Best of the City Winners 2022: Food and Beverage

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What are you craving? Korean BBQ, a breakfast to cure your hangover, the potato chip of your dreams, a delicious piece of cake, a New York–style slice, or a spectacular mocktail? Order up!

Boba: BobaCha

Officially known as “bubble tea” (but colloquially dubbed “boba”), the Taiwanese drink can be tough to find outside of specialty boba shops. Luckily, dwellers of Cincinnati’s city center don’t have to go far to get their fix. BobaCha can put together your classic milk tea but encourages you to step outside your comfort zone with a wide array of flavors and alternative milks to choose from. Just choose your size, sweetness level, and toppings—perfectly chewy tapioca pearls for the purists, flavored jellies for the more adventurous—and dive in. • 1606 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 421-9111, bobachaotr.com

Boozy Ice: BLOX Spiked Ice

Do you feel like there are just too many steps to making a good frozen cocktail? Then BLOX Spiked Ice is the product for the lazy bartender in you. Available in strawberry, lemon, lime, and pineapple, these boozy cubes (7.5 percent ABV per serving) won’t water down your alcohol when dropped into a glass of wine, a snifter of bourbon, or even a Solo cup of your favorite beer. And if you don’t want to add them to a drink, you can always chug them right out of the container like a slushie shot. • ontheblox.com


CM Staff Addiction: Goose & Elder’s Elder Fries and Goose Sauce

Illustration by James Clapham

When CM moved into new offices across from Findlay Market, we discovered an embarrassment of riches in terms of snacks and lunch possibilities. One of the most popular and comforting choices? Elder Fries and Goose Sauce from Goose & Elder, José Salazar’s casual neighborhood eatery. The humble crinkle-cut fry is the star of the show, balancing satisfying crunch with a fluffy interior. A dunk in the slightly spicy mayo-based Goose Sauce creates a silken counterpoint. It won’t be long until you’re addicted, too. • 1800 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 579-8400, gooseandelder.com


Date Night Restaurant: Pepp & Dolores

They say the way to your lover’s heart is through their stomach, and when the romantic, rustic, and flavorful come together at Pepp & Dolores, love is in the air. The bread course (or The Dunk) is an Allez Bakery epi baguette you can dip in a blend of olive oil, vinegar, herbs—and be sure to order the delectable veal and pork meatballs to start. The authentic Italian ristorante’s house-made pasta menu is knockout after knockout, including a Sunday bigoli like nonna used to make, malloreddus squid ink pasta and shrimp, and spicy vodka pasta with Calabrian chili. Now that’s amore. (Editor’s Note: Pepp and Dolores landed on OpenTable’s Top 100 Most Beloved Restaurants in America list for 2022.) • 1501 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 419-1820, peppanddolores.com

Dessert: Losanti’s Butter Cake

“I think more people come here for this now than they do for our food.” Our server’s comment should tell you all you need to know about this savory-sweet delight from one of the city’s best steakhouses. Creamy, buttery, and incredibly rich—you’ll want to take it home, not just because it’s hard to finish, but because you’ll want to experience it twice. • 1401 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 246-4213, losantiotr.com

Hangover Cure Breakfast: Bellevue Bistro

This cozy Bellevue stop is the perfect spot to fill your tummy with bakes, benedicts, hot browns, paninis, sandwiches, and every other breakfast option you could think of. Cocktails like mimosas and Bloody Marys are available, too, if you’re going for hair of the dog. (This writer even saw someone order a PBR.) The crown jewel? Cinnamon-brioche French toast with powdered sugar and peanut butter bourbon caramel sauce, served over bananas. Thank us later. • 313 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue, (859) 581-5600, bellevuebistro.com

Korean BBQ: Quan Hapa

While plenty of restaurant goers enjoy the do-it-yourself nature of traditional Korean BBQ meals, others are more focused on the end result—that smoky, grill-cooked meat. For a tasty (and faster) twist on this Korean classic, try Quan Hapa’s happy hour sliders. The Chicken Katsu slider combines panko-crusted chicken with Korean BBQ, while it’s mixed in with seasoned ground pork in the Pork Sloppy Joe (if pork’s not your thing, get it with shiitake mushrooms instead). The sliders fit well with the revamped menu, which has had a focus on lighter bites since the restaurant reopened in the summer after a hiatus due to supply chain and staffing issues. • 1331 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 421-7826, quanhapa.com

Late Night Snacks: 13th Street Alley

You leave a weekend show at the Woodward Theater or a night with friends at Homemakers Bar and it’s late and you’re hungry, when suddenly a small, bright walk-up window appears across from Old St. Mary’s Church. The hot and gooey cheesesteaks on the grill at 13th Street Alley are close to a religious experience at that hour—from the classic OTR Philly sandwich with sauteed onions, mushrooms, green peppers, and provolone cheese to excellent chicken, veggie, and bowl versions. 13th Street Alley serves up deliciousness seven days a week, but its late-night fare (open until at least 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights) is downright heavenly. • 126 E. 13th St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 813-3000

Mobile Bar: The Merry Mare

In recent years, mobile bars have redefined the open bar concept, and no one does it better than The Merry Mare. In 2020, Emma Jones, Tracy Tekulve, and Melissa Gerth converted an old horse trailer into a luxury mobile bar, which they use to sling signature drinks blended with fresh botanicals for special events. Last spring, the trio expanded their services with the launch of the Crosley, a bar built into a 1939 version of the vehicle from the former Cincinnati automaker. This may be the only acceptable form of drinking and driving. • themerrymare.com

Mocktail: Ziggy Stardust, Somerset Bar

Urban oasis Somerset Bar serves some of the best cocktails in Over-the-Rhine, but if you’re not in the mood for alcohol, the Ziggy Stardust is the way to go. This mocktail, which debuted last November in honor of a staff member’s newborn, is pineapple, lime, and hibiscus juice mixed with coconut milk, a fresh squeeze of summer for these dreary winter months. The aforementioned Baby Ziggy might even be able to take a swig. • 139 E. McMicken Ave., Over-the-Rhine, somersetotr.com


NY Style Pizza: Strong’s Brick Oven Pizzeria

Photograph by HATSUE

The tri-state chain prides itself on a passion for Old World pizza baked in brick ovens, and its pies never disappoint. The Cosentino is always a crowd-pleaser with Strong’s red sauce, mozz, sweet heat from the fire-roasted red peppers, and thick-cut Italian sausage. The Pizza Alla Vodka is to die for, featuring a savory, creamy vodka sauce, mozz, seasoned mushrooms, spinach, and thin slices of prosciutto. Pizza for dessert? Yes, please. Strong’s Hot Apple and Nutella pizzas are made in the same brick oven as your main course. Buon appetito. • Multiple locations, strongsbrickovenpizza.com


Potato Chip: Grippo’s Bar-B-Q

Grippo’s wasn’t the first to offer the flavor, but its slightly sweet, slightly hot, decidedly un-smoky Bar-B-Q version is by far the best around. Local restaurants including Senate, Incline Public House, and even Frisch’s have worked them into menu items, but our favorite way to enjoy them is straight from the bag. (We’ve heard that the heavier the bag, the spicier the mix, and while there’s no objective way to confirm this, we believe it.) • grippos.com

Seasonal Ice Cream: Graeter’s Midnight Snack

Graeter’s 2022 Mystery Flavor is one of its best in years, a malt-vanilla-flavored ice cream with peanut butter cups, chocolate covered pretzels, and brownie pieces. If you get it at a Graeter’s shop, you can even opt to get kettle chips mixed in. By the time you read this, there’ll only be a month left to grab this one. Run, don’t walk, to your local grocery to ensure you can buy as many pints as possible. • Multiple locations, graeters.com

Soul Food: Soul Secrets

After four years of catering mouth-watering Southern cuisine around the city, Candice Holloway took her business brick and mortar with launch of Soul Secrets’s Over-the-Rhine location this past spring. The fried chicken and catfish are the main entrées, but the sides take center stage. Macaroni and cheese, collard greens, Hoppin’ John (Carolina peas and rice), and more, all made from recipes handed down by Holloway’s grandmother and great grandmother. During each service, staff members don T-shirts that read “My ancestors sent me,” and we believe it. • 1434 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 721-7685, soulsecretscincy.com


Tastiest Trail: Butler County Donut Trail

Illustration by Carlie Burton

If your preferred “trail” is one that requires stretchy pants instead of hiking boots, you’ll be delighted to discover the Butler County Donut Trail. Composed of a baker’s dozen of the area’s most beloved bakeries, the Butler County Donut Trail is the tastiest trip you’ll ever take. Your mission (should you choose to accept): Visit each of the 13 shops on the trail, enjoy all.the.delicious.doughnuts and get your passport stamped. Whether you complete this trail in a day or weekend or entire year is up to you; as with most adventures worth taking, the Butler County Donut Trail is about the journey—and it’s a downright delicious one. • gettothebc.com/donut-trail


Vending Machine: “Dude, Seriously” Hot Sauce Machine

Hot Ones fans, rejoice: Your days of wondering “Could I handle that?” are over…as soon as you head to the Oakley Kitchen Food Hall. Show favorites—like Dirty Dick’s Hot Pepper—sit alongside beloved local brands in this machine where each bottle is just $10. (Don’t pass up Dude, Seriously’s own brand, either.) Take it home, or just pop it immediately with whatever wings or wing substitute you like from one of the many surrounding food vendors. • 3715 Madison Rd., Oakley


HEAD-TO-HEAD: LOCAL CANDY MAKERS

 Aglamesis Bro’s

Year founded: 1908

Current generation in charge: Third; Randy Young’s step-father James was the son of founder Thomas Aglamesis

Signature Sweet: Opera creams and pecandies

Also known for: Homemade ice creams and the Oakley ice cream parlor

Location: Oakley, Montgomery

Bottom Line: A new West End production facility should lead to more treats.

 Schneider’s Sweet Shop

Year founded: 1939

Current generation in charge: Third; Kelly Schneider Morgan is founder Robert Schneider’s granddaughter

Signature Sweet: Opera creams

Also known for: Homemade ice creams and ice balls

Location: Bellevue

Bottom Line: Grandpa Schneider’s recipes and tools spread more sweetness every day.

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