The Queen City is a historic beer mecca, and now a hot spot for new breweries; explore the brew to your heart’s content, knowing that the morning eats will match your nighttime indulgences.
By Tyler Moss
Throwback diner Sugar N’ Spice has been serving everything nice since 1941, when it was opened by Mort Keller, a local barber who traded in sheers for a spatula. Today, owner and jolly brunch baron Steven Frankel wanders booth to booth, cracking jokes and sharing bites of fresh-baked brownie. Order a fluffy Philly Omelette stuffed with steak, peppers and Jack cheese, and a side of famous Whispy Thin Pancakes. Feeling particularly carnivorous? Consider the Slaughterhouse Five, a massive menagerie of meat in the form of a sausage link, pork patty, smoked sausage, bacon, eggs, home fries and goetta, a local German-American breakfast sausage made of ground meat and steel-cut oats lovingly known around town as Cincinnati Caviar.
Centrally located in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, Mayberry sits in the city’s former brewing district, where pre-Prohibition, lager-brewing German immigrants composed more than a quarter of the city’s population. Beer connoisseurs pack the wood-paneled space in the evenings, then return for brunch to order the city’s best gourmet grease: sour-cream-and-Cheddar-topped Tater Tot Casserole. If heavy and hearty is how you nurse a hangover, herbed biscuits with duck- fat sausage gravy, chunks of melt-in-your-mouth pork belly and a poached egg is the perfect prescription. A close second: the deep-fried Monte Christo sandwich piled high with pineapple, ham, bacon, Brie and fruit compote.
Primarily a bakery, Take the Cake Cafe in the up-and-coming North Side neighborhood specializes in seasonal desserts, from berry-topped tortes to iced eclairs and intricate fondant facades on wedding cakes. Come weekends, the staff turns its baking talents to brunch: The chalk-scrawled menu changes based on the season (or the cooks’ moods), but regulars include ultrarich Very Berry French Toast Bread Pudding crowned with a cheesecake topping, and Buffalo Shrimp and Grits with bleu cheese and pickled celery. Study the showcase loaded with decadent sweets—poppyseed scones, chocolate macaroons, ecstasy-inducing peanut butter brownies—and grab dessert to go.
LATE-NIGHT BITE: Open 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday, Gilpin’s Steamed Grub in the heart of downtown has the fourth-meal market cornered: The late-night Drunk Menu (written in comically large lettering for easy reading) boasts everything from basic breakfast sandwiches to the more dynamic Doritos sandwich (turkey and Cheddar with honey mustard and Doritos on top).