In a country where it sometimes feels like you can find whatever you want to eat at any time of day, anyone who’s spent any time in Cincinnati knows that this is one city where it really does pay to have a healthy appetite. To give you some indication of the passion the city’s residents have for their grub, the annual Taste of Cincinnati festival has been running since 1979 and regularly attracts more than half a million visitors.
In my view, often the best meals are those you grab on the hoof – it’s often prepped and cooked right in front of you, so the sight and smells really get your mouth watering. No queuing for a table, no waiting for service, just fast, delicious grub passed over the counter with a smile. They’re not always the healthiest, nor the easiest to eat, but for an instant flavour-rush they’re incomparable. Here are my top ten foods to grab on the go:
Reubens at Izzy’s
The Reuben sandwich is a thing of beauty. Hot corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss cheese, with a Thousand Island dressing, between two slabs of rye bread. Izzy’s, dating back to the early 20th century, specialises in Reubens and also throws in some variations including turkey, cod or pastrami to replace the beef.
Burritos at Habanero
Habanero sell great Latin-American snack food at their restaurant off Ludlow Avenue, but they also operate a food truck that roams the city tantalising taste buds at will. Their Baja fish taco platters and seared pork quesadillas are to die for.
Goetta from Glier’s
Glier’s produce about 450 metric tonnes of goetta, a delicious breakfast sausage, every year, and 99% of it is bought and eaten in Greater Cincinnati. Typically made from pork shoulder, with oats as the other principal ingredient, goetta is served on pizza, in crepes, with mustard, grape jelly or honey.
Frozen lollies from StreetPops
Perfect for a hot day, these sophisticated ice lollies are made using seasonal, local flavourings, and favourites include Vietnamese coffee, chocolate sea salt, souther peach sweet tea, and apple pie. You want a Fab? Head to the supermarket philistine!
Chili from, well, anywhere
There are more chilli restaurants per capita in Cincinnati than anywhere else, making it the chilli capital of the world. Local favourite Skyline chilli serves ways, which is a huge pile of meat stacked on a huge pile of spaghetti, topped with a huge pile of cheese. Huge.
Piada from My Piada
Piada is the greatest thing at the end of a heavy night out. A rolled wrap stuffed with grilled chicken, Italian sausage, calamari or steak with sauce and salad – if you can stop yourself going back for a second one then you must have the willpower of Yoda.
Gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches from C’est cheese
It took me about two minutes to get the joke in the name, I must be getting past it. You’d think there wouldn’t be very far you can go with grilled cheese sandwiches, but C’est Cheese are inspired. Take your pick from dozens of varieties of international cheese and breads.
Tom and Cheese from Tom and Chee’s
I bet you never even thought about grilled cheese doughnuts ’til right this second. I doubt many people do. But these guys did – whether that’s a good or bad thing to bring into the world is debatable, but you can’t fault the taste. Try one when you book a tour through Cincinnati with trekamerica.co.uk.
Waffles and more at Waffos
Oh breakfast, how I love thee. Especially when food trucks like Waffos serve me bacon and cream cheese, goetta, or barbecued chicken and gravy on a waffle for just a few bucks!
Pizza from Catch-a-Fire
Hopefully the wood-fired pizza oven in the van won’t catch fire, because this new food truck looks set to become a massive hit in Cincinnati with an incredibly tasty, if so far a little un-inventive, menu.
One of Rob’s greatest fears is that he will never be able to try every dish Cincinnati has to offer.