Like a Local: The 7 Best Affordable Restaurants in Downtown Cincinnati

by Holly Riddle  |  Published March 1, 2018

Situated where Ohio and Kentucky meet, separating the south from the north, and defining itself as thoroughly Midwestern, Cincinnati lies in wait, a city undergoing a renaissance. As new initiatives draw in a younger workforce and a once-deserted downtown gains a spark of life, a fresh culture is emerging, a culture combining world-class shopping, dining and attractions…all sprinkled with a bit of historic flavor. 

Cincinnati’s status as an up-and-coming Midwest metropolis means travelers enjoy amazing, new chefs and restaurants, all at an affordable price (Photo: Amanda Rossman)

When one thinks of a Midwestern foodie haven, Cincinnati admittedly does not pop into mind first, or maybe even second. It’s likely your thoughts wandered to Chicago, St. Louis or maybe Milwaukee. Those who miss Cincinnati’s budding, vibrant food scene, however, are missing out. In a town where chefs come to get started, and then end up staying just because they love the region so much, there’s an endless amount of culinary treats to be had.


With two floors of colorful chaos and comfortable outdoor dining, there’s always room for a hungry traveler at Nada  (Photo: Boca Restaurant Group)

Nada is a trendy Mexican restaurant situated right in the heart of downtown Cincinnati, with a vibrant and lively atmosphere that fits right in with the menu — just familiar enough to make you feel easy, but eclectic enough to surprise and delight your taste buds. Try a trio of tacos, and go for the options that are far from ordinary, like the Señor Mu Shu (beer- and ginger-braised pork with sesame, ancho hoisin, lime, cabbage and avocado) or the Sir Winston’s Pot Roast (braised short rib, with whipped potatoes, crispy onions, horseradish and shishito peppers). Of course, the drinks are mandatory, and you can’t go wrong with the chile-mango margarita.

600 Walnut Street

A Taste of Belgium

When A Taste of Belgium’s owner, a native of the birthplace of the Belgian waffle, first got his start, he was operating a waffle stand out of the back of his friend’s farmer’s market setup. The waffles became more popular than his friend’s business, and before he knew it, he was looking for a new place to set up shop. Now, A Taste of Belgium has more than one location, each serving up delicious menus that combine Belgian tradition with Cincinnati culinary heritage. Try the goetta hash (goetta is a regional breakfast meat), the crepes, the frites and obviously the waffles. Whatever you order, you can be assured the ingredients are the finest available.

1133 Vine Street

Skyline Chili

Ask any Cincinnati native about chili, and you’ll be surprised at the laundry list of ingredients you’re given (Photo: Wendy Pramik, for USA Today)

Cincinnati chili is not your average chili. Infused with Greek-inspired flavors, and leaning toward the sweet side, Cincinnati chili is served over spaghetti, with your choice of toppings — beans, onions and/or cheese. There’s no spoons or twirling forks here, though. You’re given a knife and a fork, and expected to cut into your plate of chili like it’s a casserole. The hearty, heart-warming dish can be found many places in the area, but Skyline has arguably grown the biggest following. You can find people from all walks of life enjoying the city’s dish here on their lunch break.

1001 Vine Street

Maplewood Kitchen and Bar

The airy, hip and upscale feel of Maplewood Kitchen and Bar is only the first delight you’ll find at this heavily-lauded brunch spot. Head up to the counter, place your order and enjoy a coffee or mimosa while you wait for your meal to arrive. The focus on organic, healthful and local ingredients is palpable with the first bite. A lot of love and tender care go into each dish, whether you’re ordering the lemon ricotta pancakes or the chicken hash.

525 Race Street

 The Eagle, Over the Rhine

The Eagle doesn’t mess around when it comes to chicken (Photo: Dan Ledbetter)

When a restaurant professes its focus to be fried chicken, you know you’re in for a great time. The Eagle dishes up all-natural, brined, fried chicken, along with Southern sides, craft beer and live music. Order your chicken in whatever quantity you prefer, and then pair it with a selection of collard greens, spoonbread, sweet potatoes, grits, succotash and more.

1342 Vine Street

Gomez Salsa

Gomez is a little hole in the wall, quite literally. You walk up to the window on the sidewalk, place your order from a chalkboard on the wall and wait. Rain, snow or summer heat, it’ll be worth it. The crowd favorite is the Turtle Shell, a hybrid burrito stuffed with rice, beans, veggies, meat and cheese, and then sealed with a shell of exterior cheese. The Turtle Shell can easily serve two, but if you’re really hungry, don’t feel guilty about keeping it all to yourself. You surely won’t be the first.

107 East 12th Street

Findlay Market

Dining options are endless at Findlay Market (Photo: Liz Dufour)

The oldest continuously operating market in Ohio, Findlay Market provides a dining experience like none other. Stroll the booths and pick and choose your favorite treats for a hodgepodge meal that’s oh-so-right. There are a ton of food vendors to choose from, selling gyros, pierogis, baked goods, sweets, sandwiches, seafood and more. Beyond the food vendors, you’ll find a selection of craft vendors, so you can do a little shopping as you snack.

1801 Race Street