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cincinnati design guide

by Grace Bonney

Illustration by Julia Rothman

Today’s Cincinnati city guide update comes from original guide writer and local, Maya Drozdz of the Cincinnati-based design studio VisuaLingual, along with valuable assistance from Alli of the artsy, craftsy, eye candy-filled blog, One Pearl Button, and Sean of BuyCincy, a site devoted to Cincinnati’s local shopping, local people and local flavor. Thanks, Maya, Alli and Sean, for this marvelous update!

CLICK HERE for the full city guide after the jump!

Founded in 1788 on the edge of the Ohio River in Southwestern Ohio, Cincinnati was once known as the “Paris of the West.” Decades of early growth were followed by a downturn during much of the 20th century, so while other cities razed their historic neighborhoods and erected modernist skyscrapers, Cincinnati has retained much of the 19th-century architectural charm at its core and has more recently embraced cutting-edge architecture. This famously conservative city has actually contributed significant talent, including Rookwood Pottery, Charley and Edie Harper, Steven Spielberg, Jim Dine and, in his own way, Larry Flynt of Hustler. Cincinnati is also home to Skyline Chili, Grippo’s Chips, Busken Bakery, Glier’s Goetta, Husman’s Chips and Graeter’s Ice Cream. If you’re out exploring Cincinnati, Busken, Skyline and Graeter’s are great places for a snack, with stores in many neighborhoods.


Downtown Cincinnati is flat and compact, with the river as its southern boundary (and border with Kentucky). The rest of the city is uphill. Downtown is increasing its vitality with more restaurants, bars and shops, and it’s also a great place to wander around and check out some interesting architecture. We’ve highlighted some of our favorite stops.

Shopping + Sightseeing

Fabulous Frames & Art
A frame shop and gallery, Fab Frames is the biggest dealer worldwide in the works of beloved Cincinnati artists and illustrators, Charley and Edie Harper, as well as their son, Brett. Fab Frames has four other area locations.
17 West 4th St. 513.579.9998

Ingalls Building
This distinguished-looking building is the first reinforced concrete skyscraper and a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.
6 East 4th St.

Carew Tower and Netherland Plaza
Don’t let the lack of opulence on the exterior fool you (construction started just before the Great Depression). The (until recently) tallest building in Cincinnati has killer Art Deco touches on the inside. Dinner in the hotel’s restaurant is an expensive but oh-so-worthwhile affair, but a drink at the bar gets you into the same grand space for a lot less. For $1, you can check out the view from the rooftop.
441 Vine St.

Mercantile Library
Founded in 1835, the Mercantile Library is a membership-only library. Non-members can visit the opulent space (well worth it) but can’t use the stacks or the reading room. The Mercantile also offers a wide range of musical performances and lectures on topics of cultural significance.
414 Walnut St. 513.621.0717

Fountain Square
Recently renovated semi-public area, and a popular scene for free concerts, movies, and other events, Fountain Square features the glorious Tyler Davidson fountain — a gift to the city in 1871.
5th St. and Vine St.

Contemporary Arts Center
Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid, the CAC is a non-collecting museum that focuses on cutting-edge exhibitions and programming. The CAC Store offers a range of designer goods and prints, mostly sleek, high-end objects, plus some locally designed items.
44 East 6th St. 513.345.8400

Gwynne Building
An ornate building designed in the Beaux Arts style, the Gwynne Building used to serve as the headquarters for local giant Procter & Gamble.
602 Main St.

Ohio Book Store
An extensive bookstore that carries a vast range of new, used and rare books of local interest and beyond, including rare first editions and small-run books.
726 Main St. 513.621.7941

Cincinnati Public Library, Main Branch
Designed by noted local modern architect Woody Garber, the main public library is one of the largest in the country and worth checking out for its interior atrium and garden. There’s a little coffeeshop/lunch spot inside as well as a gift shop with a surprisingly good selection of items.
800 Vine St. 513.369.6900

Algin Office Furniture and Algin Retro
Two adjacent storefronts offering new furniture and accessories with a retro vibe and quality used office furniture.
800-810 Main St. 513.621.1616

Food + Drink

Tonic on Fourth
Super-swank upscale bar with gourmet “petite bites” and artisanal cocktails, featuring house-made bitters, liquors, tinctures and tonic. A good place to relax on the couches and take in the scene.
125 West 4th St. 513.721.1345

Local 127
A recently opened restaurant that emphasizes farm-to-table New American cuisine in a comfortable environment.
127 West 4th St. 513.721.1345

Sung Korean Bistro
Upscale bistro featuring clean, modern decor and subtle twists on traditional Korean recipes.
700 Elm St. 513.721.SUNG

JeanRo Bistro
Reasonably priced French country cuisine in a casual but classy environment.
413 Vine St. 513.621.1465

Via Vite Restaurant
Located right on Fountain Square, Via Vite offers a reinterpretation of Italian cuisine, including a delicious late-night menu of small dishes.
520 Vine St. 513.721.8483

Mynt Martini
Also on Fountain Square, Mynt Martini serves up tapas and drinks in a swank atmosphere.

This upscale Latin American restaurant is considered one of the best places to eat in the city (and serves up some of the tastiest margaritas). The men’s restroom shows Mexican wrestling movies and the women’s shows telenovellas.
600 Walnut St. 513.721.6232

Locally focused farm-to-table menu features reasonably priced reinterpretations of American comfort food like burgers and pot roasts.
915 Vine St. 513.381.5999

It’s Just Crepes
Two locations offer sweet and savory crepes that range from the typical (Nutella) to the unexpected (Hawaiian).
39 E Court St. or 151 W. Fourth St. 513.632.7373

Shanghai Mama’s
The most popular late-night joint downtown serves humongous bowls of rice and noodle dishes until 3am on the weekends. No dish costs more than $10. There is a full bar, and the ambiance is 1920s Shanghai.
216 East 6th St 513.241.7777

Arnold’s Bar and Grill
The oldest bar in Cincinnati serves up local, national and international beers in its outdoor courtyard and expansive indoor spaces. Music on the weekends is heavy on bluegrass and jazz. Arnold’s serves up decent food that’s a step or two above typical pub fare.
210 East 8th St. 513.421.6234

This neighborhood, just north of downtown, is experiencing a rebirth as more historic buildings are rehabbed and more businesses open in the area. OTR is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and features the largest collection of 19th-century Italianate buildings in the US. All the galleries schedule their receptions for Final Fridays of every month, when many local businesses stay open late as well. Because of gallery turnover and many temporary exhibition spaces, we’ve only highlighted a few of the more established galleries.

Shopping + Sightseeing

Memorial Hall A glorious Beaux Arts structure, Memorial Hall hosts live
performances, including the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Players and the annual MusicNow Festival.
1225 Elm St. 513.632.8280

Music Hall
Judged to be among the acoustically best and most beautiful concert theaters in the world, Music Hall is home to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Pops, Cincinnati Opera and the annual May Festival.
1241 Elm St. 513.744.3344

The Wooden Nickel
With an extensive selection of antique furniture and varied architectural salvage pieces, The Wooden Nickel spans several store fronts, with even more inventory in the basement.
1400-1414 Central Pkwy. 513.241.2985

A “green general store” with an ever-changing selection of apparel, home and personal accessories, cleaners, books and gift items that are eco-friendly and/or fair-trade. A great source for cleaning products and paints, the inventory also includes local apparel purveyors Nati Evolvement and Wire & Twine, and regular exhibits by Cincinnati-area artists and designers.
1109 Vine St. 513.721.7275 (moving soon to 1202 Main St.)

Urban fashion boutique showcasing “a fresh and unique alternative for fashion and clothing expression in Cincinnati.”
16 East 12th St. 513.407.8059

MiCA 12/v
Boutique focusing on high-end home decor, accessories and apparel with a wide range of brands including Third Drawer Down, Lotta Jansdotter, Jonathan Adler, Angela Adams, and Cincinnati-area design studios VisuaLingual and 3 Sheets to the Wind.
1201 Vine St. 513.421.3500

Little Mahatma
Folk art and jewelry with an ethnic twist, collected by Little Mahatma’s well-traveled owner Gloria.
1205 Vine St. 513.723.1287

Metronation is a boutique focused on furniture, home accessories and unique apparel for men and women. Also has a great selection of gifts — gourmet packaged foods, candles, glassware, baby items and toys.
1213 Vine St. 513.564.0095

Joseph Williams Home
Offers a selection of reasonably priced and apartment-scaled contemporary and retro-inspired home furnishing and accessories.
1232 Vine St. 513.721.3600

1305 Gallery
Always thought-provoking and engaging art exhibits.
1305 Main St. 513.374.5618

Original Thought Required
Street wear boutique and center of street wear culture in Cincinnati — think self expression through personal style, individuality and hip music.
1307 Main St. 513.246.4362

Atomic Number 10
Cute and quirky vintage and used clothing, accessories and furniture from the 1950s to 1990s.
1306 Main St. 513.226.0252‎

Urban Eden
Unique selection of gift items, accessories, urban gardening tools, affordable art and unique items, such an Indian saris.
1313 Main St. 513.621.3336

Designsmith Gallery
Tightly edited collection of high-end mid-century modern furniture, lighting, home accessories and art objects. Also displays contemporary (mostly local) art on its walls.
1342 Main St. 513.421.1397

Greg’s Antiques
If you’re outfitting a garden space or love shabby chic, this is the place for you. It’s filled to the brim with urns, wrought-iron window boxes, antique fencing, arbors, trellises and gazebos. Add in the occasional chandelier, stained glass panel or mantel, and you can lose yourself in here for hours (call ahead, as the hours are a bit sporadic).
1404 Main St. 513.241.5487

An eclectic gallery and performance venue that hosts everything from local and national bands to a weekly book club.
1219 Sycamore St.

High Street
Specializing in “gorgeous things for clever people,” High Street has cultivated a worldly and London-infused aesthetic with high-end furniture (Gus*Modern, Context, Lee), unique accessories (John Derrian, moooi, Ankasa), apparel (Suava Fashions), jewelry and an eclectic but extensive selection of art and design books. Also provides interior design services.
1401 Reading Rd. 513.723.1901

Among the many architectural walking tours the Cincinnati Preservation Association leads in the Architreks program are three through the historic neighborhood of Over-the-Rhine.

Food + Drink

Coffee Emporium
Skip the Starbucks — here you can choose from a huge selection of locally roasted artisanal coffees from all over the world.
110 East Central Parkway 513.651.5483

A cozy and comfortable spot to grab weekday lunch (and enjoy free WiFi!).
1106 Race St. 513.579.1106

Findlay Market
Ohio’s oldest continuously operated public market contains about two dozen merchants (specializing in meat, fish, sausage, cheese, cookies, spices, etc.) and is home to a weekend farmers’ market. Neighboring stores carry specialty ethnic foods (Asian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern), unique wines and beers and local produce and goods. Come on Saturdays to check out the farmers’ market, craft vendors, live music and, of course, the diverse crowds. Martha Stewart even visited and fell in love with the BBQ from Ms. Helen’s Grill!
Elder St. between Race St. and Elm St. 513.665.4839

Street food taken up a notch or two with a menu that features a lobster BLT, truffle fries and a hot dog of the day. They also have a great beer list.
1212 Vine St. 513.421.2020

Lavomatic Cafe
Lavomatic bills itself as an “urban wine bar.” But the food is pretty damn good, too. Locally raised and organic rabbit, chicken and buffalo highlight the menu.
1211 Vine St. 513.621.1999

Below Zero Lounge
A fabulous martini lounge with a great selection of hard-to-find vodkas. Straight out of Sex and the City right in Over-the-Rhine. Fierce!
1122 Walnut St. 513.421.9376

Iris Book Cafe
A gem of a coffee shop and used bookstore in one (also offers CDs and video rentals) featuring rotating photography exhibits on its walls and an incredible little courtyard in the back.
1331 Main St. 513.381.2665

The Famous Neon’s Unplugged
A neighborhood bar with an expansive patio, live music and bocce.
208 East 12th St. 513.827.9361

Tucker’s Restaurant
If you look up “greasy spoon” in the dictionary, you just might find Tucker’s, which was highlighted in an issue of Gourmet magazine. This is a small no-nonsense breakfast-and-lunch spot with diner booths and a counter and prices that are not of this century. A lot of the ingredients come from nearby Findlay Market, and the Tuckers themselves prepare your food. You might be surprised at how vegetarian-friendly this OTR institution is.
1637 Vine St. 513.721.7123

First opened in 1872 and recently reopened after a 25-year hiatus, Grammer’s serves as a reminder of the German tradition of Over-the-Rhine. For a good time, grab a Cincinnati brew and a brat and crack open one of their board games.
1440 Walnut St. 513.421.8300

Ollie’s Trolley
Yup, it’s a vintage trolley car parked on a corner that serves up some of the best burgers we’ve tasted, plus pulled pork, deep-fried turkeys and other meat-centered treats. Take-out only with limited picnic-style seating.
1607 Central Ave. 513.381.6100

Alabama Fish Bar
As the name implies, this is a take-out place to visit for fried fish and little else. It’s tiny, cheap, always crowded and the fried fish is excellent.
1601 Race St. 513.241.2255

Northside is truly eclectic. A bit off the beaten path, the neighborhood offers tons of charming independent shops, restaurants and bars, mostly on Hamilton Ave., its main drag. We just love a neighborhood where high-end footwear is as easy to find as vintage records!

Shopping + Sightseeing

Red Polly Space Outfitters
A stylish collection of vintage furniture and home accessories for very reasonable prices.
4016 Hamilton Ave. 513.541.6856

Handmade boutique, indie craft supply shop and gallery space all in one: a haven for local artists, designers and crafters. Located inside Red Polly.
4012 Hamilton Ave. 513.541.2394

Shake It! Records
This record store catering to neighborhood hipsters has its own record label, in-store performances, one of the city’s best used CD sections and a huge vinyl collection downstairs, plus a solid selection of eclectic books and magazines.
4156 Hamilton Ave. 513.591.0123

Prairie Gallery
Showcases the work of local and non-local artists in all media.
4035 Hamilton Ave. 513.557.3819

Northside House
An alternative art gallery that recently opened in a historic federal home, the Northside House is already proving itself to be a force in Cincinnati’s vibrant arts scene.
4034 Colerain Ave.

Visionaries & Voices
Non-profit gallery devoted to art created by individuals with disabilities; also provides support for artists, including job-coaching and portfolio-building.
3841 Spring Grove Ave. 513.861.4333

Happen Inc.
Arts organization that aims to bring adults and kids together through creative experiences. You can participate in many open studio times throughout the week, or come for a special art session. Most events are free, and supplies are provided.
4201 Hamilton Ave. 513.751.2345

Thunder-Sky Inc.
Gallery showcasing unconventional art and unconventional artists. A public art-making workshop is hosted here every Saturday.
4573 Hamilton Ave. 513.823.8914

Eclectic boutique offering vintage clothing, furniture, and accessories, affordable arts and craft and gallery space featuring a regular rotation of works primarily by local artists.
4577 Hamilton Avenue 513.542.4577

Food + Drink

Fine dining in a casual atmosphere with a regularly updated, seasonal menu that includes everything from bay scallops to meatloaf. If you go, be sure to try their Honey fries.
4034 Hamilton Ave. 513.541.4300

Take the Cake
Cute bakery and cafe with communal tables — stop in for a light lunch and follow it up with a decadent dessert.
4035 Hamilton Ave. 513.241.2772

Artfully prepared dishes made from locally grown ingredients in a comfortable, unpretentious atmosphere with communal tables and simple decor.
4046 Hamilton Ave. 513.681.6500

Northside Tavern
Rock and roll bar with a large outdoor area and concerts almost every day of the week.
4163 Hamilton Ave. 513.542.3603

Half-omnivore, half-veggie menu of sandwiches with fresh, often organic, ingredients and a delicious Sunday brunch.
4165 Hamilton Ave. 513.681.MELT

The Comet
Cheap and filling, The Comet’s burritos are deservedly renowned. This is also a cozy bar with an extensive beer selection and live music, with the Comet Bluegrass Allstars playing every Sunday night.
4579 Hamilton Ave. 513.541.8900

Clifton is (roughly) the area surrounding the University of Cincinnati. We’ve focused mostly on the Ludlow Ave. shopping district, which features many independent boutiques focusing on unique wares with a (dare we say it?) hippie twist. Ludlow is just northwest of campus, and a leisurely walk south will take you past Burnett Woods, a great park in the middle of the city.

Shopping + Sightseeing

Bellevue Hill Park
Enjoy lovely panoramic views of the city from this small park. The park also features a gorgeous mid-century stone pavilion.
2191 Ohio Ave.

Features a variety of African art and crafts, including totems, jewelry, sandals, mud cloth clothing and dashikis, as well as CDs, oils and soaps.
310 Ludlow Ave. 513.221.0700

Mustard Seed Boutique
Women’s new, used and vintage designer clothing and accessories, plus some locally-designed items.
311 Ludlow Ave. 513.221.4022

Esquire Theatre
One of the few independent movie theaters still in the city. Although some of the screens have gravitated toward Hollywood in recent years, this is still your best bet for indie and foreign films.
320 Ludlow Ave. 513.281.8750

Toko Baru & Toko Kidz
Unique, multicultural and New Age toys, clothing and accessories.
325 Ludlow Ave. 513.751.3338

Pangaea Trading Company
Women’s clothing and accessories with some eco-friendly offerings.
326 Ludlow Ave. 513.751.3330

Paolo & Paolo Modern Lifestyle
Custom jewelry design, as well as furniture, lighting, gifts and accessories from Kartell, Blu Dot, Knoll, Offi, Chilewich and more.
3408 Telford St. 513.751.2171

University of Cincinnati
The campus boasts many buildings by significant contemporary architects, including the Vontz Center by Frank Gehry, the Engineering Building by UC alumnus Michael Graves, the College of DAAP by Peter Eisenman and the Campus Recreation Center by Thom Mayne and Morphosis. You can schedule an architecture tour or simply wander through the expansive campus.

Rare, old and used books and treasures, such as antique maps.
214 W. McMillan St. 513.381.1340

Food + Drink

Sitwell’s Coffee House
In addition to a full range of coffee and tea drinks, Sitwell’s also offers breakfast, sandwiches, salads, desserts and a full bar. Vegetarian- and vegan-friendly offerings round out the selections.
324 Ludlow Ave. 513.281.7487

Ambar India
Believe it or not, Cincinnati actually has some pretty good Indian food. Ambar is tops here, where students from the nearby University of Cincinnati mingle with professors and neighborhood residents.
350 Ludlow Ave 513.281.7000

Sure, you could hit Chipotle, but you can do that at home. Habanero’s burritos are just as big but more inventive (and you can get a tasty draft beer as well).
358 Ludlow Ave 513.961.6800

Maki Express
Small space (only five tables) but good, affordable sushi. A favorite among students.
209 W. McMillan St. 513.721.6999

Myra’s Dionysus
Located in a Victorian house, Myra’s eclectic, mostly vegetarian menu includes Indonesian, South American, Indian and Mediterranean offerings, plus truly amazing soups and desserts.
121 Calhoun St. 513.961.1578

Cilantro Vietnamese Bistro
Not a bistro but a charming hole-in-the-wall that serves up some of the best pho in the city. Cheap, filling and delicious!
2516 Clifton Ave. 513.281.1732

Mecklenburg Gardens
One of the best places to experience Cincinnati’s deeply rooted German heritage, the 150-year old Mecklenburg serves German fare and large steins of lager.
302 W. University Ave. 513.221.5353

Mount Adams
Steep hills made transportation to this downtown-adjacent neighborhood difficult before the advent of the automobile. This makes Mt. Adams feel a world apart from the rest of the urban core. Now, the hilly but walkable neighborhood boasts some of Cincinnati’s best restaurants and nightlife and some of the city’s finest arts institutions. Plus, the views of the city can’t be beat!

Shopping + Sightseeing

Eden Park
This park offers respite in the middle of the city, with trails, a pond, free summer concerts, a beautiful gazebo and ice skating during the winter. Both the Art Museum and the Conservatory are located within the park.
950 Eden Park Dr.

Cincinnati Art Museum
Truly one of the city’s most treasured cultural institutions and free to the public, the CAM offers something for everyone, including one wing dedicated to Cincinnati, which is a great place to learn about the local creative legacy, including many examples of Rookwood Pottery.
953 Eden Park Dr. 513.721.2787

Krohn Conservatory
Free to the public, the conservatory features a lush selection of tropical plants such as palms and orchids, plus a 20-foot tall waterfall and a small but very cool store that sells plants and gardening supplies and accessories.
1501 Eden Park Dr. 513.421.5707

Food + Drink

Blind Lemon
Unique, cozy pub featuring a patio with a bonfire (weather permitting) and live music nightly.
936 Hatch St. 513.241.3885

The Rookwood Bar and Restaurant
Upscale dining in the former studio and manufacturing facility of the Rookwood Pottery Co. Trust us, it’s worth calling ahead to reserve a kiln table (large table set within your own private kiln).
1077 Celstial St. 513.421.5555

Teak Thai Cuisine & Bar
Delicious and reasonably priced Thai and Japanese food, including an extensive sushi bar. If the weather’s nice, request to sit on the extensive back patio.
1051 St. Gregory St. 513.665.9800

Daveed’s at 934
You’ll pay for the inventive food here, but if you have the cash, it’s totally worth it. Like many establishments in Mt. Adams, Daveed’s has a nice outdoor space to dine.
934 Hatch St. 513.721.2665

City View Tavern
Like the name implies, this bar’s claim to fame is a great view overlooking downtown Cincinnati. Decent food and beverage selection.
403 Oregon St. 513.241.8439

Andy’s Mediterranean Grille
Fantastic Mediterranean food served in a cozy space with a large outdoor patio for the warmer months. Belly dancers add to the atmosphere on Friday and Saturday nights.
906 Nassau Street, 513.281.9791

This is a charming and very walkable shopping district, and we’ve merely highlighted some of our favorites from the eclectic selection of boutiques. There’s truly something for everyone in O’Bryonville.

Shopping + Sightseeing

Morrison & Me
Women’s boutique offering shoes, bags, hats and jewelry.
1979 Madison Rd. 513.232.7463

Gallery dedicated to the work of local craft artisans.
2010 Madison Rd. 513.321.3750

Margot Madison Creative Stationery
An oasis for lovers of beautiful stationery, fine ribbons, decorative papers and gift items.
2026 Madison Road 513.871.2069

Distinctive clothing, footwear, accessories and gifts, including brands like Free People, American Apparel, Dansko, Putumayo World Music, and Trappcandles.
2037 Madison Road 513-871-7879

Jack Wood Gallery
Gallery of vintage posters and the graphic arts from the late 19th through the mid-20th century.
2041 Madison Road 513-321-7077

Food + Drink

Offers delicious cakes, pastries, cookies and tortes — some of the best in Cincinnati. Enjoy a light lunch in their charming tearoom.
2030 Madison Rd. 513.321.3399

Balboa’s Pizza
Comfortable restaurant specializing in pizza and pasta dishes.
2038 Madison Rd. 513.321.4711

Oakley + Hyde Park
Seven miles from downtown are these two leafy neighborhoods, which have seen an influx of new families and young professionals. Don’t get sucked in by the big-box shopping, as both neighborhoods have great community squares and walkable shopping districts.

Shopping + Sightseeing

Trend Boutique
A women’s clothing and accessories boutique.
2946 Markbreit Ave. 513.351.5574

King Arthur’s Toys
Amazing toy store that carries an extensive selection of classic and contemporary toys, including brands like Lego, Radio Flyer, Playmobil, Webkinz and Thomas the Tank Engine.
3040 Madison Rd. 513.531.4600

Aglamesis Brothers
“Made the Sincere Way Since 1908,” Aglamesis makes some of the best ice cream and chocolates in town. Some argue that it even beats local favorite Graeter’s — we’ll leave it up to you to decide.
3046 Madison Rd. 513.531.5196

Blue Manatee Children’s Bookstore & Decafe
A first-of-its-kind, child-focused, adult-friendly cafe offering out-of-the-mainstream books for kids of all ages, plus toys, organic all-fruit smoothies and fair-trade coffee. This is one the most fun stores in all of Cincinnati.
3054 Madison Rd. 513.731.2665

Gift boutique offering home accessories, women’s accessories like jewelry and handbags and a sweet selection of invitations.
3184 Madison Rd. 513.871.8852

Contemporary furniture including brands like B&B Italia, Cassina, Maxalto, Montis and Poltrona Frau.
3209 Madison Rd. 513.871.5483

Country Club Gallery
Country Club presents high-profile exhibits by artists such as SIMPARCH and Charley Harper.
3209 Madison Rd.. 513.792.9744

Mainly Art
Actually, Mainly Art sells mainly furniture, mainly Art Deco and mid-century modern, plus some lighting, home accessories and art objects.
3711 Madison Rd. 513.378.8261

Duck Creek Antique Mall
A large space and extensive collection of antiques and collectibles including vintage art glass, Rookwood Pottery and vintage furniture from the last 150 years, including some Art Deco, mid-century modern and arts and crafts pieces.
3715 Madison Rd. 513.321.0900

Boutique offering unique stationery, handmade paper, leather journals, pens and unusual gift items.
3446 Michigan Ave. 513.321.4999

Alligator Purse
Upscale women’s boutique offering brands such as Tahari, Rebecca Taylor and Theory.
2701 Erie Ave. 513.871.6171

Food + Drink

Essencha Tea House & Fine Teas
Offers a vast selection of black, green, white, oolong, rooibos and herbal teas, as well as light fare like salads, sandwiches and pastries.
3212a Madison Rd. 513.533.4TEA

Habits Cafe
Neighborhood bar and grill with excellent pub food. Don’t miss the sweet potato fries, served with a side of apple butter for dipping.
3036 Madison Rd. 513.631.8367.

Delicious Thai and Japanese food in a low-key but elegant atmosphere, all at reasonable prices.
3514 Erie Ave. 513.321.5533

Teller’s of Hyde Park
Located in a former bank building, Teller’s serves up eclectic contemporary American fare with an extensive wine and beer list as well. The back patio is a great spot for warm-weather dining.
2710 Erie Ave. 513.321.4721

This swanky, upscale Japanese-American fusion restaurant isn’t just about the perfectly prepared sushi or delectable drinks but most definitely about being seen out on the town.
3520 Edwards Rd. 513.533.4444

Terry’s Turf Club
It’s worth leaving the main drag to experience the kitschy atmosphere and out-of-this-world burgers served up here; they’ve been voted the best in Ohio by Food Network Magazine.
4618 Eastern Ave. 513.533.4222

Covington is just across the river from downtown Cincinnati. On a nice day, the bridge makes for a lovely stroll. Mainstrasse has most of the cute restaurants and shops, although they are more scattered about within walking distance.

Shopping + Sightseeing

The Ascent
The newest part of the Cincinnati skyline is in Covington. Designed by Daniel Libeskind and finished in early 2008, this building soars above the Roebling Bridge, which connects downtown Cincinnati and Covington. We’ve never been inside to check out the space or the lauded art collection, but if you go, tell us all about it!

Food + Wine

Otto’s is so cute and charming in the decor inside and on the back patio! The menu is somewhat short but offers up a good selection; our favorite is the tomato pie for lunch.
521 Main St. 859.491.6678

Dee Felice
Good old New Orleans-style food in the heart of Covington, Dee Felice also offers live jazz on some nights, a bar, sidewalk seating and a hearty Sunday brunch menu.
529 Main St. 859.261.2365

Greenup Cafe
This bistro is located in an old rowhouse and features a very low-key, bohemian atmosphere. This is one of the top spots for Sunday brunch, with excellent vegan goetta on the menu. Also, make sure to try the delicious pastries!
308 Greenup St. 859.261.3663

Chalk Food+Wine
Chalk is upscale but unpretentious, with a focus on local ingredients and food-and-wine pairings.
318 Greenup St. 859.643.1234

Riverside Korean Restaurant
Not the easiest restaurant to find (and perhaps a surprise in Kentucky), Riverside serves up genuine Korean fare in an appropriately exotic setting.
512 Madison Ave. 859.291.1484

Off the Beaten Path
Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal
Union Terminal is still an Amtrak station and also home to the Children’s Museum, History Museum, Omnimax Theater and the Museum of Natural History & Science. The Art Deco building is a Streamline masterpiece and one of Cincinnati’s many architectural treasures.
1301 Western Ave., West End, 800.733.2077

American Sign Museum
Open by appointment only, the Sign Museum is heaven for lovers of Americana, kitsch, typography and vernacular signage. Call ahead, as it is slated to move at some point to a larger site in Camp Washington.
2515 Essex Pl., Walnut Hills, 800.925.1110

Bova Contemporary Furniture
Located way up North, Bova is a Denmark-based company specializing in contemporary furniture, and this is one of only seven US locations.
11349 Montgomery Rd. 513.247.9100

Vintage Poster Bank
A lot more than just vintage posters, this store is a treasure trove of funky furniture and accessories, as well as oddities like vintage commercial signs and cigar labels.
825 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout, 513.421.6659

Sara Benjamin’s
High-end women’s fashion including Chip & Pepper, True Religion, Anna Sui, Paige Premium Denim and Nicole Miller.
6810 Wooster Pike, Mariemont, 513.272.2280

Powerhouse Factories
Powerhouse has designed some amazing rock posters and has worked with more mainstream clients as well. After a recent move from Covington to nearby Newport, we hope they will continue with their exhibit space.
33 East 9th St., Newport, KY, 859.491.0444

Suggested For You


  • The American Sign museum is certainly worth a visit. Some friends of mine and I stumbled across the place one day without a reservation and the owner kindly gave us a tour and showed us the room where they store and restore all the vintage neon signs. Being in a room full of enormous, lit neon signs (some of which rotate and preform other movements) is really quite awesome and overwhelming.

  • Having been out of this city (my hometown) for more than a decade now, I am surprised but happy to see that they finally decided to make something of Northside.
    Thank you for the guide- I’ll have some new places to visit now when I go see my folks!

  • Nice job on the list! There were even a couple of places I hadn’t heard of (and I pride myself on knowing about all the cool things to do in Cincy).

  • I love that there’s a posting about Ohio. I just wish that we could have Design Sponge talk about Cleveland and all of the good things here. Iron Chef Michael Symon is just the tip of the iceberg… Please consider Cleveland!!!

  • HannahV, write the Cleveland Guide! I noticed that there wasn’t one for Cincinnati and just decided to do this. Anyway, I really appreciate all the comments thus far but, embarassingly, have already noticed some omissions:

    Memorial Hall and Music Hall on Elm St. in OTR are both 19th century architectural gems and right outside my door. They are venues for theatrical and musical events, and both are stops on the Architreks tours of the neighborhood.

    Bellevue Hill Park in Clifton is a small, little-known park with an incongruous, Space Age pavillion that, I believe was used for public dances back in the 50s. It’s got a great view of downtown, too.

    We should have mentioned that The Ascent is a luxury residential building, which is why we haven’t been inside.

    There are other corrections and omissions, I’m sure.

  • OMG thank you! I am always racking my brain to try to think of cool places to shop for friends’ weddings and other events, and never sure where to do. (Cincinnati misspelled in typical fashion in the link, tho; same misspelling also spotted on “Cincinatti” Reds branded pjs, so obv common!)

  • I’m going to Cincy this weekend for my daughter’s graduation from the Christ College of Nursing and Health Sciences and look forward to checking out some of these places! (I’m from MN)

  • Wow, great guide! I used to live on Greenup in Covington in the early 90s and worked as a designer “across the river.” Now I have a great reason to visit again. I always loved Mainstrasse, Over the Rhine and Clifton, but it appears there are many more neighborhoods to rediscover.

  • My hometown on design*sponge — who would have guessed? This reminded me that there are cool places in Cincy after all.

  • Thank you so much for giving Cincinnati a chance in your collection! I am from Cincinnati and just recently moved to Denver. Cincinnati never gets much attention, other than negative aspects, but it has it’s little charms. A few places to also check out in the Hyde Park area is Paul Haas, and estate and antique jewelry/charm/trinket store, and English Traditions, a Euro-style home “boutique”. Haute Chocolate, located in Montgomery, is THE best chocolaterie in the state! From a true Cincinnatian, thank you again for this great post!

  • As a Cincinnati native I have to say no visit is complete without a trip to Skyline for some Cincy chili and Graeter’s for the most amazing chocolate chip ice cream ever!

  • WOW, this is great!!! I agree with some of the other commenters… I was born and raised in Cinci, but moved south about 10 years ago. I still go home several times a year to visit family, and seeing this list makes me want to revisit places I haven’t been to since I was a little girl, especially Union Terminal and Carew Tower. I’m sure I’d appreciate things like that MUCH MORE now, than when I was a kid who’d just rather go to Kings Island for the day (nothing wrong with that though!) I definitely want to check out some of the shops listed here. Thanks!

  • i relocated to cincinnati from memphis about 10 years ago and would have killed for a list like this then. all my favorite places are here. it reminds me i need to get up the street to st theresa’s for some fabric for curtains.

  • Tricia, I moved to Cincy two years ago and immediately realized that the things I find interesting are totally here but not necessarily obvious or accessible. I’m glad to be able to share some of my favorite places with everyone, and hopefully this will inspire you to explore our fair city a bit more!

  • Cincy natives…can you recommend the best 4th of July festival / fireworks in the Cincinnati area? My husband and I like to travel to a new city every year. Thanks!

  • Julie, that’s a great question! I’ve discovered that Cincy doesn’t have an official July 4th fireworks thingie [you’d imagine that it’d be a bit, dramatic affair on the river, but no…]. Instead, people stock up on [probably illegal] fireworks and try to one-up each other all night long. So, I get up high but not too far from the basin [e.g. a balcony or other overlook on Mt. Adams or Mt. Auburn], and wait for the neighborhoods to get started — Price Hill, the West End, OTR, etc. It’s a fun, DIY affair [as long as no one ets hurts!].

    During the day, check out the way funky Northside Parade.

  • Julie… I would definitely check out the wacky Northside Parade… It’s a lot of fun.

    There aren’t many fireworks in the area on 4th of July mostly due to the fact that the region’s largest fireworks show is held on Labor Day weekend each year, organized by a local radio station. It’s a huge event that draws 500,000 people to the riverfront. So, as you can imagine, any other fireworks display sort of pales in comparison.

  • hey there:
    so great to see cinci getting some good press! but to update… Kaldi’s Coffee closed a few years ago (your link is to a real estate development site??) after the “riots”. Too bad, it was a fabulous place. But, the Speckled Bird Cafe on the north side has quickly saved us all with it’s coffee, food, music and charm.
    Great guide & thanks for shouting out to the nati.

  • Sunny, Kaldi’s is still open, just a few blocks from my house. It changed owners. after the riots and is probably not the same place you remember. In fact, it may close or move in the near future. Kaldis.com used to be the coffeeshop site; weird that it’s not! I believe the Speckled Bird is in Norwood. We love spreading a bit of Cincy love!

  • Thanks so much for this! I’m a native Cincinnatian and there’s a number of places on the list I didn’t know about, and/or I had forgotten. Also, it’s just nice to have a “list.”

    Julie, yes, another vote for the wacky Northside Parade. Ault Park is a great place to see fireworks. It’s a nice community sized event. Smitty’s band plays marches and standards a few hours preceding the fireworks. Bring a blanket, picnic, and umbrellas–there always seems to be the threat of rain on the 4th. Fear not–it makes the experience that much more fun.

  • If you stop by the Carew Tower, grab a drink or dinner at the Orchids at the Palm Court in the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza. Art Deco all the way!

  • I love the the York Street Cafe in Newport too. Great building and wacky, cozy decor. http://www.yorkstonline.com

    The Coffee Emporium downtown (and Hyde Park) is a great independent coffee shop with fantastic coffees, teas, and yummy food.

    Thank you so much for doing this!!
    Showing some ‘nati love!

  • I can’t believe the best record store in Cincinnati hasn’t been mentioned; Everybody’s Records.
    Better than Shake-It as far vinyl is concerned.

  • oy, looking back on my post I see that I look like a pretentious a**. I know Grace through my sister Karen at Nama Rococo….. It is great to see the gorgeous city of Cincinnati on the Design*Sponge blog. YAY!
    xo ACM

  • April, the guide was written by two Cincinnatians who are active in the local community, not by Grace herself.

    I wish these guides were periodically updated! A couple of places listed above are already closed, and there are a few newcomer businesses that deserve to be mentioned.

  • I just wanted to thank you for choosing Cincinnati as a design guide city. I have lived here since a was really young and it’s awesome to be exposed to some great new spots in the city.

  • Just shows how really cool the city is becoming! Thanks for highlighting so many wonderful places here. Really did the city justice!

  • If Covington made it to this post, Newport should make it on, too!

    Also, unfortunately, Havana Martini Club closed down recently :(

    You should also add the Bon Bonnerie to the Food+Drink section for Hyde Park!

  • Heidi, a bunch of the above-mentioned businesses have closed, plus some new ones have opened. It’s been a transitional time in Cincinnati since this guide was initially published. A few months ago, I updated this guide, and the new version will hopefully be published sometime soon.

  • Also needs to have mentioned is Rookwood Pavillion which has great restaurants and retail shopping which is located in Norwood close to Oakley. I have lived in the Cincinnati all my life, work in downtown which at Christmas is so cool with Fountain Square having the huge Christmas Tree and the Ice Skating Rink sponsered by USBank. Downtown is so festive all thru the season and during other seasons as well. Love Cincy

  • Thanks for the Cincy update- as a native now turned New
    Yorker, you did a great round up, and of course.. Skyline is one of
    the most important things to remember about the city :)

  • Like all good urban spaces, things have continued to change since the last update was completed.

    Downtown, Tonic on Fourth has transitioned to a private function space, JeanRo Bistro is now simply “The Bistro”, and our biggest name chef, Jean-Robert de Cavel, has opened a great French restaurant (Jean-Robert’s Table) at 713 Vine.

    In Over-the-Rhine, sadly Metronation has closed, but heartforkknife opened and is serving great brunch at 1437 Main St., and MOTR pub has live music nearly every night of the week at 1345 Main St. Park + Vine has also completed their move to 1202 Main.

  • Many thanks to Maya, Alli and Sean for this awesome guide.
    I hope to get back to my hometown sometime in 2011 so this will
    come in handy. Nice to see a shout out to Myra’s in Clifton, I
    worked there while in college and it’s a great little spot. Hard to
    believe it’s still there!

  • Hooray for Cincinnati! Thanks for giving an update to a wonderful city that has a special place in my heart as home! (:

  • Cannot wait for my next visit to Cinci! Last time I visited Tellers and while the inside is beautiful- go while it’s warm! The rooftop patio is just charming.

  • sad to report that Slims and Red Polly in Northside have shut down. Fabricate is now across Hamilton in its own space. Paolo in Clifton has also moved.

  • in reply to the question about 4th of July–my family sometimes goes up to Newport, KY (just across the river from Cinci) and watch the display there. It was pretty great! I’m so excited that there’s finally a city guide for a place near my home in Louisville (which, by the way, could use its own guide…hmm:)

  • Definitely recommend ForkHeartKnife on the corner of Main and Liberty in OTR. Owner Sierra has done such an amazing job cleaning that little corner store up and the food is so, soooooo good!

  • Thanks for this post! Covington is my home and it’s lovely to see this area get the attention it deserves. I was delighted to see this guide today.

  • Thank you for reminding all of us locals just how thriving
    our neighborhoods are. Equally as inspiring is how much many of
    these neighborhoods have grown and changed since this was
    originally posted in 2008. Definitely worth exploring these areas
    for all of the new treasures available! Continue to shop

  • Wow! Awesome list. I moved to Cinci about a year ago and have yet to visit at least half of these spots. Anyone with any good interior design recommendations aside from Highstreet on this list???

  • Beluga is closed. Quite disappointed to not see embers, trios, and boca on the list. Boca is generally known as the best restaurant in Cincinnati. Why leave out skyline chili and graeters ice cream, which was once one of oprah’s “favorite things”?

  • Hannah, thanks so much for your comment! I really wanted the list to focus on design-type places and also on specific neighborhoods, so that you could use the guide to give yourself a tour of one or two neighborhoods in one afternoon, say. There are plenty of “best of” guides to Cincinnati that don’t mention all the design-related stores or architectural gems that this list mentions.

    Both Graeter’s and Skyline are mentioned in the very beginning, since you can find them all over the Cincinnati area. We also tried to include every other Cincinnati-based branded food that we could think of.

  • Julie, thanks for your interest in an update! I’m the primary writer of the Cincinnati Design Guide. Unfortunately, I just relocated from Cincinnati, and I’m pretty sure that the two people who helped me with this update are gone as well. So, I don’t know if or when there might be another update.

    In the meantime, you may wish to check out my own Perfect Weekend in Cincinnati, published on our studio blog just a few months ago.