Ever heard of some place being called a “queen city”? Well, for those of you know don’t know, the term “queen city” is used to describe a city which is the largest in a state , but is not the capital. I have been lucky enough to live in two of the, in my opinion, best Queen Cities in the country; Burlington, Vermont and Cincinnati, Ohio. A Midwestern girl at heart, Cincinnati will always be my home and I cherish going back for the holidays to be surrounded by my favorite familiar sights, but to also explore this every-changing city.
One aspect of Cincinnati that has been so exciting to watch transform has been the food and drink scene. The Over the Rhine (OTR) district in downtown Cincy is now the spot for hip eats and socializing with everyone you went to highschool with (whether you want to or not), and just across the river in Covington, Kentucky local food and craft beer businesses are putting themselves on the culinary map. My most recent trip home gave me the idea to toot this Queen City’s horn and share my favorite spots in and around Cincinnati.
The menu at Maplewood screams L.A. or NYC way more than Cincinnati, Ohio. The food trends of 2016 have arrived at this newly opened casual eatery downtown that can only make you feel like you are in the living room of Chip and Joanna Gaines- AKA lots of white and wood (swoon). You’ll find a tuna poke tostada, ricotta and avocado toasts, local honey and coffee, house made pickles and granola, and refreshing green juices and cocktails. Of course, there is no shortage of local Eckerlin goetta on the menu- a Cincinnati staple that should be a requirement for all visitors to taste and enjoy. Feeling a bit “over-sugared” and “under-greened” after Christmas, my husband and I enjoyed a refreshing brunch at MKB followed by a walk around nearby Fountain Square before coming home to New York. Defintitely an “it” spot to try!
Pleasant is precisely the word to describe this quaint cafe nestled one block north of Washington Square Park in OTR. After finishing up my final wedding dress fitting in August, a light lunch in a rustic outdoor setting was in order and Pleasantry delivered on all fronts. Sitting in the cozy outdoor patio, my mom, sister, and I enjoyed the Ancient Grains Salad, a Pimento Burger, and the Chicken Salad Sandwich- these perfectly portioned, creative comfort lunch plates were a big win in my book. Not downtown for lunch? Take the streetcar up to Pleasantry at night to enjoy a well-priced selection of wines and their seasonally focused dinner menu.
Just a hop skip and a jump over the river in Covington, KY you’ll find the adorable, yet sassy, Frida 602 restaurant. Although I’ve not yet personally been to this Mexican destination (I know, me of all people?!) I chatted up a regular diner, my friend Lindsay, to get the scoop. What does a night at Frida look like for her and her husband? I can only imagine a margarita or two is enjoyed first, especially given Frida’s creative spin on classic margs and mezcal cocktails, like the Oaxacan Mule. Then it’s on to their favorites- queso dip and Lindsay’s tacos of choice, the brussels sprouts tacos, both of which she says are, “ON POINT!” This artsy, hipster spot with Frida Kahlo paintings galore will certainly be on my food agenda the next time I’m home.
Cincinnati has been revitalzing it’s beer brewing district for the past few years, with more than a dozen local breweries open for tours and tastings throughout the week. Breweries are inherently cool, unique spaces that allow large groups of people to congregate around the tap, get nerdy about beer, and to, as is inevitable, get loose and have a good time. I “met” my husband at the Brooklyn Brewery and so it felt somewhat poetic to be celebrating the eve of my brother’s wedding at the Braxton Brewery in Covington this summer. Although it’s a large space, it feels intimate and comfortable, and is made all the more enjoyable by their deliciously crafted brews. I’m a big fan of the Haven Hefeweizen and Shoptalk Imperial IPA, and always enjoy trying their new seasonal selection when I visit home. As they say, lift one to life!
So, whether you have an excuse to visit or are just looking to explore an up and coming “foodie” city, I highly recommend Cincinnati’s comforting and casual, yet edgy and exciting restaurant scene. Enjoy!