Monday, July 29, 2013

On the town -- Where's the best "restaurant row" in Cincinnati?

What are the best restaurant-rich neighborhoods in the Cincy metro area? Never mind areas that are heavy with mid-range chain eateries, even upscale ones. (That's about the best you can hope for in the outer suburbs, but I'd almost always prefer an independently owned restaurant to one that's part of a large corporation.) For the sake of this discussion I'll also omit clusters of bars and sports bars that don't offer much in the way of a square meal. And I'm looking for more than one or two "quality" places to eat, so that if one interesting choice is fully booked and you don't have a reservation, you might be able to find a comparable option without having to get (back) in your car.
City dwellers are more likely to have this scenario play out, of course....
Entree at Otto's
What works in Cincinnati/NKY and what doesn't?
I think Clifton fails the above test -- alas, since that's my home 'hood -- because even though almost everything is independently owned, it's also almost all of mediocre quality, at best. Once you get past La Poste (a wonderful gem for which I thank God every week), things go south really fast. Don't even get me started on the inconsistent but mostly unappealing food at Olives, and the rest of the bunch is ethnic mostly Indian fare that cannot be justified on a health basis.
Hyde Park actually flunks, too, because it is so full of chains. There really isn't a destination restaurant in that part of town, unless you want to count J. Alexander's, Seasons 52 or Bonefish Grill -- none of which is unique to our metro area.
We love OTR/Gateway Quarter (Bakersfield, Abigail Street, Senate, Kaze, A Tavola -- just to name our favorites) as well as downtown (though less so -- although Local 127, Jean-Robert's Table, Boca, Red Roost Tavern and one or two others are quite good). Northside is high on quirky, tasty and low-cost options (Take the Cake, Melt, Django, among others) but doesn't have anything to compare to any of the others named in this paragraph.
This is a long-winded way of leading into my vote for Covington, specifically the Main Strasse area that consists of at most three blocks along Main Street within sight of the Brent Spence (I-75) Bridge. Bouquet is the top-shelf entry and worth at least a couple of visits a year. But the street also has the Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar (and I'll add a photo of my very authentic whiskey sour from the other night) as well as a handful of quite acceptable if less stellar tables. We dined at Otto's (photo is of my shrimp and grits entree), and on the same block Chez Nora (so-so food but a great rooftop bar), the new Main Bite (haven't tried yet) and the old standby Dee Felice (never been a fan but others like it).
OKBB whiskey sour

Of course, for health/weight control, eating out often is a bad idea!  I usually only do so at most twice a week for dinner and perhaps once for lunch, and even that can be a diet-buster. I haven't yet and probably never will figure out how to stay slim AND eat/drink everything I want to........


  1. That’s a nice list you’ve got there. I’d take quirky and tasty over food chains any day! Definitely checking these out for myself when I find myself in the area. Thanks for the tip!

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