The Gruff – Covington Ky

Yelp gave me a mixed bag of reviews on this place, so I was hesitant to try it. I’m so glad we did though. Gruff reminds me of the little market/eateries in Queens NY. It’s part store, part deli, part bar, and part restaurant. And I dig it. Plus all of their food/beers, etc is local. I’m into supporting local businesses. From the soap to the bakery, its all local to the tristate.

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The decor is really cute. I love the gruff theme since the restaurant is under the Roebling Bridge. (The prettiest bridge ever BTW) An old college friend’s work BLDG did all the neat artwork.

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The market isn’t huge, but has essentials and a good alcohol selection. They also have local art for sale as well.

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The restaurant itself isn’t super big so I could see where it would get crowded during lunch hour being so close to Downtown; but it was perfect for when were there at 4pm. (Yes, we eat at old peoples dinner times so we can take pictures of places when its not slammed.) I liked the picnic tables and kids area. I can’t wait to come back and drink happy hour beers too. They had a good local beer selection on tap.

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Onto the most important part- the food. It’s pretty much a pizza and sandwich place. They had a wood fire oven, but we didn’t get pizza. I didn’t care for the pizza they offered. I’m more of a fig and prosciutto kinda girl; not meat and potato pizza.

I tricked Lauren a little bit. She only gets chicken everywhere we go. They had something on the menu called “city chicken”. It’s pork. I told her they were little pieces of chicken kabobs and she devoured it. By the end she knew it was pork and didn’t even care.

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I got the fried chicken sandwich with the spicy slaw. The coating on the chicken was great. It was like a mildly spicy thicker coating. The inside of the chicken wasn’t dry, just too thick. It would have been great with more moisture. The slaw was good, but not wet or spicy. I think if the slaw had been a bit more wet (maybe like Eli’s slaw), the chicken sandwich would have been much more successful.   But I didn’t even care because OMG those fries. When I saw the menu I read pickled fries when I glanced at it. So i was shocked when PICKLE fries came out. They are delicious!!!! I ate all of them with the dill dip before I even touched my sandwich. Perfection.

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Since Lauren ate all her “city chicken”, I let her get dessert. She went with the M&M ice cream sandwich. They had some killer sounding desserts, like apple maple bread pudding. Again all local foods, even the pies!

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For sure go here and eat. Let me know how the pizza is when you do. I recommend going after lunch though.

Chandler Burger Bistro

Chandler Burger Bistro is one of the biggest restaurant comebacks I have ever seen. It is on Cleves Warsaw Pike on the West side of Cincinnati.  This is one of those restaurants that has TOTALLY reinvented themselves into something amazing.

I had been to Chandlers diners eons ago when I lived on the West side. I hated it. The food was stuff that my grandma would make for family meals. Think turkey and gravy or meatloaf. Chris (the ex-husband) liked it, but I did not. So when someone told me I had to check out Chandlers I was a little more than apprehensive.

Finally after some pics I saw on Facebook I decided to give it a second try. From the outside it doesn’t look super impressive. It’s in a strip-mall and due to the weather the patio is covered in plastic. But once I went inside-WOW. What a transformation. It looked so different I couldn’t remember what the old place even looked like.

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The decor was modern and nice, but the best part about this place was the service. The bartender was our server and I can not rave about her enough! She was so sweet and attentive. She was talking to Lauren and giving recommendations. Every patron that walked into the door while we were there knew her and she gave them hugs. Just based on her alone, its the kind of place I would go all the time if I lived close.

The food was 1 million times better than before. We started off with the Macaroni Gouda bites. ($6.99) Holy hell- I’m glad Lauren doesn’t like cheese, because I ate them all and didn’t want to share. They were soooo good. I could eat those everyday for the rest of my life and be a happy camper. Just seeing the pictures again makes me hungry!

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For dinner, Lauren got (shocker) chicken wings. The sauce was sweet and they were cooked really well. I have heard they have a great garlic sauce for wings too, but didn’t try them.

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I am so mad at myself. This place is suppose to have awesome burgers. I ordered this pineapple and teriyaki sandwich that I thought was a burger but was actually chicken. 100% my fault. It said chicken right on the menu. It was good, but next time I go back, I have to get a burger!

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I’m so glad the westside is getting all these great places to eat. Price hill chili and Sebastian’s have always been there, but with new additions like Incline Public House and now Chandlers- I’ll be eating over there a lot more.

Newport Aquarium

I just love the aquarium. I think I should have been a Mermaid in a former life. If you are going to be visiting Cincinnati, or live in the area and haven’t been- you must go. The levee is the perfect place to grab some lunch, see the aquarium, then grab some cold stone ice cream on the way out. (Or on the way to the duck tour- which is super cool.)

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The prices for the aquarium are normal aquarium prices, but if you live in the area, you’re better off to get annual passes. It is cheaper than two visits. If you get the passes at Christmas time, they are always buy 3 get one free too! That is what we did, and I got them for Chad, Haleigh, Lauren, and I.

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It tends to get pretty crowded on the weekends, so I like to go early during the week.  They have a great array of fish with cool tunnels and petting areas. You get touch baby sharks and turtles now. I wish they would get a dolphin exhibit though. Ever since I swam with them, I LOVE dolphins and am mildly obsessed.

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The aquarium is a really cool place to take your kids. Especially when its super cold in the winter. Great indoor activity place. The kids will love it. It is well staffed and the restrooms have always been very clean when we’ve gone. (Which is surprising.)

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Brothers – Newport

Brothers sports bar has been on the levee for a long time now. It’s one of those places I love to hate to go. It is so convenient for when we use our aquarium passes, so we find ourselves there a few times a year. The food is always pretty good, but the service perpetually sucks.

I’ve been there when it’s packed for NCAA UK games, and when its dead empty on a Tuesday- still sucks equally. One time, we were the only table in the entire restaurant and my server seemed to have lost us.

This time we went after the aquarium again. I took Lauren and two of her friends. Out of the 10 or so times I’ve been there, this was better than the others server wise. She took our order fast, got the food out fast, then nothing. I didn’t see her for a solid 15 minutes. Finally she came out and we got the check. Ugh I was rooting for one good service!

Anyway to the food. Like I said, if you can just eat at the bar, the food is pretty good. Pub fare, but done well.

The girls all split some chicken wings and cheese fries. They ate them all and said they were really good.

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I went with the blue cheese tavern chips. They had too much blue cheese on them, but other than that they were delicious! Next time I go, I’ll def get these again and just order blue cheese chunks on the side.

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I do like the bar and they have a good beer selection. With lots of TVs, a cool outdoor space, and a killer view, its the place to go for sports and drinks. The food is yummy, but not worth the wait when you have little ones with you.

Brio Newport

Brio and Bravo are two of my favorite chain restaurants. They toe the line of good upscale Italian without being horribly overpriced. It is slightly higher than other local Italian chains like Olive Garden, but the quality is always above. (But I do love me some Olive Garden too.)

This time we went to Brio in Newport, KY. The decor is elegant with rich golds and deep red fabrics. The kitchen showcases a large brick oven the dinning room. Off in the corner there is a bar. Its tucked away which is kind of nice so you can’t hear the bar crowd if you’re on a romantic date.

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Lauren went with her usual-chicken fingers and fries. They did include a really good fruit cup, which I loved. She drank three glasses of their homemade lemonade with a sugar rim too. Said it was the best shes ever had.

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Kate got the grilled chicken breast with root vegetables and mashed potatoes. She said it was really good.

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Both of us ordered lobster bisque as an appetizer. SOOO good but lacked some lobster pieces. I think we both had one small chunk of lobster in each of them. For the price, you would expect a bit more. But the flavors were great and I ate it all.

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I ordered the beef carpaccio. I LOVE raw meat. I know, its weird, but the flavors really come out when you don’t cook it. This one was huge, with a nice salad, and some kind of aioli. The capers were the perfect amount of salt. I would definitely order this again.

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I think you should go check it out. It’s a great reliable go to place for a small celebration or date night. Fancy, but not too fancy. Not cheap, but not Morton steak house expensive either. You know it’s going to be good every time you go, and that’s very important.

Katharina’s Newport

We went by this place after the library and decided to get some pastries. Unfortunately we must have hit them on an off day. They had their entire lunch menu available but only one pastry. (If we hadn’t just eaten, I would have KILLED that menu. It looks amazing and I cant wait to go back this week and try it.)

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The building is super cute and the decor is classic and elegant. This would be a perfect place for ladies luncheon. Even though its a German cafe, it has more of a French vibe with the decor.

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Lauren opted for hot chocolate and I got a chocolate croissant. They had a delicious looking cake in the case, but she said it wouldn’t set for about another hour. The lady was super nice and mentioned it is best to come on Friday and Saturday. They have their full selection available then.

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The croissant was really good. Flaky and airy with just enough chocolate. Lauren pretty much ate all of mine she liked it so much.

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The hot chocolate on the other hand wasn’t what we were expecting. It tasted different, kinda bitter. We were expecting regular hot chocolate, so if you get this, be prepared for less sweet than normal. I don’t know if it was baking chocolate vs. milk chocolate or just the German chocolate, idk, but it wasn’t for us.

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We will have to come back and try this place out on a weekend. Im interested to try the food and some more baked goods.

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York Street Cafe- Newport

I have been trying to scope out Newport’s food scene since I moved here. There are way more choices than I first thought. (Still not to compare to OTR, but not bad.) I drove past York Street one day and decided to stop by for lunch.

The decor was really awesome. It reminds me of a cross between Terrys Turf Club and Ottos. There are knickknacks everywhere. There is some art, and some very creepy baby doll heads too. It would make a great first date place, because it gives you so much to talk about just with the decor. You could be there all day and not see everything. It was really neat.

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They mentioned they had a kids corner online. It was just really a couch with a few books. The books were geared to kids under 5. Awesome concept, but could use some updating.

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I turned to Yelp to help me decide what to eat. But when I got the menu I was super disappointed.  The lunch menu doesn’t carry anything that Yelp recommended. It really only carried sandwiches and Mediterranean appetizers. Both of which I’m not a huge fan of.  Lauren didn’t want anything on the menu, and i just gave in and went with a burger.

It was a good burger. Filling; but nothing out of this world. Tastes like one I would make at home. I do like that they use a local meat place for the patty (Eberts meats) that’s why I got it. The sodas were in small little bottles. I’m a huge soda drinker so mine was gone in two drinks. They were cute and kitschy just like the decor; but I’d recommend ordering a water with yours.

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I’ll have to go back and try them for dinner. I really want to try the Amish Chicken and shrimp Alfredo. The dinner prices are on the higher side so I’ll probably have to wait a while for that.

I also wanted to give a big shout-out to everyone for nominating eatingcincy for blog of the year for Best of Cincinnati. It was an awesome surprise to come home from Haiti and see that. You guys are rock-stars!