Welcome to Cincinnati, where plates of spaghetti aren’t covered in red sauce and Parmesan cheese. Instead, they’re topped with spicy chili, onions, beans and a heaping pile of shredded cheddar. There’s something unique about Cincinnatians and their food, but I won’t spoil it. Whether you’re a seasoned local or a newcomer, the flavors of Cincinnati are waiting for you.
1. Holtman’s Donuts
Since its opening in 1960, Holtman’s Donuts has become a local favorite for anyone in need of a sweet morning pick-me-up. Want to try a Fruity Pebbles donut? A deep-fried cake donut? How about maple bacon? They’ve got it all. Visit their OTR location at 1332 Vine St. from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday and Monday, or 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
2. Skyline Chili
Cincinnati is almost synonymous with Skyline Chili. If you’ve never had it, you’re missing out big time. Try a “three-way” dish that features a plate of spaghetti covered with their secret recipe chili and a pile of shredded cheddar cheese. For vegetarians in need of a fix, try Skyline’s vegetarian three-way, which replaces the meaty chili with black beans and rice. The Ludlow Avenue location is open from 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. Monday to Thursday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday.
3. Graeter’s Ice Cream
Graeter’s has been a Cincinnati staple for almost 150 years. This iconic, handmade French-pot ice cream is absolutely one-of-a-kind. With flavors like black raspberry chip, bourbon pecan chocolate chip, strawberry cheesecake and vienna coffee, it’s easy to understand why Graeter’s is such an iconic part of the city. Stop by 334 Ludlow Ave. from 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday; 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sunday.
4. United Dairy Farmers
UDF’s malts and milkshakes put Dairy Queen to shame. They can mix any combination of flavors for the shake of your dreams. If you’ve never been, plug 3030 Burnet Ave. into your Maps app between 5 a.m. and 1 a.m. There’s also a 24-hour location at 3325 Clifton Ave. Try a peanut butter-marshmallow shake, or build your own malt. You’re welcome.
5. Hangover Easy (H.O.E.)
H.O.E. is becoming a local favorite among Clifton residents, and the reasons are obvious. With eclectic takes on classic dishes, they’ve got something for everyone. Visit H.O.E. from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Try the Walk of Shame: “sausage, bacon, American cheese and a fried egg all on a grilled Holtman’s donut.” Located at 13 W. Charlton St., this dog-friendly brunch spot won’t let you down.
6. Taste of Belgium
Think you know waffles? Think again. Located just across campus, Taste of Belgium has the best waffles you’ll ever eat. The dough is thicker than regular waffle dough, and Belgian beet sugar crystalizes into a crunchy dream no bigger than your palm. Taste them for yourself at 2845 Short Vine St. Hours vary.
7. LaRosa’s Pizza
Locals crave it. Newbies love it. LaRosa’s hand-tossed pies are a must. In 1954, Buddy LaRosa opened the family pizzeria in Cincinnati. With their secret sauce and perfect hand-tossing, it’s no wonder LaRosa’s is the No. 1 pizza in Cincinnati. They’re open from 10:30 a.m. to midnight on weekdays and until 1 a.m. on weekends. Visit the location on Short Vine or bring it home for a taste of pizza perfection.
8. Tucker’s Restaurant
Tucker’s is a small diner in Greater Cincinnati that features breakfast and brunch dishes. You’ve got to try the goetta. It’s a German-style breakfast dish well-known to locals. It’s pronounced “GET-uh,” and it’s got a flavor all its own. Sometimes known as a German breakfast sausage, goetta has been a Cincinnati breakfast necessity for more than two centuries. The recipe is essentially a pork sausage mixed with oats, fried on a griddle and served with eggs. For an authentic plate, visit Tucker’s at 1637 Vine St. from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.
9. Montgomery Inn
Montgomery Inn makes a barbecue sauce that’ll make anything taste like heaven. Put it on a slab of their ribs, and you’ll melt. Their sauce is famous in Cincinnati and beyond, and for good reason. Have a taste and you’ll swear by it. For an equally famous flavor, try the Saratoga chips! It’s located at 925 Riverside Drive and is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday and until 11 p.m. on Friday. For a saucy weekend, visit between 3 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Saturday and until 9 p.m. on Sunday.
10. Tom + Chee
It all started right here in Cincinnati’s Fountain Square. From the Grilled Mac + Chee to the Grilled Cheese Donut, Tom + Chee’s inventive approach to the American classic has led them to appear on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” “The Chew,” and The Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food Nation.” Their grilled cheese recipes are unique and guaranteed to satiate any cheese-lover’s craving. The original location is less than 2 miles from campus at 125 E. Court Street. They’re open all week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on weekends from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Let us know in the comments which Cincinnati dishes are your favorite!