Nom nom, NFL style: Bengals host top local eateries to raise thousands for Freestore Foodbank

CINCINNATI - There's never been a better time to take a bite out of Cincinnati, especially when it's for a good cause.

Taste of the NFL is known for its wide array of Cincinnati's favorite foods, as well as silent and live auctions and opportunities for fans to meet and mingle with their favorite Bengals players, coaches and alumni. 

Wednesday's event at Paul Brown Stadium was hosted by Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap and restaurateur David Falk of Boca, nada and Sotto fame. The event brought in $125,000, enough for the Freestore Foodbank to provide 375,000 meals to families in the Tri-State.

Forty Tri-State restaurants provided bites at the event. And now, in no particular order, we provide you with our favorite 9 eateries from the Taste of the NFL.

Jenny's picks:

  • Halibut with Corn and Bacon Succotash, CRAVE Restaurant – Light halibut? Good. Veggies? Good. Bacon? Very good. The combination of flavors made for the perfect summer dish that was just the right amount of filling. I've been on a fish kick lately, and that halibut was cooked to perfection.
  • Waffles, Taste of Belgium – Time for my admission: I've lived in Cincinnati my entire life and, before Wednesday, I'd never tried waffle goodness from Taste of Belgium. It was fantastic – warm and cooked to perfection, with just the right amount of brown. I must go back immediately for a larger taste. Who's coming along?
  • Mexican Mac 'n Cheese, nada – I've heard stories of this amazing mac 'n cheese that blows anything you ate in your college dorm way out of the water. Being the cheese aficionado that I am, I had to queue up for this. Wow. A perfect blend of creamy cheeses coating seeping into the shell noodles with just the right amount of kick from the jalapeño peppers. Bonus: it was topped with bread crumbs to give it just an extra dose of homemade. 
  • Grilled cheese, Tom + Chee – in addition to being a Taste of Belgium first-timer Wednesday night, I also got my first taste of the cheesy goodness that is a Tom + Chee sandwich. I went for the grilled cheese with diced tomatoes on sourdough bread. Now, I consider myself a pretty good grilled cheese maker, but I don't hold a candle to the pros at Tom + Chee. The flavor combinations and the perfectly-toasted sourdough bread made for the best, most filling grilled cheese bite I've ever had!

Libby's picks:

  • Morton's Sliders, Morton's The Steakhouse – Morton's knows good steak, at least that's what I'd heard until I tried it for myself last night. The steak sliders were to-die-for, showing that an old (and national) favorite can keep up with the small plate and finger food trends.
  • Crab and potato cakes, The Phoenix – Leave it to a Cincinnati staple to get buzzing on social media. I'm not usually a crab cake fan, but paired with a potato cake from The Phoenix? I'm all in. Plus, you might have had your senior prom at the downtown banquet center, many of my Twitter followers told me they did!
  • Shanghai Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Shanghai Mama's – Call it fate, but I actually had to turn down an invitation to the downtown Chinese restaurant for this weekend, so it was pleasant kismet to find them at Taste of the NFL and try their chicken dish. I was told to roll the lettuce around it and eat it like a taco, advice that made it even better to eat.
  • Veal ravioli, Jeff Ruby's Carlo and Johnny – I can't believe I've been in Cincinnati for almost two years and I haven't tried anything from Jeff Ruby's. Last night's ravioli, filled with veal and flavored with Rosemary, made me a believer.

We both loved...

  • Holtman's Donuts – If you haven't tried one, you need to. The chocolate donut, decorated with orange icing (of course) was almost luxurious and in texture and composition. They're adding an Over-The-Rhine location soon, another tasty addition that's turned the once "don't go there" neighborhood to  "don't go there on an empty stomach."

Picturing Taste of the NFL

Have you tried any of these local eateries? Connect with Libby (@WCPOLibby) and Jenny (@jennyfromthebak) on Twitter and tell us your favorites! 

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