I come from a part of New Jersey that is so close to New York City, it’s jokingly referred to as Outer-Manhattan (or maybe it’s not a joke). For transplants like myself, it takes a bit of hunting around Cincinnati to find places that are authentically New York. "How about Penn Station East Coast subs?" Well, I say, "Forget about it." No rational person eats a sandwich named after a place where you catch a train, least of all in the Big Apple. In fact, you won’t find any chains on this list. The following restaurants are the best places to find New York-inspired food around the Queen City.
Cafe De Sales
2835 Woodburn Ave. (45206)
The family-owned and operated Cafe De Sales in Walnut Hills offers an NYC-classic: the breakfast sandwich — or, the bodega sandwich, as it’s known in the five boroughs. Meat (always bacon for me), egg, and cheese on a croissant for an affordable $4.75 is the best way to start the day.
GKL Vending (Hot Dog cart)
Corner of 8th and Broadway Streets (45202)
While Cincy is referred to as Porkopolis, New York City is also known for its hot dogs, namely those served from a cart. The fine people at GKL Vending (at 8th and Broadway) are my favorite local grillmasters. When you need a quick meal of meat a la bun, chips, and soda, this place exceeds expectations.
Blue Jay Cafe
4154 Hamilton Ave. (45223)
Diners are a staple of New York and New Jersey, and this Northside treasure is a monument of simplicity. Most noteworthy, it has the best no-frills, no-gimmicks-needed burger in the city: the kind that’s served on a bun with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and a slice of American cheese. I don’t want to know what farm the cow was raised on, I just want to know it’s going to be a great burger. The Big Jay is just that.
La Mandi Deli
3205 Jefferson Ave. (45220)
I’m skeptical of any place that claims to be a “New York style” deli, but La Mandi doesn’t disappoint. Their specialty is halal, partially meaning they don’t do pork. To test the New York-iness of this eatery, I went with an east coast staple: the reuben. They passed with flying colors. Paired with a Stubborn Black Cherry soda and fries, their grilled sandwich of corned beef, swiss, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island on rye, is, by far, my favorite in the city.
773 E McMillan St. (45206)
There are a lot of imitators in Cincinnati, but Fireside in Walnut Hills gets it right. They have the best New York-style pizza in the city. Their Red Legger pie is made with red sauce, pepperoni, and red onion. (See where the name comes from?) ... And with their Ninja Turtles and Pac-Man arcades to boot, Fireside wins for an NYC atmosphere as well.
Fortune Noodle House
349 Calhoun St. (45219)
Hole-in-the-wall it is not. Fortune Noodle House has the kind of authentic cuisine that would be a hotbed in Chinatown. Their noodle bowls, which you can get creative with by choosing from a laundry list of ingredients that is more beef tripe and fish balls than chicken nuggets and egg rolls, are divine.
Marx Hot Bagels
9701 Kenwood Rd. (45242)
Most New York of all is Marx, a Cincinnati institution since 1969. With the blue and red neon lighting down to the checkered tiled, to walk into this place is to take a trip back home. What gives it that added level of authenticity is that it has just the right amount of attitude, as the owner grumbles at the customers like a stand-in for Don Rickles. My cure for homesickness is an everything bagel with whitefish salad and Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry soda.
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And with that, my friends, we are officially hungry. If you can't quite picture all that I've described here, scroll back to the top and visit the photo gallery.