Italian burger
Brioche french toast

Mimi’s Cafe

With about 100 locations around the country, Mimi’s Cafe started in California, moved to Texas, and has since spread quickly with its very attractive concept of French-inspired casual dining fare. The spot offers a generally very different menu of items to be enjoyed, ranging from expansive breakfasts to hearty lunches of many kinds. The spot tends to pop up in a few locations in cities all over the country, preferring nice neighborhoods and cultured palettes. The spot has something interesting to offer, that’s for sure.

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With downtown Louisville changing at the hands of a ton of new buildings, more housing and new businesses, it’s a welcome site indeed that some great new restaurant concepts are populating around the city’s core, too. Hiko-A-Mon, a casual concept for Asian fusion-style foods as well as sushi, is a relatively new face in the core, with a particular brand of sushi that is easy to love and really not that expensive. The restaurant scene in this part of Kentucky is some of the state’s most adventurous, and I think the concept comes to Louisville’s core at a good time.

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Lil Goodie Shoppe - Strawberry Sundae

Lil Goodie Shoppe

If the east side of Cincinnati is known for its great delis in local restaurants, in the west side of Cincinnati would be known for its family-run ice cream stands. Spots like this will survive many years as a hyper local spot where people can come and enjoy a cone of ice cream and maybe some inexpensive food to go along with it. Lil Goodie Shoppe is a bit off the beaten path, and it’s definitely not a place that you might expect to end up at driving through the city’s foothills. But this is a fun little spot that’s worth the trip.

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Carl's Deli (Cincinnati, OH)

Carl’s Deli

Cincinnati’s near east side hides a huge number of great little independent restaurants, whether they’re local bars, bakeries or pizza shops. But nothing is more under-the-radar that the quiet little delis that populate the eastern hills. Carl’s Deli near Hyde Park is the epitome of the under-appreciated art of the Cincinnati sandwich. Cold cuts, salads, soups and seafood can all be found here. A good local sandwich shop is so hard to find, but when you discover one like this, you want to hold on to it dearly. It’s got to be one of the best places for a cold sandwich in the city.

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Air Force roll, Wabi Sabi roll, Spicy tuna roll, Avocado roll

Wabi Sabi

A new concept opened in downtown Covington, Kentucky, just across the river from Cincinnati, Wabi Sabi is a well-groomed little neighborhood shop that specializes in sushi creations. The food you try here is designed to be inexpensive, a little adventurous, and overall the kind of sushi that gets people who don’t like sushi to have an appreciation for the food. Eschewing the traditional fine dining feel of most sushi restaurants in favor of a casual concept that feels more comfortable, you’ll probably first set foot in this place for its frequent offer of half-price sushi. But then that sushi will keep you coming back.

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El Cazador - Enchilada, burrito, tamale

El Cazador Mexican Restaurant

A bit off the beaten path in Dayton’s north thoroughfare, El Cazador in Englewood Is a Tex-Mex house set up for large groups of people to enjoy some good Spanish inspired cuisine. The servings are hearty, the food is inexpensive, and the spot really brings a lot simple food to the table with an overall pleasant service. That said I found the food to be pretty uninspiring.

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Apple muffin

Mean Bean

This little coffee shop operation in the suburban Western Columbus neighborhood this little coffee shop operation in suburban western Columbus neighborhood is a tiny independent operation peddling frozen drinks, coffees, and some baked goods at inexpensive prices. The real beauty of small independent coffee shops like this one is the atmosphere that they create; as such, Mean Bean is built for convenience. Not only does it sport a drive-through for a quick cup of coffee, but the spot has a nice interior with spacious tables where you can sit and enjoy a book or the company of friends while drinking a cup. I found the place to be pretty simple but it does deliver that independent feel.

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Cinnamon roll

Miller’s Bakery

Amish Country, the remote regions of northwest Ohio, are an exercise in simplicity. The restaurants that locate this far out of the beaten path tend to be very, very locally focused. Far from the tourist traps and the overhyped things that bring people in droves, Miller’s Bakery is instead a very humble, quiet little bakery frequented by the locals as a place that makes great baked goodies, pies, bread and sells local canned goods. The driveway is gravel, the spot is far out of the way and it’s not too elaborate an operation … but it is a local treat.

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Frenched pork shanks

Chalet in the Valley

Amish Country: For most Ohioans, that term is synonymous with some of the most remote and under-appreciated parts of the state. Indeed, this land in the rural northern and eastern parts of the state is where the greatest concentration of the Amish population resides, especially here in Holmes County, in the land between Columbus and Cleveland. These rolling foothills give way to endless hamlets and small towns where the simple live is celebrated. Little restaurants like Chalet in the Valley, in the county’s seat of Millersburg, are an example of the home cooking of rural Ohio.

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Jefferson Social

The Banks in Cincinnati are first and foremost a nightlife spot, with the spattering of bars here aimed mainly at attracting an evening crowd as well as the thousands of fans who visit the nearby sports venues throughout the year. In this atmosphere, a variety of upscale casual restaurants serve, a healthy mix of bigger chains and local operations. Jefferson Social is planted on the corner of Freedom Way, and its audience is the craft beer loving crowd, with brews aplenty on its menus. But the spot also serves up some great Tex-Mex specialties, notably high-end tacos, which make it a spot worth dining at, too.

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