Cincinnati jokes can rattle off non-Cincinnatian’s tongues fairly easily: “Hey, do you listen to WRKP?” (No, Les Nessman does not exist.); “Oh, isn’t that where the river caught on fire?” (No, that was Cleveland—the opposite side of the state.); “Didn’t Mark Twain say that is where he wants to be when the world ends because everything there happens 20 years later?” (Inconclusive.); “I’ve been there—and I had to fly into Kentucky!” (True.)
Yes, if you fly to Cincinnati, its seven hills in which 52 unique neighborhoods are nestled do face the rolling hills of Kentucky. And all are waiting to greet y’all with open arms. When you arrive for the Edible Good Spirits tour in November, your route into the city from the airport will welcome you with the stunning Cincinnati skyline framed by the Ohio River.
The New York Times did its quintessential travel piece, “36 Hours in Cincinnati,” recently, which is a great overview of the downtown and Over-the-Rhine neighborhoods. Here Team Edible Ohio Valley will add more restaurants that highlight our local farmers and give peeks into the hidden treasures that are off the New York Times’ path:
Leave downtown and head north on I-71 to get a big picture overview of the rolling hills of Cincinnati and enjoy lunch a restaurant called Fond: Lunch and Deli (10764 Montgomery Road). Be sure to arrive by 2—chef Ethan Snider closes after the lunch rush. His menu will give an amazing sense of the Ohio Valley’s terroir with daily vegan, vegetarian and meat specials, along with Fond’s standards such as Am-Asian Tacos or Langue et Joue. It is the house that Summah: Hummus built (Ethan’s business prior to opening Fond) so try some unique hummus options, too.
After lunch, we recommend that you venture back south to downtown to learn more about the Ohio Valley region. If you turn right out of the parking lot onto Weller Road, then left onto Montgomery Road, this is U.S. Route 22, which will take you back downtown through at least six Cincinnati neighborhoods. If you want to explore some farms, you can turn left onto Kugler Mill Road to find Turner Farm (7400 Given Road) or onto Blome Road to find Green Acres (8255 Spooky Hollow). Both have volunteer opportunities, if you want to get your hands dirty; classes if you prefer to learn more formally.
Back on Montgomery, you can find other Cincinnati treasures a record store or a few thrift shops to find what people here remove from their closets. Another option is to do an amazing pub crawl and drinking a wide range of Cincinnati brews, if that fits your style (but don’t drive; catch a Lyft).
Once you are done exploring, continue south onto Montgomery, then turn right onto Ridge Avenue and continue on until the road turns into Columbia Road. Along the way, you’ll cross the Ronald Regan Highway, which cuts across Hamilton County, then cross Reading Road (pronounced like the Reading Railroad in Monopoly), turn right at railroad track, cross over I-75, and you’ll find yourself in what we think of as the triangle of fermentation in a village called Lockland (this village was founded as a stop on the Miami-Erie Canal in the early 1800s).
There, Fab Ferments (611 Shepherd Drive, Unit 16) has champagne-like kombucha—we promise it is worth the visit. Jen and Jordan are amazing hosts, too. Next door is La Terza Coffee (611 Shepherd Drive, Unit 17), where you can find an amazing Café Latte and Rivertown Brewery (607 Shepherd Drive) is across the parking lot! You can satisfy most of your thirst cravings in this industrial enclave.
Head back the way you came into Lockland, then turn right onto Reading Road (U.S. 42). This will give you a sense of Cincinnati’s challenges as you meander through neighborhoods that are food deserts. Once you pass the Casino (in about ten miles), turn left onto Walnut Street, to cross over the Ohio River on the Roebling Bridge. (This was built prior to the Brooklyn Bridge and has quite a few similar qualities.)
For dinner, go to Bouquet (519 Main Street, Covington, Kentucky). Chef Stephen Williams and his team are always ready to surprise you with culinary delights, inspired by the region’s bounty. It is also highlights the Northern Kentucky segment of Bourbon Trail, with over 100 varieties of Kentucky’s liquid gold (some of which you cannot try in Ohio, thanks to arcane liquor laws).
Wake up early and head to Findlay Market for breakfast. Ekerlin Meats has a goetta sandwich (a local delicacy made with pork, beef and oatmeal). The farmer’s shed will be open to grab some raw veggies. And Blue Oven Bakery has an English Muffin that cannot be missed—it is a version that is reminiscent of a doughnut, yet makes a fantastic BLT.
Hop on a Red Bike and explore Over-the-Rhine. It is one of America’s largest concentrations of Italianate architecture and the detail on the buildings is mind-boggling—we always wonder: Who could to that today?
Turn south to the central business district and go to Mita’s for lunch (5th and Race). Chef Jose Salazar was nominated for a James Beard this year. The tapas are amazing…well, everything we’ve tasted on the menu is amazing. This area of town is nice to walk around, too. Fountain Square is where Cincinnati celebrates: concerts in the summer; ice skating in the winter. There are a few remaining walkways called skywalks that connect buildings above the sidewalks, which offers nice coverage on rainy days.
In the evening of November 4th, attend the Good Spirits event at the 21C hotel. At the event, our Edible Ohio Valley team curated a range of restaurants paired with cocktails made with spirits from Midwest distilleries, including New Riff, Indian Creek, George Remus (King of the Bootleggers), Till Vodka and more. If you are not in Cincinnati during the Good Spirits weekend in November, definitely plan to eat at Metropole, where chef Jared Bennett and his team add their unique perspective on our region’s harvest.
While Cincinnati might have been in a “fly-over” state before you visited, we hope that your visit to our fair city in the Ohio Valley brings this region to life in a way that will bring you back for more.