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The 23 Essential Restaurants in Cincinnati

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

by Andy Brownfield Updated Sep 20, 2023, 12:03pm EDT

Cincinnati might be best known, culinarily at least, for its chili: a Bolognese-like sauce created by Greek immigrants and seasoned with cinnamon, allspice, and clove. It’s served on hot dogs and spaghetti and doled out in ubiquitous chili parlors that dot the city. But that well-spiced dish — beloved as it may be — barely scratches the surface of what the city has to offer diners.

Since the 2010s, the city has experienced a restaurant renaissance, starting in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, which served as a hotbed of innovation. Many pioneers from restaurants in the area have now become Cincinnati’s old guard, and new upstarts are emerging across the city’s 52 neighborhoods. Today, College Hill is home to some of the city’s best ramen and Michoacán-style Mexican food complete with handmade tortillas. Over in the artsy Northside, you’ll find Nepali momos and award-winning poutine. There’s more great food just across the Ohio River in Covington, a slice of northern Kentucky that features (in addition to Cincinnati’s largest airport) farm-to-table vegan dishes, Asian fusion Cincinnati chili, and Creole pub fare.

For first-time visitors, Cincinnati’s best chili parlors are most definitely worth a try. But so are a variety of other dishes, including the pozole at Mita’s downtown, Bridges Nepali’s aloo jhol (bamboo curry with potatoes and black-eyed peas), Mid City’s love letter to German heritage in a sausage-studded platter, and New Haven-style pies from St. Francis Apizza.

Bridges Nepali Cuisine

Ashak Chipalu came to the U.S. from his native Nepal, where his family owned restaurants, to pursue a career in nursing. But he found that he missed the flavors of home. He started serving Nepali cuisine as a vendor at Findlay Market before opening restaurants in Northside and downtown. Bridges aims to serve “a completely different Nepali cuisine,” combining familiar dishes like momos with more creative options like bowls, which consist of basmati or brown rice mixed with lentils or yellow peas and topped with hakku chuala (grilled chicken), pork chili, or aloo jhol (bamboo curry with potatoes and black-eyed peas). The menu is available for dine-in service, and the outdoor courtyard is heated in the colder months. The popular momos, steamed or fried, can also be bought frozen to prepare at home.

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