25 Local Restaurants Serving Authentic Ethnic Eats

0
The Dolsot Bibimbap from Riverside Korean.

Photograph by Wes Battoclette

We scoured the city to bring you 25 of our favorite international eateries that bring the authentic cuisine of five continents (sorry Australia and Antarctica!) to the Queen City.

bulgogi Jun Gol for two from Riverside Korean.

Photograph by Wes Battoclette

Korean
Riverside Korean
To get the full experience here, come hungry. That’s because the enormously portioned rice bowls, like the dolsot bibimbap (which, for the record, you should order), are really only part of the meal. Prior to the main dish arrives six miniature appetizers—or banchan—spanning pickled and fermented vegetables (like über-spicy kimchi); soy-marinated black beans; sweet, steamed potatoes; and others. Save room for the bibimbap: Filled with your choice of protein, bean sprouts, carrots, and other veggies, and topped with a fried egg, its served in a stone bowl heated to approximately hotter than Hades so the rice sizzles and pops its way to a heavenly crunchy crust.
512 Madison Ave., Covington, (859) 291-1484

Nepali
Bridges Nepali Cuisine
Nepal may be tiny, but its flavors are big, influenced by bordering nations China and India. They skew to the latter, but they’re not exactly the same. To get an idea, the rice bowls are a smorgasbord of everything you need to try: Impossibly long grains of aromatic basmati rice fill the bottom; a scoop each of yellow peas and yellow lentils are the soupy filling; chicken tikka masala (tomato-cream-curry grilled chicken), hakku chuala (spicy marinated, grilled, and chilled chicken), or marinated pork chili are layered on; and a scoop of curried mixed veggies (potatoes, carrots, peas, broccoli, and cauliflower) is the cherry on top.
4165 Hamilton Ave., Northside, (513) 374-9354

Mexican
Veracruz Mexican Grill
The phrase “best Mexican food in town” often gets thrown around about this place. Pay a visit and you’ll see that’s no coincidence. The freshness of the ingredients, the authenticity of the menu, and the friendliness of owner Pablo Aulis and his family, who go out of their way to make you feel like a VIP, are a winning combination. If the service doesn’t make you feel warm and fuzzy, the ostentatious display of the sizzling, steaming shrimp fajitas—crustaceans jutting from the cast-iron skillet on skewers—will surely do it for you. Modest in stature (but not flavor), the tostadas and enchiladas are equally worth a try.
3108 Price Ave., East Price Hill, (513) 244-1757

Mediterranean
Truva Café
An unassuming storefront in a Kroger shopping center yields a surprisingly warm and cozy family restaurant focused on Turkish-based versions of Mediterranean favorites like kebabs, couscous, hummus, and falafel. Spicy lentil soup and stuffed grape leaves are a great start to dinner, followed by a variety of lamb, beef, and chicken kebabs; a hearty okra stew and other vegetarian options; or a very cheesy and filling shrimp casserole. A basket of warm pita bread is perfect with every dish or by itself, and don’t skip the Turkish coffee. Wine is BYOB, so be sure to bring a bottle for the table.
4122 Hunt Rd., Blue Ash, (513) 791-0763  

Thai
Lemon Grass
Featuring a larger menu than most Thai restaurants, Lemon Grass dazzles with creativity inside a modest storefront just down from Rookwood Pavilion. The namesake Lemon Grass soup (a combination of spicy and sweet with mushrooms) is just one of 12 soup starters, followed by almost 20 appetizers (try the Crab Crispies wontons or fried corn cakes) and salads. A wide array of main dishes and specials will make heads spin among meat-eaters (five roasted duck entrées) and vegetarians (tasty curries, loads of rice and egg noodles) alike. Choose your spice level for main dishes, from 1 to 10, and expand your options exponentially.
2666 Madison Rd., Hyde Park, (513) 321-2882

Senegalese
Sene Grill
Whether it’s the Senegalese pop music playing or the native Wolof language chatter between servers, Sene Grill is another world. Start by sampling the various house-made juices, from the sweet tea-like kinkeliba to the richly addictive bouye juice (close to a strawberry banana smoothie, and strained right from the West African baobab tree). Skip the burgers and wings and order the yassa, a mound of sautéed onions, chopped tomatoes, and green peppers on steamed rice with a fall-off-the-bone tender marinated tilapia. And yes, we mean that literally. So take your time, sip your kinkeliba slowly, and give thanks Sene Grill calls Cincinnati home.
10120 Princeton Glendale Rd., West Chester, (513) 805-7793

Pappado Chaat from Indian Spice Train

Photograph by Wes Battoclette

Indian
Indian Spice Train
If Indian restaurants come in tiers, this is among the top: Its menu is expansive, its atmosphere refined, and its service personal—don’t be surprised if owner Manbir Dhillon checks on you at your table. If you’re not a fan of spice, ease in with the mango dish and its blend of sweet, savory, and slightly spicy curry, alongside a charred and buttered naan. For the more spice-inclined, the king of heat here is the Chicken 65, a boneless dish marinated and deep-fried with a more than 15-spice blend, ensuring you’ll break a sweat. Ask for an order of limes and raita (a spiced yogurt with fresh cucumbers) to temper your tongue, and trust that your waiter will refill your water glass a few more times.
7165 Liberty Centre Dr., West Chester, (513) 777-7800

Vietnamese
Pho Lang Thang
Pho Lang Thang’s steamy dining room may make your eyes water, but their giant bowls of piping hot pho (rice noodle soup) are totally worth the annoyance. Choose beef (bò), chicken (gà), or vegan (chay) broth and a meat or veggie combination. Our go-to is the pho bò with tái (thinly sliced rare steak). The salty broth is garnished with cilantro, onions, and scallions; and a side of bean sprouts, fresh herbs, jalapeños, and lime wedges lets you add flavor. The sizeable bánh mì (sandwiches) and meaty cha giò (fried spring rolls) don’t disappoint, either. This summer, PLT plans to move into a new space on Race Street. Fingers crossed for better ventilation.
114 W. Elder St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 376-9177

Mediterranean/Lebanese
Andy’s Mediterranean Bar and Grille
Imagine Cheers on the Mediterranean coast, and you’ll get a good sense of the atmosphere at Andy’s. As for the food? Let’s just say almost every entrée is hearty enough to pair with a beer (perhaps the Lebanese Almaza?). Case in point: the spanakopita, filled with spinach and feta cheese, is deep-fried instead of baked, but served with enough tzatziki sauce not to weigh you down. The pièce de résistance? A four-hour roasted lamb shank swimming in a house dressing somewhere between a barbecue and hot sauce, paired with steamed rice and ground chunks of lamb. Finish your meal with authentic Lebanese coffee to avoid a post-meal nap.
906 Nassau St., Walnut Hills, (513) 281-9791

Colombian
Zona Vip
Zona Vip’s expansive menu of Colombian street food offers everything from hot dogs and hamburgers to traditional soups and rice dishes. The most popular is the bandeja paisa, a large platter of rice, beans, avocado, fried egg, plantain, arepa (a cornmeal-based bread), and various meats. For something a little lighter, we suggest the arepa filled with beef, corn, cheese, and avocado. Picture an English muffin stuffed with meat, veggies, and cheesy goodness. We also enjoyed the chorizo mazorca desgranada, a pile of grilled corn, potato sticks, and chorizo smothered in mozzarella and a mayonnaise-ketchup sauce. Street food never tasted so good.
11512 Springfield Pike, Springdale, (513) 772-2444

Gyro from Marrakech Moroccan Cafe & Grill

Photograph by Wes Battoclette

Moroccan
Marrakech Moroccan Cafe & Grill
You might wonder if a North African version of Mediterranean staples like falafel, gyros, couscous, and pita bread is different enough from its Greek, Turkish, and Middle Eastern cousins to merit a visit, and the answer is a definite yes. The falafel plate is a perfect vegetarian sampler, while two meat-friendly standouts are Lamb Tajine, steamed inside a clay pot with vegetables until the lamb basically falls off the bone, and Bastilla, a savory chicken pie in a flaky crust topped with cinnamon and sugar. The baklava dessert is served warm and melts in your mouth. Alcohol is no-go for this spot.
341 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, (513) 442-2233

Cambodian
Mahope
Meaning “food” in Cambodian, Mahope is the name of the Northside eatery co-owner and head chef Vy Sok started as a food cart two years ago. Sok, who fled Cambodia with her family during civil unrest in the 1970s, cooks traditional dishes, such as egg rolls, bone broth kathiew (beef noodle soup), and chicken nom pang (sandwiches). We especially enjoyed the curry palay, a rice dish with veggies and a coconut milk–based curry, and the smoky jumbo chicken wings grilled in a slightly sweet beet-based marinade. The cheesecake taco with fresh strawberries was also a standout. For the herbivores among us, Mahope’s menu offers an equal number of vegetarian and meat-filled options.
3935 Spring Grove Ave., Northside, (513) 499-7176

Indian
Amol India Carry Out Restaurant
You may drive around the block a second time before finding this classic North Indian eatery. Park on the street and enter through a small, intimate seating area where you can order from a server or, as the name implies, step up to the counter and place your order to-go. Whether on plate or in a takeout container, expect fine execution of various curries such as the lamb and chicken, with a generous nod to the vindaloos (cubed potatoes with a spicy chili powder sauce). But keep an eye out for the Tandoori Chicken, a slow-roasted serving of two thighs and legs with a mildly spicy skin. Between the quick service and reliability, Amol makes the second spin around the block worth taking.
527 York St., Newport, (859) 261-2317

Ethiopian/Eritrean
Habesha Café & Restaurant
This go-to Ethiopian/Eritrean spot delivers a world of its own. Walk into the dive-y strip-mall storefront and take a seat in front of the performance stage. After paging through the large, expansive menu, ask the server for recommendations—beef, chicken, or veggie. We opted for veggie and received the Yetsom Beyaynetu: A colorful circle of varying vegetarian piles on a large round of injera, a sourdough-risen flatbread with a soft and spongy texture used in place of utensils. Each injera-scooped bite presents tomato-y, turmeric-y, or lentil-forward flavors that will leave you curiously excited for a second trip—just wash your hands before digging in.
5070 Crookshank Rd., Westwood, (513) 429-4890

West African
Darou Salem African Halal
Next to Northside Tavern, behind a large outdoor patio in the former Picnic and Pantry spot, sits Darou Salem African Halal. Don’t let its obscure exterior fool you—its Senegalese dishes are worth the visit. Order from a menu at the counter or simply point to one of nine enlarged photos on the wall. We enjoyed the dibi (grilled lamb) dinner entrée: A heaping pile of seasoned, tender lamb pieces, topped with sliced onions lightly sautéed in a mustard-base sauce. Although the fried plantains tasted slightly overdone, Darou Salem’s generous portions and low prices made up for any dissatisfaction.
4163 Hamilton Ave., Northside, (513) 681-3663

Sichuan
Sichuan Chili
One of the city’s most authentic and tasty, yet often overlooked, spots for Sichuan cuisine sits in a seemingly benign strip mall adjacent to CAM International Market. Take a seat at Sichuan Chili, ask for the authentic instead of Americanized menu, and prepare for a treat. Start with the classic scallion pancakes or dumplings with chili oil (some of the best we’ve had). Then order the Sichuan Bo Bo Chicken and prepare for the heat. As with most Sichuan cuisine, in addition to its chicken, scallions, and pickled cucumber, this dish is filled to the brim with Sichuan peppercorns. Feel free to indulge, but remember: Do not eat the peppercorns.
10400 Reading Rd., Evendale, (513) 376-7223    

Papa Rellena with Tostones from Sabor Peruano.

Photograph by Wes Battoclette

Peruvian
Sabor Peruano
Seafood is a major feature of Peruvian cuisine, and Sabor offers almost 30 entrées featuring tilapia, trout, shrimp, mussels, squid, and/or octopus—with multiple variations of ceviche, diced raw (and sometimes cooked) fish marinated and cured in lime juice and served with boiled sweet potatoes. Like their compadres in Argentina and Brazil, Peruvians love their beef, and you’ll find a number of bistec (beef steak) dishes here; a filling starter, or meal in itself, is the Papa Rellena, which stuffs seasoned ground beef and a hard-boiled egg inside a pillow of mashed potatoes. Dancing and live bands add to the atmosphere on weekends.
7245 Dixie Hwy. (Route 4), Fairfield, (513) 860-0349  

Mediterranean
Leyla Mediterranean
For nearly two and a half years, Chef/Owner Comert Ardic—previously in the kitchen at the now-closed Haci Grill in West Chester—has delivered Mediterranean specialties in this small outpost on the edge of Anderson Towne Centre. The kebabs and mixed grill plates are hearty, but you can make a meal from the appetizers. The cold appetizer platter for four comes with a silky, garlic-y hummus; gloriously smoky baba ghanoush; creamy-tart lebne; more eggplant in a rich tomato sauce; spicy acili ezme (tomatoes, nuts, onions, and hot peppers); and carrot tarator, shredded carrots mixed with garlic yogurt that reminded us of pimento cheese (really).
7418 Beechmont Ave., Suite 106, Anderson Twp., (513) 231-2888

Venezuelan
Maize Arepas and Bar
The flavors of Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean shine at Maize, where corn plays a central role in most dishes (good news for the gluten-averse). The cachapa, a Venezuelan crumpet, is more akin to a spoonbread pancake, sweet and studded with kernels. We tried the reina pepiada, topped with avocado chicken salad. It’s also available as an arepa, but we wanted the pabellón, which gave us a taste of shredded beef, black beans, and plantains (also available in a large plate version). For the empanada, we chose the chicken tossed in sofrito—juicy and meaty inside its extra-crispy shell.
1438 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 381-1608

Mexican
Taqueria Valle Verde
When we wandered into Valle Verde, we found lengua, tripa, and cabeza tacos; specials listed in Spanish; and a table full of men in work boots chatting over large, emptied plates. The menu is deep, with a slew of seafood options, including a whole fried fish. We tried the Cuban torta, with thin shavings of steak and curls of Mexican sausage along with deli ham, mustard, mayo, and lettuce on a football-sized roll. The real stars? Those specials. Pupusas, cornmeal flatbreads from El Salvador, come stuffed with beans, chicharrones, and chorizo. The gordita—a split, fried tortilla lined with beans and stuffed with tender pork chunks, tomatoes, lettuce, and cheese proved more than a handful.
6711 Vine St., Carthage, no phone

African
Teranga Restaurant
Teranga describes its cuisine as a fusian of African and American, but the African influences are strong. Senegal-born owner Mor Diallo created a diverse lineup with signature dishes from his home country, like thiebou yap, a tender marinated lamb served with rice, and maffe, lamb in a creamy peanut butter and tomato sauce. There’s also Jamaican fare (the jerk chicken is delightfully spicy), whole fish dishes, and delicious fried plantains. As for American fare: The chicken wings in garlic, barbecue, hot, or sweet chili sauce are, not surprisingly, a huge hit. Teranga’s bright, colorful space has tables, but takeout traffic is steady—either way, you’ll finish with leftovers.
8438 Vine St., Hartwell, (513) 821-1300

Mexican
La Canasta
If you’re on the hunt for authentic Mexican (not an easy find), turns out it’s on the west side at La Canasta. Meander through grocery aisles stocked with Mexican foods to the back, where you’ll grab one of a few tables and receive super-friendly service. You can’t go wrong with the tacos, small but full of steak, chicken, or a pork marinade made with pineapple. There’s also sopes, platillos, and tortas, but we devoured the huarache, a simple handmade tortilla that was delicately crispy on the outside but soft at the center, topped with a thin layer of beans, lettuce, and shredded cheese, which we enjoyed with a cold imported lime soda while the Spanish-speaking TV played in the background.
7812 Colerain Ave., White Oak, (513) 931-1804

Japanese
Ando Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar
The dining room at Ando is always busy, even on weeknights, with guests who’ve discovered Chef Ken Ando’s expertly crafted traditional Japanese cuisine—he’s been at this for more than 40 years—and the restaurant’s welcoming environment. The fish takes center stage in sushi rolls, meticulously presented and bursting with flavor (grab a seat at the sushi bar to watch it all happen). We also enjoyed soba noodles, thick and textured in a homemade broth with scallions and spinach. For $39.50, you can order a nabemono dish, sukiyaki (Wagyu strip loin) or shabu shabu (beef, vegetables, noodles), cooked tableside in a cast iron pot. When you experience Ando’s impeccable attention to detail, you’ll see why they recently celebrated 20 years in business.
5889 Pfeiffer Rd., Blue Ash, (513) 791-8687

Nepali
Hamro Restaurant
There’s a good chance Hamro isn’t even on your radar. If you love Indian food, we think it should be. Opened in 2017 in a nondescript strip mall space (home of the Forest Park Restaurant for 51 years), the restaurant prepares solid Indian mainstays such as chicken tikka masala and chicken biryani, a bold combination of aromatic basmati rice, chicken, onions, peppers, and plenty of spice. The Nepali-inspired offerings, however, make this spot worth a trip. We sampled the vegetarian momos, steamed dumplings with cabbage, onions, and a masala spice mix, and the thukpa, a hearty noodle soup with a slight heat. Family-owned with friendly service, Hamro also has a Nepali grocery next door.
677 Northland Blvd., Forest Park, (513) 429-5938    

Bistec Torta from Taqueria San Marcos.

Photograph by Wes Battoclette

Guatemalan
Taqueria San Marcos
Entering Taqueria San Marcos is like taking a step back in time. It’s a bare-bones, ’50s-style diner with classic red booth seating and Formica table tops, where the Zacarias family serves up hard-to-forget Guatemalan fare. The tacos are deliciously simple, with options ranging from pulled pork to beef tongue, all served on small, warmed corn tortillas with cilantro and onion. The crispy tortilla chips pair perfectly with the deep red, thin salsa (it packs a powerfully spicy kick) or the refreshingly creamy guacamole. For a heartier bite, try the chicken tortas, grilled chicken piled high on a large toasted bun with lettuce, tomato, jalapeño, avocado, and—almost certainly—a to-go box.
5201 Carthage Ave., Norwood, (513) 351-1363

Click through our gallery below for more images from the restaurants above:

Facebook Comments