Before my recent trip to the US, I was concerned about where I was going to eat during my 7 nights in Cincinnati. Having never been there before I had no idea where to start…
Internet searches weren’t delivering much as I didn’t know the City and/or areas to go.
This is intended to be a guide for those visiting Cincinnati for the first time and facing the same concern I was. Short reviews and suggestions coming up…
It’s important to point out that I was staying downtown in an area full of offices and hotels, and without a car, but for the occasional fortunate intervention of a colleague with a car, I was somewhat limited to choices.
So, without further ado…
Firstly there was Via Vite located in Fountain Square which is in the heart of downtown area. Fountain Square tends to have some sort of community activity going on at any time and there’s always plenty of people. Via Vite is, rather surprisingly, a pretty damn good Italian restaurant. In a city that favours Skyline Chili as its landmark dish, I was worried about what people in Ohio do with spaghetti when they’re not covering it in chilli and neon cheese. Thankfully Via Vite knows exactly what to do with pasta…and pizza for that matter. I dined here a couple of times during my visit and both times were really very good. The second night I got to overhear the sommelier ‘flexing his wine muscle’ to a table full of young ladies and he was utterly amazing. His knowledge of European wine could have competed with, and in certain cases surpassed, some of the top sommeliers in Michelin restaurants in Europe. The food was authentic in style and packed full of flavour. On the first night I ploughed through a bowl of home-made rosemary infused pappardelle with spicy Italian sausage and navy beans. It was hearty, delicious and utterly moreish. The second night I tucked into a pizza. Again it was a fantastic meal, the pizza was thin-based and light, but well balanced on the topping.
Secondly, on a night when I didn’t want to dine out and fancied a bite to eat in my hotel room, I was recommended to a sushi bar in the downtown area by a colleague. I turned up expecting a sit-down restaurant, but what I found was a fast-food joint, set up much like a Subway. Instead of grey meat and withered salad being slapped into a sugar-laden sub however, this clever concept allows you to create your own sushi roll made from fresh and tempting ingredients. The brainchild of some smart uni students whilst they were away at college, Fusian was set up by some young lads and exported back to Cinci when they returned home. It’s a really smart idea, and I really hope that someone in London comes up with something similar soon.
Thirdly, after a week the US and not a sniff of a burger, my colleague very kindly drove me over the river, into Kentucky, for lunch one day so that we could visit Zola’s pub and restaurant in the Covington district. Zola’s is locally famed for its delicious burgers, and I have to say, the reputation is not unfounded. With a decent selection of burgers on offer, I opted for the flagship special topped with mushrooms, capacolla ham, American cheese and bacon (yes, 2!! pork products!!). God, it was good. It was reeeeeally good. I’m still dreaming of it now, weeks later. Well worth a trip to Kentucky…along with the fact you can still legally smoke in bars there! Bonus!
Lastly, but in no means by least, if you’re in Cinci then you need to head to the district called ‘Over The Rhine’. Although not really recommended as somewhere you should walk alone (especially if you’re female), having spent an evening there I’m pretty confident that if you live in London it’s an area that’s unlikely to freak you out too much. O-T-R is a lot like Shoreditch. It’s where the cool and achingly fashionable hang out, and because of that there’s a selection of rather good restaurants and bars along the main road. We went into A Tavola for my final supper in Cinci and what a great way to end my trip. They do the most fantastic pizzas imaginable, and have a super wine list. We had a pizza with fig jam as one of the toppings which was simply inspired! It was matched with Italian sausage and was just one of the best, most memorable pizzas I’ve had in ages. They also served aranchini, which was a real treat for greedy ol’ me. Once you’ve finished scoffing your face you can pop across the road to the excellent Bakersfield bar and finish off the evening with one if the best margaritas in the US! Well…one….or 8 maybe….
So, there you go. If ever you find yourself in Cinci, hopefully you’ll be able to eat something a tad more appetising than Skyline