Mazunte and Mazunte Mercado

Mazunte (photo: Cincinnati Nomerati)
Mazunte (photo: Cincinnati Nomerati)

In 2010, Mazunte owner and founder Josh Wamsley was searching for fresh Mexican food the way he wanted to eat it. There wasn’t anything close to it locally, so he made a pilgrimage down to Mexico to do all the research he could and bring something unique and flavorful back to Cincinnati. From the fresh tortillas made by a Oaxacan woman recruited by Wamsley, to the variety of punchy sauces and fresh ingredients, everything in the restaurant is executed with excellence. Craving a taste of Mazunte at home? Wamsley has built a mercado right up the road at his commissary kitchen, selling prepared meats and the ingredients used every day in the restaurant. Foodies take note: one trip to the mercado means no more scavenger hunting through different groceries around town for specialty ingredients.

Senate Blue Ash

Eggs Benedict at Senate (photo: Cincinnati Nomerati)
Eggs Benedict at Senate (photo: Cincinnati Nomerati)

One of the newest restaurants in the Dan and Lana Wright empire, Senate Blue Ash takes advantage of the extra space available in a suburban location. Located within picturesque Summit Park, Senate Blue Ash features a slightly different menu and one of the best brunches around on Sundays. The space has a cool vibe, a wonderful patio space, and is also extremely kid friendly. The indulgence is definitely worth the trip out, since you can walk off the inevitable food coma that follows with a stroll through the park afterward. For brunch, don’t miss the Goetta Superstar or the Eggs Benedict. It may be hard to decide what to order, so we recommend visiting with friends so that everyone can share.

Dojo Gelato Northside

Dojo Gelato
Dojo Gelato

Michael Christner does amazing things with his original space in Findlay Market, but he dialed it up to 11 with the addition of his location in Northside. Inventive and delicious sundaes, soft-serve style sorbetto, and dog-friendly outdoor seating make Dojo a great place to hit when you are craving a treat. Christner has never cut any corners with his products. The caramel and chocolate sauce are made in-house, and sundaes are topped with an Amarena cherry – no unnaturally-colored maraschinos in sight here. Call ahead to find out if they have the pineapple soft serve available; once you’ve had it, it will haunt your dreams.

Taglio

Taglio (photo: @tagliopizza)
Taglio (photo: @tagliopizza)

Taglio has been working on its version of Detroit-style pizza for over a year and a half, and its research paid off. The pizza is remarkable in that the buttery, crunchy crust itself is the shining star here and like no other pizza in town. It’s so good, it almost doesn’t need any toppings, but if you must, the simpler the combination of toppings, the better: we recommend a combination of ricotta, bacon and tomato, and crushed tomato sauce. With the recent expansion to the space next door, full bar and official launch of Detroit-style pizza, Taglio has arrived.

Sichuan Bistro

Kung Pao chicken at Sichuan Bistro (photo: Cincinnati Nomerati)
Kung Pao chicken at Sichuan Bistro (photo: Cincinnati Nomerati)

It might be easy to drive past Sichuan Bistro, located in an unassuming strip mall on Mason-Montgomery road, but you’d be missing out on some of the best Sichuan cuisine the city has to offer. When a restaurant has two menus, you know you are in for a treat. Don’t be scared of the authentic menu! Order the traditional Kung Pao chicken and experience out-of-this-world flavors. The Twice Cooked Pork and Dry Red Chili Chicken also will open your eyes to an entirely new set of favorite dishes to order at a Chinese restaurant. A word of warning: when it says spicy, they mean it. Sichuan dishes are typically cooked with a healthy dose of the famous Sichuan peppercorn though, so you’ll enjoy a unique tingly-numb sensation to battle some of the heat.

Sotto

Sotto
Sotto

Located underground on 6th Street downtown, descend into Sotto and be transported far away from Cincinnati. Whether at a romantic table lit with ambient candle light or at the bar staffed by friendly faces, the experience at Sotto is delightful with a partner, a group or dining solo. Smaller bites such as goat cheese and hazelnut honey allow the carefully sourced ingredients to shine, and mains are hearty and shareable. The breaded pork loin with capers is delicious, as are the house-made pastas. Don’t leave without trying the ricotta doughnuts with a trio of rotating sauces. Pro tip: the room in the back is reservable and is perfect for special gatherings or celebrations.

Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse

Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse
Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse

Jeff Ruby has been at the steak game for a long time, knows his stuff, and it shows. From the best crab bisque in town – velvety, flavorful and best when accompanied by crusty sourdough for dipping – to classic oysters rockefeller, and the carefully selected cuts of steak, the menu delivers. The steakhouse market is a crowded category, but Jeff Ruby rises above and can be trusted to deliver an exceptional meal every time; so when craving the experience accept no substitutes. Do not skip dessert, as pastry chef Eric Clark is up to eye-popping masterpieces to cap off any meal.

Salazar

Salazar New American Restaurant
Salazar New American Restaurant

José Salazar has been doing amazing things since departing the Palace restaurant and opening Salazar in the fall of 2013. For the best Cubano in town, Salazar’s lunch menu is the place to go. Recently, brunch debuted, with a Croque Madame that checks all the boxes. The intimate space at Salazar is great for a full dinner, or an after-work bite and happy hour; and the menu rotates with the seasons. Often, you’ll find yourself ordering the thoughtfully created special of the day.

Sacred Beast

One of the newest restaurants on this list, Sacred Beast opened up in mid-2018, and has made quite a splash. One of the restaurant tenets is “Simple Food, Taken Seriously” and the description is apt. The former executive chef of David Falk’s Boca Restaurant Group, Jeremy Lieb and his wife Bridget make some incredible dishes. We recommend sitting at the bar by the open kitchen and watching the staff work – it’s almost a meditative experience to see dishes come together with such precision. Besides elevated diner food, many dishes have a twist on the traditional which will delight. The Diner Breakfast, featuring lemony ricotta pancakes, glazed pork belly, and gloriously soft-scrambled eggs are food fantasy come true.  

Please

Ryan Santos isn’t afraid to stand out or experiment, and both of these things serve Please extremely well. The menu changes often, and on weekends Santos features playful themes such as fried chicken and rosé, which pretty much always sell out. Dishes are inventive and will have you talking about them days later. Santos is patient and not shy about doing things the long way with pickled and fermented accents on dishes. We tend to evaluate plates on not only taste, but also revelatory cuisine we could not get at home and elsewhere, and Please delivers on all fronts.

Brown Bear

Take one look at Brown Bear’s Instagram and you’ll want to visit immediately, try the cinnamon roll, and never want to leave. Blair Fornshell, who moved somewhat quietly behind-the-scenes at different venues like the City Flea, launched her own brick-and-mortar venture in 2017. She takes her time tirelessly developing recipes, and the result is baked perfection you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else. Lines are often out the door and it is worth the wait. Interesting ingredients such as matcha, rhubarb and poppyseed change it up. Basically anything you select from Brown Bear will be guaranteed to make you say “Oh, wow...” after the first bite.

Pho Kimmy

Sharonville may seem like an unexpected place for an outstanding Vietnamese restaurant, but whether you are looking for bubble tea, traditional pho or a banh mi, Pho Kimmy has it all. This is another restaurant with two menus. Generous portions, flavorful broths and friendly staff make this another destination located in an easy-to-overlook strip mall. Don’t miss it!

Taste of Belgium (The Banks)

Taste of Belgium
Taste of Belgium

We’re hesitant to reveal this because it may ruin a secret. Taste of Belgium at the Banks is an amazing spot for a weeknight dinner or after-work drink. Featuring a lovely patio, a list of beers that are rarely seen on draft, and a solid menu, it’s everything we love about the other two locations; without the wait. Start with the beer cheese and pretzels (without the big grains of salt) and then order the burger for a main. With goat cheese and tart apples, this burger is one of the best in the city.  

Maplewood

Maplewood (photo: Thunderdome Restaurant Group)
Maplewood (photo: Thunderdome Restaurant Group)

The newest venture from the Lanni’s, Maplewood marries a bright, airy space and contemporary decor with a casual yet sophisticated menu that channels SoCal. Their pancakes and other all-day brunch items are delightful, paired with lunch offerings that are interesting enough that both foodies and picky eaters alike will find something they really enjoy. While the food is indulgent, the house-pressed juices (including the ones used in cocktails) will ease the guilt around ordering things like the rich, hefty grilled cheese sandwich.

Red Feather

Beignets at Red Feather (photo: Cincinnati Nomerati)
Beignets at Red Feather (photo: Cincinnati Nomerati)

Our favorite place to sit in Red Feather is at the chef’s table. Right next to the pass and overlooking the kitchen, it’s fantastic entertainment to watch dishes cooked, plated and see the team work together. Occasionally you may get lucky with an unexpected dish if something extra gets prepared by mistake (or in your case, a happy accident) or if the chef has an amuse-bouche in mind. Dinner and brunch are both excellent. Bold and nuanced flavors commingle in each dish. Come hungry and be prepared to want to order at least three things off the menu. At brunch, the complimentary beignets that start a meal are unreal.

Eli’s BBQ

Eli's BBQ (photo: Cincinnati Nomerati)
Eli's BBQ (photo: Cincinnati Nomerati)

Eli’s has gone from a stall in Findlay Market to two full-service locations, grocery partnerships with Kroger, and an impressive catering business. It’s not an exaggeration to say that almost all local barbecue is measured against Eli’s at this point. From the pulled pork, to the grits, to the ribs, Eli’s delivers one of the best barbecue experiences around. Their newest location at Findlay Market is next to the Biergarten, so grab a beverage and chow down.

Otto’s

Biscuits and sausage gravy at Otto's (photo: Cincinnati Nomerati)
Biscuits and sausage gravy at Otto's (photo: Cincinnati Nomerati)

Charming. That’s Otto’s summed up in a word. The eclectic salt and pepper shakers on each table, local art on the walls, and amazing brunch give Otto’s a place in local residents' hearts. It is home to the best Bloody Mary you’ll probably ever have (both spicy and regular). Their version of the brunch menu staple eggs Benedict is worth writing about alone, but it’s the biscuits and gravy that steals the show. Do not omit the potato cake, which is unlike anything you’ve gotten elsewhere. For lunch, the sweet potato fries and BLFGT (bacon, lettuce, egg and fried green tomato) knock it out of the park.