I love going out for a great dinner to celebrate nearly any occasion, but especially birthdays.
Many restaurants in town will do a little something special for the birthday boy or girl. Others are just special places to celebrate. Here are a few of my favorites. (And none of them involves clapping, dancing or anything else potentially embarrassing.)
Special birthday surprises
1. Jeff Ruby's
If you note on your reservation that you're celebrating a birthday, Jeff Ruby's, The Precinct and Carlo & Johnny will provide a complimentary dessert with a candle to the celebrant, and the hostess will take a picture if you like. While Jeff Ruby strives to make every meal at his restaurants a special occasion, this little touch makes it extra special.
2. Bella Luna (East End)
Enjoy a birthday dessert (bread pudding for me!) at Bella Luna. Bonus: If owner Harry Stephens is singing with the band (as he often is), and he knows it's your birthday, you may just get serenaded, Sinatra-style.
3. Oriental Wok (Hyde Park and Fort Thomas)
A birthday gong, a birthday Buddha and a chorus of "Happy birthdays" in a flamboyant environment? This place is great fun on a birthday, whether you're a little one or older. Oriental Wok can accommodate groups and will happily serve a cake you provide. Even on a regular evening, the service at this classic Cincinnati restaurant (and the General Wong's chicken!) will make you feel like every day is your birthday.
4. Sotto (Downtown)
Need a romantic, intimate birthday or room to celebrate with friends? Sotto fulfills both needs, whether it's in a cozy booth or one of its private dining areas. Share bottles of wine, ricotta and honey bruschetta, pasta con tartufo or even a porterhouse at this Italian-inspired restaurant. Plus, who doesn't want to end their birthday dinner with doughnuts?
5. Abigail Street (Over-the-Rhine)
Suitable for intimate dinners (four to six people max — remember, it doesn't take reservations), Abigail Street is great for a group that loves to try new things and share dishes with the table. Heavenly gnocchi, lamb meatballs, batatas (fried potatoes with a smoked paprika and lemon aioli) and pistachio baklava (with Turkish coffee) make for a great birthday celebration.
6. Primavista (Price Hill)
Want a birthday dinner with a view? Primavista is a great choice. For larger parties, it has a private dining room, but smaller ones are equally well served in the main dining room. Bonus: It has gluten-free and vegetarian/vegan menus. Try the veal marsala and mushroom risotto and finish with the bread pudding budino.
7. Jimmy G's (Downtown)
Go for the killer steaks, fantastic non-steak choices (like his Singaporean Picnic Fried Chick-Hen, a sweet and spicy crawfish-infused fried chicken dish) and potatoes aligot, which are a creamy, buttery dream. Excellent service, interesting surroundings and a private dining room (perfect for a birthday party) make Jimmy G's a great place to celebrate. Tip: Order Jimmy's own homemade ice cream for a sweet treat.
8. The Rookwood (Mount Adams)
Whether it's a summer birthday on the beautiful deck, or a winter birthday celebrated in one of the indoor kilns, the Rookwood is a unique, fun place to have a birthday for small gatherings or large parties. (It can accommodate up to 200.) Chef Jackson Rouse's delicious menu is a real crowd pleaser. Poutine Supreme, bacon-wrapped blue cheese-stuffed dates and hanky pankys are easy to share; peanut butter pie or Dojo Gelato are great ways to finish a meal.
9. The Bonbonerie (O'Bryonville)
You already might be getting your cake from Bonbonerie, but what about a fun tea with the girls (or guys!) to celebrate? The cafe or tea room can accommodate a party of up to 40, and tea includes finger sandwiches, scones and desserts (and, of course, tea). If you have a smaller party, Bonbonerie has a full menu of delicious sandwiches, soups and desserts. It's a special way to celebrate.
Where do you celebrate birthdays? Tweet me at @winemedineme!