Cincinnati’s Tasty Favorites

In Restaurants on August 11, 2011 at 12:01 AM

You know you’re from Cincinnati when… coming into the city you have set up a strategy for where you will eat so that you don’t blow a aorta trying to stuff yourself with all the favorite foods in one weekend!

And, that’s basically what we did this past weekend.  Just like anytime we come back to our hometown from our current residence, we reminisce about the foods that we haven’t had in a while.  Catching the first glimpse of the glorious skyline as we drive through the “cut in the hill”, we are reminded of what will be our first stop.  Not even making it over the river and into the city, we often find ourselves pulling off the last exit of Kentucky.  Whether flying or driving, we come through northern Kentucky.  And, yes, for those who are NOT from Cincinnati, we know who you are when you ask why the “Cincinnati” airport is in Kentucky? Technically, it is the “Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport”, if that makes you less confused.  And, if you really want a little extra trivia, the airport code “CVG” stems from the airport’s nearest city, CoVinGton.   Insight AND Education.  That’s What’s Up! 😉

Just before going over the bridge on I-75N from Kentucky, the 5th street exit brings us to our first stop: SKYLINE CHILI. http://www.skylinechili.com A Cincinnati favorite!  While many prefer the rival, Gold Star Chili http://www.goldstarchili.com, for us, nothing beats Skyline!  Our favorites are the chili cheese sandwiches (coney sans pork hot dog).  We also recommend the chili burrito deluxe or the classic 4-way.  There is something for everyone here, even vegetarians!  For our meatless friends, we recommend the Greek salad or the vegetarian black bean burrito deluxe.  So, “whenever you’re feeling good and hungry” and you’re in Cincinnati, stop by for one of our hometown favorites, Skyline Chili!

Depending on the time we get into town, that meal will usually hold us over for a while.  Since we have a tendency to get into town in the evening, we are usually good until the morning.  We are then ready to rise and shine with our favorite breakfast spot, SUGAR N’ SPICE! http://sugar-n-spice-restaurant.com.  Located on Reading Road in Paddock Hills, this spot has been a local favorite for 70 years.  With a classic diner feel, this is the spot to not only indulge in the best pancakes ever, but it’s also the spot that will remind you you’re back at home as you will probably run into a few familiar faces.  It’s the Cincinnati, breakfast/brunch/lunch version of “Cheers”.  Someone will “know your name”.  If no one else does, the waitresses that have been happily serving for at least the past decade may know it.  Our favorites are the turkey sausage, onion, and cheddar cheese egg white omelet and the wispy thin pancakes.   We’ve never eaten lunch here, but if it’s anything like breakfast, you won’t be disappointed.

For lunch, just pick up the phone and dial Cincinnati’s favorite number (come on Cincinnati, sing it with us!): “347-1111, LAROSA’S”! http://www.larosas.com .  We recommend you only do that if you don’t have time to stop and dine because nothing is better than a fresh, piping hot pizza straight from the restaurant’s oven.  For Dennis, he recommends a traditional crust pizza tossed with pepperoni, ground beef and onions.  Kenya prefers a simple cheese pizza with extra sauce and extra cheese (to make it like they used to when we were younger) or the Florentine Focaccia.  We both start off with a house salad topped with their yummy Italian dressing.  Other than when we feasted on the isle of Capri in Italy, we have yet to taste a better pizza! Ciao!

Although we would not recommend following this guide on just one day (remember, strategy), we pick only one spot to dine for the evening:  CARLO & JOHNNY http://www.jeffruby.com/carlojohnny.php .  Just north of Cross County Highway on Montgomery Road, this is by far our favorite steakhouse, owned by Cincinnati’s most popular restaurateur, Jeff Ruby.

We pause for a moment, however, to give a well-deserved, honorary shout out to another fantastic steakhouse: JAG’S http://www.jags.com/ simply because it is the kitchen home of our fellow Walnut Hills Eagle and Kenya’s classmate, Executive Chef, Michelle Brown!  But, if you’re really from Cincinnati, you know that….well…West Chester is “far” and is NOT Cincinnati! Ha! 🙂 But, we have dined there several times and we highly recommend you go and enjoy the food and the dynamic ambience.  You won’t go wrong with the savory sea bass and there’s probably no other place in town to delight yourself with the most tender, juicy Kobe filet.  A real delicacy!

Okay, now back towards town, we were telling you about Carlo & Johnny.  Out of the numerous Jeff Ruby restaurants, we became frequent diners (literally, we even had a membership card) of this particular locale due to its ambience and raw bar selection.  It’s a great atmosphere and if you dine on a Friday or Saturday, you will more than likely be greeted in the bar area by live music.  (And, you know we love a live band!)  Although the bar area will come alive with a few dancers and instruments, the other areas of the restaurant are appropriately spaced and separated so that you can enjoy good conversation without strain.  Our favorite place to sit is the “Emerald Room” capturing the elegance of the 40s and 50s.  We will, however, sacrifice seating in this room so that we can be served by our favorite waiter, Jordan if he should so happen to serve in another area.  (Please request him when making your reservation!)  We always start with crab legs from the raw bar served with a vat of warm melted butter.  Along with the warm basket of bread and truffle butter, we’re usually satisfied with one crab leg each until the main course.  We’ve probably had every steak on the menu and recommend pretty much any steak that has the bone-in.  Either the bone-in filet mignon or the “Cowboy” will surely make your taste buds want to ride in a rodeo!  Top it off with garlic butter and that’s about all you need.  Any side items can be split as they are usually large enough for two.  We’ve favored the baked potato, creamed spinach or asparagus.  However, the baked macaroni and cheese is also delicious (just too heavy with all of the other food).  This dinner is usually followed up in the morning with steak and eggs as we always take half of the steak home the next day from failure to eat it all.  Besides, we like to leave a little room for dessert finishing the night with a little crème’ brulee or cheesecake.

And, speaking of desserts, we could never leave Cincinnati without mentioning THE BEST ICE-CREAM ON THE PLANET (even Oprah said so! 😉 ): GRAETER’S. http://www.graeters.com  (And, you know you’re from Cincinnati if you ever misspelled the word “greater” as grAEter! :)).   This is the creamiest, most delicious cold treat you could ever imagine.  Other than UDF, ice-cream stores can’t survive in Cincinnati over the love for this ice-cream.  Baskin-Robbins, Maggie Moo’s, Coldstone Creamery, have all had to shut down their doors to the abandonment created by Graeter’s.  There’s just no other ice-cream like it.  And, thankfully, some of the flavors can be found in your local Kroger’s www.kroger.com freezer.  So, if you’re not in the area or you are craving this pint of delish after store hours in Cincinnati, go immediately to the freezer section of our hometown-born grocery store and indulge!

So, we mentioned UDF http://www.udfinc.com and while UDF has a nice selection of their own creamy, cold treats, we really love the pineapple-orange freezes (only available in summer for the pineapple but the orange is also good).  Although they are also known for their floats and shakes, nothing beats an ice cold freeze with a bag of our favorite chip to crave: GRIPPO’S!

You haven’t had a real barbeque potato chip until you’ve tasted the spicy goodness in your mouth of Grippo’s.  Although they offer an array of snacks, generally when you say “Grippo’s” in Cincinnati we all know that you mean the barbeque chip!   If you are sent on a run to the store for “Grippo’s”, you’d better not return with the plain chips or worst, pretzels, or you will be headed right back to the store!  Now, available on-line for shipping at http://www.grippos.com, people can enjoy this zesty snack from anywhere!  (And, make sure you get the foil bags so you can get the extra fire crumbs that nestle at the bottom!)

Last, but not least, don’t forget to pack this in your bag to take to the cookout or back on the road to home!  The best metts (yes, we said it! They are “metts”!), in the land: Queen City Sausage! http://www.queencitysausage.com Fire them up on the grill and let the juice drip down your chin!  We prefer the hot all beef smoked sausage.  Put it on a bun hot off the grill and top it off with some mustard for a savory bite of “yum”!  Make sure you have a glass of ice water nearby to put out the fire in your mouth.  Your eyes may water but believe us, they will be raining tears of joy!  The only thing bad about this cookout favorite is running out of it.  So make sure you buy two or three packs to avoid the fights!

While we no longer have a Cincinnati address, this is still the place we call home.  Filled with great food and the best of schools, this is the place that brings us to familiar faces and shared joys.  Like many hometowns, there are its advantages and disadvantages but at the end of the day…….

…..this is home and That’s What’s Up!


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