Midwest Living Review
If you're looking for a way to get a taste of downtown Cincinnati's food scene, this walking tour is for you! Started in 2010 by foodie Mike Van Oflen, the Flavors of the Queen City tour starts and finishes at downtown landmark Fountain Square. Van Oflen leads hungry visitors through the streets of downtown, stopping at both historic establishments and promising new ventures. He changes the tour a bit depending on the group (for example, he doesn't usually take locals to Skyline Chili because they're probably already familiar with the city's signature chili over spaghetti concoction). We stopped at six places, and between stops, Van Oflen filled in historic details about various buildings and events. For example, we learned that the Carew Tower (one of Cincinnati's finest examples of Art Deco architecture) was actually the test building for the Empire State Building. In fact, our first stop, Hathaway's Cafe in the Carew Tower, is a throwback to another time. We enjoy a 3-ounce taste of their delicious chocolate milk shake (the original recipe from when they opened in 1956). Next is Via Vite (on Fountain Square). There, we sink our teeth into three pieces of bruschetta: one topped with a spread made from baby artichokes (interestingly peppery); a second with a pesto and goat cheese topping (wonderfully pungent), and a third with a salmon mascarpone spread (mild and creamy). The flavors are a mini tour of Italy. At Nicholson's Tavern and Pub (where the collection of single malt scotch rivals any in Ohio), we enjoy a small dish of lobster mac and cheese (full of cheese, packed with lobster). Roxy's Restaurant and Lounge has the most interesting, kitschy atmosphere of any of our stops. We have half of their famous Kibbe Burger -- a beef and lamb combo made in the traditional Lebanese way (with bulgur wheat added) and topped with hummus, tabouleh and feta cheese. It's a mini Mediterranean explosion! We barely have room for the wood-fired pizzas and mini wine tasting at City Cellars. The wine is terrific (we taste two reds and two whites), but the most surprising thing is the pizza, which manages to have the right combination of crust thickness and crunchiness. Finally, we waddle back to Fountain Square to conclude with a small serving of Graeter's famous French pot ice cream. The tour is $40 per person plus tax and runs from 1 to 3:30 p.m. on Thursdays and Saturdays. Reservations required; definitely come hungry.