Cincinnati Magazine’s Top Ten List 2010

Thanks to a Mt. Adams Reader for allowing me to borrow their copy of Cincinnati Magazine— I don’t get many magazines because my old mail carrier liked to rip mine to shreds before they arrived in my mailbox. Mental note: subscribe to magazines again.

Last years’ list, for reference.

2008’s, too.

1. Orchids
2. Boca
3. Daveed’s
4. Nicola’s
5. The Palace *NEW
6. Nectar
7. Cumin
8. Hugo
9. Slims
10. Riverside Korean

Best New: Local 127

Some of the “food finds” are familiar– Shrimp and Grit’s at Tucker’s, Dojo Affogato, Snowville Creamery products– and the chef profiles are great (and feature some of my favorite people), but you’ll have to buy the magazine to read those.

So, my thoughts:

  • I need to get to Orchids, obviously.  I haven’t been in years.
  • I should probably get to Nectar, too.  I’m not sure why Mt. Lookout always escapes my list of potential neighborhood choices.
  • I can’t quite figure out how Via Vite dropped off the list entirely; I’d argue that my experiences in the last year have been far better than they were the prior year, mostly because Cristian Pietoso is not spread between both restaurants, and is focusing entirely on Via Vite.
  • The Palace’s inclusion, however, is totally warranted, and congratulations to them for the addition!
  • I’m happy that non-French/American/Italian food has made the list again this year, but I’d kick off Cumin before I’d kick off Via Vite.
  • Where’s Honey?
  • Still no Jeff Ruby restaurant (though Jeremy Lieb is one of the chefs profiled).  I wondered this last year, too.
  • Local 127 as best new restaurant?  I see it, particularly since Covrett’s “best of” lists tend towards restaurants with great atmosphere, food, and overall experience, and are usually aimed towards fine dining.  I know many of you will suggest Mayberry as best new local, but remember that they only opened for dinner in November, so there hasn’t been enough time to make multiple trips.
  • With Joanne Drilling heading to Murphin Ridge Inn, will Slims drop off the list next year?

What do you think?

84 thoughts on “Cincinnati Magazine’s Top Ten List 2010”

  • Slims is lower than Hugo???? Really? My wife and I decided to go there for Valentines dinner. After being seated we waited for an hour just to place our order. I understand the concept of southern cuisine but the only thing southern on the menu were the fried green tomatoes. On top of that my risotto was ho hum. Slims on the other hand is amazing. From the starter, to the salad, to the main course, everything is amazing. I recommend the pork belly. It literally melts in your mouth.

    • I agree, Valetine’s Day was a mess for Hugo, but in their defense the dining experience there is usually very good. However, to be great you have deliver every night … especially on big occasion night so it might be awhile before I head back to Hugo … head to Honey instead!

    • I hope that you can bring yourself to go back to Hugo’s. Valentine’s day is one of the worst days to eat out and no restaurant is putting their best foot forward.
      .-= MegT´s last blog ..Spam singles =-.

  • I agree with you, Julie. And for the record, I think Honey got robbed! Particularly for dinner (and I love brunch too), their offerings are always spectacular. I have never left there feeling less than amazed by every thing we’ve ordered and the atmosphere is spectacular. Though I will admit, there are several on this top ten list that I still have never been to. Shame on me, I suppose!

  • *Takes deep breath*…..

    -Orchids, I NEED to go there. -Nicolas food is spectacular but has anyone ever gotten good service there?
    -Slims, I only gave it one shot, one time and was so very disappointed that I have not been able to spend money there again. Mediocre food. 4.5 hours for 5 courses. 98 degrees in there. Not one of the 10 people I dined with enjoyed anything about that evening.
    -I do love Riverside but as far as ambience and service, I think Sung would have been a valid choice instead
    –Nectar rocks. Her Sunday brunch is also wonderful. Especially in the summer when you can sit on the back patio and feel like you are in another country.
    –I also agree that Honey should have been on the list…over Slims for SURE

    • Ambiance and service better at Sung??? No way! Sung’s atmosphere is a little mod and the service was sub-par (somewhat rude, actually). Riverside has atmosphere and service in spades. Plus Sung’s portions are lacking and some dishes are simply mis-advertised on the menu.

      • I agree totally. The service at Sung is gawdawful. I’ve never had a bad experience at Riverside.

        I think Slims is better than anything on the list except maybe Boca. For the money, Slims wins.

        Tried Hugo once a few nights before the first trip to Boca. It was meh. Not sure the appeal of Honey either. It wasn’t at all memorable. Is Daveed’s on the list just because they needed to pick something from Mount Adams? Does anyone really think that its deserving of even being in the top 20?

  • Thanks for sharing Julie! It’s great to get the low-down while living in Barcelona. I think I’m the same: don’t know; disagree; and agree. Of course my view is skewed due to being gluten free and a low tolerance of mediocre food.

    Places I need to go: Orchids, Palace, Cumin.

    Nicola’s – I had an absolutely embarrassing experience of taking a visitor from Bologna there & the food was awful. Every single thing that came out. My initial culinary training is in Italian cooking. So I am more critical on Italian restaurants. But still, where is the hype about Nicola’ coming from? What, compared to LaRosa’s? Yeah, we need good Italian here.
    Hugo – I have eaten their food and have gotten sick from it. The cook said it was gluten free. It was not! I have eaten their food on a couple of occasions at the MCI and have been very unimpressed. I found it to be very heavy on a large combination of flavors, and they do not necessarily work together.

    Boca – Yes, yes, yes! This is my idea of refined Italian cuisine. With outstanding service.
    Daveed’s – Great innovative, modern gastronomy while still maintaining great culinary fundamentals.
    Slims – Yes, their pork belly is divine awesomeness. I like their unique fusion of Irish meets Carribean. It works. There is still room for improvement.
    Nectar – I think the world of Julie Francis. Her Sunday brunch is to die for. Yeah, I need to go there more often.

    Other thoughts: Nope to Honey. I have tried it a couple of times. In both cases, I found everything I ate to be too heavy-handed. It could be so much better. I can see the culinary skill there. If only they balanced their dishes more.

    Ok. You can tell I miss Cincy? Even though I am doing some incredible culinary research w/ best in Spain (& world), I am counting down the weeks to return home. Now, I need to make my colleagues some of my local faves: Cincy chili, Busken’s iced cookies (my gluten free version) & goetta.
    .-= Erin Swing´s last blog ..Perfecting European Artisan Bread – Gluten Free =-.

  • They need to call this the “Top 10 Best UPSCALE Restaurants in Cincinnati.”

    For middle class folks like myself, these places are completely inaccessible.

    And what’s with all the one-word restaurant names?

    • Orchids entrees prices are in the $20s, not much more than the chain restaurants like Cheesecake Factory or Maggianos. May not be an every weekend kind of restaurant, but it’s definitely worth those extra few bucks the five or six times we went last year.

      • I think a lot of it is your perspective. I consider myself middle class. My wife and I don’t go out to eat much; but when we do I would rather go to a nice place to eat rather than a place such as a Fridays, Applebees, etc. I know people who eat out at places like that a couple of times a week. For what they spend at a place like that a couple of times a week they could go to a higher quality resturant

        • Just because I can’t afford upscale restaurants doesn’t mean I’m forced to visit chain restaurants. I haven’t been to an Applebee’s in years.

          My point is that an upscale atmosphere and double-digit-per entree prices are not prerequisites for a restaurant with great food.

          But it seems that’s the definition defined by Cincinnati Magazine.

    • for the budget wise try…
      La Mexicana
      Mythos or Sebastians
      Bluebird Diner
      Gas Light Cafe (burger)
      Shanghai Mamma’s
      Terry’s Turf Club
      Sugar and Spice
      Suzy Wong’s (Walnut Hills *new)
      Blue Ash Chili
      Price Hill Chili
      Maribelle’s (Burger Night on Tuesdays, very good)
      Marx Bagels
      Big Arts BBQ
      Oriental Wok
      5 Guys (it is good)

      • Price Hill Chili SUCKS! i live less than a mile from the joint, and i’ve given it many chances over the past 8 years that I’ve lived on the westside, but the place is just horrible. And you will spend as much at the Oriental Wok as you will at Cumin, etc. Thai Namtip is a much more econimical choice IMHO.

        • Glad I’m not the only one living on the west side of Cincy that hates PHC. Dare I say Ron’s is vile too?

          Thai Taste used to be pretty gross but their new Vietnamese dishes (at least the Pho) is pretty good. They don’t have chili paste and often have to be asked to provide the sprouts and basil but still better than their “thai” food. Namtip is better but neither compare to Teak or Green Papaya.

          Melt is the only thing on the list I’d agree with. I’d add Zips or Anderson Township Pub.

    • Tina, many of those places have specials that, as a commenter below mentioned ,are less expensive and more delicious than food at a chain restaurant. I’m not upper class by any means, but I go for quality over quantity when it comes to dining out (unless it’s Cincinnati Chili, that’s a different post!).

  • please don’t dog on mail carriers. they work very hard, especially in this winter weather. perhaps it was your mailbox that caused the mags to tear into shreds?

  • I’ve never been to Riverside Korean, but I would definitely recommend checking out Sung Korean @ 700 Elm Street in downtown Cincy. That’s in my top 5.

    • As a Korean, I would put Sung lower on the list because of the cost/food ratio. Riverside provides more food for the buck, and I would dare say it is prepared better and presented more authentically. Sung is more upscale and convenient for me, but I’d choose Riverside in Covington, Asiana in West Chester (not the same Asiana in Oakley) and Chung Kiwha Korean BBQ in Florence.

  • Ever notice that most of the ‘winners’ are also big advertisers? No small Mom & Pop with really terrific food restaurant tops the list? For that reason, I never look at the “Best of Cincinnati” list and this it is the “Best of Anything” but snotty, upper class folks who don’t venture out much.

    • Wow, that’s a pretty judgmental last sentence there. Slims and Riverside Korean are both small, “mom and pop” restaurants who do very little advertising. Broad-brush statements are rarely fair.

    • While your last sentence is a rather ‘broad stroke’ and incorrect, the main meat of your response I agree with. “Top 10” lists are usually laughable at best as are most “Best of” lists. Popularity is not really a good judge of quality or what is better. It’s unoffically known by just about everyone that a certain independent magazine’s “Best of” awards are all based on advertising with them. All one has to do is look at the made up catagories to fit the “winner” to know that. Metromix’s recent “best of” announcements also show how flawed a lot of these lists are as well. But then again there isn’t really an accurate way to judge such things as it’s all opinion. The biggest problem with “Best of” or “Top 10” lists is that they instill a certain preconseption about a place, often unfairly, that most of the time they can’t live up to when you go there. So it leaves a person to wonder “what the he** where they thinking naming this a great place?” I like having places recommended to me, but ranking them is just silly and unfair to the restaurant and the potential customers.

    • Who else buys their magazine but snotty uppercrust types? I rely on UrbanSpoon and CityBeat for my reviews. Both free. Rather spend the money dining at Slims 🙂

  • Slim’s should never be on your list of 10 best restaurants. I have tried the restaurant every year for the last three years and alway “swear” I will never go back. It is now “THE END”. The restaurant is never prepared to handle more than 10 people at a time. Serve is poor and food is not much better. Staff is not friendly and I feel I am doing the restaurant a favor by showing up whereas the restaurant should be catering to the client. Some one at Cincinnati Magazine must be a relative of the owner.

  • Jeremy Lieb is doing more administrative work than actual cooking for Jeff Ruby. Maybe that’s why they’re not on. I had a bad experience at Boca: pretentious service from the entrance to the table and overpriced entrees. Amazing how different experiences can be. Suzy Wong’s is Alex Chin’s latest rebound from the sad demise of Pacific Moon and it’s a very promising start. Delicious food with typically exquisite presentation.

  • I would have liked to see Wildflower Cafe in Mason get some recognition. I don’t read Cincinnati Magazine, though, so not sure of their “criteria”…

  • The only time I’ve ever had bad service at Nicola’s was when I was there for a large group function. There was agroup of at at least 30 or 40 from my company and the restaurant was clearly not equipped to service such a large party. The first tables served were on desert as the last tables served were just getting their entrees. The food, however, was still quite good. On the many other occasions I’ve dined there (too few and far between now that I no longer work Downtown) the service has always been quite good.
    .-= Suz´s last blog ..Test Post =-.

  • “Still no Jeff Ruby restaurant ” over hyped, over charged and over promised. Just my two cents.
    Orchids and Palace both great and redeem what is for the most part terrible hotel food here in the city.
    Slims, every time i tried to go they where at max capacity for the night or sold out of most of there entrees.
    I agree on Cumin.
    Via Vitae was great the last time i was there.

  • Who cares. Restaurants come and go like flies and in general are a $$$ rip. You spend all that money and all you have to show for it the next day is a hangover or good movement. I’d be a rich man if I could get back half the money I’ve spent in bars & restaurants. Now I wait for a special occasion only. When I see Jeff Ruby driving around in a Ferrari I know I’m paying a cook too much money.

  • Grand Finale in Glendale is the best!!!- unique recipies, great service, at a very reasonable price- the best value for your money. The only difficult thing is picking which one of their great desserts to enjoy!

  • In my opinion, it’s nice to have a magazine that reports on fine dining. I’m not a Cincy native, but have lived here for 25+ years. I’m also not from a big city, but love a big city atmosphere. I have been to quite a few city’s that take pride in their city and fine dining. In case some, not all, people here in Cincinnati haven’t noticed, there is a huge food/dining/local movement on the forefront. I enjoy eating at all types of restaurants, all types of prices, at different locations, and different comforts. I love Mom and Pops places, Chain restaurants, but I also love eating at FINE dining restaurants. I think it’s great Cincinnati Magazine attempts to report on such matters. Yea it’s great to have a mom and pops place to eat at, but everyday? We need a variety. We also need to attract visitors to our city. And I know that when I go to a new city, I look for their “tops” restaurants. It just breaks my heart that Cincinnati can’t take interest in itself, or attempt to rejuvinate itself, or move into the times and the Movement that the rest the world is on, without the nay-sayers and negative minded loosing their minds on a blog site. Cincinnati Magazine is fair, they do report on mom and pops spots. If you actually read the magazine you would know this. And if your upset about the top ten in it, then don’t read it. It is America, and that’s the best part, you can write what you want, and buy what want, and have an opinion about what you want, and if you don’t like it, you can choose not to read it.

    • Wow….lots of food for thought here. Almost don’t know where to start. Kim, I couldn’t agree with you more, fine dining is an art that many people have lost the appreciation for and most don’t realize that fining dining doesn’t have to mean stuffy or pretentious. There is indeed a fantastic foodie crowd here in cincy and those people support the restaurants that consistently deliver quality experiences. We all have choices everyday where to eat and those choices range from eating at home to fast food to casual dining to a chef’s tasting menu and everywhere in between. No one is making you dine at these restaurants, this is just one PROFESSIONALS opinon of top area restaurants, if you have a different opinion then just don’t go back, everybody has bad days. The venom and hatred in some of these posts is disturbing and effects peoples business and livelihood. I only hope that for many people commenting on this blog that your lives hold a little more enjoyment than trashing a complete strangers business or reputation. As for me, I’ll keep spending my money at places I enjoy and not frequent those I don’t.

  • Responding to Wendy who states:
    “Ever notice that most of the ‘winners’ are also big advertisers?”

    I counted 34 food/restaurant advertisements throughout Cincinnati Magazine’s March restaurant issue.
    Of the 34:
    ONE out of the 12 “winners” advertises (Orchids)
    ONE is a food website (advertising restaurant week)
    FIVE are retail food (catering, cupcake shop, etc.)
    SIX are chain restaurants (Chart House, Brio, etc.)
    TWENTY ONE are individually owned and operated restaurants. A quick peek at past lists on the magazine’s website shows that none of them have ever been on the Top 10 list.

  • surprised Nada got nada. I know it’s really popular but maybe because it’s really good authentic mexican food with a bit of high end added to it.

  • Bravo for Daveed’s ! He has been a true artist to his passion ,even since Chester’s.I have had great experience after experience there and he always manages to amaze me.The wine list is always up to par as well has his cheeses and creations.
    I have been to Nicola’s twice and both times it was divine.
    Hugo’s once and it was good as well.I have been to Korean Riverside countless times and yearn to go back always again! In fact,I want it
    I went to Nectar’s brunch once and that was enough.Cumin??? Really?? I could think of twenty other candidates much more suited,like Honey!
    Slims…….never again! They have a serious roach problem and I actually had one splattered on my credit card receipt!! I don’t care how much love you put into food….roaches are a BIG problem! The byob thing gets way out of control.The night I was there last , a party was so drunk they were walking up to the kitchen staff and pouring them shots of vodka and eating food off of their stations.
    I would like to see more of a mix between price ranges as well as styles.

  • Orchids is without question the finest restaurant in the region, and has been for at least the past four years-it outperformed Pigall’s before that restaurant closed (and I was a huge Pigall’s fan!). The Palace is outstanding as well-and has the added benefit of employing John McLean, the classiest and most Old School Maitre’ d Hotel to be found outside of Chicago or Manhattan.

    Riverside Korean-good food, but the atmosphere & service are lacking. Where are the fine Japanese restaurants this year? Miyoshi & Jo An are far superior restaurants than either Riverside or Sung (let alone Slims or Nectar-I’ve never had a great dining experience at any of Julie Francis’ establishments). The Summit at CTC deserves a mention as well.

    • You’re comparing apples to oranges. Im fairly certain Miyoshi and Jo An are japanese restaurants. Riverside KOREAN and Sung are both what they state. KOREAN! however, with the advent of Sung slated to open his own sushi bar soon i’m certain you’ll start lumping Thai Express and Oriental WOK together too even though those are two completely different styles of cooking.

  • CincyCapell…You nailed it!! Jo An and Miyoshi are excellent,so where are they?? Orchids..without a doubt has their ducks in a row!

  • I’ve always wanted to try the “upscale” restaurants around town, but with the lifespan of places. By the time I find one I like, they close. And considering the fanciest place I’ve eaten at was Dante’s 😛 I’ve got work to do. I’m just looking for some simple tasting menus that aren’t that high.

    • Dante’s– that brings back memories. What’s your price range? The Palace’s tasting menu is $40 per person. Cincinnati EATS is a great way to sample upscale restaurants, too– usually around $35 a person. Restaurant Week (coming up March 22-28) is reasonably priced, too.

  • Who remembers when the Taste of Cincinnati was larger and more attended by the hot resturants?? That would be Cool event to have the top 10 do a tasting event!

    • I believe Jono Fries and David Falk organized something like this last summer in Washington Square park with a tremendous turnout. I dont remember alot of the establishments involved but I know Chalk, Bootsy’s and Sungs as well as Boca and Nada had booths set up.

  • -Orchids
    have yet to actually go as well…I shouldn’t feel tempted to get dressed up to just have dinner, but..thats just me.

    -Via Vite
    I dont understand how they fell off from number 4!…always exceptional service, great wine list, spectacular specials throughout the year…complete mystery to me as well.

    -The Palace
    again…I don’t want to feel obligated to get dressed up to have dinner.

    Where’s Honey?
    my sentiments exactly…maybe Donna Covrett only goes to northside to eat at Slims.

    -No Ruby restaurants
    big shocker there…Cincinnati’s own restaurant “godfather” has indeed fallen from grace.

    Local 127
    being the flagship for that particular group they damn well have better have gotten a mention. Martin and Marilyn would be having a fit if they didnt… then again…Mr.Wade “im in real estate not restaurants” Look for Jean Roberts Table to be at number 1 next year…anyone can call that though.

    They made it onto the list prior without Joanne (love her!) im certain they can do it again. Sara executes very well!

    deserving every year. Without A DOUBT. Nothing but stellar service from there. REPEATEDLY

    beyond that I think this list is obligatory as it changes very little from year to year….but at some point ill eat my words…but ill call next year now…just for proof that this list is predictable and overplayed.

    1.Jean Roberts Table
    5.The Palace
    7.Local 127
    10. Senate

    • “I don’t want to feel obligated to get dressed up to have dinner”

      Why don’t you just put on your jeans, ironic t-shirt & flip-flops and eat at TGI O’Chilibees with the rest of the unwashed masses then Mikey?

      • There are not two absolutes: upscale dining or “White Trash Night” at TGI Friday’s.

        Believe it or not, there are many options in Cincinnati that don’t require one to feel obligated to get dressed up or spend a lot of money to enjoy good food and a good atmosphere.

        I’m of the opinion that you don’t need to spend a lot for good food, and that not spending a lot doesn’t relegate you to chain restaurants or, for that matter, wearing flip-flops and an “I’m with stupid” t-shirt.

      • mens toes should be outlawed, for one… for two…I prefer upscale restaurants…I just dont prefer to put on a jacket and tie to enjoy myself in them…

        and ill leave dining at tgiochillibess up to the person who has nothing better to do than shamelessly flame others via a blog about clothing options when they go out for dinner.

        Have a nice weekend.

  • I like how it is juggled back and forth every year..Boca then was Pigall’s. Was Pigall’s then Boca and now…I agree with Mikey..Jean Roberts Table and then Boca..The only reason it was switched this year is because Jean Robert was not open yet.I’m glad Orchids benefited this year.Maybe someone else will next year.
    Also,maybe we can get a top ten without Kentucky restaurants next year too? I love them,but….Best of Cincinnati?
    Why does Ruby not make the list? He has proven restaurant after restaurant that he must have some skills? They are still open.The precinct has been open how long? He must be serving something edible?

  • No Jeff Ruby’s restaraunts because the godfather himself wrote the magazine and told them never to include any of his properties in their “Top 10 Popularity Contest masked as a Best Of guide” again. True.

  • @ Mickey. Orchids is by far the best restaurant on the list. This is an award they have received for three years in a row. Boca does a great job and is continuously up there as they should be. You can wear khakis and a golf shirt to dinner at Orchids and be perfectly fine – I definitely think that with all the accolades they receive, not just from the magazine but overall, you should give them a try before you bump them to number 4 next year:)

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