Best of the City: Food

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Photograph by Aaron M. Conway

Bubble Tea: Boba Cha
Boba Cha takes its bubble tea seriously. The attention to detail in each ingredient—from its tapioca balls to quality teas to milk offerings—makes it top-notch. Step in, order at the counter, and watch as the owner constructs your tea to the degree of specificity of a surgeon. Not sure what to order? The cashier can guide you according to your taste. Or try the coconut milk tea with passion fruit pop bobas and you won’t be disappointed. 1606 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 421-9111, bobachaotr.com

Ramen: Zundo Ramen & Donburi
Cincinnati has more ramen than you can shake a pair of chopsticks at. Never heard of Zundo? The restaurant is new, but the recipe is not. Mei Japanese chef Han Lin has been perfecting his version of classic Tonkotsu ramen since 2000, and it shows. It’s a thing of perfection: hearty slices of pork belly; rich, velvety bone broth so full bodied it practically reaches out of the bowl and gives you a hug; al dente, handmade noodles; and a melt-in-your-mouth marinated soft-boiled egg. Yeah, we’ll be back. 220 W. 12th St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 975-0706, zundootr.com

Steak Worth the Drive: The Pine Club
In seven decades, very little has changed at this Dayton, Ohio, steakhouse. Credit cards are not accepted, nor are reservations, and you’ll be served stewed tomatoes as one of your sides. The 1940s decor is very knotty pine (hence the name), and the steaks are glorious, hefty marbled slabs. The Marriott at the University of Dayton is one mile away, so there’s no excuse for you not to make the trip. You’ll be glad you did. 1926 Brown St., Dayton, Ohio, (937) 228-7463, thepineclub.com

Cheesemonger: The Rhined
This place is so much more than a cheese shop. It makes you want to run off and join the proverbial cheese circus, become an expert on the stuff, work a beret into your wardrobe—you get the gist. We chalk it up to owner Stephanie Webster and crew’s contagious passion for the funky fromage. They share the love with a weekly raclette night (seasonal), a cheese-of-the-month club, and daily cheese flights, not to mention their super-knowledgeable recommendations. 1737 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 655-598, therhined.com

Pizza Joint: Taglio
We told you once (in our 2018 Pizza issue), and we’ll tell you again: Taglio is where it’s at. The Columbia-Tusculum spot—owned by the A Tavola crew—combines all the positives about corporate and local dining: It’s spacious, there’s parking, you can order online. But they also have beautiful cocktail and wine lists, plenty of local beer, and the Detroit-style pepperoni and hot honey will haunt your dreams—in a good way. 3531 Columbia Pkwy., columbia-Tusculum, (513) 321-0454, eattaglio.com

Comeback: Frisch’s Brings Back Coke
A few years ago, Frisch’s switched from Coke products to Pepsi products, and it was a Very Big Deal to those locals who take their Vanilla and Cherry Cokes seriously. This year, they switched back. (To boost their new downtown location? To appease the horde? Probably both.) This reversal was also a Very Big Deal. Because Cherry Pepsi is just…no. Multiple locations, frischs.com

Free Range Chicken Wings: The Elusive Cow
Like all the items on its deceptively large menu, the chicken wings here are locally sourced and organic, as well as huge and meaty, weighing in at over a pound per order of six. All sauces are homemade, from spicy garlic to Jamaican Jerk to Inferno. They go great with a side of cornmeal-breaded onion rings. 519 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue, (859) 291-0269, theelusivecow.com

New Bowl: Poke Hut
If you’re in a raw fish state of mind, you have two options: sushi, or its Hawaiian cousin, poke. The traditional diced raw fish dish is a Polynesian cuisine standout, and Poke Hut is Cincinnati’s best take. For zero-depth entry, start with a poke bowl: Choose from raw fish like ahi tuna, salmon, and miso crab or cooked proteins, all layered with extras like pineapple, seaweed salad, and fried onion. Wash it all down with a taro milk tea with lychee jelly. 1509 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 975-0905, pokehutusa.com

Veggie Burger: Northstar Café’s Northstar Burger
Meat-eaters, Northstar Café’s namesake vegetarian black bean burger might just make you question everything you hold dear. It has a slightly crunchy, smoky exterior, a juicy, lightly pink center (we see you, beets) with an authentic chewy-meaty texture (thank you, brown rice binder), and it’s topped with melty cheddar, kale, housemade mustard, tomato, pickles, and onion, on a sesame seed bun. Simply put, it tastes just like a real burger—and looks like one, too. 7610 Sloan Way, Liberty Township, (513) 759-0033, thenorthstarcafe.com

Charcuterie: Postmark
We’re putting our stamp of approval on this meat and cheese board that features the best of both worlds: fantastic cheeses with fruits and jam alongside house-cured meats and housemade pickles (the cauliflower was a special standout). Offerings are seasonal and ever-changing; mix and match flavors to your heart’s content. Soft, creamy Delice de Bourgogne with pepita brittle? Coppa with whole grain mustard? Yes and yes. 341 Telford St., Clifton, (513) 281-3663, postmark.restaurant

Sweet Corn: Garver Family Farm Market
Nothing says summer like a backyard barbecue: great friends, cold beverages, burgers on the grill. Want to make it even sweeter? Fourth-generation farmer Michael Garver grows sweet corn that is worth the trip (just ask the repeat customers), triple-sweet varieties harvested in the early morning and iced down to hold moisture. The kernels are oh-so-tender, never crunchy, and you can taste the difference. Garver Farm also sells flowers in the spring, loads of veggies all summer, and other goods—even ice cream from The Cone. 6716 Hamilton Lebanon Rd., Middletown, (513) 539-6366, garverfarmmarket.com

West Side Coffee Shop: Aroma’s Java and Gelato
Because it’s tucked in a Bridgetown strip mall, you might be tempted to drive past Aroma’s…but don’t. Decorated with local kids’ artwork, this shop’s drink selections are great, but we’ve never seen so many tasty homemade baked goods in one coffee joint, ever. Think: sprinkle doughnuts, cookies, gourmet cupcakes, pumpkin roll, and more. They also have a full lunch menu, cater, and sell gelato. Caffeine-and-sugar high, here we come. 6407 Bridgetown Rd., Bridgetown, (513) 574-3000, aromasgelato.com

Tacos: (Meat) Nada’s Señor Mu Shu; (Vegetarian) Casa Figueroa’s Cauliflower
Tacos are palatable works of art. Nada’s Señor Mu Shu adds an Asian flair. Tender shredded pork pieces braised in ginger and Modelo beer are coated in a sweet ancho hoisin sauce and garnished with sesame seeds, lime cabbage, and avocado atop a flour tortilla. Casa Figueroa’s Cauliflower taco is equally mouth-watering. Lightly fried in rice flour tempura and glazed with chimichirri, the white veggie takes a brown, crunchy, savory form, piled on a corn tortilla and topped with crispy onions and cilantro. downtown, eatdrinknada.com; Pleasant Ridge, casafig.com

Late-night Breakfast Pastries: Moonrise Doughnuts
Moonrise Doughnuts offers doughnuts so fresh, so warm, and so full of flavor they actually surpass the quality of most classic morning doughnut shops. Its mom-and-pop customer service doesn’t hurt either. Moonrise pulls its inspiration from what it calls a simpler (and perhaps tastier?) time in the ’60s and ’70s when Latonia Bakery sold doughnuts right out of its back door. 3718 Winston Ave., Latonia, (859) 415-0308, moonrisedoughnuts.com

Cold Pressed Juice: Off the Vine
Everything at Off the Vine is light, airy, and fresh—especially its juices. OTV has pressed fruits and veggies for the area’s health conscience since 2014, when its Vine Street location was the first cold-pressed juice bar in the city. Today, OTV has three locations offering varieties such as All About the Benjamin’s (with kale, celery, apple, cucumber, lemon, and ginger) and its so-called immunity shots such as the flu shot (a spicy, sinus-clearing concoction to slurp in one fell swoop)—all excluding any additives and served in aesthetically-pleasing recycled glass bottles. Over-the-Rhine, downtown, Mason; otvcincinnati.com

Grassfed Beef Producer: Grassland Graze
Great beef starts with great cows, particularly ones that consume a natural diet of grass and live happy lives roaming outdoors. Since 2004, Grassland Graze has adhered to this philosophy to produce its high-quality, purebred Angus from its closed-herd Liberty Township farm. The process takes twice as long as most commercial producers, but it’s well worth the wait. Just ask Wildflower Café: It’s the meat that put its burger on CM’s Best Burgers list twice. 5850 Princeton Rd., Liberty Township, (937) 515-2520, grasslandgraze.com

New Ice Cream Shop: Ft. Thomas Ice Cream
Ice cream competition in the Queen City is steep (hello, Graeter’s). To be successful, you need to offer something unique or of an astounding level of quality. Luckily for Northern Kentuckians, Ft. Thomas Ice Cream delivers on both fronts. The shop, which opened in April, has already become a neighborhood staple, serving up its in-house batches in a cup or cone, including traditional varieties like mint chip or the more innovative crisp but creamy cinnamon brown sugar with oatmeal praline. 1013 S. Ft. Thomas Ave., Ft. Thomas, (859) 462-0082, facebook.com/fortthomasicecream

Pop-Up Pizza: Secret Pizza Night, Mainwood Pastry
Something curious happened this spring and summer. Monday nights drew diners to Mainwood Pastry after hours. And they weren’t nibbling on those famous chocolate croissants; they dug into square-shaped by-the-slice pizza, topped with a rotating variety of farm-fresh veggies. Before we knew it, the inconspicuous experimental pop-up night was the talk of the neighborhood, bursting the bubble of all the hipsters who found it first. Secret Pizza Night was officially a thing…until it wasn’t. Owner Dave Hart says it’ll be back soon. 113 W. Elder St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 549-8623, mainwoodpastry.com

Matcha Tea Latte: Rooted Juicery & Kitchen
In the wrong hands, a Matcha Tea Latte—made from a combination of finely ground green tea leaves, piping hot water, and steamed milk—can taste burnt, extremely bitter, or lacking. At Rooted, order up one with your choice of coconut, cashew, or almond milks, and you won’t be disappointed. Its matcha is fresh and combines with the silkiness of the frothed milk to create a cloud-like blend of semi-sweet vegetal flavor that’s packed with nutrients and will give you a kick of caffeine without having to down that afternoon coffee. Oakley, Mariemont, downtown; rootedjuicery.com


Never Grow Up: These adult versions of childhood favorites remind us we’re all kids at heart.

Gourmet Pastry Pockets
We all ate the overly processed, foil-wrapped kind as kids. Now we know better! Jumpstart your day with Fat Ben’s sophisticated versions in chichi flavors like blackberry thyme, toffee coffee, and cherry vanilla. fatbensbakery.com

Capri Sun Cocktail
The Capri Against Humanity is right at home among The Rook’s floor-to-ceiling archive of classic board games. It combines dragonberry and rum right in the pouch of a cut-open, kiwi-flavored Capri Sun. No little straw necessary. 1115 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 954-8191, therookotr.com

Artisanal Lunchable
Upgrade from those nitrite-infused mystery meats. The Rhined carries mini to-go lunch packages with your choice of cured meat, two cheeses, jam, dried fruits, and nuts. Maybe get some for the kids while you’re at it. 1737 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 655-5938, therhined.com

Korean Fried Chicken Nuggets
At first crunch of the airy cornstarch-based breading on Sacred Beast’s Korean fried chicken nuggets, we couldn’t help but be reminded of our favorite dippers from that golden arches joint. Except, you know, way better. 1437 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 213-2864, sacredbeastdiner.com

Boozy Ice Cream
Buzzed Bull gives dessert a kick, mixing spirits into housemade ice creams, yogurts, and sorbets. Pick a base flavor, mix-ins and toppings (candy, nuts, cookies, and/or fruit), and liquor, and they’ll freeze it up with liquid nitrogen. 1408 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 381-2899, buzzedbullcreamery.com

 

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