Review: Tucker’s

Tucker’s, I think, is one of the best kept secrets in Cincinnati. If you drove past it, on Vine—not in the re-invented Gateway Quarter, but in a less redeveloped area of Vine Street—you’d think it was a total dive. Its outside is unpretentious, even run-down looking, and you could easily pass it by if you weren’t looking for it. Inside, however, is some of the best, most sincere food I’ve had in Cincinnati—and I mean it.

The inside is as unpretentious as the outside—a few booths, some bar service, a cook slinging short orders right behind the bar. A giant glass container of fruit salad sits nearby, dipped into occasionally as an accompaniment for an entrée. They have specials, but get them early—because they go fast. The clientele is diverse: poor and rich, old and young; I even spied a Franciscan priest who had walked down from St. Francis Seraph, and who knew everyone. The tattooed, bespectacled waiter treats you as if you’re a regular, even if it’s your first time. In the corner, someone is photographing the restaurant, throughout the day, for a time-lapse retrospective of the day (for future exhibition at the Carnegie in Covington). It’s just the kind of place where all of these things (that elsewhere would be chaotic) just work.
We went on a Sunday, hoping to grab some of the shrimp and grits that they’re famous for—well, as famous as a well-kept secret can be. We perused the menu. The front side is breakfast, filled with lots of standards (eggs, pancakes), some not-so-standard (vegan offerings such as vegan bacon and sausage, brioche French toast that smelled absolutely amazing) and all of it, based on the crowd of people inside this small restaurant, very good.

IMG_0122The shrimp and grits—I got the very last order—were the best I’ve had in town: better than Hugo’s, better than Lavomatic, and better than anywhere else I’ve had them outside the South. The shrimp were spicy, but not too spicy; the sauce of scallions and Tasso ham rich and delicious. The grits were perfect—creamy, seasoned well, and not sticky or gloppy—obviously very fresh. It was accompanied with a biscuit and some of the aforementioned fruit salad.

IMG_0123Terry’s patty melt was a very classic patty melt: hamburger, cheese, pickles. That’s it. It was well crafted (good meat, pickles on the sandwich and not on the side) and the fries were crisp. There’s not a lot to say—it’s traditional diner fare, done well.

The really cool thing about Tucker’s? Their main supplier is Findlay Market. I saw one of the guys from Eckerlin’s bringing in sausage as we dined. You get the diner experience with high quality ingredients, at a low price—our two entrees, plus coffee, was $14, with tip—plus you’re supporting local suppliers and restaurant owners. If you find yourself looking for a down to earth breakfast or lunch experience (they close by 3 PM), head down Vine towards Tucker’s.

Tuckers on Urbanspoon

19 thoughts on “Review: Tucker’s”

  • Great review! I visit Tucker’s whenever I’m in OTR. Joe makes the *best* veggie burger in town. And his morning breakfast sandwiches “to go” explain why OTR will never need a McDonald’s. And you’re right: much of their fresh ingredients come straight from Findlay Market.

  • I didn’t try the biscuits, but Terry’s convinced that the biscuits aren’t homemade– they’re not bad (frozen biscuits can be very good), but just fair warning.

  • Julie, great review, Tucker’s rocks as much, or more, because of the people as the food. Joe and Carla have integrated themselves into the community and earned the respect of the locals as well as the outsiders who frequent the place. It is a true broad mix of humanity. First timers be aware though this is an oasis in a rough part of town, park nearby on Vine if possible. We usually hit there on the way to or from Findlay on Saturday. We sort of enjoy taking newbies there just for the shock value. Do not confuse it with the Tucker’s on 13th St just east of Vine

    You’d think it was a dive because it pretty much is, a great one, a classic.

  • Glad to see there are some good foodies out here in Cincinnati. Been here two years now and work downtown and never been to Tucker’s, but I’ll go this evening. Look forward to coming back and checking you out!


  • Julie, I can assure you that the biscuits are freshly made in the restaurant every day.

    When I am not on my iPhone, I will post a couple of links to things I have written about Tucker’s.

  • Thanks, michael. Good to know. Perhaps it was due to time of day– I am curious as to where their ovens hide in that small space!

  • Not a time of day issue. When the biscuits made for that day are gone, there are no more biscuits served.

    There is a small kitchen in the back. Six burner range, one oven, two door fridge, a freezer, three bowl dish station and a small prep area. Tiny. Two people and you feel like you are dancing — cheek to cheek.

  • Julie–
    Thanks for the note. Sorry about the brain freeze on your website. I knew better. 🙂

    I really liked everything about Tucker’s except for the food. Next time I ask for a recommendation– the service was so friendly I think I’ll end up with something better.

    And yes… La Mexicana is WORLDS better than Nada, although I’ve become partial to my little place up in Fairfield. If only my co-workers like either! 🙂

  • Tucker’s was a great hit on our trip from Michigan. Found out about it on the web, checked it out. The food was incredible. Goetta is the best breakfast meat all of us have ever had. Went to the Findlay Market immediately after and bought 10 pounds to bring back. We will probably go back to Cinncy just because of Tuckers! Check it out, it’s awesome!

  • I’ve never eaten at either location…but both the one on Vine and the one on 13th street are owned by the same family. I can say the guy who runs the one on 13th is just as friendly as what I’m hearing on this site about the other…but since I’ve never eaten at either I can’ say if the food is the same.

  • Kris — and all,

    The two restaurants are not related in any way. The owners of each happen to be related, and the locations were, more than 30 years ago, owned by Joe Tucker’s parents. Today, the two restaurants share the family name but nothing else.

    Joe and Carla Tucker own and operate the restaurant at 1637 Vine (between Liberty and Green). Mrs. Tucker (Joe’s mother) still works there six days a week. This is the restaurant that Julie reviewed.
    .-= Michael´s last blog ..Must Read: Catching Fire =-.

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