Cincinnati

Restaurant L: approachable French haute cuisine

Restaurant L: approachable French haute cuisine

Restaurant L in Cincinnati is the kind of dining treasure we always hope to find in a mid-sized city but rarely do. The most formal of chef Jean-Robert de Cavel's empire of French eateries in the Queen City region, L bills itself as a “Parisian-style restaurant, with a little New York attitude and an abundance of Cincinnati charm.” That pretty much nails it. The elegant dining room in the rather new Queen City Tower is the culmination of de Cavel's decades-long saga as Cincinnati's leading proponent of French cuisine. If we lived in Cincinnati, we'd probably eat more often at Frenchie Fresh (his casual bistro) or Le Bar au Boeuf (his beef-oriented bistro), and treat ourselves to lunch at the bar at the swanky Jean-Robert's...Read More
Deco decadence at The Bar at Palm Court

Deco decadence at The Bar at Palm Court

Even if we didn't enjoy a good cocktail or a nice glass of wine, we would find an excuse to visit the Bar at Palm Court. It occupies a prime spot in the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza Hotel. One of the most glamorous buildings in the city, it's at 35 West 5th Street. The hotel, which opened in 1931, oozes French Art Deco style. There's barely a surface that's not embellished with a lotus pattern, a bird, or a sun. One of the best places to admire the masterful mix of rich woods, polished marble, frescoes, and ceiling painting is from a padded fan-shaped banquette in the bar. (The wooden bar itself, by the way, was originally a ticket booth at Union Terminal, the city's...Read More
Getting a well-designed sandwich at Cheapside Cafe

Getting a well-designed sandwich at Cheapside Cafe

Selecting the single best sandwich in every state is a pretty tall order. But when People magazine published its list in May of this year, they made a great selection for the state of Ohio. First of all, Cheapside Cafe (326 East 8th St., Cincinnati; 513-345-6618, cheapsidecafe.com) is not an obvious choice. The stylish little place, with a long counter made of wood from an old paper mill, sits a bit off the beaten path in a design-oriented neighborhood. It's open every day, but for breakfast and lunch only. Jon Mouch and his partner Joseph Creighton opened Cheapside in May 2014. “We've been offering the same menu since day one,” Mouch told us when we stopped in for breakfast. Chief among those menu items is...Read More
Sixteen Bricks Bakery makes Cincy’s daily bread

Sixteen Bricks Bakery makes Cincy’s daily bread

Ryan Morgan is not a man you can easily forget. Neither is the bread that he creates at Sixteen Bricks Bakery (sixteenbricks.com). We'd been eating our way around Cincinnati for a couple of days before we had the chance to tour the bakery that supplies bread to many of the city's restaurants—both casual and high end—that insist on a high-quality product. Morgan revels in his role as the most unlikely of bakers. He left a career as a mechanic making medical equipment at Johnson & Johnson to help his mother in her struggling bakery. Not one to pull any punches, Morgan told us that the bakery turned out “some of the most garbage bread.” He shakes his head at the memory. “I don't know why...Read More
Cincinnati chows down at Montgomery Inn Boathouse

Cincinnati chows down at Montgomery Inn Boathouse

Not many people noticed when Ted and Matula Gregory opened the homey Montgomery Inn in Montgomery, Ohio, in 1951. But when Matula started serving her barbecued ribs a few years later, people began to pay attention. You might even say that a dynasty was born. Ted and Matula eventually became known as the king and queen of ribs. Those hand-spiced, slow-roasted ribs are still the foundation of the Gregory family's two-restaurant empire. One of those restaurants is in downtown Cincinnati on the banks of the Ohio River. The Montgomery Inn Boathouse (925 Riverside Drive, 513-721-7427, montgomeryinn.com) is an impressive curved building with a wall of windows overlooking the river. The interior walls are covered with sports memorabilia which seems fitting since athletes have been known...Read More
Cincy specialty hits apex at Camp Washington Chili

Cincy specialty hits apex at Camp Washington Chili

There's one resource we always turn to first when we're looking for a welcoming place to eat with lots of local character. That's the listing of eateries designated as America's Classics by the James Beard Foundation. The late chef and cookbook author appreciated homey diners just as much as he relished temples of haute cuisine. The America's Classics shine a light on these usually family-run establishments that play a big role in their communities. If we're lucky, we'll discover one or more Classics at an upcoming destination. That was the case on our recent visit to Cincinnati, where Camp Washington Chili (3005 Colerain Ave, Cincinnati; 513-541-0061; campwashingtonchili.com) has been a neighborhood fixture since 1940. Maria Papakirk was there to welcome us with a big smile,...Read More
Ohio winemaking springs from Skeleton Root

Ohio winemaking springs from Skeleton Root

We tasted American wine history at The Skeleton Root (38 McMicken Ave., Cincinnati; 513-918-3015; skeletonroot.com), a micro-winery in the Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. From the 1830s into the 1860s, Cincinnati was America's wine country. Pioneer vintner Nicholas Longworth was shipping sparkling Catawba all over the world as the American riposte to champagne. And a good bit of it was being sold in Paris. Catawba? Over the years, we've been served some truly awful wine made from Catawba grapes. The native American green grape is vitis labrusca—the foxy cousin of the European vitis vinifera wine grapes. Since Longworth's winery folded in 1870 (seven years after his death), most American winemakers have used Catawba in icky sweet wines with a pronounced foxy flavor. Hey, some people like chilly-chilly...Read More
History by the glass in Cincinnati’s OTR

History by the glass in Cincinnati’s OTR

Most city walking tours barely scratch the surface of local history. But, as the name suggests, the Queen City Underground Tour in Cincinnati digs deeper. Guide Craig Maness of American Legacy Tours (1332 Vine St., Cincinnati; 859-951-8560; americanlegacytours.com) led us on a 2-hour trek across and eventually beneath Over-the-Rhine (OTR) as he related the neighborhood's history. That's him at right with ancient bottles discovered in underground OTR. OTR was heavily settled by two waves of German immigrants who arrived in the 1830s and again in the 1850s. The Miami-Erie canal, which separated the district from the rest of the city, was locally nicknamed “the Rhine.” Cincinnatians searching for beer, pretzels, and bratwurst could find them by going “over the Rhine.” The canal was buried long...Read More
Chili, bbq, fine dining, social justice rise in Queen City

Chili, bbq, fine dining, social justice rise in Queen City

Cincinnati chili was the lure. We always have high hopes for any community that has its own food specialty, especially if it's a signature fast food. It means that the folks who live there take pride in their traditions—and it usually signals a strong dining culture. That proved to be the case when we spent a few days eating our way around Cincinnati this summer. The Queen City has all the hallmarks of a great dining destination. In addition to that chili, we discovered delicious and eye-poppingly colorful raspberry chocolate chip ice cream at Graeter's. A welcoming breakfast and lunch place crossed the traditional breakfast sandwich with pimento cheese. We dined at an upscale riverfront barbecue institution as well as an elegant gourmet restaurant whose...Read More