Cincinnati Magazine’s Top Ten Restaurants 2011

This year’s got a few interesting ones… (See the lists from the past few years for reference)

1. Orchids at the Palm Court (Downtown)
2. Boca (Oakley)
3. Nicola’s (Over-the-Rhine)
4. The Palace (Downtown)
5. Bouquet (Covington)
6. Cumin (East Hyde Park)
7. Via Vite (Downtown)
8.  Nectar (Mt. Lookout)
9. Daveed’s (Mt. Adams)
10. Honey (Northside)

Best New Restaurant: Jean-Robert’s Table (Downtown), runner up Senate (Over-the-Rhine)

Remember that the magazine’s method involves “points”, and multiple visits and multiple diners’ opinions and scorecards are used.  It’s pretty thorough– probably the most thorough reviews of restaurants in town.  I don’t always agree– but I really respect the lengths Donna Covrett and her staff go to to make this list.

No high-end Asian or Indian cuisine this time, lots of Italian– a solid list.  What do you think? What’s missing?

I really like how they focused on 11 dishes under $10– so you can get a taste of the awesome work being done by chefs in Cincinnati on a bit of a budget.  You can catch them on

Don’t forget to pick up the rest of the issue, which I’m looking forward to reading, on newsstands March 2.  There’s a great article about artisan food makers and some details about an event called “Food + Thought” in March where you can talk to those artisans (think Shadeau Bakery and Fab Ferments).

27 thoughts on “Cincinnati Magazine’s Top Ten Restaurants 2011”

  • sorry to be so off topic, I do like the list for the most part. But hav eyou ever done a friday 5 or something for locally roasted coffee beans? or have a resource.

    p.s. Bouquet in Covington has had a few really bad reviews. Surprised to see that one.

  • We are also featured in artisan food makers section and we are going to be one of the featured artisan’s and providing some of the food at the Food + Thought events on March 10th and March 24th. We are very happy to see that 3 of the top 10 restaurants in the city, Orchids, Boca and Nectar, use our fabulous Red Wattle Pork. Hopefully next year it will be all 10!

    • Hey! Met you at the farm fair held at Park and Court Street in Covington last summer. Loved petting that pretty lil’ pig, and VERY happy that your pork is featured by three of the restaurants on the list. Eating local makes me very happy–and giving my money to establishments that care about the food they serve–where it comes from, the quality, will endear me to them forever.

      • That was a fun event and we met lots of really nice people. We’re hoping to do it again.
        We really enjoy selling to the restaurants. Thank you for supporting our customers and we addded Bouquet as a customer, too. They have all been really great to work with and it’s fun for us to see all the exciting ways our products are used.

  • I am kind of suprised with this list, I was really suprised when I saw it on Tuesday. I was glad to see that Honey is finally on the list, even though it probably took Slims closing for that to happen.
    Is anybody else suprised that Hugo is not on the list considering Sean is cooking a dinner at the James Beard House?

  • Not suprised about Riverside Korean on this list, they just havn’t been that good as of late.
    Here is a little about what donna does to compile the list. Donna comes up with a top 25 list and then tries all them during the month of Novemeber. This includes mulitple visits to restaurants that have scored highest. If somebody at a restaurant knows donna, she arrives late and asks her friends she is dining with if service has been impacted since she sat down.

    Not suprised at all about local 127, not being on the list. I was there back in november and recently and a few things were underseasoned and few things just didn’t mesh.

    I think the palace should be number three ahead of Nicola’s.

    A good thing about this list is it brings new diners to a restaurant they might not have tried before like for example Bouquet is going to be very busy now. Plus a few of these are doing restaurant week.

  • I too am shocked not to see Local 127 on the list. My experiences there have been consistently great. I have to believe Via Vite made on the list because of the location. The food is unimaginative, the staff is sloppy, and the chef needs to go to San Francisco to learn that Cioppino is a little bit of heaven, not someplace to utilize trimmings.
    Hugo should be on the list also, Chef Sean Daley IS cooking for the James Beard Foundation. His lowland offerings warm the cockles. Here’s to you Sean!
    French fries and hot dogs at the Senate over Le Poste? Gimme a break! The Senate deserves a “trendy hipster hangout” award, and that’s about it. The place is just plain claustrophobic.
    Also, in the ca

  • Am surprised to see Via Vite on the list….haven’t had a good meal there yet. Quite a rebound from not being on the list last year.

    Really surprised DaVeed’s is #9….he (and Zack) are magicians working out of the 12′ x 7′ kitchen.

  • A little off-topic as well, but not entirely: These types of restaurant rankings or reviews across US cities can be useful, no doubt. They do give me an idea of what to try if I have not heard of a place. Unfortunately, from that point on it’s a crapshoot. Until someone in the US comes up with something as credible, consistent, and generally respected locally as Europe’s Michelin Guide, restaurant reviews in the US are just a heartbeat away from press releases. Last time I heard (and I admit I have not looked into it recently) MG had a select number of US cities in the US covered, but not surprising the intended audience was primarily European travelers. I don’t think we’re quite ready for prime time in this category… but I’d love for a local publication to surprise me. And don’t get me wrong: I’m not necessarily wishing for a list or publication here at home where a chef could commit suicide if a “star” is withdrawn from their listing. Just one where I don’t have to commit harakiri myself after using up a perfectly good evening that I’ll never get back.

  • I am also a little surprised Hogo is not top 10. Just got the new issue and glanced at it but have not gotten to read it all yet. Donna does a great job (tough job but someone has to do it) but I wish they would expand it to 15 or 20 places, or at least mention the list beyond the top 10 and perhaps discuss the ranking.

  • Hello Julie and WMDM fans –
    Thank you Julie for posting info about our March issue, and thank you to all of you for caring enough about Cincinnati’s culinary community to engage in daily discussions with Julie about what makes a great one.

    I’d like to address a couple of questions & speculations posted in comments above.

    *If the Top 10 list was about food alone, it might be a different list. In addition to several criteria regarding the food, our scoring system also includes measures in service and atmosphere, as well as a few miscellaneous items. Actually, it’s a system inspired (in part) by the Michelin Guide, and requires a lot of work, critical acumen, and endurance from a team of 12 diners (none of which other than myself are affiliated with the magazine). Writing a “heartbeat away from press releases” sounds so much easier! And boring.
    *33 restaurants were visited beginning in late September and ending late November.
    * Slims was visited and scored long before they announced their closing. Unfortunately they scored low this year, and would not have made the list even if they had remained open. That said, we’ll miss Slims. It was an innovative restaurant that made an indelible mark on our restaurant scene.
    * I like much of the food at Local 127, but their overall score was not enough to jump on the list.
    * Sean Daly is a great chef, and Hugo is a wonderful restaurant. I was disappointed they did not make the T-10 list this year ( by 1 point), but I honor the system we created.
    * Asian and Japanese cuisine are personal faves. Though both Jo An and Riverside Korean have been on the T-10 list in the past, neither scored high enough this year. We scored Sichuan Bistro as well, a suburban strip mall restaurant whose food from their “authentic Sichuan specialties menu” I am crazy mad for. I would have loved to see them in the T-10, but despite the wicked good food, the overall score wasn’t high enough.
    *While the exterior / neighborhood / location of a restaurant matters, it’s not solely enough to put a restaurant on the list. So no, Via Vite is not on the list because of it’s location.
    * Yes, Bouquet has had mixed reviews, mine included (April 2010). But when we revisited in the fall, it was Game On. We’re absolutely thrilled they jumped on the list.
    *Senate has some wonderful dishes beyond their haute dogs and fries, and some snappy service. Yes it’s crowded and narrow, but that’s part of its liveliness. I am a big fan of La Poste as well, but they scored a couple of points lower at the time (an interview with one of the LP owners, Jens Rosenkrantz, is featured in this issue).
    *We have written about the process for ranking the Top 10 restaurant list over the years, but apparently it is overlooked. Cincinnati Magazine is launching a new and much improved website on March 3rd (crossing fingers we hit the date) with several interactive components. The Top 10 how-we-do-it will be featured; readers will be able to post their thoughts and ideas about the process, and I’ll be available to answer your questions.

    Like most businesses, restaurants are not faultless, and every restaurant on this list is subject to off days and/or nights, dishes that don’t work, service that stumbles or gets bogged down, and naturally, your preferences.

    In addition to the “best” restaurants and 11 dishes under $10, I hope you’ll take time to check out the articles on The Gourmet Room; 15 food artisans (“They Are What You Eat”), some cool kitchen tools, four restaurants worth a road trip, an interview with La Poste owner and wine enthusiast Jens Rosenkrantz, a look at Kroger’s produce tracking system, and Jason Cohen’s funny and insightful article on trucking around town with Cafe de Wheels.

    A sincere thank you for supporting our culinary scene!

  • The list isn’t really a surprise, it’s for the most part the same 15 restaurants every year shuffled around. A good half of this list wouldn’t make the top 25 in St. Louis or the top 100 in Chicago. It’s sad is that Cincinnati doesn’t have more new restaurants — restaurants that try something new and stay open.

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