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Cincinnati Restaurant Reviews

Cincinnati cuisine is so much more than chili. There are great restaurants in town that will provide you with exceptional food in a wonderful atmosphere. This blog is a collection of reviews and personal observations from the current Cincinnati dining scene.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Pick Up This Week's CityBeat

Do you ever suggest going out to dinner with a friend, or a date, and then have trouble coming up with the destination? You know there are many restaurants that you've said to yourself, "I'd like to try that," but when the time presents itself, you can't think of them.

I'm always in that situation, which is why I'm very excited about the insert in this weeks CityBeat. It has a list of many of the best restaurants in town. I've already gone through and circled the ones I want to go to, and I'm going to start crossing them off my list.

It's not just restaurants, but all sorts of entertainment destinations, so the insert is a great resource for the new year.

The Enquirer Covers Restaurants

The Enquirer, for the first time in weeks that I can remember, has a pretty lengthy section on food today. Polly Campbell, who I think is a good food critic, runs down her favorite new restaurants.

I think that they all happen to be found in neighborhoods, based on the way that she wrote the article. The Copy Editor who wrote the headline brings this fact out so that when I read the headline I thought Polly had just concentrated on new restaurants in neighborhoods. I don't think that was the original intention of the article. I also think it says something about all of the alleged growth downtown, especially because the first restaurant mentioned in the article is run by the folks who used to run Aioli downtown before they closed.

But to quickly contradict my last statement, there's a new lunchtime spot downtown. I'm still skeptical, especially since Paula's is replacing a Graeter's. If Graeter's doesn't want to be downtown, there's a problem.

The Enquirer also profiled a restaurant so far out of downtown that I'll never eat there.

But I might just eat at the Gas Light Cafe, which sounds like a nice low-key spot.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Recently Uncovered Rock Bottom Brewery

Well, with Fountain Square finally emerging from the construction site that sat there for the last few months, some coworkers and I had lunch there at the Rock Bottom Brewery this past Friday. This was the first time I had gone to the new Fountain Square, and the first time I parked in the garage under the square.

I like the new look on the square, though I don't know if it was worth the money. One thing that annoyed me, however, was that all that was on the multimillion dollar video screen was Music Choice. A static image and music. Can't we put something on there that's worth seeing on a big screen? But the parking garage was frustratingly slow.

Anyway, it was busy in the restaurant. And that led to some poor service. I can be forgiving on the Friday before Christmas when there are loads of people downtown shopping. Heck, I'm willing to forgive the parking garage for that same reason.

I felt like a burger, so I got it. All I can say about it, really, is that it was nothing to blog about.

But here I am blogging, so I should say something. It was fine, if a little thin on the meat. Nothing stands out other than that, which is neither good or bad. Unispiring, how's that for an adjective?

I ordered kettle chips and got fries. They were also pretty normal, standard and not worth blogging about. Maybe the kettle chips would have been better.

I've always avoided Rock Bottom because it seemed like it was full of tourists staying downtown hotels and people on shopping trips. I had a good meal with my coworkers, but it didn't change my view or my desire to go back.

What do you think of the dining options around the newly revamped square? I think that Rock Bottom will find itself on the short end of the quality stick with some of the restaurants already on the square and some of the other ones coming.

Habaneros in the Clifton Gaslight District

For the first time, I had lunch today at Habaneros in the Clifton Gaslight District. The coworkers who I went with were surprised that I had never been before.

I'm a big fan of Mexican food, the Gaslight District and locally owned restaurants. But one blindspot I have is Chipotle burritos. If I'm going to get some thing seemingly Mexican (and I'm not saying Chipotle qualifies as authentic Mexican), I'll head there. So that's my excuse why I haven't been to Habaneros, but after going today, I'll be back.

I ordered the chicken soft tacos with the hot salsa, and I thought it was very good. The best part, in my view, was the amazingly fresh tortillas. I would have thought that they make them on the premises, but they pulled the refreshingly soft and light shells out of a bag. They must purchase them locally, or make them off premises, then bag them.

The chicken and toppings were good. The hot salsa was hot, as advertised. Not as tasty as I would have liked, but it added good spice and heat.

I also tried a piece of the barbeque chicken quesadilla, and it was also very good. Grilled to perfection and filled with a pleasant surprise in the barbeque chicken. The sauce went well with the rest of the Mexican tastes at work. This was a very original dish.

Another treat was the chips, that instead of being fried corn chips are fried flour tortilla chips. Too bad that the fresh medium salsa is nothing to write home about.

Here's a review from Citybeat that compares Chipotle, Habaneros and Burrito Joes. I think I'm going to steal this idea in an upcoming post, comparing my favorite burrito spots.

I'd be interested in hearing what burritos you think I should try before I write that post. And what other dishes should I try at my second trip to Habaneros?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Night Out at Aqua

So here's some exciting news on a great deal at Aqua. Apparently, every Wednesday they do a half price sushi night. According to Cin Weekly, Aqua raises the bar with this deal. According to the article, the deal is half price on select martinis and their entire sushi menu. It sounds like a great deal.

As you might have read in this space before, I'm a big fan of Aqua. They have a great menu, great atmosphere and great food. I haven't tried their martinis (not much of a martini man myself) but their sushi is great. Fresh fish, expertly prepared. The tuna roll seemed to melt in my mouth.

I'm definitely going to take advantage of this deal, and if you're a fan of good sushi, I recommend you do the same.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Pho-Paris Moving to Covington

Pho-Paris, Jean-Robert de Cavel's French-Vietnamese fusion restaurant, is moving to the building that housed the old Continental Lounge in Covington. Having never eaten at Pho-Paris, I can't say too much about it, but I can say this is a good thing for the restaurant.

It's old location was on Madison Avenue in Oakley, right across the street from where Boca is currently. While that sounds like it would be a good location, near what many consider the best restaurant in the city, it wasn't. Pho-Paris was located in what can best be described as a strip mall, with a large parking lot separating the front door from Madison Avenue. Hard to get excited for your dining experience when that is your first impression of the place.

I have a friend whose a banker and he told me that his bank was approached to help finance the restaurant but were so unimpressed that they turned it down. This seemed crazy to me. I would have thought Jean-Robert was a sure bet. He pointed out that there was nothing in that area but houses. While I think the area is changing, especially with Boca right there, my friend obviously was right.

This article in the Enquirer points out two very interesting things. First is that Jean-Robert's restaurants are now geographically closer together, so he'll be able to spend more time at all of them. Second, is that restaurant-goers felt Pho-Paris was more of a formal dining experience than he intended. Hopefully, that impression will change, though I know I had certainly felt that way.

I'll take this opportunity to say good night to the Continental Lounge. I had been there a couple times, and I can't say you'll be missed. Exclusivity doesn't seem to go over big in this city.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Dewey's In Oakley

Recently, a few coworkers and I have been talking about the pizzas at Deweys. It's generally agreed upon that Deweys is the best pizza in town. It's questionable if it will ever replace Larosa's the most beloved pizza in Cincinnati, but it's already the highest quality pizza.

The thing about Deweys is that it's gourmet pizza. That's why I have doubts that it will replace Larosa's in the hearts and minds of Cincinnatians. It's not the everyday type of pizza that Larosa's.

My favorite pizza at Deweys is the Green Lantern. It is a sublime pizza experience. Artichoke hearts, pesto, goat cheese! And really high quality ingredients.

What is your favorite pizza in town? And what's your favorite pie at Deweys? And have you had the Dr. Dre?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Mulligan's Cheese Steak

I went to a University of Dayton happy hour and Friday night at Mulligan’s in Hyde Park. The place was packed like I hadn’t seen since March Madness, so I’m guessing they raised a lot of money for the holiday charity they were supporting.

I had spent most of the night making a fool of myself by drinking on an empty stomach. After I realized that everything I was saying wasn’t as funny as I thought, I realized I needed some food.

Penn Station is nearby, and I considered walking across the street to get some. But, Man!, it was cold out. So I ended up ordering a Philly Cheese Steak from Mulligan’s.

Now, I realize I’d probably had a little too much to drink to accurately give you a good review of the sandwich. But I can tell you that it did the job. It tasted great at the time and sopped up some of that alcohol in my tummy.

I’ve had all sorts of Philly Cheese Steaks, though never in Philly. So I feel like I can judge the imitations, but I can’t compare it to the real thing. This is a good imitation.

No roasted peppers, which I don’t like anyway. Too few grilled onions. But good cheese and well cooked meat. I finished it very quickly. It came with pickle slices, and I finished those too.

So, do you think I should have braved the cold to reach Penn Station? And what’s your favorite meal when you need to fill up your stomach for drinking purposes?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Tink's Cafe is "hot"

My least favorite food column has profiled one of my favorite restaurants today. Tink's Cafe the Clifton Gaslight District off of Ludlow is given the Hot Spot treatment by the Enquirer.

Though I hated the way they approached the Hot Spot profile of Aqua, this profile does not bother me as much. The writer Brent Campbell talks about the food and the atmosphere. He even comments on how jazz band sounds. One thing he doesn't do is try to explain why Tink's is cool.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Comparing Ballpark Hot Dogs

Last night, I went to the Bengals-Ravens game. It was wonderful, even though it was so wet. Good tailgating beforehand, great game by the boys in Orange and Black, nice stop at Tina's after the game.

During halftime, needing a little dinner, I got a hot dog. It was a normal quality dog, nothing special. Of course, that means it still tasted great. But it's nothing compared to the hot dogs at Great American Ballpark.

I've had what I think is the Polish sausage at PBS. It's supposed to be their gourmet option, but it doesn't taste as good as their regular hot dog. It's thicker, it has more texture, but it has less taste. The grilled onions and peppers that come on it just show that the actual dog doesn't have much going for it.

Hot dogs and baseball go together, so it's only fitting that the dogs at Great American are better than the dogs at Paul Brown Stadium. The Big Red Smokey at GABP is the pinnacle of the stadium dogs in town. Great texture, full of smoked flavor, a little kick. And they actually grill it. The PBS dog last night was only boiled.

For me, a hot dog at a game is great, no matter what. So long as they cook it. But the best one between the two professional teams in town is the big red smokey.

GABP has a quote from Humphrey Bogart that sums up my feelings on this subject exactly.

A hot dog at the ball park is better than steak at the Ritz.

What do you think? What's your favorite ballpark dog? Is there a dog at a college stadium that I should try?

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