In late May and early June, the fireflies begin to come out, the days aren’t yet oppressively humid and the evening temperatures are comfortably cool. It’s about the time that many Cincinnati retirees beginning thinking about dining en plein air once again—backyard weenie roasts with the grandchildren or evenings downtown.
We thought it a good idea to give you a quick run-down of some of the noted spots for outdoor dining in and around the Tristate, so that you can get out there and enjoy your retirement in Cincinnati.
Situated atop Price Hill on the west side of downtown, this upscale pizza and beer restaurant features a patio with a sweeping view of the Cincinnati skyline, the Ohio River and landmarks like Union Terminal and Music Hall. It is located in the former Price Hill House, a historic restaurant and (later) tavern that sat at one end of the old rail incline. Daily commuters would stop in before taking the incline down the steep hill to their jobs and again when they came back up the hill at the end of the day.
The incline is long gone, but the tradition of dining high above town has been renewed. In addition to the aforementioned pizzas, the spring menu features gourmet fusion offerings like the Duck BLT or Lime and Tequila Braised Pork Belly—not to mention good, old-fashioned home-style favorites like the Fried Cod Sandwich, the House Burger, and even Fried Frog Legs.
The bar has several local craft beers on tap, plus an excellent selection of wines and whiskies that will please sophisticated pallets.
On the east end of downtown, The Rookwood, located in the famously eponymous former pottery works on Mt. Adams, offers diners the opportunity to sit and relax while dining in one of two giant kilns, or outdoors on the multi-level deck that boasts views of the city, the neighboring Cincinnati Art Museum and the historic Holy Cross Monastery and Church. The deck even has a swing seat for relaxing with a cocktail and a fire pit for cooler nights.
The Rookwood features reasonably-priced chic dining— from classics like Mac & Cheese, Rosie’s Classic Burger, or the House Made Pastrami sandwich to fine fare like Crispy Skin Faroe Island Salmon or Heluka Pork Shank.
Arnold’s is a fixture for outdoor dining downtown and has the distinction of being the oldest bar in Cincinnati. Don’t let the cramped front bar room or lack of visible tables outside fool you— the restaurant features a large, enclosed courtyard with a retractable roof and a stage for live music. Strings of party lights hanging between the walls and the central tree help create an ambience that is perfect for warm summer nights.
Arnold’s is typically crowded, so noise can be a bit of an issue during the dinner hours, but the food is worth it—pastas, salads, chicken dishes and excellent burgers. Lunches are quieter and more relaxed for those of you who just want to sit outside and enjoy conversation over good food.
Mariemont’s faux-Provençal charm is the backdrop for outdoor drinks and excellent summer fare like cool gazpacho or a Grilled Shrimp and Asparagus Salad. For hungry diners, the hearty Dilly Meatloaf and Italian Sausage with Gnocchi are true belly-fillers. Moreover, Dilly’s large selection of fine wines, available tableside by the bottle or by the glass, will complement any meal— and your relaxed senior lifestyle.
The Dilly Café (you may still hear locals refer to it by its catchier former name, the Dilly Deli) is next door to the National Exemplar by Best Western and to Mariemont’s art house movie theater, so after-dinner entertainment is close at hand. If you’d prefer quiet company to a film, taking a gentle stroll down the tree-lined suburban streets is worth it. And for an extra treat, there is a Graeter’s ice cream shop conveniently nearby in the town square. (We recommend a dish of Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip. It’s amazingly delicious.)