I always seem to find clients in Cincinnati, and have just acquired a new one, so I’m on a quest to find the best restaurants in town…



600 Walnut St, 513.721.6232
Trendy Mexican cantina with outdoor seating, festive cocktails & upscale fare in a chic setting.  The chef takes on familiar fare, with some fusion edges, and not every dish is rooted in Mexican cuisine. Señor Mu Shu tacos has pork braised in ginger and Modelo beer topped with sesame, ancho hoisin, avocado and lime-spiked cabbage garnish the pair.  Pasta shells mingled with roasted poblano chiles, jalapenos and plenty of cheese sauce in the little cast iron skillet of macaroni and cheese. And the mild poke-style ahi crowning guacamole, tomatillos stirred in for extra zing. It’s part of a guacamole tasting trio that also includes a crudité-crowed guacamole and another with goat cheese, pumpkin seeds and pomegranate seeds. In Spanish, nada means “nothing.” Unwind, relax, dream, have fun. Nothing matters but this moment.

Orchids at Palm Court

35 W. Fifth St., downtown in the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza, (513) 421-9100 
Chef Todd Kelly has an elegant art deco space and menu, with excellent service and a wine list to match.  He has won many honors for his cooking: The American Culinary Federation bestowed it with an Award of Excellence in 2013, and named Kelly the 2011-2012 USA Chef of the Year. Pastry Chef Megan Ketover appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef Just Desserts and Food Network’s Challenge. Must haves, oxtails, foie gras and caviar cream.


609 Walnut Street,  513.578.6660
Chef Michael Paley’s mastery of the trendy open-hearth cooking technique located in the Metropole at 21c Museum Hotel.  On Bon Appetit’s 2013 list of the Top 50 Best New Restaurants. Everything from foie gras to kale salad is fair game for wood firing, offering a great dining experience.


114 E. Sixth St., downtown, (513) 542-2022
Open Table bestows its Diners’ Choice Awards for the Top 100 Fit for Foodies Restaurants to those that “put the wow factor in everything they serve,” and Boca certainly earns that distinction. From the signature caramelized Brussels sprouts with watercress and brown butter truffle vinaigrette to rich meats served with complex sauces that marinate up to three days before being served, the menu offers an unmatched dining experience. In fact, Travel + Leisure also honored Boca as one of the Best French Restaurants in the U.S. Chef/Owner David Falk moved the restaurant to the downtown space that formerly housed The Maisonette.

Bouquet Resturant and Wine Bar

519 Main St, Covington, KY, 859.491.7777
Bouquet joins Boca and Orchids on Open Table’s 2013 list of Top 100 restaurants serving the Best American Cuisine. Chef Stephen Williams’ farm-to-table approach infuses his menu with the freshest local produce and seasonal flavors – some from a neighborhood garden he tends with other local chefs. His goal is to offer diners a creative twist on classic foods.

Jean-Robert’s Table

713 Vine St, 513.621.4777

Chef Jean-Robert, three-time James Beard nominee, has his hand just about everywhere these days, but nowhere more so than inside his eponymous Table. There’s that ruddy portrait in the main dining room, replete with a robin chirping on his right shoulder, not to mention bottle artwork from his Moerlein-collaboration beer released two summers ago—his mad scientist coiffeur only slightly exaggerated.  This chef has a big presence, not unusual for his profession,  but his restaurant is steeped in such a singular personality. Don’t miss the surf and turf tartare of steak and salmon, or his “haute pocket” (a.k.a., a vol au vent), cramming obscene amounts of lobster and succotash into airy layers of buttery puff pastry.



501 Race St., downtown, (513) 421-6482,

Upon entering Mita’s, Jose Salazar’s downtown restaurant, diners are greeted by cards bearing a stately black-and-white portrait of his Colombian grandmother, the restaurant’s namesake.  Start with happy hour of high-acid caipirinhas or a dos caminos—a drinkable homage to nice girls who crush on bad boys, combining a safe house red with cult tattoo-legend Sailor Jerry’s spiced rum. Both pair exceptionally well with razor-thin slices of acorn-fed Iberico ham that melt on the tongue; warm marinated olives tossed with cubes of drunken goat cheese; and the braised short rib empanadas—steamy, savory meat pockets. But you’d be remiss to avoid the entrées; the pozole  with lobster, shrimp, squid, and red snapper or the paella, which feeds four. Then sip a glass of the 2013 Mayu, a faintly floral Chilean white made from sherry grapes. Like many choices on the list, it tastes like it was designed explicitly for Mita’s menu. Salazar’s zealous dedication to detail shines through.


5889 Pfeiffer Rd., Blue Ash, (513) 791-8687

A special place where you can dine on uni sashimi or tanshio (thinly sliced charcoal-grilled beef tongue). Don’t miss the rich and meaty chyu toro, or the umeshiso maki (pickled plum paste and shiso leaf roll). Noodles are also well represented here, with udon, soba, or ramen options available. Ask about the specials; owners Ken and Keiko Ando always have something new, be it oysters, pork belly, or steamed monkfish liver. The only thing you won’t find here is sake, or any other alcohol, so don’t forget to bring your own.


Thanks to the NYT travel section I found a great article “3 Hours in Cincinnati” that talks about the new, hot Over-the-Rhine district “where culture and breweries thrive”.


  • Sotto – 118 East Sixth Street – sexy Italian restaurant, which is the casual counterpart to Boca, specializing in wood-grilled dishes.  Try the bread rubbed with garlic, quail,  porterhouse steak, homemade pastas (  the ravioli short rib cappellacci), and the ricotta doughnuts.
  • Salazar – 1401 Republic Street – chef Jose Salazar, a James Beard nominee for best chef in the Great Lakes region, opened this bright store-front bistro featuring locally sourced and playful dishes.  It only has 40 seats so reservations are a must.
  • Findlay Market – 1801 Race Street – for a progressive feast stroll the market and sample the tastes from barbecue to gelato.  Or sample the offerings with Barb Cooper, the owner of Cincinnati Food Tours, during a 90 minute walk for only $20,  cincinnatifoodtours.com


  • 21c Museum Hotel Cincinnati – 609 Walnut Street – stop and have drinks at the bar at this hotel with a contemporary art collection befitting a art gallery.  Try the vodka-grapefruit Sunrise in Florence or the tequila-lemon Juarez.
  • Sundry and Vice – 18 West 13th Street – a corner bar modeled on an old apothecary.  Try the Night Cure with bourbon, lemon, honey and grapefruit or an old-fashioned on draft.

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