Cincinnati Magazine’s Top Ten Restaurants

Montgomery Inn’s anniversary– and cheap ribs!
February 17, 2009
Review: Paella at Your Place
February 18, 2009

Oh, boy, do I have issue with this list. Thanks to @ChasingPolly for so kindly typing this out in 140 characters or less.
4.Via Vite
10.Riverside Korean

Let’s compare to last year, shall we?

New to the list: Riverside Korean, Via Vite and Hugo.

Off the list: Pigall’s (I assume because it’s closing, I guess they got that detail in right before going to print), Jo An and JeanRo Bistro.

Though JR Bistro is still open, I wholeheartedly agree that it’s not one of the top ten restaurants– and wasn’t last year.  The meals I’ve had there in the past few years were mediocre at best.

I am so glad to see some real ethnic food– not just fusion– on the list.  Though Cumin is good, it’s not “authentic”, and I think that very well prepared, authentic cusine that isn’t Italian, French or American should be included, and Riverside would be my choice.  I like Jo An, but I like Riverside better.  It’s an old favorite. I’ve actually eaten at all of these restaurants except for Nectar.  Friends have recently gone to Nectar and enjoyed it as well.

I’ve never quite figured out how these top ten lists work.  I confess that Terry and my Top Ten Barbecue is completely and utterly subjective; and this top ten list is too.  How is Orchids better than Nicola’s (Nicola’s would be my top, if anyone’s asking).  How did Boca fall to 3 from the top spot last year?

And, most importantly, how in the WORLD is there no Jeff Ruby restaurant on the list?  The Jeff Ruby’s Jewel was rated the top steak in the country, better than all of those top Chicago and New York steakhouses, and it doesn’t even get a mention in the Cincinnati Magazine top ten?  I just don’t get it.  The food is always great, the service is always stellar.  It’s not delicate food, and it’s not chef-owned, but it’s a place I know I could take friends or clients and they’d be equally happy.  I’d be poor, but everyone would come away happy.

5chw4r7z and @ChasingPolly are demanding I write my own top ten.  What would be #1 on your list?


  1. Lauren D. says:

    Just ate at Bootsy’s a few weeks ago… it would easily be on my top ten.

  2. Rose says:

    You ABSOLUTELY should make your own list! I’m dying to see what’s on it!

  3. 5chw4r7z says:

    That was fast, I at least respect your opinion even though we don’t agree very often. I don’t understand the whole Ruby’s thing, for some reason his reputation overshadows the restaurant. I hear this constantly downtown.
    Who cares about him personally, as long as he puts out a quality product, and he does, thats all that should matter.

  4. nancy dawson says:

    I have always wondered about the Ruby’s thing; glad you went there. I have taken New Yorkers to Precinct and they have been blown away by the value, the quality, and the service.

  5. Amy in Ohio says:

    Oh I don’t know 5chw4r7z , sometimes where you spend your money is important to folks, even if they are getting a quality product. I don’t have a beef (ha, ha get it?) with Ruby or know anyone who does but I can understand if you do, you don’t want to shell your hard-earned cash to him.

    I can’t think of a dozen folks since the Jean Robert/Pigall’s announcement that will swear off Green Up and the like when the partnership dissolves and it has nothing to do with food quality.

    Just my opinion though.

  6. Suz says:

    Well, I definitely would rank Nicola’s as number one; but, since it’s my favorite restaurant in town, it’s a “no-brainer.”

  7. Amber says:

    Nicola’s is #1 easily because I would drop a WHOLE lot of money and not feel bad at all, because it is the BEST. Hope you are well, Julie!

    Got any umbros I can borrow? (Good FB pic) 🙂

  8. julie says:

    Amber, how are you?! And no, I have no umbros. I think those were plaid boxers! We wore those all the time under our school uniforms. We silly catholic girls.

    Re: Ruby, yes, many people won’t eat at certain restaurants because of the reputation of the restauranteur, but when voting for a “Top Ten”, I don’t think that should come into consideration. I’ll go back to Greeup and try it again– if Wade doesn’t mess with the formula they have going there, I’d throw it in the hopper for “Top Ten Breakfast”. If he does, then it won’t be. That simple.

  9. redkatblonde says:

    You know me, I’m a girl that likes a little charm, eccentricity and flair in her life, so I was glad to see Riverside and Slims. I’d love to see your list!

  10. Michael says:

    Julie, the section of magazine that lists the top 10 begins with a short article explaining that a month ago, Pigall’s held the top spot on the list. Everyone moved up one notch. So, Riverside was slated to 11th and out of the money.

    The next page of the section is Donna Covrett’s open letter of tribute to Jean-Robert. Read it; very moving and touching.

  11. julie says:

    Thanks, Michael. I assumed that Pigall’s was removed just in time for print. I’m looking forward to reading her article; as I’ve explained on Twitter, I stopped subscribing to most magazines when I realized that my mail person must take special joy in mangling them before I read them.

  12. TJ Jackson says:

    Via Vite sucks. Average at best. Not even top 10 among Italian-ish restaurants in Cincinnati

  13. D R E W says:

    yay, riverside korean! my favorite in the whole entire region!!!

  14. Cincy Hound Dog says:

    I also find this list somewhat surprising. Interestingly, I ate at Riverside Korean last weekend and we already had reservations at Slim’s for this weekend. I’ll have to review my Slim’s experience early next week.

    Regarding Riverside Korean, I found it to be very good but it would not have ever made my top 10. The more I hear, I should probably give them another sample.

    I am also a major devotee of barbecue, so I would be very interested in your top 10 list. Pit to Plate and Jim Dandy’s are my top two.

  15. julie says:

    Cincy Hound Dog, Terry (The Boyfriend) is from Alabama, and quite the barbecue fan. Our #1 is Pit to Plate, though a friend of ours smoked a pork shoulder that blew Pit to Plate out of the water. I need to create a barbecue tag so people can more easily find Terry’s list. At some point, a couple of my commenters, Terry and I were going to go on a barbecue “road trip” across the city. Still need to do that.

    Slim’s is great, I went there for my birthday, but haven’t yet posted my review. Honey, which is probably my favorite chef-owned restaurant in town right now, gets a slight edge over Slim’s in my book.

  16. CincyCapell says:

    Orchids is deservedly number 1, and outclasses Nichola’s for a couple of reasons; Service, consistency and decor. They are all factors, you know. Orchids is the most beautiful space in the entire City, and it has been my favourite restaurant for the past couple of years. I thought that their food was superior to Pigall’s for some time now, their cuisine is both original and sublime. I ate at Orchids just last week and the staff told me that they were going to take advantage of Pigall’s closing by hiring some if their staff, expanding their own menu options, and adding live Jazz several nights per week (they already have it on the weekends, a great touch with dinner in that art deco space!).

    I really, really like Nichola’s, but Cristian can be rather spread thin between overseeing both restaurants, and I have had some consistency issues with their food. Plus some of the servers there are less than great, to be very blunt.

    as for Jo An, their food has declined since Masaharu left to open his own restaurant, Miyoshi. miyoshi is the hands down best Japanese restaurant in the region. Masaharu actually picks up his fish at the airport every single day, and they have an outstanding full menu of hot Japanese dishes as well.

  17. julie says:

    CincyCapell, Cristian has been exclusively at Via Vite for a couple of months now.

  18. Randy Simes says:

    Nada is pretty darn good, but I would also agree with Bootsy’s – that place is incredible.

  19. Gary says:

    Nectar is good, but top 10 in the city? Don’t think so…

    Now, before the bashing begins… I am new to Cincy…. but

    Where is Oceanaire? Teak? Aqua?

    I might even suggest, and it would simply be personal bias, that perhaps Nicholson’s…

    Just my 2 cents here folks.

    Great post by the way…

  20. julie says:

    Randy– I swear I am one of maybe three people in town who doesn’t like Nada. Love Bootsy’s, though. Not sure if it’s top ten material yet– it’s still so new.

    Gary– Though I love all four restaurants you suggested, my guess is that Oceanaire isn’t on there because it’s a national chain. Not sure about the other three– again, these lists are arbitrary. There is a certain “elevation of cuisine” on there, perhaps that’s the bias against those three?

  21. Gary- no thank you on all of those. Teak is good but definitely not worthy of Top 10 in the city. Oceanaire, I strongly believe local, independently owned places deserve to be on the list over franchises.

    Riverside is one of my favorite places in the city and deserved the honors. Boca’s worth it too, once in a lifetime experience with the 7 course meal. And with that sommelier, I would put Boca on the list in a heart beat! 🙂

  22. julie says:

    LiberalFoodie, I don’t think Teak or Aqua’s fare isn’t quite interesting or innovative enough. They’re both good at what they do, and have good locations, but aren’t anything I’d take out-of-towners too.

    Agree 100% on Oceanaire. If Oceanaire won “Best Dish” in Taste of Cincinnati, I’d be equally peeved.

  23. TJ Jackson says:

    “Chicken Bryan” feh

  24. CincyCapell says:

    Julie, That’s somewhat disconcerting to hear. The cuisine at Nicola’s is more complex than Via’s. Who is cooking at Nicola’s now? I keep hearing rumors that Nicola isn’t going to renew the lease on Nicola’s when it expires and concentrate on Via. With Cristian exclusively at Via I wonder if that is true?

  25. jane doe says:

    Does anyone actually dine at some of these places?
    How many of you have been to Orchids in the last year? Nectar? Slims?

    Pigall’s was the top of this list but the restaurant was not busy and they were forced out of business.

    I’d like to see a list of restaurants that people actually go to on a regular basis. This is just where people hope to go on their birthdays and anniversary.

    Riverside definitely belongs on a list like that, Nada too. Places you can go all the time without being exceedingly wealthy.

  26. jane doe says:

    Also, I agree with TJ, Via Vite totally sucks – food and service. It’s presence on this list makes me really question Donna’s thinking.

  27. Randy Simes says:

    I hit up about half of them throughout the year…but then again I’m a broke college student still. 🙁

  28. julie says:

    CincyCapell– I remember hearing that the chef is someone who has been there his entire career. Can’t remember the name.

    Jane Doe– I know lots of people who go to these restaurants regularly, myself included.

  29. eroslane says:

    Off topic (but I know someone you know will like this as much as me!)

    I say we chip in, get a franchise. He can deliver on M-W-F; I’ll do T-Th-Sat.

    Sunday: we eat like Kings! 😀

  30. sweetpea says:

    I would love if you wrote your own top ten!!!! Okay,I am so glad that Daveed’s is finally moving in the direction they deserve and that first and second place positions are not evoking a supermodel in love with herself image of ” I love you”, “no ,I love you”,image.Wow,there are more than two chefs in this city!
    Riverside Korean is wonderful and definitely earned their spot.I have not had a bad dinner there and who doesn’t love a plethora of tiny snacks.It beats cracker packs and pickles any day!
    No Ruby and no arm wrestling for first,however,I wish Green Papaya was there somewhere.I would love to know how it all works.
    My last concern is the priority of requirements that make or break a position.I believe whole heartedly in self efficient and enviromentally friendly means and ways,however,to what extent does that extend.Does being eco-friendly justify cockroaches sharing my napkin and dinner plate? Does it mean I should adjust my standards to the point where recycling olive oil patron to patron or using the lamb shank bone a fellow community resident chewed on three days ago to make the stock for my dinner tonight okay? I’m all for standing behind and supporting a good thing,but does it mean I should close my eyes while doing it?Where is the line and do you support these habits? (slims)

  31. CincyCapell says:

    Does anyone really think that Teak belongs on that list? If so, they must not get out much. Teak’s food is good-not great- and their service is awful. Decor is nothing to write home about.

  32. sweetpea says:

    Nicola’s chef now is young and worked his way up. I went there for my birthday dinner, and I do dare say I had an incredible meal.One of the best! There is something wonderful that a young chef has that maybe some seasoned chefs don’t have and that is fiery passion and desire to please.
    Teak on the other hand I think is hit or miss. Not consistent at all and definitely not list ranking material.

  33. Mark says:

    Is Tink’s in Clifton ever reviewed for this list?

  34. sweetpea says:

    several days since my last posting(Slims)…perhaps you misunderstood when I said ” Cockroaches, recycled olive oil ,and by the way how long and at what temperature do you have to roast previously eaten lamb shanks to kill hepatitis-B or even scarier viruses? Just wondering.

  35. julie says:

    I’m not sure what kind of response you’re looking for, sweetpea. I have not had any sort of bad experience at Slim’s, except for some excruciatingly slow service when a 24-top arrived right before my 2-top reservation. The allegations you raise are very serious. I can’t find any record of a health inspection, but is this something you brought up with the restaurant? It’s easy to see into the kitchen, and I noticed how it was pretty darn clean-appearing. The way you are phrasing your accusations makes you sound a bit like you have something a bit more than cleanliness against them.

  36. nola boy says:

    I have heard some disturbing things about slim’s and their cleanliness as well. A former employee (who quit..was not fired) told me some of those exact things sweetpea mentioned…recycling bones from half eaten food to make stock as well as the cockroach problem. I tried to look up their health department evaluation but was unable to look at any restaurants inside the city limits on the website. Is there a way to investigate this?

  37. sweetpea says:

    Wow! “The way I phrased my accusations “! You mean my reaction to disturbingly gross health violations! I go out to dinner all of the time because I appreciate and love food. I don’t even live in Cincinnati,however,because of my job, venture to the city and go out to dinner. I am very observant when I spend a lot of money and I, like most people have expectations.The allegations are serious and appalling which like anyone else caused my reaction. The way you phrased your response makes me think that maybe you enjoy the restaurant and are a little defensive? Sorry…….I have nothing against them except a bad night with great food followed by the above mentioned. There is great food all over Ohio but I appreciate the extra steps of food safety because I would rather not pay high dollars for a stomach virus.As far as I have found ,there are no records for Cincinnati restaurants online.Please let me know if I have missed them.

  38. real food critic says:

    How is via vite even on the list. They serve rotten seafood with mediocre pasta at best. What is up with chef pietso’s napoleon complex. Boca is overpriced even by Chicago standards, and the food isn’t impressive at all. Daveed’s should be number one. David cook is the most progressive chef in the city, and his food looks good and even tastes great. Cumin used to be a great place to eat, as long as you can suffer through suffer through Co-owner Alex. The food there was very progressive, playful and tasty a few months ago. What happened chef Yajan? Have you lost your mojo?

  39. I agree with Mo Egger, all the restaurants are good!

  40. […] year’s got a few interesting ones… (See the lists from the past few years for […]

Leave a Reply