Bred on Louisiana-style cooking, local restaurateur Grant Gieseler was dismayed by the lack of quality southern fare in the Cincinnati area. He and his business partner Blake Gieseler founded Bayou Fish House to introduce the area to fresh fried fish and hearty gumbo. Diners can grab meals to go or kick back at the bar or seating area and tell exaggerated tales about the biggest fish they ever ate. The eatery's walls sport a paddle, a life preserver, and various aquatic tchotchkes to remind fish of their home.
Conceptualized by Chef Joshua Steven Campbell, a Cincinnati native, Mayberry and World Food Bar bring creative tastes to the community without ever pressuring the community to adopt creative eating techniques in return—traditional methods such as teeth and forks are acceptable. Mayberry's modest, warm atmosphere invites patrons to feast on fancified versions of classic comfort food such as the Sloppy Josh sandwich (slow-cooked beef with rosemary and spicy mustard, $7) for lunch, paired with a tater-tot casserole ($3). Transitioning palates to dinner hour are elegant small plates such as pepper-bacon-wrapped pork medallions sweetly accompanied by barbecue chickpeas and goat cheese ($10) and the restaurant's herbed flatbread with guava, kalamata olives, and feta cheese, which can be made with lamb or with minted tofu for vegetarians ($10).
Since his cooking days at his East Hyde Park restaurant, Cumin, Chef Yajan (Yaj) Upadhyaya has been enamored with creating both traditional and new Indian dishes, as highlighted by Polly Campbell for the Cincinnati Enquirer. In his latest culinary venture, Mantra on the Hill, Chef Yaj continues to make authentic Indian food pop by pairing it with his take on other culinary elements such as spicy southern plates and Indochinese dishes. And the Indian cuisine itself derives not from one region of the subcontinent, but many. This melding of old and new, East and West, means during lunch and dinner hours, the head chef seasons chicken and shrimp with traditional Indian spices before baking fresh in the kitchen’s tandoor, which also cooks several vegetarian meals and fresh naan described as "buttery and very pleasant” by CityBeat.
To attract a crowd after most children have gone to bed and most children on the other side of the world have woken up, Chef Yaj also curates a late-night menu. With it, he showcases the same ability to unify disparate inspirations, from masala fries topped with a curry sauce to lamb sliders. And it’s not just food that might draw diners in at the end of a long day—10 signature cocktails quell thirst, and the name of one of them, the New Old Fashioned, perfectly characterizes the restaurant’s theme as a whole. Of course, the staff also pours domestic and imported beer and enough wine to float a cruise ship.
Mantra on the Hill’s decor is as elegant as the food is flavorful. Exposed brick and tan-colored walls create a neutral backdrop to the vibrant artwork displayed on them. On the outdoor patio, string light-festooned trees wrap around umbrella-covered tables—where guests enjoy their meals while listening to live music—and a light-green picket fence provides a winsome bookend to the pastel pink brick that defines the façade of the building.
When Bhopal native Rip Sidhu came to the states as a 25-year-old college student, he was sorely disappointed by the Indian food he found, according to a profile in Cincinnati Magazine. Before long, he was on the phone with his mother, learning how to make himself a proper curry. Although he started out as a software engineer, Rip soon decided to get out from behind a computer screen and into the food business. After a stint in a food court in Lexington, he and his wife Baljit opened the current incarnation of Bombay Brazier in 2010.
Resolving that this restaurant wouldn’t be just another generic Indian eatery, Rip and his wife decided to distinguish the establishment with sophisticated decor. They covered the floors with dark wood and commissioned Sikh-history paintings from artist Kanwar Singh Dhillon to hang on the walls. Their commitment to excellence extended to the kitchen as well. Instead of turning out curries overladen with cream and butter, Rip decided his chefs would simmer made-from-scratch sauces, craft their own paneer, and chop their vegetables by hand rather than throwing them under a lawn mower and hoping for the best. Bombay Brazier’s kitchen also cooks lamb, shrimp, and beef in a 400-degree clay tandoor oven and bakes naan with spinach, onion, and chili. While enjoying this bounty, guests can sip vintages from a wine room with 4,000 bottles or sample one of the bar’s 29 varieties of single malt scotch.
Though LaDawn has loved baking with her mother and grandmother since childhood, Sweets By LaDawn began as an accident. After LaDawn told her coworker that her (nonexistant) recipe for Italian cream cake was better than a local restaurant's, she then quickly cobbled together a cake to bring in. Surprisingly, all of LaDawn's coworkers agreed her cake was in fact better than the restaurant's, and the orders for cakes started coming in. After relocating to Cincinnati from Baton Rouge following Hurricane Katrina, she now creates custom cakes that she sculpts into 3-D shapes, tops with printed images, or frosts to a decorative finish. She starts with a choice of cake batter in flavors such as lemon, red velvet, or spice cake. From there, she can pipe cakes with a swirl of cherry, Oreo, or chocolate bavarian cream fillings. She then frosts the entire thing in a pristine layer of cream cheese, buttercream, chocolate ganache, or molded fondant. Outside of cakes, she also crafts cookies and cupcakes. Plenty of parking is available near Sweets by LaDawn, and customers may sit in the shop's outdoor seating area to enjoy treats from inside.
The year was 1854, and Bracker's Tavern had just opened its doors. Back then, the classic saloon served mostly booze, but before long, the tavern also offered complete meals. Over the next 150 years, it changed names and social status—the building became Ohio's first National Landmark in 1976. Today, the restaurant is known as the Rail House. And though its long history remains an integral part of its story, a fresh set of owners have updated the restaurant to keep with the times.
Upstairs, the Bourbon Lounge has live entertainment and high-definition TVs for watching sports games. Downstairs, the dining room still promises full meals, just like the saloon from which Rail House originated. The menu spans a wide range of cuisine, from casual burgers and sandwiches to fancier eats such as bourbon-glazed Scottish salmon and sirloin steaks.