Where to score authentic German cuisine in Cincinnati
Founded in the 18th century and later settled by German immigrants, Cincinnati has a long-time German heritage that is literally infused into the city. From neighborhoods like “Over-the-Rhine” (called “OTR” by locals) to the largest Oktoberfest celebration outside of Munich, Cincinnati boasts one of the richest German histories in America. The city’s strong German presence is noted in various butchers, bakeries and ice cream shops one sees along the way, and it cannot be missed in the area’s most popular restaurants.
The first stop for anyone looking for an authentic German meal in Cincinnati should be the landmark eatery, Tucker’s Restaurant. Serving food since 1946, Tucker’s feels like a visit to an old friend’s home. Once inside, a plateful of Tucker’s goetta (rhymes with feta) will never disappoint. A meat and grain sausage, goetta was originally created as a meal for the German working class to stretch out servings of meat to conserve money. Today, goetta is a staple at almost every German restaurant in Cincinnati. Visitors to the city seek it out as a specialty entrée, but to locals, goetta is soul food.
At Bauer Farm Kitchen, one can expect a family-style experience, with locally sourced, farm-to-table dining on the menu. The spaetzle, chicken schnitzel and pork belly all offer flavors of the old country. For more German favorites, Avril & Bleh butcher shop, open since 1894, currently offers 40 kinds of sausage and meats, including olive loaf, pickle loaf and liverwurst. Homemade hams made the old-fashioned way are smoked and boiled on site.
Another can’t-miss destination is Mecklenburg Gardens, established in 1865 and one of the treasures of historic Cincinnati. Rated the #1 beer garden in the United States by Travel & Leisure, Mecklenburg also earned a shout-out on Food Network for its Uber Terminator, a 38-inch, grilled Mettwurst sausage laced with paprika, garlic and cayenne pepper.
In keeping with the German love of beer, Cincinnati is also home to a substantial number of outstanding breweries and gastropubs. The popularity of lager, in fact, is often attributed to Cincinnati, as this crisper, mellower beer became favored over ale to many in this area in the mid-1800s. Among many great places to clink a pint with a friend is Rhinegeist Brewery, located in the historic OTR neighborhood. There’s no shortage of tasty bites, with the Sartre Carte takeaway stand in the Rhinegeist taproom offering short-order classics served via a pneumatic tube as well as contemporary brasserie Sartre OTR next door.
For those craving German food but who don’t want to say auf wiedersehen to the states, a trip to Cincinnati is surely the next best thing. Come for the food; stay for the beer. Prost!