The queen city of the west was in the midst of a food boom before the coronavirus pandemic broke out. The city’s Germanic roots endured in European-inspired kitchens, and the cinnamon-flavored chili of the same name was still ladled over spaghetti and smothered in shredded cheddar. But another side of the city’s food scene flourished like never before, in bowls of Korean bibimbap, creative plates like those from Chef Ryan Santos of Please, and fresh Hawaiian poke and primo American at a single intersection in Over-the-Rhine in Arepas and Cachapas smoked meat is served au jus. Bringing everything together was and is the city’s relatively new tram, which connects the restaurants in the Banks district and across the Rhine.
The COVID-19 pandemic has dampened some of that craze, not to mention its rapid growth, but Cincinnati is neither down nor out. Upscale steakhouses no longer ridicule their cuisine that is consumed off-site. Chefs who are known for pate en croute are now offering do-it-yourself lasagna. Alleys and entire streets were converted into “street stalls” outdoors with propane heaters or fire pits. and bars are using a new law that allows them to sell take-away cocktails with meals.
That’s not to say the past 10 months have been easy for the industry. Restrictions require indoor and outdoor parties to be two meters apart, which limits capacity in many restaurants. A nationwide curfew closes bars and restaurants until 10 p.m. after decades in business.
Even so, many hold on and attack the pandemic with the city’s famous tenacity. They make up the following list of Cincinnati facilities that have spun, surfaced, or pushed forward to safely feed the city amid COVID-19.
Note: Many, if not most, restaurants in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky have reopened their dining rooms for lunch and dinner. Your inclusion here should not be taken as an endorsement for eating in. All of the restaurants on this list have takeout options, and heated outdoor seating is available depending on the weather. Opening times and service levels may vary. Studies show that there is less risk of exposure while eating indoors, but this depends on restaurants adhering to strict social distancing and other safety guidelines. Please refer to the Cincinnati City COVID-19 dashboard for the most current information.
Andy Brownfield has been reporting on the Cincinnati bar and restaurant scene for seven years. His work for the Cincinnati Business Courier can be seen here.