Cincinnati’s Restaurants, Bars, Breweries, Bakeries, & Coffee Shops: The “Must” Places to Eat & Drink
In case you haven’t heard, Cincinnati is quite the up-and-coming foodie destination! So when I paid it a visit last month I knew I wanted to really explore where to eat in Cincinnati.
I’ve done a full weekend guide post around what to do in the city, but here wanted to go in-depth on the Cincinnati coffee shops, bakeries, restaurants, bars, and breweries that you have to visit.
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Where to eat (& drink) in Cincinnati
I focused my visit mostly in the Over-the-Rhine (OTR) and Downtown areas, so all of these recommendations are based in those neighborhoods.
OTR is definitely worth spending some time in…once a “don’t go there if you value your life” area, Food & Wine called it “one of the country’s most promising food scenes” a few years ago. It’s packed full of local boutiques, restaurants from celebrated local chefs, and craft breweries.
Here’s a map showing the different locations and how close they are to each other. You can view the live map here as well if it’s easier.
In a backwards twist, we’re going to start with cocktails, then where to eat dinner, and work our way toward breakfast and coffee…
Sundry & Vice
Sundry & Vice was truly awesome…so much so that I visited two nights running. Both were on the earlier side of things, and the first night was super quiet (around 5p), so I got to chat with the bartender for a bit. He was super knowledgeable and helpful, made great recos.
Their drink list is so great that it was hard to choose. I tried the Folk Hero (really interesting and good, though wouldn’t do again), the Three-Finger Jack, and the Society Island (my fave!). Pro tip, they were offering to-go cocktails as well, so I grabbed two Society Islands to take back to my apartment
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Billed as “traditional Italian cuisine with modern twists and fresh seasonal ingredients”, Sotto always rises to the top of “must eat” lists in Cincinnati. As I started to do research for my trip, Sotto came up several times and got multiple recos from my friends as well.
And they weren’t lying, Sotto is the BOMB. If you’re making a list of where to eat in Cincinnati, this definitely needs to be on it. I thankfully had the foresight to make reservations a couple weeks ahead (for one person, at the chef’s table…everything else was booked).
I started with a cocktail and the goat cheese bruschetta with honey, hazelnuts, basil. Just wanted to lick it all off my plate! Then I had both the black truffle pasta and the short rib cappellaci…what can I say, I’m a pasta girl! Both were SO tasty (and I have super high pasta standards).
I also had the ricotta bomboloni for dessert but they didn’t photograph well (I devoured instantly). And I basically waddled back to my apartment.
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It was really hard to decide where to go for my other dinner meal since I was only in Cincinnati for a weekend. I finally ended up choosing Abigail Street, and did not regret it.
One of local chef Daniel Wright’s many concepts in Cincinnati, the menu blends Italian, Spanish, Turkish and Greek influences with modern twists. As I perused the menu, I sipped a unique cocktail called Left on Bremen that blended rye whiskey, cognac, tawny port, verjus rouge, licor 43, angostura & blanc de blancs. Yeah, that’s a lot. Delicious though!
On a recommendation from the bartender, I had the lamb spaghetti…it was SO GOOD! Hearty, comforting, with little crispy bits on the lamb and then the unctuous creaminess from the egg yolk. Mmmm! I also had the beets and labneh salad, and took the pistachio baklava to-go (which, WOW).
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Sacred Beast Diner
Also a great dinner option, I actually visited Sacred Beast for brunch on my last morning. I’d already been on a coffee and pastry exploration extravaganza (more on that below), but I didn’t let that stop me from overindulging for brunch.
I knew I needed protein with my carbs, so I paired the savory corned beef hash and poached eggs with the fluffy sweet lemon ricotta pancakes. And YESSSSS to both. I was blown away by the corned beef hash in particular, just delicious salty crispy bits.
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Taste of Belgium
So Taste of Belgium had been high on my “where to eat in Cincinnati” list for trying on my visit because WAFFLES, but I’ll be honest…I was really underwhelmed. And that super bums me out. This is the only place I visited the whole weekend that I can’t wholeheartedly rave about.
Maybe I ordered badly, or just caught the restaurant on a bad day. I went sweet and savory here as well, and my fruit waffle was totally soaked and soupy with the fruit juices. The chicken waffle was schnitzel vs. fried chicken (which I get is more Belgian, so that’s okay) but just cut up my mouth and the flavors weren’t really interesting.
I had delicious cappuccino but the service was sloooooooow despite it not being that busy. Overall just okay, but I wouldn’t go back.
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Okay, moving into more beer-y focused options…
Taft’s Ale House
Taft’s Ale House is a local institution and you’ll see it on pretty much every must-do list. Named after former U.S. prez William Howard Taft (a Cincy native), Taft’s is located in the former St. Paul’s German Evangelical Protestant Church (wow, that’s a mouthful).
Built in 1850 and now an awesome place for a bite and a drink, Taft’s offers a variety of their own craft beers, great ambiance, and a delicious brewpub menu if you’re feeling peckish.
I’d had a ton of pastries in the late morning and had an early dinner reservation so I didn’t want to eat TOO much, but I devoured the kale and brussels sprout salad and tri tip tacos. But the main reason I was there was trying the beer.
I had a taste of their unique Nellie’s Key Lime Caribbean Ale, but then a half pour of the Hazelnut Latte Coffee Stout (very much up my alley). I didn’t have long here but loved it!
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Situated squarely in the Brewery District part of OTR, Rhinegeist Brewery is a very cool place to while away some time. It’s got a beautiful, airy main area with open seating. I saw people just chilling and working, business meetings, and friend groups.
I didn’t want to go crazy (and was still stuffed on coffee and pastries), but sipped a half pour of the tuxedo nitro stout while people watching and reading my Kindle.
I think there’s a rooftop area (it wasn’t open when I was there) and there’s a bar area as well. You can book tours if you want to dive deeper into the brewery. Don’t miss exploring some of the Brewery District’s street art while you’re in the area!
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Okay, the next couple are more “grab bag” or miscellaneous options for your “where to eat in Cincinnati” list, can work any time of day.
Cincinnati’s oldest public market, Findlay is now a great place to find delicious local food, fresh meats and cheeses, and cool artisan crafts. I didn’t spend as much time here as I’d have liked, but it has everything from a bagels to BBQ, gelato to pho (you can see a list of merchants here).
Don’t just go inside the main market, make sure you wander through all the little stores lining the outside as well (including the amazing Cherbourg Cyprus Bakery I talk about below).
Buzzed Bull Creamery
When I happened upon Buzzed Bull Creamery in my research, I saw “alcohol-infused ice cream place” and was like UM YES ABSOLUTELY.
I was honestly still full and didn’t want to fill up before an early dinner reservation, but persevered anyway and trekked over to give it a try.
I customized the cherry cordial milkshake to use Woodford Reserve bourbon instead and had them leave out the Oreos and whipped cream which are not my thing. This definitely needs to be on your list…I mean, boozy milkshakes!!!
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Okay now we can talk about ALL the coffee and baked goods I devoured in Cincinnati!
It seems like if you ask anyone about donuts in this part of Cincinnati, every single person will tell you to go to Holtman’s. Nestled in the heart of Vine Street, it’s adorable and super central.
As always, I ordered an apple fritter (ALWAYS MY FAVE) and tried the German chocolate as well.
Cherbourg (Cyprus) Bakery
Cherbourg was a serendipitous find, after several delicious coffees but an underwhelming baked goods haul. I swung by Findlay Market on a Sunday morning hoping to find Urbana Coffee open, but was disappointed. But right around the corner I glimpsed this beautiful little bakery.
They only have pour-over coffee, but offered the best pastries I’d found all weekend, and the most AMAZING strawberry scone…light, buttery, tart and sweet, and melted in my mouth. Run, don’t walk!
Sample different Cincinnati coffee shops
You guys know me by now, and know how much I loooove good coffee. So I usually make a point of going on a self-guided coffee shop tour when visiting a new city.
I was able to hit a few different Cincinnati coffee shops and pretty much loved them all…my only frustration was that none of them were open for inside seating due to COVID.
As I wandered down Vine Street in search of Holtman’s Donuts, I found 1215 Wine Bar & Coffee Lab, which has some interesting coffee drinks on the menu. I don’t remember what it was called, but I had a delicious latte spiced with with maple & cloves…so warm and comforting!
On Sunday morning I started with Coffee Emporium, grabbing a Bumblebee Buzz (man, honey lattes are really having a moment!). I drank it on my way to the next stop, and it was good but a bit too sweet. Then I snagged a delicious cortado at Collective Espresso.
Lastly I stopped at Urbana Cafe at Findlay Market for a small latte. Not to mention the cappuccinos I had at Taste of Belgium and Sacred Beast Diner.
So there you have a pretty solid starting place for where to eat in Cincinnati…coffee shops, bakeries, and bars, OH MY! Even though it was only a couple days, I loved exploring the city’s food scene and am definitely plotting a return trip.
Other foodie city guides you’ll love:
- Where To Eat & Drink In Bergen, Norway
- A Foodie’s Guide to Chicago
- The Quest For The Best Old Fashioned In Louisville, Kentucky
- Where To Eat In Sedona: The Best Sedona Restaurants (& More)
- Guide to Turkish Cuisine: 20 Foods You Have to Try
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