I have to say, trying to find a true vegan restaurant in Cincinnati was very, very tough. As in, there aren’t any, well downtown that is. And does someone who eats a vegan diet have to only eat at vegan restaurants? No, of course not. In fact, I know vegans who regular steak houses because they have amazing baked potatoes, sweet potatoes and salads. So regular in fact, that the owners and wait staff are on a first name basis with them. But, I write a vegan blog, and my whole purpose in traveling to other cities is to find those hidden gems in the cities I travel to, not the typical places that exist around the country; the Chipotle’s and Tokyo Joe’s if you will. We all know those establishments are great places to eat and have good options for those who eat vegetarian and vegan. But I want to find the places that are either hidden in the city or aren’t obvious choices for plant based food.
So what did I find in Cincinnati? I learned that Graeter’s Ice Cream and LaRosa’s Pizza are pretty much city staples. And well, honestly, people here in Cincinnati love their meat! They are very serious about. So many award winning steak houses around the city, not to mention Cincinnati Chili (for those unfamiliar with what Cincinnati Chili is, as I was until a couple of months ago, it’s basically chili poured over spaghetti noodles. Make it a 3 way by adding diced onions and grated cheddar cheese). And there are quite a number of pig statues around in the restaurants as well, which I learned is to recall Cincinnati’s annual Flying Pig Marathon and the city’s’ nickname of “Porkopolis”. The city’s nickname dates back from the mid 19th century, when the Cincinnati meat packing industry led the country. There is an actual historical importance of the pig industry in this city.
I know vegetable eaters probably don’t care much about that fact, but it is a big part of this city’s history and I felt like I needed to share it. We can’t ignore a part of history just because we don’t like or approve of it. However, healthier, plant based options and restaurants are creeping their way into the city of Cincinnati.
Restaurants like Melt, which is dubbed a humble yet hip spot delivering health-oriented sandwiches, salads & entrees with a global bent, are making a statement with their food. Every local I asked about where to find vegan food pointed me to Melt. This is the place to go if you want that vegan Cincinnati Chili. They offer a fabulous black bean chili that they make in house-with chocolate and all! They also have an incredible vegan mac n’ cheese and offer alternative proteins like tempeh and seitan. Even though they serve meat and dairy cheeses as well, they are building a name for themselves as the “vegan’s place the eat” in downtown Cincinnati. With now 2 locations, find them on the north side of town or at their new location in the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC).
I ate at a restaurant called Kaze (pronounced Ka-zay), that was a Japanese Sushi Bar/gastro pub/beer garden, located in OTR. That type of restaurant is new to Cincinnati. But they had a fabulous roasted vegetable bowl with rice and miso butter. It was loaded with fresh veggies like red potato, mushrooms, broccoli , brussel sprouts, carrots, seaweed, radish, green beans and celery. It was to die for. And enormous, I couldn’t eat all of it. But I gave it my all that’s for sure. 😂They also had a few selections for vegetarian sushi. I had the kito roll, which was sweet potato, asparagus and avocado. And instead of using soy sauce and wasabi to eat it with, the chef provides a chimichuri sauce with this particular roll. So yummy!! I wish I would have ordered more….
If you’re looking for a light lunch with a more urban feel to it, check out the Coffee Emporium, a neat coffee shop located at the south side of OTR. Phenomenal coffee, ☕️ as they roast their own beans in house and have dozens of varieties. My brother in law would love this coffee shop!
I had an iced coffee and the rich flavor it had was out of this world. It was very refreshing. They also have hummus pita sliders, pitas topped with hummus, sliced tomato and sliced green apple. I never would have thought to combine hummus and apple but it worked really well. Hats off to whoever has thought of that!
My last night in Cincinnati, I ate at a place called Maplewood Kitchen and Bar. Located right by my hotel in the Central Business District, it was kind of an accident that I stumbled upon it. But happy that I did. Known for their extensive brunch menu, Maplewood Kitchen has a sit down restaurant feel to it, but you actually walk in, order your food then sit down. The bartender said that it just helps the whole place run smoother, especially mid week when all the business folk have to eat and get back to work after lunch in a timely manner. I sat at the bar however, where it can be full service if that’s what you desire. I am really enjoying sitting at the bar, because being a party of one it’s a less awkward place to sit and you can socialize with others around you if you want to, or not! There are no set rules. Plus, they keep the wine at the bar…..
The Maplewood Kitchen has a fabulous power bowl with quinoa and farro, avocado, tomatoes, beets, crunchy green beans, grilled corn on the cob, and arugula. For you vegetarians out there, they can add two poached eggs to it if you like. This bowl was crunchy, filling and satisfying. It had amazing flavor too, with a slight hint of pepper in every bite to give it some kick.
I also ordered their wild mushroom toast with whipped goat cheese, but they were out of it. So I settled for their tomato toast. It was extremely creamy and tasty, especially with that tang of goat cheese mixed with the juice from the tomatoes. Num! Tomatoes are a good second to mushrooms.😝
There is a pizza place that I was trying to get to, but because of the holiday weekend it was closed multiple days. The Kitchen Factory, formally known as Northslice Pizza, serves traditional New York style pizza by the slice or whole pies. But they also have a vegan menu, offering vegan pizza, vegan meatballs and their own vegan mac n’ cheese. So if your ever in the mood for pizza and in the north side of town, give The Kitchen Factoy a try. They have late night hours with a late night menu as well.
Check out my post for 1215 Wine Bar and Coffee Lab for a mellow place to hang out for lunch or drinks at night!
Walking around the city all weekend, shopping and eating food, total dream. I cannot believe this is my life!
Until next time…