Cincinnati, Ohio, has a rich and diverse food culture shaped by centuries of immigration, industry, and tradition. On my travels, I look for restaurants all across the board — classic chili parlors and German beer halls to swanky steakhouses and the hottest brunch spots. Here is my list of the best restaurants in Cincinnati, Ohio, and what to try from each.
My list is in a random order, just as I remembered my own experience at each. I recommend verifying business hours on restaurants’ websites and making reservations for full-service eateries when possible.
Pro Tip: You can also book a few of these on OpenTable, which allows you to collect dining points, which can be redeemed for dining vouchers when you reach a certain amount.
1. Moerlein Lager House
For a taste of Cincinnati’s proud brewing heritage, head to Moerlein Lager House, located in a historic 19th-century building on the banks of the Ohio River. This sprawling restaurant and brewery offers stunning views of the city skyline and water, and there is a cute historical museum to browse as you wait for your table.
You’ll find plenty of options here, whether you’re in the mood for a juicy burger, a hearty Reuben, or a plate of smoked wings. Of course, beer is the main attraction, with dozens of varieties made on site. Dishes I recommend starting with are the meat and cheese board, Servatii’s pretzel (which just might be enough to fill you up), and the hot lump crab dip, served with fresh house tortilla chips.
The squash Wellington, wrapped in crispy phyllo dough, is magnificent for a unique main dish! The barbacoa short ribs over dirty rice with green beans is another tasty option.
2. Taste Of Belgium
I discovered Taste of Belgium when exploring Cincinnati with my daughter, who inadvertently loves a good brunch. Here, you’ll find classic European flavors with modern twists and, more importantly, an impressive menu of sweet and savory crepes — if you can bypass the counter of pastries as you make your way to a table. It’s tempting; I’m not going to lie.
With multiple locations in Cincinnati, this café showcases the best Belgian cuisine. My daughter and I both had Liege waffles (the thick sugar-topped ones). Though, I had the savory buckwheat Pig & Fig variety (prosciutto, brie, fig jam, and arugula) and she had the Belgian chocolate and cream sweet one. Anything you can imagine tops or is stuffed in these crepes, which are scrumptious. Waffles and omelets are also popular choices. Pair your meal with one of the Belgian-style beers or brunch cocktails.
3. Melting Pot
If you’re in the mood for a romantic and interactive dining experience, Melting Pot is your top spot. They specialize in fondue-style dining, where you cook your meal at the table. I love the cheese fondues the best, followed by the Melting Pot dessert fondue options, but the main courses are pretty special, too. Best of all, you can craft whatever meal you want and choose your number of courses, depending on how hungry you are, and how much money you want to spend.
My favorite is the Wisconsin Trio cheese fondue with aged cheddar, emmentaler, and gruyere. I also never leave Melting Pot without ordering the California salad with the raspberry black walnut vinaigrette. Consider sharing a main course because the whole shebang is a lot of food. And for dessert, any chocolate fondue will do; they are all yummy. A personal fave is the Yin & Yang with both dark and white chocolates.
Melting Pot’s atmosphere is cozy and intimate, with dim lighting and comfortable booths. It can look intimidating, but trust me, it’s very casual once you settle in.
4. Wild Eggs
Wild Eggs breakfast and brunch spot is a local favorite in several cities. Its cheery, brightly colored walls, homey décor, and exposed brick make you feel welcome at once and eager to start your day.
The Wild Eggs scratch-made dishes feature creative twists on classic breakfast items. A fan-favorite standout dish is the “Kalamity Katie’s Border Benedict,” featuring chorizo, avocado, and queso on green chili cheddar corn cakes. Still, my go-to at Wild Eggs is always the potato head casserole with breakfast sausage, tomatoes, poblanos, mushrooms, and queso. Dear goodness, this is the stuff dreams are made of!
Pro Tip: Join the waitlist on the restaurant’s website to save time.
You are in luck if you’re craving authentic German cuisine and beer. Hofbräuhaus is minutes away in Newport, Kentucky. This massive Bavarian-style hall has a festive atmosphere with live music, communal tables, and staff clad in lederhosen and dirndls.
Hofbräuhaus’s award-winning menu features traditional dishes, such as bratwurst, schnitzel, and spaetzle, as well as seasonal specials and vegetarian options. The Reuben balls are a delicious app and the schnitzels cannot be beaten.
I tend to lean toward either the “Heidelberger Rahm Spätzle” (sautéed onions and mushrooms with a marsala cream sauce) or the “Jägerschnitzel” (breaded fried pork cutlet topped with a burgundy wine mushroom sauce). Both dishes come with two sides of your choice. I’d pick fried cabbage and German potato salad. Skip the red cabbage; it isn’t their best side dish.
6. Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse
For a fine-dining experience that combines sophistication, Gilded-age style, and steak, Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse is a must-visit in this part of the country. This luxurious eatery offers elegant Art-Deco décor, attentive and professional service, and show-stopping entrées.
The star of the menu is, of course, steak. At Jeff Ruby’s, that means hand-cut, wet-aged for 28 days, and cooked to perfection. The menu also offers seafood, lamb, chicken, and pasta dishes, as well as an extensive wine list and Prohibition-style cocktails. Allow a few hours to soak up the whole experience at this memorable restaurant that is truly a privilege to dine at.
My favorite dish? The Ocho Cinco, a 6-ounce filet mignon with creole crawfish sauce and a lobster tail, named for famed Cincinnati Bengals football player Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson. I also love the beef carpaccio appetizer (though a little on the pricey side) and classic wedge salad.
Fun Fact: Jeff Ruby’s also has cigar and sushi menus.
7. Camp Washington Chili
One thing you must know about Cincinnati is that it takes chili very seriously. There are two primo spots to try Cincinnati chili — a sweet variety (ground beef, spices, tomato sauce) that I am ga-ga for. One is the legendary Camp Washington Chili, a no-frills retro-ish diner (though the parking lot murals are super impressive) serving up hearty bowls of thick, tangy chili since the ’40s.
Order a bowl of chili, or have it as a topping on spaghetti, burgers, or hot dogs. Also on the menu are soups, salads, and wraps, plus a full breakfast menu available all day minus a couple of hours during the lunch rush. Cheese coneys (small hot dogs on steamed buns) are my favorite; I order two with chili, shredded cheese, mustard, and onions.
8. Skyline Chili
Skyline Chili is the second place to experience Cincinnati chili and my all-time favorite. Their signature dish — the 3-way — consists of spaghetti, their signature chili, and is topped with a mound of shredded cheddar cheese. It sounds strange, but it’s a local favorite. You can make it a “4-way” by adding onions or beans and a “5-way” with both.
Again, my go-to is two cheese coneys, though their new burrito concept is something I would totally try. Vegetarian items are also on the menu, as well as the choice to have extreme habanero cheese to really spice things up. Kudos to Skyline Chili for the always-appreciated complimentary oyster crackers.