Eat Your Way Around the Best Downtown Cincinnati Restaurants
Downtown Cincinnati is a great place to experience the best in traditional and up-and-coming Ohio food trends. Check out these delicious restaurants and pick your personal favorite!
Take a trip to one of Ohio’s largest cities and see what all the fuss is about! Cincinnati may not be the first city you think of when planning a vacation, but there are tons of reasons to head to this old American favorite. Known for being the first large city founded in the United States after the American Revolution, Cincinnati has a ton of history, and it is also home to one of the most well-known names in Major League Baseball, the Cincinnati Reds. Whether you are looking for a chance to take a unique vacation with your whole family, plan a couples’ getaway, or just find something to do while you’re on a business trip, Cincinnati has you covered! When you find yourself exploring the activities in downtown Cincinnati, be sure to check out some of the best restaurants that can be found in the city center. From American fare to authentic French cuisine to a gourmet spin on street food like sandwiches and hot dogs, there is something for everyone (and for every budget, too) among Cincinnati's most popular downtown eateries. Read on to learn just where to look for the best meals the next time you visit the heart of the Queen City.
Incline Public House
Head straight to one of the more popular restaurants in the city to begin your tour of Cincinnati’s finest downtown dining. At Incline Public House, so named for the incline railways that used to carry guests to the restaurants at the top of the city’s larger hills, chefs work every day to create almost everything completely from scratch, whenever possible, and always from the freshest ingredients available. Most of the food at Incline Public House is prepared in a brick oven on site, and some is also smoked right in the kitchen. Grab a table by the window or out on the deck and enjoy a view of the city skyline while you indulge in the incredible flavors and tasty tap beers available at Incline Public House. This is a perfect place to begin your stay in the city!
Visit Incline Public House for dinner and start your meal with an appetizer of andouille corn dogs topped with spicy ketchup to kick your taste buds into high gear. For your main course, try the honey bourbon soy chicken stir-fry. This meal might be a mouthful to say, but it’s a delicious combination of Asian flavors and ingredients with a little bit of an Ohio twist that you’re sure to love! Of course, if you and the others in your dining party can agree on toppings, consider ordering a pizza to split instead. The prosciutto fig pizza topped with arugula and goat cheese as well as caramelized onions and fig jam is an incredible sweet and savory flavor combination unlike anything else on the menu. Give it a try, or go instead for the garbage pizza, which is as much fun to eat as it is to order. This pizza is topped with red sauce and a smattering of other traditional pizza ingredients, including sausage and pepperoni, mushrooms, peppers, and onions, as well as egg and arugula to round out the flavor profile.
Incline Public House is located at 2601 West 8th Street in Cincinnati.
Stop by Nada to enjoy some of the swankiest, tastiest Mexican food in Cincinnati! Going on a decade of operation, Nada features two floors of elegantly chaotic dining and drinking, as well as an outdoor seating area that provides a respite from the hustle and bustle of the indoors during nice weather. Although the food is more or less authentic Mexican fare, it does cater to American palates, so guests often find it inviting and accessible even to their slightly different tastes. Even so, don’t stop in expecting to find completely American dishes, either. This is a perfect blending of the two flavor cultures, resulting in something altogether new and yet still somehow completely traditional.
Get your dinner at Nada started with a shareable appetizer of ceviche, including calamari, shrimp, salmon, red onion, roasted pepper, cilantro, and a spicy avocado puree to top it all off. The Mexican mac & cheese is another great way to start your meal, and if you’re dining with kids who can handle a little spice in their food, consider letting them sample this one, as well. Nada serves a variety of tacos with several different ingredients, so if you’re in the mood for this classic dish, just pick your favorite filling! The pastor tacos, with chile pork, pickled white onions, and cilantro, are a tasty twist on the traditional, while the hongos tacos with grilled mushrooms, black beans, guacamole, and pico de gallo provide a fresh and delicious vegetarian option. For a slightly larger plate, try the adobo-rubbed pork chop, served with potato puree and a spicy orange habanero pepper demi sauce, or go for the tinga poblana, a chorizo and chicken stew served over rice with a fried egg on top.
Nada is located at 600 Walnut Street in Cincinnati.
For something a little different from the other items on this list, visit Cheapside, a little café that opened in downtown Cincinnati in 2014. This incredibly minimalistic coffee shop features stark white walls inside and out, as well as rustic, recycled wood flooring and plenty of homemade additions and touches wherever possible. This is a coffee shop, so of course, the hot and iced coffees and espresso-based beverages are the main draw, but Cheapside also offers a small menu made up of excellent selections for breakfast and lunch. Stop by when you’re looking for a place to get your day started off on the right foot, or when you need a pick me up in the early afternoon in the middle of all your sightseeing!
Breakfast is served all day at Cheapside, so even if you find yourself getting a slower start to your day, you can stop in and enjoy a bowl of oatmeal brulee, made with steel-coat oats, raisins, and a delicious maple cream. You might also enjoy the house smoked salmon sandwich, made with herbed cream cheese and pickled red onion on a delicious fresh rye bread. Of course, if you’re looking for something more along the lines of a lunch meal, Cheapside has a handful of tasty selections for your afternoon meal, as well. Try the smoked turkey sandwich with Swiss cheese, bacon, hummus, and cucumber on rye bread, or opt for the curried chicken salad on a baguette with green apple, avocado, and roasted chickpeas. In the event that you’re looking for a lighter fare, try the granny smith salad, made with radicchio and green apples and topped with a creamy cider vinaigrette. While you’re enjoying your meal, don’t forget to try some of the excellent coffee and espresso available at Cheapside, and see what you think of the chinotto, a drink made with espresso, tonic water, and soda.
Cheapside is located at 326 East 8th Street in Cincinnati.
Tom + Chee - Cincinnati
To begin with, Tom + Chee – Cincinnati is one of a chain of Tom + Chee restaurants, so if you’ve seen this diner’s name in another state, don’t be surprised. However, this quirky little sandwich joint calls Cincinnati its home, as it was created from humble beginnings as a food service tent in the middle of the city some years ago. Despite being a chain, each individual restaurant makes its sauces and dressings from scratch in-house, and each one serves gluten-free and vegan options, making it a popular fast food stop for many local Cincinnati residents. There may not be a ton of items on the Tom + Chee menu, but there are plenty of combinations available to help you design the perfect sandwich, and of course, freshly made soups are readily available to help warm you up on a cold Ohio day as well. This restaurant is great for families traveling with small kids, since the specialty here is, of course, grilled cheese sandwiches!
The food may not be fancy at Tom + Chee, but it’s tasty, and there are plenty of excellent menu items to satisfy your sandwich cravings! You can always choose the build your own grilled cheese sandwich or half sandwich option, and pick the one bread, two cheeses, and any extra meat, veggie, and sauce toppings you prefer to concoct the perfect meal. If you can’t make up your mind with so many choices, however, choose one of the specialty predesigned sandwiches instead. Try the pep + chee sandwich, made with pepperoni and tomato sauce on white bread with mozzarella cheese, for a little taste of pizza in your sandwich. If you prefer something a bit on the hot side, try the hot + spicy, made on wheat berry bread and topped with onions, spicy cherry peppers, and pepperoni. Of course, you always have the option to go completely overboard and try the incredible grilled cheese donuts available from Tom + Chee. Go for the Barbara blue, a donut sliced in half and topped with ham, brie, and a sweet blueberry compote. You’ll never look back!
Tom + Chee – Cincinnati is located at 133 East Court Street in Cincinnati.
Orchids, located inside the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza Hotel, is an upscale dining experience that is unlike any other in the city. Don’t pass it by just because it is technically a hotel’s restaurant. As a matter of fact, this is one of the nicest places to grab a meal in downtown Cincinnati, so it’s well worth your time to check it out. Dine on fine china dishes and hobnob with visitors from around the world when you stop by Orchids. The atmosphere is laid back despite the high-end nature of this restaurant, so you’ll feel perfectly comfortable wearing business casual clothes for a dinner here, but don’t be surprised if you see a few guests dressed in their finest. This elegant restaurant continues to win awards for its service and its food every year, so do yourself a favor and make some room in your budget for a meal at Orchids next time you’re in town.
Begin your meal with one of the delectable first course items available on the Orchids menu. Try the veal sweetbreads with caramelized Brussels sprouts in a mustard vinaigrette, or go for the hearty and warming bone marrow tortellini with white Alba truffles. Move on to the second course, and sample some blue cheese beignets, served with pomegranate poached pears and spiced honey, or try the sweet potato soup with king crab and cacao nibs for a truly unique burst of flavor. For your main dish, order the swordfish medallions served with marble potatoes and Serrano ham, or go for the lamb loin Wellington in a mushroom sauce and served alongside a root vegetable medley. If you can’t choose between the entrees available at Orchids, you might consider selecting one of the chef’s tasting menus for $70 each, or adding wine pairings to the tasting for a total of $110 per person. Tastings are available in a standard format (with salmon, swordfish, veal, venison, and dessert), or a vegetarian alternative (with squash tart, sweet potato soup, gnocchi, mushroom strudel, and dessert).
Orchids is located at 35 West 5th Street in Cincinnati.
Technically, Bouquet isn’t located in downtown Cincinnati. As a matter of fact, it’s not in Ohio at all, but in neighboring Kentucky, just on the other side of the river. However, it takes only about five minutes or so to drive from downtown Cincinnati across the bridge to Covington, the town where Bouquet is located, and any resident of the city would assure you that it’s very worth it to do just that. Covington itself is a quaint and beautiful little town, and Bouquet provides one of the most unique menus in the downtown Cincinnati area, as well as one of the only farm to table dining options around. Partnering with several different area farms, Bouquet brings the freshest possible ingredients to the table by way of seasonal menu items that make the most of local crops by including them whenever possible.
Menu specials tend to change with what’s in season at Bouquet, but there are several standards that you can find year round at this popular restaurant. Choose the cioppino stew made with locally caught Kentucky fish, barley, tomato, arugula, peppers, and grapefruit, if you’re looking for something both local and exotic all at the same time. For vegetarians and vegans, the sesame seed crusted tofu with rice noodles and fresh local veggies and herbs makes a delicious dinner alternative. When you’re feeling a little less hungry and simply want to try a small plate, don’t pass up the incredible bison pot pie, made with fresh bison and local vegetables and served in a house-made biscuit crust. Many visitors even enjoy simply ordering a bowl of the day’s homemade soup and pairing it with a crab cake, made with walnuts and cauliflower and topped with a grapefruit gastrique. Whatever you choose to order, check out the extensive wine menu also available at Bouquet to select the best possible pairing for your meal!
Bouquet is located at 519 Main Street in Covington, Kentucky.
Senate calls itself a “gourmet street food” restaurant, which is a pretty good way to describe it. Part pub, part sandwich shop, Senate has made a name for itself as one of the best places to grab a bite of surprisingly upscale food in a toned-down edible package. Senate has been featured on the Food Network, and ever since then, it has become even more popular than it already was with area locals and visitors to Cincinnati alike. It’s hard to say whether the incredible sandwiches, the unique hot dogs, or the wide variety of craft beers are what make this one of the best places to eat in downtown Cincinnati, but whatever the reason might be, you owe it to yourself to check this place out. If you love Senate as much as most of its customers do, consider picking up the restaurant’s cookbook and learning to create some of its best dishes at home, as well.
Order a plate of poutine to start your meal. This classic dish made with French fries and cheese curds is topped with gravy-covered short ribs and an optional fried egg for a warm and hearty appetizer or side item. If sandwiches are your style, try the fried bologna sandwich, made with beer cheese and crispy fried onions on top of fried shaved bologna, or treat yourself to the lobster BLT with smoked bacon and buttery lobster meat. On the other hand, if you’re more a hot dog aficionado, give the Korean hot dog a try. This hot dog is topped with house-made kimchi and braised short ribs on a brioche bun with pickled cucumber. For something even spicier, try the Hello Kitty 2.0, a hot dog topped with ponzu wasabi slaw, wasabi mayonnaise, bacon, and wasabi peas, and get ready to have an off the charts hot and spicy experience. Finish off your meal at Senate with a serving of chocolate and bourbon bread pudding, and you’ll leave feeling full and incredibly pleased with your decision.
Senate is located at 1212 Vine Street in Cincinnati.
If you’re looking for an upscale, high class dining experience at an affordable price during your trip to Cincinnati, look no further than Jean-Robert’s Table. This unique little French restaurant is owned and operated by one of Cincinnati’s better known local chefs, and it is widely recognized as being one of the more sophisticated places to eat in the downtown part of the city. This isn’t a formal experience, per se, but it does carry with it an air of elegance based upon the beautiful décor and the incredibly authentic French cuisine that is served up at Jean-Robert’s Table every day. Despite this, you can expect to spend a moderate amount per meal here, with most entrees falling in the $25 range, and a few menu items going up from there. Book a romantic dinner date at Jean-Robert’s Table and you’ll impress your partner without having to break the bank to do it!
The dinner menu at Jean-Robert’s Table is quite varied, with a diverse array of French classics readily available to order. Many of the appetizers alone are well worth making a trip! Try the sweetbread and lobster small plate, served with mushrooms, succotash, and bourbon cream, or go for the delightful snail and frog late starter with parsnips, mushrooms, and a tasty pinot noir butter sauce. The three-way mussels are also an excellent way to begin your meal, with three types of mussels served piperade style, mariniere, and smoked. If you have any room left after trying all the incredible appetizers, order the traditional croque monsieur, made with a chicken confit and sautéed chicken liver with a fried egg on top, or go all out and choose the venison served with Brussels sprouts, bleu cheese, fruit compote, and a sweet potato hazelnut croquette. For dessert, opt for the classic crème brulee, or get creative with with chocolate mousse served with blueberry and pomegranate sorbet.
Jean-Robert’s Table is located at 713 Vine Street in Cincinnati.
Le's Pho & Sandwiches
Like many of the best dives around, Le’s Pho and Sandwiches does not have its own website, and if you weren’t looking for it specifically, you’d probably walk right past the little corner shop tucked into a larger building amid more glamorous downtown restaurants. However, despite its nondescript appearance, Le’s Pho & Sandwiches is one of the most popular places for Cincinnati locals to grab a bite for lunch while they’re busy downtown. Stop by and enjoy an incredibly affordable meal with a Vietnamese touch, and find out what makes the food at Le’s stand out so much from the rest. Whether you’re in the mood for some noodle soup or a massive sandwich you can share with someone else, Le’s is the place for you! Aside from its more obvious selections, Le’s is also a great place to grab some spring rolls, crab rangoons, and other popular side dishes, so don’t be afraid to try a little bit of everything when you stop in.
It might go without saying, but the pho (a soup made of noodles in beef broth with basil, cilantro, onions and scallions) is a great place to start at Le’s. Choose the chicken pho, or upgrade for a small charge to the pho made with beef meat balls instead. As for sandwiches, the teriyaki sub is a perennial favorite, but the banh mi takes center stage among Le’s non-pho offerings. These delicious, traditional Vietnamese sandwiches are served on baguettes with hot peppers and pickled veggies, as well as cilantro and mayonnaise. No matter whether you choose beef, chicken, or pork, you can expect a fresh, clean taste with a spicy zing from your banh mi sandwich at Le’s. This restaurant also serves teriyaki chicken and rotisserie chicken, which are quite tasty, but may not be the best options here. There are also more traditional American-style sandwich offerings on the menu, as well as Nathan's hot dogs, but again, these don't really represent the best of what's available here. Go for the pho and sandwiches if you want to get the most out of your trip to Le’s.
Le’s Pho & Sandwiches is located at 3 East Court Street in Cincinnati.
The Presidents Room
Located on the first floor of a large, historical building known as The Phoenix, the Presidents Room serves classic American fare with a modern twist alongside traditional cocktails and local craft beers, all under the roof of a building dating back to the turn of the 20th century. The building itself once housed a club for local businessmen, but today, the rest of the building excluding the restaurant is often rented out to parties, wedding receptions, and other special events. The Presidents Room itself is known for its selection of delicious American dishes focusing on Italian and German culinary patterns, and the popular menu items at this restaurant bring back repeat customers time and again. Visit the Presidents Room for a nice meal in a relaxed setting, and enjoy a quality dinner expertly prepared with fresh ingredients, without having to spend too much money to get it. Even if you can’t make a trip to the Presidents Room a part of your dining tour of Cincinnati, consider stopping by for one of the Chef’s Table events scheduled at various times throughout the year instead, during which guests can learn how to prepare some of the restaurant’s best sellers in their kitchens at home.
The Presidents Room doesn’t have a ton of different items available on the menu, but the ones it does have are all pretty excellent choices. Choose a shareable appetizer to begin your meal with freshly prepared beef tartar served with egg, lemon, capers, and rye crostini, or go for the deviled eggs topped with smoked salmon roe instead. If you’re not feeling very generous, choose a starter for yourself instead. Opt for the beet and smoked trout salad served with a mustard vinaigrette or the pear and duck confit salad with a sherry vinaigrette to get your appetite ready for the main course. All of the pastas available from the Presidents Room are delicious, but the agnolotti with charged pumpkin, pickled cranberries, and hazelnuts is one of the best items on the menu. If you prefer something a little more elaborate, however, you might prefer the strip loin entrée, made of a dry aged beef and served with a smoked potato puree and mushroom bordelaise sauce. Finish off your dinner with a taste pine nut tart with pumpkin gelato and herbed honey for a complete meal you will never forget.
The Presidents Room is located at 812 Race Street in Cincinnati.
Last but definitely not least, make a special trip to Boca, one of the nicest restaurants in Cincinnati, and treat yourself to an incredible meal in a truly fine atmosphere. Although it began with fairly humble roots as a small restaurant with only fourteen tables, today Boca has taken up the mantle of serving excellent food to the hungry, upscale masses from a different, much larger location in the heart of downtown. The food served at this popular restaurant is Italian in its inspiration, but borrows a great deal from traditional American fare as well, to create something at once relatable and unique to its many customers. Once one of the city’s pricier places to eat, Boca has recently cut down on its prices somewhat, making it a little bit more of an affordable goal if you’re looking for an elegant place to dine on your next trip to Cincinnati.
Note that many items available on Boca’s menu do change depending on what is in season, so you might run into something completely new and delicious when you take your trip to Cincinnati. You will likely always find oysters Rockefeller on the menu, however, and these fresh East coast oysters are an excellent small plate or appetizer to get you started. If you prefer to start your meal with a salad, try the beet mezzaluna salad with hazelnut and aged goat cheese instead. For your main course, consider the Amish chicken risotto, served with carrots, mushrooms, and black truffle, or the gnocchi con fonduta, served with a taleggio cheese fondue and perigord truffles. Provided you don’t mind the higher price, consider indulging in one of the most expensive menu items: the 40-hour pot roast. This roast is stewed with potatoes and root vegetables and served with a savory beef au jus. Last but not least, you can always go all the way and order the pricy beef Wellington. This dish is paired with foie gras, prosciutto, and a simple but delicious truffle sauce. Although it’s nearly twice the cost of many of the other items on the menu, this is definitely the dinner to choose if you’re looking to have a truly elegant experience at Boca.
Boca is located at 114 East 6th Street in Cincinnati.
Although it may not be as glamorous (or warm!) as some of the other major cities in the United States, don’t discredit Cincinnati when looking for the perfect place to take your next vacation. Make your way around this historic city, and be sure to spend plenty of time perusing all the sights and sounds of the sprawling downtown area. There are enough delicious restaurants in downtown Cincinnati to keep you full and happy throughout your entire visit, so pick your favorites and get ready for a tasting tour, Ohio style!
flickr photo by jgoge http://flickr.com/photos/jgoge123/8079060239 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
This article was written by: