I'm sorry I haven't been back more recently to thank everyone for their input. We are getting closer to departure and I'm very excited. I will carefully consider all your suggestions and comments.
A couple of new queries:
Chocolate: My aunt has asked about both chocolate shops in London and also places likely to have a good selection of chocolate bars. So far I've identified Paul A. Young, William Curly, of course Charbonnel et Walker, and I'm told Selfridge's has a good selection. Any thoughts here are welcome.
Peri-peri, or piri-piri as I sometimes see it, chicken: a friend has suggested we seek this out. Again, your thoughts are welcome.
Thank you very much!
I will reply/take in all your comments in due course, but am completely distracted by the news of a new Foyle's and must go look that up immediately. I love books, possibly more than food! I will add that of course I'm only interested in the cafe menu, to make sure this post stays within Chowhound guidelines...
I care nothing for ambiance on the fish and chips; I imagine I can get fried fish at J. Sheekey if I want. My aunt asked specifically for fish and chips in London; she enjoys fried fish but never finds any she likes here at home. She has told me she is hoping for "the best fish ever" in London. As the chief researcher and restaurant locator, this makes me nervous, but I will do my best. Hence my asking advice on Chowhound. On my last visit to London, we ate forgettable-to-lousy fish and chips, but I don't recall where.
Now I will go and Google photos of potted shrimp, just to see. My husband will eat just about anything, so he can always be my guinea pig. I promise you a report if we do try it.
I am originally from Cincinnati, and still have family there. Since it's my hometown, I am, of course, biased, but I am pleased you have fond memories!
Yes: J. Sheekey lists "fried fillet of haddock, with chips and mushy peas." Maybe we should just eat it there.
Many thanks for the mention of The Canton Arms. I knew the Hope and Anchor people had other restaurants but haven't yet investigated them.
Brindisa is a place that had popped up for tapas and I will look at that one also, thank you.
As I mentioned above, I know nothing about Brixton, but can find out.
I don't know that I do like Ottolenghi type food, but I do love the cookbooks and all the recipes I've cooked from them. My husband loves them even more and he's the one who mentioned an Ottolenghi place. I will put Honey & Co on the list.
Borough Market is on my wish list but I don't know that I will get there. Again, I'll check out Elliot's.
Thank you all!
I hadn't run across Banquette, but of course I know the Savoy by reputation (and was considering afternoon tea there), so I will check it out.
Thank you for the input on Geale's. My aunt is hoping for "the best fish and chips ever," which I'm not sure I can deliver, but I can try!
Zuriga, I'm relieved to hear that the Terrace at the National is edible. That was on my list to enquire about, but I forgot. Of course something on the spot would be just the thing.
Dishoom does look fun to me, which is why I'm considering it. My more formal choice of the moment is Gymkhana but I'm sure I will change my mind several times between now and the trip.
If I do eat potted shrimp, I promise I will come back and let you know!
I appreciate the feedback. I'll look into North Sea although I'm getting a good feeling about Masters.
Salt Yard had come up in my research so I will look again. I hadn't heard of Donostia, but will look into it.
Malaysian is a cuisine I've eaten, but my family has not. I will investigate your suggestions.
If Thai is not a strong point, I'd just as soon skip it but Brixton is worth investigating.
Thanks for your thoughts on "local" and "seasonal" and I appreciate the reassurance about game in September. That will make my husband quite happy.
I will read up on potted shrimps and potting as a preservative method. I had certainly seen mention of this in novels before, but hadn't previously encountered it on a menu.
I will take your comments on Masters Superfish and Rock & Sole Plaice under advisement!
I am seeking advice on restaurant suggestions for our trip for late September, 2014, please.
I know this is a lot to read, so thank you for your patience.
We are a family group of four: myself, my husband, my aunt, and her (adult) son. We will be in London for eight days, coming from the States, and then in Paris for 11 days. My husband and I were in London about a decade ago; it will be the first visit for my aunt and my cousin, neither of whom have been to Europe before. We live in Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio and Chicago.
We are renting a flat in SW1 near the Pimlico Tube station. Owing to schedule loaded with sightseeing, museums, and theatre, we will have limited time for proper meals.
My cousin is a semi-vegetarian who eats dairy and eggs but no seafood or shellfish. Otherwise, we have no dietary restrictions. My husband is our most adventurous eater and enjoys game. My aunt loves seafood. They have also requested, variously, fish and chips, Indian, Thai, gastropubs, Spanish/tapas, small plates, modern British, farm-to-table/market driven cuisine/whatever that’s called in the UK (enlighten me). There’s interest in Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner and any Ottolenghi restaurant. I’d prefer to avoid French as we are going on to Paris. I’m a huge fan of small plates but don’t insist on it. I think the city, and the food scene, has changed a great deal since my last visit and I’d like to get at least a taste.
Budget guess: for lunch below £25 per person, without alcohol and dinner below £45 per person, without alcohol. Cheaper is fine but I will pay for quality and experience. A couple of more expensive meals are fine. I’m open as to location but realistically we won’t travel out of Zones 1-2 much, if at all, in terms of sightseeing and theatre-going.
Fish and chips: I’ve turned up Masters Superfish, Poppies, Golden Hind, ?Geale’s, ?Rock and Sole Plaice. Any thoughts?
Thai: My cousin had a recommendation for the Churchill Arms but this looks to me like a pub with Thai food, perhaps good but probably not excellent. I would like excellent and if this is not something London excels at, please tell me. The Heron? 101 Thai Kitchen? I’m betting the best options are further afield.
London does, of course, do Indian well, and I’ve found so many options I don’t know what to think. I want Indian food I can’t get here at home, and we certainly don’t have Michelin-starred Indian. On the more causal end, I like the look of Dishoom. Gymkhana is also appealing, partly because my husband would like the game menu (am I correct that game will still be available in late September?) and partly because it just looks…interesting. But so do the seafood/coastal Indian restaurants (Trishna, Quilon) and so do places like Amaya and Benares. The Cinnamon Club breakfasts look interesting (I’ve never had kedgeree). I do have access to chaat. I am not sure how to narrow this down. Please help!
Spanish/tapas: I am considering Jose (heeding warnings that it’s small and crowded); Barrafina; and does anyone know about a place called Tozino? My husband and I have been to Barcelona and good Spanish/tapas is hard for us to find in the States.
Places I would like: 10 Greek Street looks good; any feedback? The Clove Club? Mayfields? I also am interested in St. John and St. John Bread and Wine. And Anchor & Hope, if I can fit it in.
Seafood: J. Sheekey is mentioned often and looks good to me. I must look up what potted shrimps are. I see they even have vegetarian options. Other ideas?
Finally: Thoughts on pre- and post-theatre dining? So far we’ve booked plays at the National, the Globe, and Richard III at Trafalgar Studios.
If you got this far, my thanks, and thanks in advance for any advice, comments, or suggestions. I appreciate your help.
Pomplilio's, in Newport? There is a sausage with peppers sandwich on the menu, although I've not tried it, nor have I eaten there for many years.
Thank you all so much for your responses. I'll try to respond individually later. I will forget about Vietnamese and concentrate on other things; the Ma Peche suggestion is genius (and a head-slapper once you mentioned it); I would love to eat at a David Chang restaurant and will definitely put it on the list. City Bakery was on my list anyway (pretzel croissants are intriguing) and now I know to check out their hot chocolate. I do like the thick, European kind so thanks, kathryn, for the feedback on that. My aunt worries about weather, but the forecast is warmer than Columbus, and now I know what sort of chocolate to entice her with.
Hope you're all enjoying better weather than Columbus, Ohio is today!
Thanking you all in advance for any advice and suggestions you are able to tender. This is long, so thanks for bearing with me.
My beloved aunt and I have decided, at the last minute, that we need a winter getaway. Warmth tempted us, but she chose culture instead, so we are New York bound!
My aunt (60-ish) and I (younger) will be arriving this Thursday for a five-night stay, departing next Tuesday. Our hotel is in the vicinity of 7th Ave and W 55th. Much of our time will be spent viewing art, mainly at the Met, but also MOMA and possibly some other museums. I have hopes of theatre but since I couldn't get tickets for Twelfth Night, we will probably take our chances at the booth, plus there is always Lincoln Center and basically too many good choices. We haven't decided on other activities yet.
I currently live in Columbus, Ohio, and my aunt in Cincinnati. I visit Manhattan about once a year but my aunt hasn't been at least five years, and this will be only her third trip there total. I made two trips last year but haven't been since April, 2013. We are both adventurous eaters. I'm looking for a mix of convenience and food I can't get at home. While I am willing to go anywhere for a meal, we will be spending a lot of time in Midtown and the Upper East Side and my aunt is not as comfortable with a long travel time combined with a long wait for dinner, so we need some options near our hotel, in the Theatre District/Hell's Kitchen, on the UES, and/or that are easy to get to. Public transit and/or taxis are fine. We are a bit limited with long walks outdoors, especially if it's cold and damp, due to health issues, but up to 15 minutes or so should be fine.
She has no budget limits, but alas, I do. An occasional splurge won't break the bank but mostly I'd prefer not to spend more than $75 per person for dinner, without alcohol and before tax and tip. In an ideal world, lunch would be $20 or less per person, without alcohol and before tax and tip, but I'm open to spending more. Neither of us is much of a breakfast person; she likes tea and maybe a pastry and I want eggs and toast or steel-cut oatmeal. I don't do sweet first thing in the morning, and dislike brunch menus that are all sweet.
Neither of us have huge appetites and sharing small plates is my favorite way to dine, so I can taste more without getting full. We have no food allergies or dietary restrictions. She loves chocolate. If I can't get a reservation, I'm happy to sit at the bar, unless I've got a curtain to make. My aunt does prefer a chair or a stool with a back on it (not comfortable for her to sit without support) and really loud locations are not pleasant either.
I hope that's enough information to get started and give you some ideas. On to specifics:
1) Meals near the Met. I have seen the threads that discuss this. My go-to for lunch is Le Pain Quotidien on Madison Ave and I think 84th, and also Cafe Sabarsky in the Neue Gallerie (I love their Linzertorte). I would also consider Luke's Lobster, Untitled at the Whitney, the UES Shake Shack, maybe Payard, and the UES Salumeria Rosi (I enjoyed dinner at the other location). I'd take any advice or suggestions, especially about someplace new in the past ten months I may have missed.
2) My aunt loves chocolate, in whatever form. In cold weather she sometimes craves hot chocolate. Possibilities include: Jacques Torres, La Maison du Chocolate, Payard, Wafels & Dinges, and Grom. Feedback?
3) My aunt loves Vietnamese food. I'm not finding lots of recommendations but did locate a place called Cha Pa. Thoughts?
4) Afternoon tea might be on the schedule. I'm looking at the Mandarin Oriental, the Plaza, the Lowell, Lady Mendl, the St. Regis, and the Ritz-Carlton. The Mandarin Oriental may be able to combine a view with good food, if the reviews I've read are accurate. Price is not an issue here, but the food must be tasty.
5) I'm intrigued by regional Thai and Larb Ubol and Pure Thai pop up often. Thoughts?
6) I can get plenty of Korean food at home, but Danji looks different, like Korean meets small plates. Feedback?
7) I don't love brunch but we will be in town over a Saturday and Sunday and I know it's popular. Any thoughts? A brunch that will change my mind? Just forget it and eat lunch?
8) I love pretzels and my favorite to date is one I got from the Sigmund's pretzel cart in front of the Met, before the renovations started. I know they have a bricks-and-mortar location but don't know if I will get there. It looks like a place called The Jeffrey serves Sigmund's pretzels; anyone been there? I have an inquiry in to Sigmund's to see if there are other options, but does anyone have a pretzel they love that I should try?
9) I love food markets (the Boqueria!) and farmers' markets of all descriptions. If I can manage to get to the Union Square Greenmarket on this trip, I will. I'd enjoy trying the Union Square Cafe; do they serve food in the bar between lunch and dinner? Or is there someplace else nearby that would be worth a meal or a snack? (I haven't researched this, so apologies for not asking this more intelligently.)
10) I hope this isn't too off-topic but my aunt would enjoy someplace with a view of the city, but she would not enjoy the Empire State Building. The Top of the Rock was recommended to me; I've never been. Ideally I would combine a view with food or at least a drink. If we do tea or a drink in the Lobby Bar at the Mandarin Oriental, it might work. Another suggestion I garnered was a place called Robert in the Museum of Art and Design, although I feel unsure of the food there. Thoughts?
11) I'm considering a prix-fixe lunch menu at a place we won't otherwise visit for dinner. (This way I get to try a restaurant where I'd really like to dine, but without tying up an evening my aunt wants to do something else.) I was looking at Aquavit, maybe Seasonal, Jean-Georges, and Bouloud Sud. My aunt would be put off by a dress code and I can't quite decipher the Jean-Georges requirements; would jeans be okay at J-G or maybe Nougatine? Or maybe you have other suggestions? I'm not worried about price unless it's over $100 pp.
I realise that was long and thank anyone who had the patience to wade through it! Your feedback is appreciated.
Thanks to all for your replies, which I will read carefully and do my best to respond. I have been MIA due to a new pair of glasses which left me unable to read for several days (off-topic, I know, but I felt you deserved an explanation).
I am also expecting more information tonight or tomorrow about our itinerary which should help me to nail down some choices and/or eliminate some options. I will return with that as soon as I know.
Thank you all again for your help. I am really looking forward to my trip!
I have made several trips to Chicago in the past five years or so, to visit family and friends there. However, I have not visited your lovely city for two years (long story). I am returning soon to see family and friends and an exhibit at the Art Institute. Normally I keep up on the Chicago food scene but have not done this as much lately.
I've had excellent advice from many board members in the past, and thank you in advance for your assistance.
One member of our travel party lives in Cincinnati, and the rest of us live in Columbus. We eat anything. The family member whom we are visiting in Chicago, who will be dining with us some of the time, is a vegetarian (no seafood but dairy and eggs okay). At any given time, there may be between two and eight people dining out. We will be in town from around July 12 to July 16 or 17. I understand it will be difficult/impossible to get reservations at short notice.
I prefer small plates so I can taste as much as possible without getting full. My SO and I love tasting menus, but we usually can't do this with other people along.
Places I have eaten at, and enjoyed, on previous visits include: Sable, Publican, the Girl and the Goat, Purple Pig, Frontera Grill/Topolobampo, another regional Mexican place whose name I cannot recall, Mercat a la Planxa, and Miller's Pub (friendly service, good beer, and the best burger I ever ate at 1 am after a long day waiting for a U2 concert). There were more but I'm blanking on them right now.
I know we will be visiting the Art Institute. Our two go-to places for lunch nearby are Terzo Piano and The Gage. I have also put Henri on my list for this trip as well, unless you don't recommend it.
Otherwise, I am uncertain of our itinerary. We will be staying with friends in Elmhurst (any recommendations there?) and commuting into the city. So, I'm not sure about what neighborhoods we will be in at what times of the day; if our party is willing to travel for food; et cetera. I'm open to your suggestions.
I would like to know what is new in the past two years, as well as places I still haven't visited. Here is what I am considering:
-if just my SO and I go out for dinner, maybe Naha or Goosefoot
I apologize; I am usually more organized. Thanks for any advice, help, and suggestions you can offer.
If you need to eat lunch at Easton, I would suggest Northstar. They are a locally-owned mini-chain (three locations in Columbus) and the food is very good. I also think it's an excellent renovation of an old Smith and Hawken building. You order at the counter and they bring your food. If there's a long line, you can go directly to the bar. The house-made ginger ale is excellent, as is their veggie burger, their tomato soup with olive tapenade, and the cheeseburger with fries. I find the people-watching fun and the atmosphere as pleasant as the food. Most of the other restaurants in Easton and the area are fast food or national chains, alas.
For a happy hour with good food in Columbus, you might look into G. Michael's, as everything there is consistently excellent. It's in German Village but close to the highway. Barcelona, in the same area, might be another good choice but I will have to check and see what their happy hour situation is and get back to you.
I can't help with Dayton, sorry.
I don't know about happy hour specials in Cincinnati off the top of my head, but will look around and try to get back to you.
It's been a while since I lived in Minneapolis, but I wonder if Lund's/Byerly's might be able to help you. My Byerly's store regularly carried the original flavor one. My other thought is the same as already suggested, to contact Pearson's directly. Good luck!
I agree with all of Crockett67's recommendations, especially NorthStar. The one place close to campus I can recommend is a Korean restaurant called Diaspora. It even has a surprisingly pleasant atmosphere for a campus ethnic restaurant. But the best food in Columbus is not near campus. Hope you have a good visit.
Glad you're having a good trip and thanks for checking in. So sorry you had a bad experience at the Montgomery Inn up near Sawmill. I've never been to that location, but they're from Cincinnati, and although they're very popular, it's not my favorite restaurant. Ugh. I am glad you enjoyed Dirty Frank's and hope you make it to Jeni's while you're still here. Enjoy the rest of your trip!
I love your story about the morel mushrooms and Rigsby's restaurant!
For breakfast, in the Short North, I recommend Tasi, which I think I mentioned above. Their house-smoked salmon is delicious. I also like Pistacia Vera in German Village. They are actually a bakery, and now that I know you have a car, I would recommend them for a visit also. They are known for their macarons but everything they make is good. They have a limited breakfast menu but it's very, very good. I love their croissants, especially the rye croissants. I believe they are open daily from 7 am to 7 pm.
I also enjoy Skillet for breakfast (again, German Village) but it's a tiny place and the wait can be long. Further, I think they only do brunch on the weekends. I would recommend all their food at any time of day, but again, it's small and there can be a wait. The menu changes seasonally and is not long.
NorthStar also does a good breakfast.
Dirty Frank's is a lot of fun and the food is good, as long as you're in the mood for hot dogs and tater tots. I do love several of their menu items and the whole menu/decor/vibe is fun.
The same restaurant group also owns Tip Top Kitchen, which is a favorite place of mine downtown. I am fond of their Ham and Slaw sandwich, which reminds me of a much better tasting version of the Buddy Boy sandwiches of my youth from Frisch's in Cincinnati. I upgrade to the pretzel bun and the sweet potato fries, which I think are the best I've ever had.
I will see if I can think of more breakfast options for you.
I'm glad you got to see the amazing dining room at the Netherlands; it's just so gorgeous. I am sure the food was just as good as the decor. I am glad to hear another positive report about the brunch there.
Glad you had a good time and come back to Ohio soon!
I'm sorry for the delay in replying, and this is probably too late to help you, but let me give you some suggestions.
For breakfast/brunch, look up Tasi in the Short North, Pistacia Vera in German Village (it's actually a bakery and has only a couple of breakfast items but they are stellar, plus then you have an excuse to try their incredible baked goods), and Skillet in German Village if you don't mind a possible long wait. I would also recommend Tasi for lunch if you're in the Short North.
Also check out Northstar Cafe (3 locations, including Easton if you find yourselves there) for any meal. Locally owned, seasonal/organic food where possible, and very, very tasty. They make the best veggie burger I've ever eaten, and the Niman Ranch cheeseburger is also great (as are the fries). At the Easton location I love the Crispy Thai salad. My husband is very partial to their meatloaf.
If you're shopping at Easton, I would eat at Northstar or Flip Side (burgers and boozy shakes).
I am not so good with suggesting bars; sorry! Barcelona, in German Village, would have drinks for every taste and also has good food and a great patio, and they have a nice bar area, but it's a restaurant. Gallo's Tap Room is not only a great bar but also has fantastic food; it's ostensibly a sports bar but it's one that I, a non-bar and non-sports bar person who is older than 21 will happily go to. I love their coleslaw, panini sandwiches, and the muffaletta. Mouton on High Street in the Short North has great cocktails and the bacon sashimi appetizer is delicious. Brothers Drake Meadery, just off High Street, has a bar where you can taste their mead and some other local alcohol, but I am not sure if they serve food.
For something funky in Hilliard, try the Starliner Diner. The decor is kitsch and fun and the menu (American plus Cuban-inspired) is good and will please everyone. I am a big fan of their black beans and rice and their Cuban bread. The salads are good, the walleye (ask if it's not on the menu) is outstanding, and the chicken pot pie is a favorite also.
Your must-eat place is Jeni's ice cream (various locations around town). Trust me; just go, and sample lots of amazing flavors.
All of these places I've mentioned would work for a 21-year old and slightly older folks.
Sorry for the delay in replying. I hope I can be helpful. Will you have a car? Do you only want places in walking distance? Any budget concerns? Are you staying near the Convention Center or elsewhere? Let me go ahead and give you some suggestions I hope will help.
Alas, I am not a coffee person, but I do know there is a Cup o'JOe/MoJoe (local chain) near the convention center. There is also a coffee place inside the North Market (more on that soon) called A Touch of Earth and they are friendly and use local milk and cream. There is Cafe Brioso downtown, but that won't be convenient for your morning coffee. Oh, and Impero Coffee Roasters is also on High Street in the Short North. I hope a Columbus coffee person will chime in here and help you out. For what it's worth, I have always had good service at Cup O' Joe/MoJoe and A Touch of Earth, so if they are not the coffee you want, perhaps they could direct you.
The one Columbus food I would advise you NOT miss is Jeni's Ice Cream. There is one inside the North Market and one on High Street very close to the Convention Center. Please go early in your visit and sample many flavors, as there is sure to be something you like.
I am going to have to think about places with a limited menu. The first one that comes to mind that is in the Short North is Northstar Cafe. This is a locally owned small chain (3 locations) that serves good food, locally sourced and/or organic when possible. The architecture and atmosphere are as pleasant as the food. You order at the counter and then your food is brought to your table. They make the best veggie burger I've ever eaten, and my husband is very partial to their meatloaf, but I've never had bad food there. I also love the house-made ginger ale and the Shooting Star (carrot juice, orange juice, and ginger; I like mine with extra ginger). The menu is not as extensive as other restaurants.
For a can't miss meal, try Risgby's, on High Street in the Short North near the Convention Center. It's a white-linen setting with excellent service, but casual in that you're welcome to come in shorts and sneakers. The food is always, always impeccable. I believe they do lunch during the week as well as dinner, but check the website. Their proper name is Rigsby's Kitchen.
The same owner runs Tasi, which is a casual cafe tucked just a block or so off High Street. It is also order-at-the-counter, we-bring-your-food. It's a mix of counter, communal table, and small table seating. I think they do only breakfast and lunch. Their house-smoked salmon is very good. All the breads at Tasi and Rigsby's are baked at their own bakery, Eleni-Christina, which is also in the Short North and is open for retail sale to the public. Do not miss the raisin-walnut bread!
Across High Street from the Convention Center, and another short block, is the North Market. This is a covered indoor market that has been in business in Columbus since the late 1800s, I think. There is a farmers' market outdoors every Saturday morning. Many of the indoor merchants are closed on Mondays. There is a butcher, a fishmonger, a poultry and game seller, a florist, a greengrocer, a baker, a cheese guy, a beer and wine shop, and also purveyors of everything from candy to spices to hot sauce to popcorn. There is also a lot of prepared food for sale. It's a great place for coffee and a pastry, lunch, a snack, dessert, grazing, or dinner. Taste of Belgium sells fantastic waffles and also makes crepes. There is a Jeni's. I like the pretzels from Brezel. The chocolates from Pure Imagination are not to be missed; they are as tasty as they are beautiful. Prepared food ranges from pizza to Polish to Middle Eastern to Vietnamese and more. Don't miss the offerings from Kitchen Little (at the side of North Market Poultry and Game) as everything they make is good.
I will also mention DeepWood, on High Street near the Convention Center. I believe they offer lunch during the week, as well as dinner, but I would check their website. I have only eaten there once but it was a very good experience.
There are many more restaurants I can recommend in Columbus, but I am not sure exactly where you are staying, what sort of transportation you will have, how far you want to venture (if your schedule even permits), and what your budget is. I'm happy to supply more suggestions. With the exception of Northstar, all the places I've mentioned are within close walking distance of the Convention Center (and I personally would not hesitate to walk to Northstar, but that would depend on what you are able and willing to do). There is lots more to try in Columbus!
Diane, I think Latitude 41 did a Thanksgiving dinner last year. Also, the Liz Lessner restaurants tend to be open on holidays (Jury Room, Tip Top, etc.) Northstar? The Refectory? G. Michael's? Barcelona? I have eaten on Thanksgiving Day the past two years at McCormick and Schmick's in Cincinnati, so I bet the one in Easton would be open as well (and we've had great food, although I don't know about vegan options there). I'll keep thinking.
Regarding Columbus: In Worthington, I have not yet been to Natalie's Coal Fired pizza, but I have heard good things about it and it's on my list to try. La Chatelaine is locally owned and has very good quality baked goods. Their food is also good; the Worthington location has an especially nice patio.
Elsewhere in Columbus, I love Northstar (several locations), Rigsby's, Tasi Cafe (owned by the same people as Rigsby's; their house smoked salmon is excellent). Pistacia Vera is an amazing bakery in German Village, famous for the macarons, but everything there is good. They do a limited but very tasty breakfast menu. Other places in German Village that I like are G. Michael's (a small but nice patio, Barcelona (one of the best patios in town), and Skillet. I am not a big fan of Katzinger's, although there is nothing wrong with the food. Oh, and Lindey's is supposed to be good but I have never eaten there.
Starliner Diner is good and the decor is amusing. I can't help you with Tommy's Diner or City BBQ. I can't recommend First Watch to you at all; I think the food is just OK and would never go there if I could help it. I also can't help with the German Village Coffee Shop. I have heard good things about the Angry Baker but haven't eaten there personally. Jeni's ice cream, yes, you should absolutely try (several locations). They are very good about samples so just taste everything before you order! If you plan to visit the North Market, there is lots to eat there, and that could be an entire thread to itself. My personal favorites at the North Market (besides Jeni's) are the pretzels from Brezel, the waffles from Taste of Belgium, and the chocolates from Pure Imagination. My husband is partial to Hubert's pierogi. Actually, all of Hubert's food that I've tried has been good. I hope some of that is helpful and not overwhelming!
I called Servatti's, and they were very helpful. Their cream puff filling is a half-and-half mixture of whipped cream and pastry cream (which they called "Bavarian cream"). So now you know about two of the cream puff fillings!
My source confirms that Schmidt's uses a pastry cream filling in their cream puffs, and thinks their mobile food services would offer the same stuff as their restaurant here in Columbus.
I am working on cream puff intelligence for you! Schmidt's is a German restaurant from Columbus and their food is generally pretty good. I've never eaten their cream puffs but will find out what the filling is. Servatti's is a bakery from Cincinnati and their stuff is very good. Ditto on their cream puffs. I will report back.
I hadn't thought about Jean-Robert's restaurant; good idea. I haven't been to Table but ate at his previous place (Jean-Ro's Bistro) a number of times and always found it to be very good. I hear the red snapper at Orchids is excellent.
Of course I would never dream of discussing non-food things here, but if you need other suggestions for Sunday afternoon activities, well, it is my hometown.
I hope you'll let me know what you think about the ice cream. Again, Jeni's salty caramel is not my favorite (I am not much of a caramel person in general) but it's very, very popular. I am sad you were not able to get the sweet corn and blackberry as I think it's really stellar; a nice balance of flavor and not too sweet. Her ice creams are generally not overly sweet.
I am a HUGE fan of the sweet corn creme brulee at Sable. And Sable in general! I think their pretzels are excellent.
The waffles are FANTASTIC. I have never been to Belgium, but these waffles are amazing. I actually prefer them at room temperature, although they are also fabulous warm. I hope that one of your trips to Columbus or Cincinnati, you get to sample them. Or that you'll let me ship some to you!
I would not say that the ice cream is a competition, although others might see it that way. Graeter's has been in business in Cincinnati for a number of years and is still owned by the Graeter's family, as far as I know. It is "French pot" method ice cream, made in small batches, and has a high fat content. It is what I ate as a kid as the "gold standard" of local ice cream, although Aglamesis is also very good (another story). The flavor to try is black raspberry chocolate chip, or any of the chocolate chip flavors. The liquid chocolate is poured into the frozen ice cream, and flakes off in small and large shards. It's very good ice cream, but it is rich and heavy.
Jeni's is more recently native to Columbus. Jeni's is more of an Italian gelato style ice cream, and while it's very smooth and rich-tasting, I am sure it's lower in fat. Her flavors are also a little more unusual. She's a stickler for local ingredients (Snowville Creamery cream and milk) and she's recently expanded to Nashville and Cleveland, but locations are concentrated in Columbus. If you are ever in the area, it is definitely worth a try. Oh, I see you said you can buy pints. They are crazy expensive. The flavor everyone (but me) loves is salty caramel. My favorites tend to be seasonal (strawberry; sweet corn and blackberry; some of her winter flavors; plus the one-offs) but you might try the Reisling poached pear to get an idea of what she can do.
That was probably more than you wanted to ever know about Ohio ice cream! I apologize.
You have helped me on a number of occasions, notably Chicago recommendations, so I would love to return the favor. I am originally from Cincinnati and still have family there. I am not as current on the restaurant scene there as I would like, but let me tell you what I know.
Oktoberfest: I have not been in years, but the information you've gotten from other posters seems sound. It is big and noisy and fun. I am not a cream puff person but many people love Schmidt's (from Columbus) and/or Servatti's (from Cincinnati). If you see mettwurst, you might try it, as I feel like it's harder to find outside of Cincinnati, although I don't know what vendor to steer you towards.
Dinner: I can't recommend the Montgomery Inn Boathouse, even though it's a family favorite, because I have never loved their ribs, and I haven't been in years so I can't tell you about the quality of the rest of the food. I know many people love the Montgomery Inn, and they are an institution, but you either love the ribs or you don't. From what I know about your food tastes, I fear you would not love them, and I'd hate for you to blow a meal in Cincinnati. However, I agree the location/view/atmosphere are good.
I agree with other posters that you may not be as impressed with Nada as we are, since you are coming from Chicago, but I do need to tell you I've dined there three times in the past year and really love the place, especially the patio. I think they have good food and drink and excellent service and think you'd get a good meal there. I love the oyster shooters, the ceviche, the queso with chorizo, the pork cazuela (with the egg), and was impressed with the barbacoa tacos, which I did not expect to like. I'm also a fan of the churros (always fresh, not greasy, not too sweet).
I also know Nada serves brunch, but know nothing about it. Maybe someone here can help?
For brunch, you might consider a place called Taste of Belgium, in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. This would be only a short drive, and I can strongly recommend their exceptional beer list and the goetta crepes. Goetta is a Cincinnati food that I ate reluctantly as a kid (don't tell my German ancestors) but I just LOVED this dish. The atmosphere was good; we sat at a communal table. The owner and servers were very friendly and went to a lot of trouble to make sure we would enjoy our food, and to help me select a beer I would like (they brought me tastes to be certain). They make killer waffles (available at Findlay Market in Cincinnati and the North Market in Columbus) but I dream about those goetta crepes.
I have also eaten at Via Vite, although not recently, and the food was solid. It didn't knock my socks off, but it was a good meal, and the space is nice. I would eat there over Rock Bottom for sure.
Sadly, I have not yet been to the Moerlein Lager House. I have heard mixed reviews but I plan to try it anyway.
Even if you don't eat at the Palm Court at the Hilton, do go have a drink there at the bar, or at least walk through it. Even non-architecture fans are amazed by this room. It used to be the hotel lobby and it's absolutely stunning. I know the chef there is good (Todd Kelly) and have also heard good things about brunch.
Oh, and Findlay Market. I've been two or three times in the past year or two and have mixed feelings about it. I want to love it, like I love the North Market in Columbus. The farmers' market is definitely good (and can draw a crowd). The permanent market is a bit mixed. It's not in a great neighborhood (I am not saying this is good or bad, just a fact), although I'm not personally bothered by that. There is a lot of empty space at the market, so be prepared for that. Having said that, I would recommend it, as there isn't anyplace else like it in Cincinnati. Dojo Gelato gets a lot of press and while I thought some of their flavors were very good (the Vietnamese coffee was a favorite with our group), others were, to me, just good. Definitely worth a try. (Madisono's also makes excellent ice cream, in my book. And maybe you know about Graeter's already? I ate that all the time growing up in Cincinnati, although I have to admit I'm now a Jeni's convert.) The spice place, Colonel De, definitely is worth a peek: very friendly and a good assortment. There's a Vietnamese place that gets good press that I can't think of the name of right this second. Pho Lang Thang, maybe? There are also good butchers and other vendors, although I don't know if you're looking to take food home? (If you are, that's another topic.)
I feel like this is a little disjointed, but I wanted to respond. Again, you've helped me often, so I wanted to try and help you out as well, especially on my home turf, so to speak. Please do report back and let us know what other questions you have.