The Queen City has a lot to argue about, with “Best Chili Parlor” taking up most of our time. But that argument is tame, even polite compared to what really divides us: goetta.
Chili, after all, is just something you do; goetta is about who you are. It’s personal, it’s individual, it cuts to the core of our identity as humble folk, practical folk, real proletarians.
For the uninitiated, goetta is a Cincinnati-German peasant food of the gruetzwurst family, similar to Pennsylvanian scrapple or Scottish white pudding (though not really.) It’s pork and beef combined with slow-cooked pinhead oats, onion, herbs such as bay leaf and rosemary, and (less often) peppercorn or cayenne. The best version is always homemade, likely using a 100-year-old recipe scrawled on 100-year-old paper. But if you must settle for someone else’s, the options are manifold. And here they are, for your stomach-growling pleasure.
533 Goetta Place (41011)
If you’re eating goetta at a restaurant, whether from Price Hill Chili, Anchor Grill, or the Echo, you’re most likely eating Glier's goetta. Its the largest commercial producer of goetta in the city—nay, in the world. I find it to be a little on the greasy side; ideally the fat should be skimmed off while cooking. It’s also very pork-forward thanks to the use of skin and offal, to which goetta purists will object. But Glier's is good for everyday use, and if you find it under a perfectly fried egg beside an english muffin... well, there are worse things to eat.
QUEEN CITY SAUSAGE
1136 Straight Street (45214)
At least as far as commercial production goes, Gliers’ main competitor is Queen City Sausage. Thanks to the use of trimmer meats this stuff is leaner than Gliers, which allows the herbs and spices to predominate the taste. For me, as long as I use some extra frying oil, that’s a good thing. Your mileage may vary.
116 W Elder Street (45202)
Now we’re getting to the good stuff. Eckerlin Meats is the gold standard for butcher-made goetta. It doesn’t use offal or scraps, it gets the fat/meat/oat ratios exactly right, and the spices are on point. Try the peppercorn variety for a delicious extra kick. They also have a goetta, egg, and cheese sandwich you can get to go in the morning, which you definitely should. By the way, this is what they use at Tucker's on Vine Street.
AVRIL-BLEH & SONS
33 E Court Street (45202)
Court Street’s favorite butcher is another place that doesn’t use offal or scraps in their goetta, and I mark that as a plus. Originally they didn’t use onion either, a matter of personal preference among the shop’s first owners. Is it really goetta then? Thankfully that’s not a question we need answer, because they do serve an onion version now. And while the texture remains a bit different (almost like bratwurst filling), it’s still easy to recommend.
FINKE & SONS
1502 Amsterdam Road (41011)
This small Park Hills grocer claims to be the originator of goetta, and I’m not one to say otherwise. In the category of cosmetic anomalies, they sell their goetta in scoops rather than molded and sliced. Accordingly you fry it in patty form like a hamburger. I enjoy that their onions are cut larger than elsewhere. I also enjoy the deeply nuanced flavors, which suggest this recipe tracks closely with the 200-year genealogy of goetta itself. It’s certainly an original.
4300 Harrison Avenue (45211)
Of all the places on this list, Wassler's goetta seems to fry the best. I don't know whether that's due to the oats or the cut of the meat, but it absorbs oil and comes out of the pan crispy and brown. It's also very creamy, meaning it has a high fat content. You might not like that so much, but it's great smeared over toast.
6117 Cleves Warsaw Road (45233)
What might sound like a West Virginia dating site is actually a Western Hills butcher with some of the finest goetta around. It’s the stuff they serve at (charming) Bellevue Bistro. And if you’ve ever had it there, you’ve had goetta the way it was meant to be had. The texture is equally as creamy as Wassler's, and it fries every bit as well.
5679 Rapid Run Road (45238)
This is the stuff I grew up eating, so it's automatically what I think of when I think of goetta. Yes, it’s a bit heavy on the oatmeal, but it fries up nicely in the pan and is an effective sponge for all that gooey egg yolk with which you'll no doubt top it. Heavy bay leaf flavor comes through as well, which is always a plus.
10134 Colerain Avenue (45251)
This is an amazing butcher in Colerain Township, worth visiting even if you’re not in the market for goetta. They do put offal (in this case, hogs head) in their goetta to add body and flavor, which I could do without. Yet the spicy hot version overrides some of that hoggy-ness, and it's some of the finest goetta in town.