CINCINNATI – Cincinnati isn’t just chili and ice cream.
Our area has a number of famous restaurants that reflect our history, tastes, and future of Cincinnati food.
Here are my top 9 tips for famous Cincinnati restaurants. (And yes, a chili parlor made the list.)
Camp Washington Chili
Camp Washington Chili (Camp Washington): This iconic Camp Washington chili parlor is the prime example of the Cincinnati chili parlor culture. There are not only three-way and cheese bags here. It also serves killer double-decker sandwiches (another Cincinnati favorite) in a setting reminiscent of the heyday of the mid-century Cincinnati chilli salons.
The heavenly steakhouse (Mount Adams): With live jazz and views of the glittering Cincinnati skyline, this spot is an AAA Four Diamond Award winner and a perennial classic on the Cincinnati dining scene. The menu doesn’t take any chances, but this is one restaurant that Cincinnatians of a certain age love to talk about.
District (Columbia Tusculum): Another Cincinnati icon is Jeff Ruby. His steaks are regularly rated as the best in the country, and he has trained on-site staff to achieve a quality standard that can be felt across the city. The district is its most iconic location: it’s its first, located in an old police station in Columbia Tusculum, adorned with old photos of police officers from the district. Although times have changed since it opened in 1981, the quality of the service (and food) has remained the same.
Jean-Roberts table (Downtown): The maisonette in which Jean-Robert de Cavel started was the longest running five-star restaurant in the country during the day. While it’s gone now, de Cavel has pushed Cincinnati’s culinary scene further, both as a restaurateur (with table, Le Bar A Boeuf, Restaurant L, Frenchie Fresh, and French Crust Cafe) and through the dozen of chefs who trained under him and her have continued to open their own restaurants.
Orchids on Palm Court (Downtown): Step inside this Art Deco beauty and you will think you are in a special place. Open the menu and you will know. The Palm Court was already an icon (it’s on the historical register), but in recent years it has become an exemplary award-winning restaurant. Orchids has received multiple AAA Five Diamond Awards and topped every “best of” list you can think of. Chefs Todd Kelly and Megan Ketover have set the standard for fine dining in Cincinnati: creative, local, not too formal, but still very special.
Boca (Downtown): Its location is the famous former maisonette house. Chef David Falk keeps some of the traditional maisonette dishes alive (fries souffles with bearnaise or the famous maisonette souffle that comes out once a year during Boca’s holiday dinner), but he also has the menu and space (one of which is curated by the Weston Works of art) modernized gallery, another Cincinnati icon) and staff. While you can think of the past life as a maisonette, Boca pays homage to the old and reflects how Cincinnati has grown and changed since the 1960s.
The big tucker
Tuckers (Across the Rhine): Behind a faded storefront on Vine Street, north of Liberty and a block or two from the hustle and bustle of the Gateway Quarter, is Tucker’s. Owned by Joe and Carla Tucker (Joe tosses the hash, Carla prepares, runs the register and has smiles for everyone), you’d never guess it was profiled in Saveur and a mainstay of Cincinnati’s restaurant scene. It is also one of the most comprehensive restaurants in Cincinnati. You’re just as likely to see a young professional from a tech startup as you see a Franciscan priest or a homeless person. That’s because the food is fresh – definitely a step above standard diner food – and the service is friendly. Whether you want eggs and goetta or some of Joe’s Shrimp ‘n’ Grits (some of the best in town) you are welcome there.
The golden lamb (Lebanon): The oldest continuously operating company in the state of Ohio, it has hosted everyone from Mark Twain to American presidents and an English prime minister to your grandparents for Sunday brunch. In 2015, Thrillist named it the most iconic restaurant in the state of Ohio. The menu – with classics and a few new twists – still has that familiar feel that has welcomed guests for years.
Anchor grill (Covington): “We like to doze off, but we never close” is the Anchor Grill slogan. Yes, it’s technically just across the river in Kentucky. But this greasy spoon, open 24/7, appeals to both the bar and the everyday Cincinnatians looking for an inexpensive breakfast anytime of the day. Sure, it’s a bit shabby, but the homemade Goetta can’t be beat and you can play a song on the jukebox while people watch in the late hours.