We’ll admit — until we actually spent time in Cincinnati, we weren’t sold. It had always been part of flyover country and therefore more or less ignored. What was the point when the major cities were elsewhere? (Don’t worry, Ohio readers, the point of this article is that we learned from our mistakes. No more brushing off the Midwest. Promise.)
We realized we were wrong. Very, very wrong.
Upon visiting the Queen City, we were greeted with a vibrant collection of good food, art, and boozing establishments. Oh, and Skyline Chili, which, for the uninitiated, is a mess of spaghetti topped with chili and enough cheddar cheese to clog the arteries of a horse.
When we needed to walk around, not only were we able to take in the various murals that dot the city — part of the ArtWorks Youth Apprentices Program — but we could also escape the heat by taking the Queen City Underground tour from American Legacy Tours.
If all of that wasn’t enough, Cincinnati — which sits just across the river from Kentucky — is basically the gateway to bourbon country. In less than 10 minutes, you can be at one of the many famous B-Line destinations.
Below, check out our picks for where to drink beer, sip cocktails, and eat delicious food while visiting this bustling city on the Ohio River.
Housed in a bottling plant that dates back to the 1890s, Rhinegeist embodies the spirit of the German brewers who made the Over-the-Rhine region of Cincinnati the place to be in the early 1900s. Brewing both beers and ciders, this spot has a little bit of something for everyone. On the beer side, try the Puma (a pilsner); on the cider side, go with the Cidergeist Bubbles.
Housed in a former church, Taft’s takes its name from President William Howard Taft (the bathtub one), who was born in Cincinnati in 1857. Taft’s brews a variety of beers, ranging from India pale ales like as Skronk Juice and Gavel Banger to the Belgian quad called Steeple Envy to a key lime-flavored beer, Nellie’s Key Lime Caribbean Ale.
Another major player in the Cincinnati brewing scene, MadTree Brewing has been turning out high-quality craft beers for half a decade. In that time, the brewery has done just about every style you can think of. They’ve also grown to become one of the largest breweries by volume in the city. We recommend the Lift Kölsch or the PSA Pale Ale, both beers from the core line.
The premier cocktail bar in town, Sundry and Vice is a great place to go for a drink before going out on the town, but an even better place to spend an entire evening. The cocktail menu features original concoctions, as well as old standards (such as the Penicillin) and draft cocktails, including Old Fashioneds and Boulevardiers.
Love karaoke? Well, do we have the bar for you. Designed with lots of neon, Tokyo Kitty is a karaoke bar inspired by Lost in Translation. You can book private rooms, watch the open karaoke stage, and indulge in Japanese-style tiki cocktails. Oh, and the private rooms feature robot cocktail delivery.
Okay, so we’re fudging this one a little bit: Prohibition Bourbon Bar isn’t in Cincinnati, but it is right across the river. Depending on where you are in the city, you can get there in less time than it would take to get to somewhere else still within the city confines. At Prohibition, the bourbon is plentiful and well-priced, so can you argue with us for adding it to the list?
If you’ve made your way to Rhinegeist, the next logical place to go is Sartre OTR. Why? First, they’re literally neighbors. Second, the food is delicious. Not only does it have appetizers such as suckling pig poutine (as amazing as it sounds), but the entrees showcase why it’s one of the best places to go in town. Red wine-braised short ribs? Crispy quail with salsa verde? Yes, please.
Located in the 21c Hotel (which, if you’re headed to Cincy, you should stay there, and not just because there are art installations and giant plastic penguins everywhere), Metropole brings old-world techniques to new-age dishes, including items like hangar steak served with muhammara and duck breast paired with corn puree and pickled cherries. Our favorite, though, was pigging out on the charcuterie menu.
Utilizing a fusion-oriented angle focusing mostly on Asian-influenced dishes, E+O (located in the Hyde Park section of the city) has a menu that incorporates dishes from pork belly buns and miso soup to tofu tacos, carne asada bowls, and sushi rolls. We recommend starting with the crispy Brussels sprout salad.
Not a restaurant like the above, but still a Cincinnati institution (along with Skyline Chili), Graeter’s is a chain of ice cream parlors that serves up a variety of different homemade flavors. The signature is the black raspberry chip, which we recommend taking home (or hotel), putting it in a bowl, and pouring dark rum all over it. If that’s not your thing, there are plenty of other equally delicious options.