Lunch. It's an often underserved, underappreciated part of the day. Wedged somewhere between morning meetings and the hectic rest of the day, any lunch (much less a leisurely one) can be an absolute luxury.
Luckily, the Queen City and her surrounding burgs have a wealth of establishments that will turn a one-hour, on-the-go meal into a midday oasis. Here are a few of our favorite spots, in no particular order.
1. Servatii Pastry Shop and Deli: Known for their cakes and baked goods, Servatii's deli menu is an oft-forgotten treat. When you need a tasty lunch fast, swing by one of their many locations. Try a sandwich on the bakery's famous pretzel bread. Your taste buds (and your craving for salt) will thank you.
2. Nada: Need to schedule a business lunch that still packs a flavor punch? The midday spread at Nada, which features smaller portions of the restaurant's famous entrees, is a top contender. The Nada Sliders, by the way, make for a particularly perfect noontime meal.
3. Bakersfield OTR: One of Cincinnati's most popular nighttime hangouts, Bakersfield is a yummy pit stop for lunch as well. Make sure to order the queso. Just trust us.
4. Kitchen 452: This spot is made for lunch! Seriously. The fresh ingredients and delectable delights of Kitchen 452 are only available during lunch hours. One of the gems of Walnut Hills, Kitchen 452 offers a seasonal menu that currently features a perfect-for-springrime grilled mozzarella sandwich with homemade fig jam. Lovely.
5. Fusian: Sushi never had it so good. Fusian is another reliable food-on-the go spot. And the best part? The sushi rolls don't only come quickly, they come tailor-made. These custom rolls are so popular with local media folks that one TV station's weekend staffers have an ongoing Fusian tradition. (Make sure to try the spicy edamame side. That'll kick up anyone's day.)
6. Melt Eclectic Cafe: When it comes to creativity with a hot press, Melt hits the spot. A staple in Northside for years, the restaurant also offers a laudable vegan and vegetarian menu.
7. Parkside Cafe: Good ol', down-home, wonderfully greasy diner food has a home at Parkside Cafe. Serving breakfast all day, along with a variety of lunch items, Parkside is the place for a quick meal that takes you back a few decades. Don't miss the Buffalo Cheese Stix. Or the milk shakes.
8. The BonBonerie Cafe: This O'Bryonville standard-bearer effortlessly blends the cool of a coffee shop with the warmth of a bakery. It's not unusual to find The BonBonerie packed at lunchtime. And rightfully so! An urban oasis on Cincinnati's Eastside, the beloved eatery offers a lunch menu that covers all the bases (soups and salads, sandwiches, and "specialties"). And of course, there's always a huge collection of amazing confections. (The Tea Lunch, it should be noted, is at the very top of my list.)
9. Thelma's Diner: Basically everything at Thelma's Diner is homemade, and while the restaurant is small, it's always warm and cozy. If you're getting a dessert, I hope you've saved room! They're huge.
10. Half Day Cafe: One of Wyoming's best-known spots, Half Day Cafe shouldn't be missed. The Sweet Potato Pancake Pie alone is worth the stop. (Yep, breakfast is served all day!) Head over and see what else tickles your lunchtime fancy.
11. Kaze: It's your oasis in OTR. With three distinct spaces (dining room, bar, and beer garden), you can come for any occasion and any mood. Lunch is particularly enjoyable, and depending on what you like, each day of the week offers an intriguing special. Our pick is the sashimi bowl on Wednesdays.
12. Cheapside Cafe: Imagine a really good sandwich. It doesn't matter what ingredients you're conjuring up because it's likely that Cheapside has it. Though a little off the beaten path (8th Street on the east side of Downtown), this is well worth the lunch-date visit.
13. Trio Bistro: Do you recall the Seinfeld episode about "The Big Salad?" Well, Trio is known for its big & delectable salads. Of course, the offerings go way beyond luscious greens, but who can argue with a big salad? ... Am I right?
14. Revolution Rotisserie: In a perfect location -- right by Washington Park, within walking distance of the central business district, and a part of OTR -- this new eatery gives chicken its proper due. Whether you want it simple, like right off the rotisserie; in a salad, of which the options are plentiful; or in a creative sammie pita combo, Revolution will deliver. And the price point is near impossible to beat.
15. Findlay Market: Come here for two reasons: 1. You and your lunch date can't decide on a particular food genre; 2. You want a quick surge of energy that comes with feeling pride in your city.
NOTE: This article originally appeared on August 31, 2014.
#11-15 were updated in this most recent edition.