Throwback: Cincinnati

Of course one of my foodiest adventures this summer went down the week before Paris, therefore throwing this post on the back burner. I spent my last American weekend driving seven hours from Atlanta to Cincinnati to visit one of my best friends (and sorority “little”), Lizzy. She’s always talking about the Nasty ‘Nati and how great Ohio is, so I decided to scoot on up there and see what all the fuss was about.

Little (or Leetle, as I call her) always knows best and appreciates good eats. Needless to say, she gave me the food tour of a lifetime. Each move we made around the city revolved around dining joints and featured almost as much eating as EJ’s trip to Atlanta earlier this summer.

Here’s a play-by-play of my ‘Nati food adventure…

Skyline Chili

Ah, yes, perhaps the most raved about Cincinnati treat. While I was picturing one location in a touristy part of town, wall-to-wall with hungry diners, Skyline turned out to be a local fast-food joint, with several locations sprinkled across the city and state. Don’t let the word “fast-food” fool you. There’s something different about Skyline chili that makes it oh so good. Lizzy and her brother, Matt, didn’t mess around with their orders. I was expecting a bowl of chili but that wasn’t quite the case. This special chili recipe is preferred atop hotdogs and noodles. Cincinnati loves their wieners!  

Lizzy ordered a 3-way with Extreme Cheese – Greek spaghetti with chili and spicy cheese. Questionable but not bad. I went for two Classic Cheese Coneys – two hotdogs covered and smothered with Skyline chili and shredded cheese. Delicious! Matt went all out with three Classic Cheese Coneys with Extreme Cheese and Chili Cheese Fries. Cray cray. The Larsons can eat but would you believe me when I tell you that they’re all in tip top shape?

Lizzy’s 3-way chili

2 Classic Cheese Coneys

Three Coneys with Extreme Cheese and Chili Cheese Fries

Ice Cream Wars: Graeters vs. UDF 

Just when I thought I was getting a break after my Skyline Chili-induced coma, Lizzy suggested kicking off the Cincinnati ice cream tour. There are two famous, competing ice cream shops in town called Graeter’s and UDF (United Dairy Farmers). Since UDF was right down the road from Skyline, we decided to have a little dessert après our chili.

From the outside, UDF looks like your average gas station but inside lay a delicious (and famous) ice cream counter. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough through the glass. There was no question about ordering the best flavor combination ever heard of. YUM-MY. Lizzy ordered Dinosaur Egg – essentially green cookie dough ice cream. The Larson clan makes fun of her for ordering such a childish flavor, but she swears it’s the best at UDF!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough – a mouthful…literally.

Lizzy + her Dinosaur Egg

The following afternoon, after a lovely day at the Reds game, we swung by Graeter’s, the mysterious ice cream brand that I’ve heard Lizzy and others rave about for as long as I can remember. It’s the “world’s best French-pot ice cream” in which dark chocolate is melted and cooled in the ice cream, creating huge, oddly-shaped chocolate chips. I opted for Cookie Dough Chip while Lizzy had the very famous, Black Raspberry Chip. Graeter’s was definitly the true winner of this ice cream war, as their chocolate chips are every kids’ dream…SO. BIG.

OTR (Over the Rhine) 

After barely recovering from my afternoon of food, I joined Lizzy, Matt and their sister, Kelly downtown in Cincinnati’s recently revived area called OTR (Over the Rhine), an old German part of town. Like many neighborhoods springing up in several cities across the country, OTR has been revamped from ghetto to hipster paradise. Now I’m no hipster but I sure as hell love hanging out where they do! They always seem to find the trendiest, up-and-coming places. The main street was swarming with locals, enjoying drinks and waiting for tables at the many restaurants as the sun went down.
We raced around to put our names down pretty much everywhere and squeezed our way onto the porch of Bakersfield OTR. Following the crowd’s lead, we ordered some of the restaurant’s adorable (and trendy) margaritas served in mason jars. After an hour or so, we ventured across the street to Senate, our most hopeful dining destination.

Margaritas at Bakersfield OTR

After enjoying another cocktail and people watching at Senate, we finally scored a seat. Since I’ve mentioned that Cincinnati loves its wieners, it should be no surprise that Senate is popular for redefining the all-American hotdog with an eclectic mix of toppings.
We kicked off our meal with Lobster Mac & Cheese per Kelly’s request. Great choice. I then gave into my third sausage for the day and ordered the Lindsey Lohan with all beef hotdog, goat cheese, caramelized onions, bacon, arugula and balsamic. Kelly opted for the same while Lizzy chose the Dan Korman with red-canalini bean and Turkish lentil sausage, sun dried tomatoes, shaved fennel, arugula and goat cheese. Healthy…kind of. Leave it to Matt to go a step further with his dog and order a Trailer Park with bacon-wrapped beef hotdog, American cheese, coleslaw, crushed grippos and brioche bun. These all came with a side of Duck Fat Fries or Truffle Fries. Obviously I can’t argue with either one. Overall, Senate = amazing.

Truffle Fries

Lindsey Lohan hotdog

In a nutshell, the Nasty ‘Nati is definitely underrated…I LOVED it. Some additional highlights of my 48-hour escapade include shenanigans on Saturday evening in Mt. Adams (college bar scene on crack), an afternoon Reds game (beautiful view + fun times) and the endless hospitality at the Larson’s beautiful home in the Wyoming area of Cincinnati. I’ll definitely be returning for part deux.
Did I mention the GORGEOUS drive up I-75? Never have I ever been able to sit so calmly alone for seven hours. From passing through the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee to crossing over the breathtaking Kentucky/Ohio state line into Cincinnati, if you get a chance, drive it.

Here’s a shout out to Miss Leetle Lizzy, who visited me two years ago while I was studying abroad in Paris:

Lizzy’s visit to Paris (2010)


4 thoughts on “Throwback: Cincinnati

  1. Pingback: 5 Best Things I Ate in 2012: U.S.A. Edition « pamplemousse

  2. Pingback: Chicago Eats – Franks ‘n’ Dawgs « The Food and Wine Hedonist

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