City Guide: Cincinnati, Ohio

Sing the Queen City! Cincinnati is a hidden midwestern gem. Here's everything you need to know about where to eat and drink and what to do for fun in my lovely hometown.

Where to Eat:

- The Senate: Gourmet hot dogs with catchy names and wild toppings.

- Sacred Beast: Diner food, kicked up a notch. Unlike many cramped OTR restaurants, this place is open and warm, and almost always has seating. The food is simple, perfectly executed, and never boring. The Korean fried chicken is superb, but so is everything else on the menu.

- Pho Lang Thang: Budget-friendly Vietnamese eats in Findlay Market. Order the pho and fried spring rolls, and do not leave without trying the Vietnamese iced coffee. Best place for a Saturday lunch! It can get packed, but put your name on the list and explore the rest of the market while you wait.

- Ruthai's Thai Kitchen: Not in the mood to brave the crowds in OTR? Head to Mt. Lookout Square for some great Thai food. Try the crispy pad thai and opt for the colorfully cushioned platform seating. I'm convinced it makes everything taste even better.

Where to Drink:

- 21C Rooftop Bar: This swanky hotel bar has an incredible view of the city and stellar cocktails. Head up here for a drink and a great sunset view before getting dinner.

View from 21C Rooftop Bar

- Myrtle's Punch House: Head to Myrtle's with a group of friends and sample a few bowls of punch. Head downstairs for prime seating, and sip punch out of vintage glassware.

- Liberty's Bar and Bottle: Check out Liberty's for some wine and a quiet escape from the bustle of the neighboring bars. It's peaceful, has board games, and the bartenders really know what they're talking about.

- Rhinegeist: Beer, beer, beer. And cornhole. And a little rooftop deck.

- Taft's Ale House: A beer hall in a remodeled church might seem odd, but is very in character for Cincinnati. Also, I know it's a beer hall, but the cocktails downstairs are also excellent. I'm partial to the Manhattan.

- Queen City Radio: A fun sports bar with a cool, inclusive vibe. Now, listen carefully: order one of their specialty drinks, like their apple bourbon slushie, and get a burger and fries from their on-site food truck. If you don't, you'll regret it.

Sunset and bluegrass music at Queen City Radio

Where to Find Breakfast, Coffee, and Pastries:

- Brick Coffee Company: This norwood coffee shop keeps things nice and simple, with a short but great menu and stellar customer service. Being a little bit off the beaten path means that the shop stays peaceful and there's always somewhere good to sit.

Iced Latte at Brick Coffee Co.

- Landlocked Social House: This East Walnut Hills shop makes spectacular coffee, tasty breakfast sandwiches, but make sure you check out their eclectic beer list and pop-up food events.

- Rohs Street: Located near the University of Cincinnati campus, Rohs is a staple for students and Clifton residents. They've got great coffee, a beautiful, sun soaked space, and without a doubt, the nicest staff on earth.

-Brown Bear Bakery: Once you have your coffee, head over to Brown Bear for pastries. They're known for their giant, cream cheese-stuffed cinnamon rolls and unconventional flavor combinations, but I'm partial to the coffee cake, the cheddar chive scones and the iced spiced molasses cookies. Check out their Instagram for daily updates on what goodies are fresh out of the oven.

Topo Chico and a Hibiscus Slice from Brown Bear Bakery

- Pleasantry: In the mood for more of a sit-down breakfast? Check out Pleasantry for quality eats with a twist. Try the avocado toast! *It's a tight space, so look elsewhere if you're with a large group.

- Sugar 'n Spice: For something a little less trendy, enjoy this hot pink and teal Cincinnati favorite. It's a kooky diner, with some serious Pee Wee's Playhouse vibes. Get the "Wispy Thin Pancakes". They're a staple around here!

What to Do:

- If it's nice out, start with the parks. Ault Park, Eden Park, and French Park are my favorite

- In keeping with the nature theme, make sure you plan a stop at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. Meet our crown jewel, Fiona, feed the giraffes, and spot the few dozen peacocks that roam around the place. Visiting in the winter? Stop by at night for the Festival of Lights. Twinkle lights covering every possible surface makes the cold a lot more bearable. Plus there's funnel cake.

- Walk across the Roebling Bridge! You can also rent a bike or a Bird scooter (if you can find one), but it's such a short trip that I prefer to walk and soak in the views. Walk across to Covington, stroll around the gorgeous historical neighborhood on the river, then check out Smale Park when you come back to the Cincinnati side

The Roebling Bridge

- You cannot spend time on the Ohio-Kentucky border without doing at least part of the bourbon trail! Wild Turkey's distillery is one of my absolute favorites. The building is beautifully sculptural and the tastings are well curated. Buffalo Trace gives a great tour, and their bourbon cream is sinfully delicious. (Think Bailey's, but 1000x better.) Woodford Reserve also does an excellent tasting which they pair with chocolate bourbon balls.

- In need of some pampering? Check out Spruce Nail Shop in OTR for the best mani/pedis in town, minus the toxic chemicals. The space is bright, impeccably clean, and designed like to feel like a really stylish apartment. The staff is warm and attentive, and the products are all toxic free, cruelty free/vegan, and sustainably/ethically sourced. Spruce is also widely known for their highly talented technicians and their outrageous hand painted nail designs. Check them out on Instagram here. *Be sure to book well in advance, and specify if you'd like gel and/or nail art.

Hand-painted nail art by Spruce Owner, Molly Reckman

- The Rhined: This woman-run cheese shop is one of my absolute favorite new spots in town. Let the talented and passionate staff educate you on cheese, and have them set up a cheese plate for you. They feature products from local artisans, and they put on weekly seasonal events that are an amazing deal, like rosé tastings, plates of hand-stretched mozzarella, and melted raclette night. *Make sure to get there early, because they have been known to sell out.

Rosé and cheese tasting at The Rhined

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