Injoy Street Food
This new addition to OTR’s fast-casual scene will make you rethink what you already know about Indian food. For one, you don’t always need a fork.
Get your favorites, like tikka masala, chana vindaloo, or saag (chicken or vegetarian), in a wrap or bowl stuffed to the gills with rice or quinoa; beans and onions; and aromatic toppings like spiced peanuts, pickled onions, or cilantro. Then, just when you thought they couldn’t possibly cram more flavor into this portable package, they kick it up a notch with either mint-garlic yogurt sauce or habanero “Hawt” sauce. Pair it with a Fab Ferments kombucha for the tastiest Washington Park walkabout you’ll have all summer. 1400 Republic St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 580-8590, injoystreetfood.com
The Whole Bowl
On Ludlow Avenue in Clifton’s Gaslight District you’ll find a small walk-up window with a curiously simple vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free menu.
The Whole Bowl (which opened in late 2016 as an outpost of the well-known Portland, Oregon, establishment) offers just one entrée: a rice bowl, which comes in two sizes with customizable toppings (Tillamook cheddar, sour cream, cilantro, avocado, black olives, black and red beans, salsa, and Tali sauce). Make it a meal with the 16-ounce big bowl, a small bag of tortilla chips, and a Mojito Mambo kombucha. The order takes just minutes to prepare and makes for the perfect summertime dinner—especially when enjoyed down the street on a bench under the trees and city lights of Clifton Plaza. 364 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, (513) 751-2695, thewholebowl.com/cincinnati.html
B&A Street Kitchen
You’ll find B&A’s tidy carry-out window at the increasingly active corner of 15th and Race, where you can linger and chat with the friendly staff and line cooks working the grill.
Breakfast and lunch are served seven days a week, focused around Southern (biscuits and gravy, grilled pimento cheese) and Southwestern (churro-style pancakes, Texas patty melt) flavors. Add chips and salsa or guac as a side with any dish, sample the large selection of craft sodas “on tap” (we recommend Boylan black cherry), and then enjoy it all a block south at Washington Park. 1500 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, bastreetkitchen.com
Lil’s Bagels Walk-Up Windough
If you—like others—have come to the conclusion that this area is largely a bagel desert, it’s time to rethink that logic with Lil’s Bagels: a small window just steps from Greenup Street offering up bagels with some definite chutzpah.
They’re all hand-made, boiled, and baked, using locally sourced and organic ingredients whenever possible. There’s a large variety of bagels (from pumpernickel everything to cranberry cardamom) as well as spreads (from pimento cheese to roasted vegetable hummus). The sandwiches are queen here. Try the veggie-packed Good Judy, a za’atar wheat bagel with spicy greens, pickled jicama, rainbow radish, and goat cheese and tahini spreads. Enjoy it with some iced coffee under the sun on the small outdoor patio around back. 308 Greenup St., Covington, lilsbagels.com
Outside the OTR outpost of Gomez Salsa, you’ll find a knot of people milling around a very low-profile window. Don’t be shy. Gomez’s signature item, a sort of hubcap of deliciousness, is the Turtle.
Choose your protein (chicken, chorizo, barbacoa, carnitas, fish, or tofu—or veggie) then choose your style—basically, the extras/salsa. Go Baja, with pickled onions, guac, and pineapple salsa; or Gomez, with black beans, crema, and corn and Gomez salsas. All that and a crispy tostada gets wrapped in a flour tortilla and “sealed” with melted cheese, then chopped in half for a slightly less messy but just as portable version of a burrito. Too daunting? Get three tacos or a bowl version for the same price ($9). They’ll just be harder to eat on foot. 107 E. 12th St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 381-1596, gomezsalsa.com
While this Cuban-Puerto Rican fusion restaurant’s menu changes seasonally, one long-time constant is the Cubano sandwich. It’s fairly traditional as far as Cubans go, but its high-quality ingredients put it well above anything you’d find at a chain restaurant.
Braised pork shoulder, country ham, melty Swiss cheese, and house-made spicy mustard and pickles get to know each other on a fluffy, buttered and flattop-smooshed Sixteen Bricks Cuban roll, giving it a crusty exterior and a soft interior. If the sun’s shining, they’ll put the bistro dining seats out front. Cool off with house-prepared sangria and nosh looking out onto Mt. Lookout Square. 1004 Delta Ave., Mt. Lookout, (513) 376-8328, elcaminocincy.com
Avril-Bleh & Sons
At passing glance it may look like your average sidewalk grill operation, but looks can be deceiving. These guys make the meats fresh daily at their 1894-founded butcher shop, and they supply some of the city’s most lauded restaurants and brewpubs. Downtown workers already know it’s the best street-dog joint in town, so don’t be surprised to find a line (it moves quickly). Just five to eight bucks gets you a brat, mett (or cheddar mett), Italian sausage, hot dog, or burger with a bag of chips and a soda. Grab yourself a stack of napkins and park it at a surrounding table and chair to dine al fresco like a true regular. 33 E. Court St., downtown, (513) 241-2433, avril-blehmeats.com
The Walk Up at Hotel Covington
Down an alley alongside Hotel Covington, The Walk Up is a late-night, low-down extension of the hotel’s upscale Coppin’s restaurant. The changing menu gives traditional street fare a fancier take, tailored toward eating on the go or at the nearby picnic table. On a recent night everything was served on a stick: tender pork belly al pastor with pickled pineapple and cilantro; crisp fried cheese curds with smoky salsa, crema, and pickled peppers; and mammoth-sized tater tots with chili, garlic, and Duke’s dip (the latter is worth coming back for in its own right). Did we mention each item is only $5? 638 Madison Ave., Covington, (859) 905-6600, hotelcovington.com/dining/the-walk-up/
Craving fried chicken but don’t have time for those pesky bones? There’s a snack for that. CityBird is all chicken tenders, all the time.
Get ’em straight up, four-to-10 per box with sauce on the side (lemon thyme ranch is the standout). Or go for a sandwich, with extras like slaw and pickles on a toasty soft potato bun. The crunchy, slightly spicy coating might remind you of The Eagle—that’s because Thunderdome Restaurant Group is behind both operations. CityBird is carryout only, so walk one block west to Washington Park and get started on the best picnic ever. 1344 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 864-5720, citybirdotr.com
Little Berlin German Street Food
Any day at Findlay Market is (appropriately) a day of street food sampling. Go on the weekend, and you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t pick up a classic döner kebab from Little Berlin, one of the market’s pop-up merchants. The sandwich’s house-baked bread pocket is denser than a pita and hearty enough to contain a generous portion of seasoned sliced chicken smothered in lettuce, tomato, onion, cabbage, and your choice of yogurt, garlic, or lemon herb sauce. While you’re at it, fork over the extra 25 cents for feta crumbles—you’re not going to regret it. Hear that? It’s the biergarten calling your name. 1801 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 213-7020, littleberlinfood.com
If you walk around Covington’s MainStrasse Village on a summer day, chances are you’ll spot someone nomming on soft-serve. Trace their trail back to Piper’s. It’s your typical walkup window with a twist: everything is locally sourced, made to order, and served in compostable packaging. In addition to the thousands of ice cream flavors (from crème de menthe to tiramisu), you’ll find more savory items such as the Goetta Guinness Chili Dog (that’s goetta and beer on a hot dog, and yes, it’s delicious), a veggie burger (made from beans, carrots, onion, flax, oats, garlic, almonds, and sunflower seeds), and freshly made salt and vinegar chips. Take your treats to the nearby Goebel Park and enjoy the Carroll Chimes Clock Tower’s mechanical puppet show (which runs every hour on the hour). 520 W. Sixth St., Covington, (859) 291-7287, piperscafe.biz
Convenient, on-the-go grub need not be sinful. Saundra’s takes this idea and runs with it—literally. Order lunch through their app, and they’ll rush it to you on a motorized scooter. Or pick up at their kitchen. The menu changes daily, but wraps, salads, and soups are consistent. The City Hall (essentially a chicken club) and chicken pesto wraps are recurring characters, and for good reason. The latter is a sundried tomato tortilla filled with house-made roasted chicken and pesto mayo, Parmesan, tomatoes, and red leaf lettuce. Add a bag of Hen of the Woods chips and a sparkling water and head around the corner to the P&G Lawn Park for lunch. 214 E. Sixth St., downtown, (513) 832-8728, saundraskitchen.net