand at roasting. La Terza also offers specialty coffee classes, like their pour-over class, so you can learn how to drip, press, and pour like a pro. The coffee bar at their Lockland roastery is open weekdays from 8 to 5 and, if you’re lucky, master roaster Roberts Mbabazi will be there to serve you an expertly crafted cuppa along with a mini tutorial on bean varietals. Lockland,

→ Spicy Fried Chicken
Sichuan Bistro
There’s hot chicken, then there’s Sichuan chicken, which is a whole new category of hot. That’s because of the mouth-numbing huajiao, a Chinese peppercorn prominent in Sichuan cooking and all over their red dry chili chicken. The setup is simple: a pile of fried, boneless chicken pieces tossed in salt and peppers and decorated with actual whole dried chilies (don’t eat those). Share the plate with a close friend and then go for a milkshake. Mason,

→ Tots
Nation Kitchen
Tater tots need no endorsement, but the options at this burger joint are making potatoes proud. Get them loaded (cheddar, bacon, green onion, ranch), “totcho” (queso, jalapeños, pico, taco meat), or Queen City–style (Cincy chili and cheddar)…and then perish the thought of ever ordering a side salad again. Nation fries up the tots extra crispy, piles them with the ingredients, and puts them on the plate last to ensure they don’t get soggy—which seems plausible, though there’s enough food magic going on here that we’d believe anything. Over-the-Rhine,

→ Slaw Dogs
Blue Ash Chili
To our south and east, hot dogs topped with chili and coleslaw are de rigueur. So it’s no surprise that the slaw dog is making inroads into coney country, turning up on food trucks and chili parlor menus. When Blue Ash Chili added one to their menu about two years ago, some people were kind of iffy on the whole idea. But their slaw dog—a frank served on a Klosterman bun, topped with chili and a generous portion of sweet slaw—has been a runaway hit. We understand why. Blue Ash,

→ Impulse Buy
La Mexicana’s Popsicle Freezer
The taqueria is a natural friend to impulsive eaters: Roll in at your leisure, order up two al pastor tacos, and you’re moments away from the best part of your day. Newport’s La Mexicana knows that’s just the time to ply you with frozen treats. As you pay your check at the cash register, throw in a couple of Mexican popsicles from the adjacent cooler—we dig the coconut and mango varieties. Their cold, creamy goodness will take the edge off of the fact that your tacos are all gone. For now. Newport, (859) 261-6112

La Mexicana's popsicles
La Mexicana’s popsicles

Photograph by Aaron M. Conway

→ Central Business District Breakfast
Reasons to rise and shine.

Carry Out: Servatii Pastry Shop
For $3.49, Servatii fresh-makes a breakfast sandwich (i.e., actually cracks an egg) to your specifications—Bread, bagel, or croissant? Cheese? Bacon, ham, or turkey?—and boxes it up with a fruit cup…and a side of cookies.

Diner-Style: Café de Vine
It’s the best of both worlds, with diner staples like biscuits and sausage gravy but quality ingredients like Sixteen Bricks bread (related note: eat the French toast). Best of all, items still land on the diner end of the price spectrum.

Business: Maplewood Kitchen
Grab a menu, order up front, and take a seat. Your food will come out hot and fresh, and you won’t be stuck waiting around for a check. Now about that order—may we suggest the lemon-ricotta pancakes or steak and eggs?

Morning Bender: Orchids at Palm Court
Sure, the breakfast buffet is $19.95, but it includes coffee, juice, eggs to order, and a seriously huge spread. Plus table service and the Art Deco environs keep it classy, so you can kind of justify any buffet-induced gluttony.

Reason to Drive to New Richmond
Front Street Café
New Richmond is a pocket-sized river town about 30 minutes east of Cincinnati, a former “hellhole of abolitionism” as it proudly bills itself today. The food is swell and everybody arrives waving at somebody already seated. Sit outside and you have a fine view of the Ohio River, or stay inside and check out the music that plays weekend evenings. New Richmond,

→ Breakfast Pastry Update
Fat Ben’s Bakery
These over-the-top pastry pockets put the pedestrian Pop-Tart to shame. Ben Arington has recently returned from cooking in New York and is winning hometown food fans with his whimsical delights. The pastry chef produces more than a dozen different flavors of the hyper-colorful, often seasonal pastry pockets. Our favorites: the blackberry-thyme and the blueberry crumble, but the s’more (complete with toasted marshmallow on top) will have you begging for precisely that. S’more.

→ Indian Bakery
Brij Mohan
Either you love Indian sweets, or you’ve never had them. Most every item is some blend of milk, sugar, and nuts with extras like rose water, sesame seeds, carrots, and pumpkin. Full marks for diversity and presentation go to trays of spherical gulab jamun (a syrupy donut) and flower-shaped, saffron-scented peda (a kind of fudgy cookie). If you can resist ordering on looks alone, try the ras malai. The soupy cheese-curd-and-cream combo isn’t exactly Instagram-ready, but it won’t be around long enough to pose for a picture. Sharonville, (513) 769-4549

→ Secret Ingredient
Mock Turtle Soup
Most Cincinnati Chili, especially that served by the chains, has robust Macedonian and Greek roots, but our independent chili restaurants can still surprise the connoisseur. For example, the not-so-secret ingredient in Larry Misleh’s Bowl o’ Chili at the Madison Diner is a can of Worthmore Mock Turtle Soup, yielding a delightful sharpness. Misleh, scion of a long line of Arabic restaurateurs, runs his busy and engagingly retro diner inside Madison Bowl. Oakley, (513) 271-1270

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