Please named Best Cincinnati Restaurant of the Year
Cincinnati restaurant, Please, named restaurant of the year. Chef Ryan Santos talks about the restaurant.
The Enquirer/Phil Didion
A lot of restaurants opened in Cincinnati in the year that just ended, from ice cream shops to fast-casual salad places.
A lot of them were good. There are talented cooks working at all levels of food service in Cincinnati. But when it comes to selecting the year’s most good, the very best restaurant, I’m not thinking of ice cream shops or salad places.
I’m thinking of a restaurant with a full menu, a chef with vision, a menu that embodies a food philosophy. A restaurant for people who love restaurants, one that adds something new to the Cincinnati food scene. Not to mention a wine list, good cocktails and reservations.
I’m thinking of Please. (Its doors opened in 2016, but it’s an honorary 2017 restaurant because I did not eat there until last January.)
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Please’s food is exploratory, boundary-crossing, incautious. Owner Ryan Santos has taken inspiration from the hyper-local restaurants of Scandinavia, the tasting menus of Chicago, but has his own artistic ideas worked out in several years of pop-up dinners.
Not every restaurant can or should be like this, but it is the kind of restaurant that any city needs. The restaurant world, like any creative endeavor, has to keep moving, re-inventing, pushing on to keep things fresh. Please is at that end of a spectrum for Cincinnati.
1405 Clay St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-405-8859, please.cincinnati.com
Other best restaurants:
There’s more than one way to innovate, and in some ways, CWC, the Wyoming restaurant from the sister team of Cooking with Caitlin, is the most innovative restaurant of the year. Because Caitlin Steininger and Kelly Trush have done it their way, a way that works for their lives as parents, that steps past the macho demands of the typical restaurant. You can tell they didn’t come to the job of owning a restaurant the regular way.
So many restaurants make no emotional connection, but with the first friendly greeting at the door, and through a meal of delicious, fun and surprising food from the open kitchen, it’s emotional connection all the way at CWC.
1517 Springfield Pike, Wyoming, 513-407-3947, www.cwctherestaurant.com
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When it comes to a chef with vision, Panino must be mentioned. Like Please, it opened in late 2016. With its sandwich-heavy menu, it’s a bit too casual to be the best of the year. But there is such an integrity to this menu, with rustic, funky, rich charcuterie that emerges from the basement curing room, owner Nino Loreto’s fanatical devotion to local, and his grandfather’s butcher block incorporated into the signage.
1313-1315 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-0287, ww.finepanino.com
More boundary-pushing, at least geographically: Sarte OTR opened in the Rhinegeist building, well north of Liberty St. It’s a restaurant I look forward to revisiting in 2018, as its French-modern menu evolves and the large stylish dining room takes on a personality. The collaboration between old hand Jim Cornwell and young hand Justin Uchtman (a returnee to his hometown after learning his chops in San Francisco) makes for a solid menu with some flashes of wonderful.
1910 Elm Street, Over-the-Rhine, 513-879-1910, sartreotr.com
French Crust went north of Liberty first, and while it’s not exactly a new restaurant, it’s a lot different than the little original across from the library. French food is the mother of all restaurant food, and to have such a good example of the standards seems important. Also, we should be thankful for such beautiful French pastry.
1801 Elm Street, Over-the-Rhine, 513-455-3720, www.frenchcrust.com
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And, there was also:
The most beautiful restaurant: Casa Figueroa with its lively Mexican graphics and colors.
6112 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge, 513-631-3333, www.casafig.com
Best intersection for new bakeries: Main Street and 12th. Allez on Main with its crusty artisan bread, Brown Bear Bakery on 12th for its homey pastries.
1208 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-6700, www.allezbakery.com; 116 E. 13th St., Over-the Rhine, www.brownbearbakes.com
Most inspiring restaurant story: The owners of Namaste Curry House in Fairfield, who spent 20 years in a refugee camp before being suddenly transported to Chicago, and then to Cincinnati. Their optimism and graciousness are intact, filling me with wondering admiration. So do the momos.
6679 OH 4, Fairfield, 513-870-0067, www.namastecurryhouse.net
Best ice cream shop: Dojo in Northside: looks and acts like a soft-serve stand. Serves awesome handmade gelato and especially delicious gelato sundaes.
1735 Blue Rock St., Northside, 513-328.9000, www.dojogelato.com