This has been a banner year for restaurants. From the sumptuous to the humble, from authentic international cuisine to breakfast favorites, the new restaurants that opened in Cincinnati -- almost too many to count -- offer something for every taste.
Here are our top nine new restaurants of 2016.
The sumptuous L, pairing chef Jean-Robert de Cavel's food and maitre d’hôtel Richard Brown's service and sense of style, was one of the most anticipated openings in Cincinnati this year. Posh surroundings, a curated prix fixe menu and attentive service recall the days of the Maisonette and Gourmet Room, when Cincinnati was a Midwestern haven for French cuisine. For those of us who want the surroundings but perhaps not a multi-course meal, the beautiful bar allows you to have the L experience on a more casual level. 301 E. Fourth St., Downtown. http://www.lcincinnati.com
Ryan Santos' Please dinners have moved around town for years. Now, he has settled down at 14th and Clay streets, a permanent location that has been in the works since a crowdsourcing campaign in 2014. Please is open and serving a prix fixe menu with bar service in cozy surroundings. Santos hopes to have an a la carte menu soon, but for now, enjoy dishes such as Kentucky beef soubise with daikon, beet yakitori or burnt leek dumplings. If you're a vegetarian, pescetarian or gluten-free, you can get a customized menu; if you're vegan, call a day ahead for accommodation. 1405 Clay St., Over-the-Rhine. http://www.pleasecincinnati.com
Maplewood Kitchen and Bar
The Thunderdome Group's Maplewood covers breakfast, lunch and dinner. The concept is casual but quality: Guests order at a counter and then the food is brought to you, whether you’re taking it to go or staying for a sit-down experience. Lines are long for brunch but move quickly, and the lines are long for a reason. Lemon ricotta pancakes and avocado are the best bets on the brunch menu; the burger, kale caesar, chicken tinga and grilled cheese (with a tiny container of red pepper puree to act as a tomato soup-like dipper) are fantastic for lunch or dinner. Wash it all down with freshly squeezed juices such as the Sol Driver, which adds Tito's and Gran Marnier to Maplewood’s Sol Glo juice, or the restaurant’s approachable beer and wine list. 525 Race St., Downtown. http://www.maplewoodkitchenandbar.com
Alfio Gulisano’s tribute to his Argentinian roots is a delicious addition to Over-the-Rhine. This warm bar and restaurant serves perfect bites to accompany an ever-rotating beer list. For the more traditional, try queso y cebolla empanadas, with sauteed onions, mozzarella and provolone. For something a little more Americanized, the buffalo chicken and fajita empanadas are both standouts. Best part? At $3 each, it’s easy to fill up for under $10. 1342 Walnut St., Over-the-Rhine. http://www.checincinnati.com
Fortune Noodle House
Homemade noodles in an old pizzeria? Some of the best Chinese food in the city is being made -- and eaten at Fortune Noodle House, just across from the University of Cincinnati's Law School. The draw, of course, is hand-pulled noodles, served pan-fried or in soup with your choice of meats. As tempting as it is, don't get stuck on the noodles: Dishes such as Ma La stir fry, with numbing Sichuan peppers, are authentic and delicious. Even more Americanized dishes, such as General Tso's chicken, are unique and tasty. Pair the food with some not-too-sweet boba tea. 349 Calhoun St., CUF. http://www.fortunenoodlehouse.com
Pleasantry, at 14th and Pleasant streets in Over-the-Rhine, is the restaurant extension of 1215 Wine and Coffee Bar. Joanna Kirkendall and Daniel Souder have teamed up for inventive, beautiful cuisine focusing on small plates and organic, biodynamic wines. Chef Evan Hartman serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, from pillowy "Everything" biscuits (with smoked salmon and cream cheese) to a pimento cheeseburger to hanger steak. You can linger over a glass of wine or get a cup of coffee to go, too. 118 W. 15th St., Over-the-Rhine. http://www.pleasantryotr.com
Located inside Hotel Covington, Coppin's serves breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week and brunch on the weekends. The restaurant focuses on hyperlocal food both north and south of its Covington location. Pork belly with white beans, fregola sarda with Kenny's local cheese, pimentadew cheese (think pimento cheese with peppadews) and Carabello coffee are highlights of this new gem in Covington. 638 Madison Ave., Covington. http://hotelcovington.com/dining/coppins/
This restaurant, the brainchild of former Local 127 chef Chris Burns, started as an Indiegogo campaign three years ago, and it is now a full-fledged restaurant in Mainstrasse. Southern comfort food is certainly a food trend, but Burns keeps it even more local by focusing on Kentucky's own products, as well as other regional fare. Expect to see dishes such as Kentucky fried rabbit, buttermilk biscuits and pimento cheese along with ingredients such as Owensboro black barbecue sauce, Benedictine spread, country ham, Lil's Bagels and Kenny's Kentucky-made blue cheese. 621 Main St., Covington. Commonwealthbistro.com
Jean-Robert de Cavel is having a banner year, with the opening of L, the relocation of French Crust Cafe & Bistro, and a fresh, new fast-casual concept at Rookwood Exchange. Frenchie Fresh focuses on burgers, both American-style (on a bun) or "Frenchie"-style (open-faced on a toasted baguette). All chefs have trained with de Cavel, and food preparations range from the expected (a very American Gene Kelly, with American cheese, lettuce and tomato) to some delightful surprises, such as a Nicoise salad and a seafood and truffle mac and "chez." 3831 Edwards Road, Norwood. http://www.frenchiefresh.com
Plus three from the West Side …
Honorable mentions go to West Side eateries AAP India, Somm Wine Bar and Veracruz.
Ask any West Sider who loves food and they will say that the pickings near their homes were slim -- until now. A recent explosion of restaurants on the West Side is drawing new visitors.
AAP India (6430 Glenway Ave.) is the first West Side Indian restaurant, satisfying locals' (and visitors'!) tastes for tandoori chicken, tikka masala and a lunchtime buffet. http://www.aapindiarestaurant.com
Veracruz (3108 Price Ave.) isn't your average Mexican place: Think migas, chilaquiles, fresh tortilla chips and $2 tacos. It’s a great boon to both the Latino community in Price Hill and anyone who loves good, fresh Mexican food.
Just across the street from Veracruz, Somm Wine Bar (3105 Price Ave.) serves a thoughtfully curated list of wines, a menu of snacks and smaller portions to accompany the wine list, as well as cocktails and beer. http://www.sommwinebarcincinnati.com