Blogging Travel

My Ultimate Guide to Cincinnati

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This post has been a long time coming! I thought now was a perfect time to share my favorite places in the city just in time for any holiday visitors or exploring you may be wanting to get out and do! I’ve recently had a handful of people who have come to town ask me for my favorite spots. I then realized I’ve never formally rounded up my favorite places! So, that’s what this post is going to be. An extensive guide of everything I love in this city that has become home over the last 7 years. I will note that all of my recommendations err on the side of Central Cincinnati, meaning encompassing downtown, as north as Kenwood, and as south as Crestview Hills. I admittedly don’t spend much time any more north or south than that, so my picks will lie in this vicinity.

FOOD

Italian/Pizza

Strong’s Pizza – This is a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint in my neck of the woods that we adore. The pizza is cooked in a wood-fired oven and the flavor combinations are amazing. The diavolo dolce is a personal favorite. Sit outside on the patio and enjoy a pitcher and a pie. You’re welcome.

Pompilio’s – This is an OG favorite in Cincinnati if you’re in the mood for Italian. The Chicken Parm is one of my favorites in the city and the ambiance is that of a true Italian kitchen. The movie The Rainman even shot a few scenes, here! It’s a traditional and classic favorite that you can’t go wrong with.

Forno Osteria – The bolognese at Forno is worth the trip to Cincinnati alone. While their menu is fairly vast, the bolognese is the way to go.

A Tavola – Another wood-fired pizza joint, this one is a bit more upscale and nestled in the heart of OTR.

Nicola’s – This place is EVERYTHING. Whether you want a few quick bites or to splurge on a multi-course meal, I highly recommend Nicola’s if you’re craving a good old-fashioned Italian meal.

American

Court Street Lobster Bar – The lobster lollipops are some of the best bites in the city and the mac & cheese is divine. A quick taste of New England right in downtown Cincinnati. The decor is super cute and the vibe is aesthetically pleasing.

Senate – If you’re craving a hot dog, Senate is the way to go. They have a variety of wild combinations that are extraordinarily flavorful. The Trailer Park is my personal favorite, although I know many who prefer the Lindsay Lohan. Oh, and the duck fat fries are bomb.

Pontiac BBQ – I may get some flack for choosing this over Eli’s, but the brisket burrito is SO good. If you’re in the mood for some BBQ, definitely give Pontiac a chance.

The Eagle – This is Mike’s favorite restaurant in the city. Down-home fried chicken, mac & cheese, and a bacon appetizer to boot. I prefer the chicken sandwich while Mike dives into the 1/2 chicken. A true must-visit if you’re in town.

Mexican

Nada Cincinnati – Nada is hands-down the go-to joint for tacos and tequila in Cincinnati. They even have a killer brunch! I always, always recommend the enchiladas, and if you can swing it, ask the server for the chili pineapple. SO good. See my latest post on Nada here.

Frida 602 – A more humble Mexican joint is Frida in Mainstrasse. The tacos are divine and the drink menu is really impressive.

Mazunte – I definitely recommend Mazunte for a more authentic experience. The salsa offerings are amazing and you can’t go wrong with any entree choice, though I recommend the tostadas.

Asian

Asiana – This place is a little hidden but SO worth the search. Not only are the staff the nicest people ever, the entire menu is incredible. Everything from the sushi to crab Rangoon to hot pot to sesame chicken, it’s all amazing. I cannot recommend this place enough, plus its BYOB! Win-win.

Saigon Subs – The best pho in the city. Enough said.

Siam Orchid – This is another hole-in-the-wall in my neck of the woods and has some of the best Thai food I’ve had.

E&O – This is a more modern and upscale place, but the food is incredible. The Mango Tango is one of my favorite sushi rolls of all time and me and my friends all crave the Brussels sprout salad.

Kaze– This is the staple Japanese spot in OTR that features bomb sushi and apps. They have a separate bar area that has happy hour and really cool vibes. I recommend checking it out for an app and a drink, if not a full sushi flight.

Brunch

Holtman’s Doughnuts – This, to me, is a Midwest version of Voodoo Doughnuts. Insane toppings, crazy flavor combinations, and a totally Instagrammable presentation. Grab a dozen before bopping around OTR.

Maplewood Kitchen + Bar – This place reminds me of somewhere you’d see in Chicago or New York. It’s absolutely gorgeous inside and hosts your quintessential avocado toast and green juices to boot. Not only is everything beautifully presented but it’s so yummy. I will say this place is pretty pricey, but if you want that special brunch experience, it’s worth a visit.

Taste of Belgium – Whenever I’m craving a good brunch, ToB is one of the first places I suggest to whoever I am dining with. The waffle & chicken is their staple dish, but they also serve incredible crepes and other sweet and savory dishes. The atmosphere is super fun and it’s a great place to grab a bloody or a beer to catch a game, as well! I highly, highly recommend checking this place out if you’re in town.

Sleepy Bee – This is for the traditional breakfast lover. The eggs and bacon kind of deal. It’s super cute and kid friendly. If you’re not looking for anything fancy but something super yummy, give the Bee a visit.

Nation Kitchen & Bar – I am a huge breakfast taco/burrito fan and their breakfast burrito is one of the best in the city. Nation also boasts bottomless mimosas and marys and it’s a super fun brunch spot for a group.

Fancy Dinner

Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse – This is Mike and I’s GO TO spot to celebrate something special. In my opinion, it’s basically the best steak you can get. The ambiance is so elegant and I have never left a Ruby’s meal disappointed.

Sartre – This is a newer spot in town [adjacent to Rhinegeist] and features some seriously incredible French fare that is done in a really approachable way. I’ve eaten here a few times and have really loved everything I tried. I highly recommend trying it out.

Coppin’s @ Hotel Covington – I always highly recommend that folks from out of town stay at Hotel Covington, but Coppin’s deserves it’s own shoutout. Nestled inside the hotel, the food is to die for and the space is cozy and cute. I literally dream of the Pimento Cheese appetizer. We celebrate the holidays here, too, and it’s always festive and fun.

Boca Restaurant – Boca is just plain fabulous. The food is always utterly delectable and you can’t help but be in a good mood when you’re cozied up inside. The food is incredible [the burger and lobster risotto are forever favorites] and the drinks are spectacular, as well. We’ve celebrated many a birthday and promotion at Boca.

 

DRINK

Breweries – There are SO many breweries in Cincinnati. Moerlein, Darkness, Rhinegeist, Braxton, and MadTree are a few of my personal favorites. I talk about a few of them in this post, but really, if you’re a beer lover, you need to come check Cincinnati out.

Queen City Exchange – This bar is super fun. The concept is that drinks are priced like the stock market, where they will go up and down based on demand. There’s a pop-a-shot inside and they host trivia and it’s just a cool little spot.

16 Bit Bar + Arcade – This is the gamers dream. There are old-school arcade games, themed drinks, and gaming systems galore. We love to post up with a drink and play a rousing game of Mario Kart or Pacman. It’s so fun and definitely worth checking out.

The Lackman – There’s nothing truly special per se about Lackman, but it’s such a staple Cincinnati spot that I had to mention it. It’s in a great location and has a super cozy vibe.

Top of the Park – This bar is on top of a hotel and boasts a spectacular view of the city. They have fun drink specials in the summer and it’s a really fun atmosphere.

Wise Guys – This is on top of Goodfellas Pizza [which I also HIGHLY recommend] and it’s a super cool bourbon bar. It’s really small but there are bar stools and a few couches to cozy up in. Whenever I’m in this bar, it always feels like it should be snowing outside. It just has that cozy vibe. Think the movie The Holiday. We love it so much and it carries a lot of Mike’s favorite bourbons, and that’s hard to do! It’s definitely a must visit on the KY side.

Aster Social Sippery – This place is STUNNING. Talk about aesthetically pleasing. Not only that, but they have killer drinks and super unique bites. The samosa and burrata are amazing.

Sundry & Vice – This is the bar to go to if you’re a cocktail enthusiast. They truly have some of the best and most innovative drinks in the city and the entire inside is done in the theme of an apothecary so it’s super cool and different. They also feature different eateries on the weekend for brunch which is super cool.

Metropole @ 21C – This is a super classy joint inside the 21C hotel that boasts some serious cocktails and beers. It’s a gorgeous atmosphere and a great spot to grab a drink before dinner at Nada or Boca or before a show at the Aronoff.

Party Source/New Riff Distillery – Party Source is a humongous liquor store [think the size of a Costco] and adjacent is New Riff Distillery, which has tours, a bar, a gift shop, and a roof top that can host events. It’s worth checking out.

Incline Public House – This is another spot that boasts a truly amazing view of the city. In the up and coming Incline district, IPH has a great drink and food menu but really, go there for the view.

Myrtle’s Punch House – I love the concept of Myrlte’s. It’s communal, it’s familiar, and it’s fun. You order a punch bowl for your party and everyone scoops their libation into a cup and enjoys together. They have many different varieties that are super to please everyone. I definitely recommend taking a group here!

1215 Wine Bar & Coffee Lab – I truly adore this spot. It’s cute and cozy and can offer you coffee, wine, beer, booze, or whatever your heart desires. They have wine flights and make a mean espresso and I’ve never been disappointed. Whether you’re in the mood for booze or caffeine, they have you covered.

 

SHOPPING

Pretty Pony Boutique – Y’all know by now that I love me some PPB. You can read about them here, here, and here, but now that they’ve got their new location in Crestview Hills, it’s even more enjoyable. I definitely recommend checking them out, whether you’re a local or just in town visiting. I’m sure you’ll leave with 1 or 5 new pieces to love!

Kenwood Mall– This is THE mall in Cincinnati, in my opinion. It has our Nordstrom, Anthropologie, J.Crew, Madewell, Kate Spade, Kendra Scott, Macy’s, Dillard’s, Abercrombie, Bath & Body Works. Basically every blogger’s favorite stores, ha! But really, it’s a gorgeous mall and has every store you could want. There are also tons of restaurants, a movie theatre, and Trader Joe’s all surrounding it.

Rookwood Commons – This is my go-to spot for stores like Nordstrom Rack, Home Goods, and TJ Maxx. There’s also a Whole Foods, Ulta, Old Navy, and DSW in the mix. It has the best deals and you can spend so much time here.

Cincinnati Premium Outlets – CPO is another one I’ve talked about a bunch on the blog, like here, here, and here. It’s a bit of a hike north of the city, but it has so many amazing stores that it’s worth the trip if you have the time.

OTR [Beautiful, Mica, Idlewild Woman, Homage, Lane + Kate] – There are so many amazing little shops in OTR, you could spend the whole day wandering around.

 

THINGS TO DO

Cincinnati Zoo – The zoo in Cincinnati is one of the best I’ve been to. Plus, we have Fiona! It’s located centrally in Clifton and is the perfect family activity.

Newport Aquarium – We are season pass holders to the Aquarium and I highly recommend checking it out. It’s in a great location near downtown and has sharks, penguins, sting rays, and more.

The Spa @ Mitchell’s – This is one I’ve talked about on the blog before [lately here + here] and it’s truly a delightful experience. Whether you’re exhausted from traveling or simply want to kick back and relax, Mitchell’s has you covered. I definitely recommend paying them a visit.

City Flea – If you’re here in the warmer months, I highly recommend paying City Flea a visit. It boasts local vendors, food trucks, and entertainment and you’re bound to leave with something new to love. It’s definitely a unique experience and always so much fun.

Findlay Market – Findlay is another unique Cincinnati experience that is basically like a flea market, farmers market, food tent, and entertainment hall all in one. We love visiting Findlay in the warmer months and having lunch, picking up some treats, and listening to live music.

JACK Casino – If you’re craving a late night roll of the dice, pay JACK a visit. It’s right downtown and has some great restaurants and entertainment alongside the regular gambling.

Krohn’s Conservatory– This is a beautiful space in the city that has a lot of different exhibits, most famously the butterfly exhibit. We always try to visit for that and it’s lovely to have such a great conservatory in our city.

 Go to a Reds/Bengals Game – Cincinnati is unique in the fact that our baseball and football stadiums are one block apart. They’re both right downtown so they are super accessible, both beautiful stadiums, and both reasonably priced to experience a ball game! September is fun when both are still in season!

 

So, there you have it! My [not-so] little taste of everything incredible that Cincinnati has to offer. When I found out I was moving here, I thought I’d be here for a year or two max, and never envisioned that I’d love it so much [and fall in love here] that it would become my home. I know better than to say the word “forever” when it comes to where you live, but we are so truly happy here and don’t see ourselves leaving anytime soon, if ever. I want to call out that Mike is disappointed that I didn’t include the “classic” Cincinnati spots like LaRosas, Graeters, and Skyline Chili, however I don’t love any of those places so they don’t make the cut for me, ha! But true Cincinnatians would likely call those spots out. That disclaimer aside, the list above is pretty comprehensive of my favorites. If you’re ever in town, do let me know! This is just a small taste of what the city has to offer, although I know there is SO much more to offer. What is your favorite place to go in the city? Did I miss anything major?! If you’ve never been here, put it on your list ASAP! Thanks for stopping by!

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