50 West — My favorite of the brewery bars in Cincinnati. Unlike the other brewery bars that have a more warehouse feel, this bar/restaurant is low ceilinged and cozy. A beautiful wood bar, classic record collection, and fireplaces make this place my go-to spot in the winter. A nice little patio with outdoor music makes it equally enjoyable come summer. Did I mention they also have amazing tapas?
Arlin’s – Bar located on Ludlow in Clifton, near University of Cincinnati. Range of beer and full bar. Has some food, mostly cheap bar food. Beautiful back terrace and deck – perfect for summer drinking.
Arthur’s – A Hyde Park institution, this burger joint offers gourmet casual dining with great local beer selection. Indoor and outdoor seating. Great for dinner or a night out for drinks.
A Tavola – THE place to go for woodfired pizza. Located in OTR. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable – take their recommendations and ask about daily specials. Their house wine (which they commissioned from a vineyard in Italy) is to die for and is relatively cheap. Bourbon gelato is a must have. One of my all time favorites Cincinnati spots, it never disappoints.
Bronte Bistro – This café is adjacent to Joseph Beth bookstore so you can spend sometime perusing books before or after your meal. It offers delicious new American cuisine with fresh and organic ingredients. It has a full bar and a slew of espresso drinks as well. My favorite place to saddle up to the bar alone, armed with magazines and a good book. Great for brunch as well.
Cactus Pear – My absolute favorite place for Southwestern food. Located in Clifton. Wide range of choices, vegetarian friendly and one of the best margaritas in the city. I recommend beef, blue cheese & asparagus quesadilla. Indoor and outdoor seating. Half priced appetizers at happy hour.
Dewey’s – This is a small chain, locations all over the city but I recommend the Clifton or Newport location since there’s more to see around these locales. Amazing gourmet pizza, great beer and wine selection, and excellent service. I worked here for the briefest of stints, and my time behind the swinging doors only enhances my endorsement.
Dilly Deli – Bar and restaurant on Mariemont square that I frequent often. Always amazing beer that is constantly changing, wine is also excellent. Entrées are a little pricier, but you can get appetizers or sandwiches for cheap. Also attached to a wine and beer shop. Mariemont square is picturesque, good to walk around and look at impressive houses. The first planned community in America, Mariemont is Americana at its finest.
Dutch’s – Bar and restaurant in Hyde Park. Small, always crowded, but the food and drink selection is some of the best in the city. Amazing wine and craft beer. Charcuterie inspired sandwiches and gourmet snacks. Surprisingly well-priced. I recommend the prosciutto & mozzarella sandwich or the mortadella sandwich. Truffle popcorn is a great bar snack. One of my favorite spots in Cincinnati.
The Echo – This is my favorite place to grab brunch in Hyde Park. A diner with first come first serve seating, this place is great for a cheap but delicious brunch and people watching. Always crowded, but worth it. Diner style, but still has mimosas and beer available.
Eli’s — If you go to one place in Cincinnati, make it Eli’s. A barbeque joint that rivals some of the nation’s best, Eli’s has a selection of sandwiches and ribs to die for. With BBQ this food they could stop here, but they keep bringing it with phenomenally creamy mac&cheese, bacon beans, and buttery cornbread. They have a large lawn outside the small restaurant where BYOB is encouraged, live bands often play, and dessert food trucks (hello dojo gelato!) frequently stop by. Throw a six pack of a local IPA in a cooler, grab a picnic blanket, and get ready to spend a perfect Sunday afternoon by the river.
Flipdaddy’s – A perfectly casual burger joint with food and beer that goes above and beyond. A selection of well crafted burgers with everything from Boursin cheese to basil to fried onion straws. Unlike most burger bars, this place also has killer salads. The “Thai One On” with feta is my personal favorite. The staff too is amazing, and I don’t just say this as a regular Mug Club member. As a member of the Mug Club you can get 22 ounce craft beers for $3.50 every Monday — best way to try new beers without going broke.
Fries – Great big dive bar in Clifton. Pronounced “Frees”. Very casual atmosphere, college kids and locals mixed together. Pool, darts, corn hole. Multiple levels, and outdoor area. Good beer, good people watching.
Green Papaya – Sushi, Thai, and Asian cuisine. Small but cute atmosphere, good service.
Highland’s – Bar and coffee joint in Clifton. Great espresso drinks, perfect for writing your next novel, people watching, meeting locals, or meeting a friend for a casual night.
Hofbrauhaus – A must go to place, located just over the river in Newport, Kentucky. The atmosphere is always enjoyable, live band plays daily, complete with German lederhosen and the chicken dance. Servers are dressed in traditional German beer house wear. The house made beer, one seasonal and three constants, are amazing. Do not go here for a bud light! The food can be expensive, but order the pretzel and beer cheese for a filling and relatively cheap snack. Great on a sunny afternoon or Saturday night of debauchery.
Indigo – A very cute terrace restaurant that is vegetarian friendly. Amazing salads, beer by bottle or wine by the glass or bottle. Perfect for a lunch outside.
Mayday’s – Punk/Alt bar in Northside. Great beer and mixed drink selection, crazy good hot dogs, awesome back patio, ping pong, dance parties, tattoos…need I go on?
Mazunte — The taco joint of all taco joints. Located in a strip mall, this casual joint has the best margaritas in town and amazing and authentic Mexican food. You order at the counter, find a seat among the edgy decor, and wait for the incredibly friendly and helpful staff to bring you your meal.
MadTree — One of the many amazing brewery bars to pop up in the past 5 years. Located just slightly off the beaten path in Kennedy Heights, this bar has high ceilings, tables made out of colorful doors, and a selection of unbeatable beers that are brewed on site. Food trucks are common on the weekends, and during the week you can sometimes watch as they can their delicious brews.
Melt – One of the best sandwich joints in town, vegan and vegetarian friendly. Kooky atmosphere, friendly staff, outdoor seating. You order at the register, pay, and then take a fun photo (Golden Girls, Oprah, etc.) to your table and they bring you your food.
Nada’s – Amazing Mexican food, located in the heart of downtown. A little pricey, but the food and drinks are worth it. Great party atmosphere on weekends, near bars and downtown nightlife.
Nicola’s – Upscale Italian place located in OTR. Expensive, but if you are looking for an unforgettable meal this is the place to go. Old world atmosphere, extensive wine list, and impeccable service.
Noodles & Company – This is a chain but they offer yummy fast noodle dishes from around the world. There’s a location close to Ault Park, so it’s a good grab and go place for a picnic.
Northside Tavern – Located in Northside, a trendy area of Cincinnati near Clifton. Usually very busy on weekends, lots of people, good variety of characters. Back area has a concert venue where you can dance or see local bands. Front is well lit, pool tables, corner tables. Outdoor has fire pits and good atmosphere.
Rhinegeist — Brewery bar in OTR. A winding, creaky set of stairs takes you up to a huge open space, filled with picnic tables, corn hole sets, and plenty of space to waste a Saturday. Lines can get pretty brutal, but the beer is worth the wait. Pizza can be delivered if you need some cheese and carbs to soak up one too many Truth IPAs.
The Senate – Gourmet hot dogs. Great Beer. Located in the always expanding OTR. Crazy popular, but worth the wait.
Saigon Café – Vietnamese and Asian food. Amazing drink specials during the week ($4 huge beers and half priced bottles of wine) and you can fill up on appetizers on the cheap. I recommend the Bahn Mi sandwich – $5.00 and totally filling.
Sitwell’s – Another good coffee shop in Clifton, this one located on Ludlow. Offers sandwiches and other small treats. Frequented by hippies and trendy college kids.
Sidewinder’s – Coffee shop and bar in Northside. Amazing latte’s and café inspired adult beverages. I recommend the Mexican latte or the Drunken Monkey King (vanilla vodka and jasmine green tea). Sandwiches and snacks also available. Great for a day of reading, working, or meeting a friend. Staff can be a bit hipster elite, but its all part of the atmosphere.
Stanley’s – Laidback dive bar in Columbia Tusculum, perfect for bluegrass bands and pitchers of PRB.
Teller’s – Located in a refurbished bank in Hyde Park, this place has killer atmosphere. Menu is on the pricier scale, but worth it for a nice night out. Their brunch is also impeccable.
Terry’s Turf Club — Some argue the best burger in Cincinnati can be found here and I wouldn’t entirely disagree. Burgers made from prime cuts of meat, with plenty of gourmet toppings available (although I prefer mine with just the classics). This place is hard to miss, adorned with bright neon signs and large crowds waiting for a table. They kindly allow you to grab a bottled beer from the bar to sip while you wait on the front porch. Not to be missed.
Wild Ginger – Another good sushi and Thai place. A little larger than Green Papaya and offers hibachi dining.
Whole Foods – They have a hot bar, salad bar (both very good) as well as sushi and other pre portioned meals. You can also grab beer or wine and drink it in store. They have a nice sitting area where you can set up your grocery store picnic.
Zip’s café – Located in cute Mt. Lookout, this dive bar has great burgers and craft beers. Chill service, and cozy atmosphere.
Ault Park – My favorite park in the city. Great for cookouts, picnics, running, or high hilltop views. Best 4th of July fireworks.
Cincinnati Contemporary Museum – Contemporary and modern art in a space to match. Excellent interactive installation right now where you can graffiti, paint, make paper airplanes, and much more. Perfect for a date.
Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal – Great history and science museum, also offers omnimax documentary movies. Located in the former railway station, the interior is jaw-dropping. On certain days you can go to the top of the building for sweeping views of the city and railways tracks.
Cars & Coffee — Spend your Saturday morning sipping an iced latte and mingling with Cincinnati’s gearheads. From 8:30-12pm every Saturday, locals bring their cars to be admired by anyone who cares to stop by. A wide range of classic and modern cars, as well as motorcycles, pull up to the tiny coffee shack on Rt. 52. Come early, enjoy a B&G (biscuits and gravy) from a plastic tub, and enjoy some local car culture.
Carew Tower Observation Deck – For just 3 bucks you can climb to one of the highest points of the city in this downtown building and view the city from above. Scary elevator and stairs involved, but its all part of the fun.
Findlay Market — The perfect place to spend a Saturday. Browse the many market stalls, grab a beer or some grub, and bring home some amazing local and international ingredients.
Great American Ballpark – Go Reds! Grab some cheap seats and enjoy a game. Look for the $1 stand where you can get hotdogs, popcorn, drinks all for one buck each.
Joseph-Beth bookstore – An amazing locally owned bookstore. Great selection, friendly staff, and plenty of comfy seating.
Mariemont/Esquire Theater – These art house movie theaters, located in Mariemont and Clifton respectively, offer independent movies and documentaries. Much more fun then a mainstream theater, they’re both located near great bars and restaurants.
Washington Park — In the heart of OTR, this park is great for watching Red’s games on the big screen with a local brew, taking the kids to run through the musical fountains, or attend one of many local events held here such a City Flea or the OTR 5k. A climate controlled parking garage beneath the park makes getting here a breeze.
To be continued…