In Bizarre Foods Cincinnati, part of the Delicious Destinations series featuring Andrew Zimmern, the host and his crew visited numerous restaurants in the city, showcasing a variety of unique and delicious dishes. Here is a convenient list of all the addresses and dishes highlighted in this exciting exploration of Cincinnati’s food scene.
ANDREW ZIMMERN CINCINNATI DISH – Cincinnati Chili
WHAT IS IT?
Cincinnati chili is a beef-based dish with a unique spice blend, often served over spaghetti. Garlic and onions are simmered in oil for hours before adding raw meat, which is not browned so that the fat renders into the sauce. The secret spice blend contains cinnamon and is combined with tomato paste and water, creating a signature sauce-like consistency. Cheese coneys are a popular way to eat Cincinnati chili, consisting of a hot dog and steamed bun with mustard, chili, diced onion, and cheddar cheese. Alternatively, it can be served over spaghetti in the Cincinnati style.
Cincinnati has a celebrated obsession with chili, which was invented in 1922 by two Macedonian immigrants, John and Tom Kiradjieff. They served a thin, stew-like beef sauce flavored with cinnamon and other Mediterranean spices over hot dogs at their downtown stand. Although it is unclear how the chili ended up being served over spaghetti, the tradition has endured.
DISH – Reuben And Potato Pancake
WHAT IS IT?
Izzy’s signature dish is the Reuben and potato pancake, a corned beef sandwich with Swiss cheese and sauerkraut on rye bread, served on top of a large potato pancake. The corned beef is cooked on-site in small batches, with the brisket cured offsite specifically for Izzy’s. Marinated overnight with vegetables and aromatics, the brisket is then cooked in copper pots and sliced thin. Each Reuben contains a quarter pound of corned beef, sauerkraut, thousand island dressing, and imported Swiss cheese. The sandwich is served on local rye bread and paired with Izzy’s famous latkes, a Jewish fried potato and onion pancake.
Izzy’s Deli, opened in 1901, was one of the first Jewish delis in the city of Cincinnati, taking inspiration from the stacked meat sandwiches and traditional kosher foods served in New York delis, such as latkes potato pancakes. The oldest Jewish community in the Midwest, Cincinnati attracted waves of European Jews throughout the 19th century. While corned beef is also an Irish tradition, the curing method was adopted and perfected by Jewish butchers in America, with New Yorker Arnold Reuben said to have invented it in 1914. Izzy’s version of the Reuben and potato pancake is now a Cincinnati icon.
Pork schnitzel is a popular dish in German cuisine and a Cincinnati favorite, made by breading and frying pork cutlets. At Mecklenburg Gardens Restaurant, the chef prepares this dish using lean pork tenderloin, dredged in flour, egg, and housemade bread crumbs. This technique seals in the meat’s juices, while creating a crispy exterior when pan-fried. The thin cut of tenderloin cooks quickly, preventing the delicate bread crumbs from burning. The dish is typically served with traditional German comfort foods such as Spätzle, buttery flower dumplings, and sour brass cabbage, accompanied by a variety of sauces.
During the mid to late 1800s, Cincinnati was known as “porkopolis” due to its status as the hog processing capital of the United States. With 26 meat processing plants, the city processed over 85,000 pigs annually. Despite the eventual migration of the pork industry to Chicago, Cincinnati continues to embrace its porcine history, with the flying pig serving as its mascot.
ANDREW ZIMMERN CINCINNATI DISH – Goetta
WHAT IS IT?
Goetta is a savory spiced meatloaf made with a combination of pork, beef, and oats. Eckerlin Meats is a premium butcher that uses prime cuts for their version of this dish. The chef at this establishment has modernized his great-great-great grandfather’s recipe by replacing the organs and scraps with pork shoulder and beef chuck roll. The seasonings, however, have remained unchanged for over a century and include dried onion, black pepper, celery, and salt. The addition of ground steel-cut oats binds the forcemeat together and imparts a mild nutty flavor. After simmering and cooling, the chef cuts thick slices that are pan-fried until crispy on the outside yet soft and juicy on the inside. This dish serves as an excellent base for a hard-fried egg and a slice of melty American cheese, all served on a locally baked buttered egg bun.
WHERE IS IT?
Eckerlin’s Meats 116 W Elder St, Cincinnati, OH 45202, United States Cincinnati, United States
NOTES – DELICIOUS DESTINATIONS CINCINNATI
Goetta is a German-inspired dish that is not commonly found in Germany. Its origin is thought to be related to a pork and grain sausage that originated in Northern Germany. This sausage was created to provide an economical means for working-class families to stretch their limited meat supplies.
BIZARRE FOODS DELICIOUS DESTINATIONS CINCINNATI DISH – Fish Fry
WHAT IS IT?
Fish fry is a popular dish that consists of fried pollock served on a bun with a side of french fries. The chef at this Cincinnati restaurant incorporates his own brewed beer into the batter, which is seasoned with creole spices. Mild Atlantic white fish is used, first coated with seasoned flour, then dipped in the beer batter and fried until golden brown. The dish is served on a soft white roll with tomato, lettuce, tartar sauce, and fries.
WHERE IS IT?
Washington Platform Saloon 1000 Elm St, Cincinnati, OH 45202, United States Cincinnati, United States
Unfortunately, this restaurant has closed its doors.
Fish fries are a tradition in Cincinnati that originated from the Catholic practice of abstaining from meat during the period leading up to Easter. Many churches and VFW halls in the area hold Friday night fish fry fundraisers during this time. The popularity of this tradition led to the creation of the Fillet-O-Fish sandwich by Cincinnati McDonald’s franchisee Lou Groen in 1962. He developed the sandwich in response to slumping burger sales during Lent and it quickly became a hit. The success of the sandwich led to its national rollout by the fast-food giant three years later.
Graeter’s ice cream now uses 37 machines to churn their ice cream, a significant increase from the original hand-cranked bucket. However, each machine still produces only a two-and-a-half-gallon portion, as opposed to industrial-size batches. Bob Graeter oversees the production of over two dozen flavors, including their best-seller, Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip, which blends their custard base with black raspberry puree. The small batches and controlled churning process result in a dense and rich ice cream with minimal air whipped in. Graeter’s also sets itself apart with its house-made chocolate chunks, which are melted from bittersweet bars and coat the ice cream, forming a hard shell before being broken into large chocolate chunks. Customers can enjoy Graeter’s ice cream at one of their nineteen scoop shops in Cincinnati, or purchase it pre-packed for retail.
WHERE IS IT?
Graeter’s Ice Cream 511 Walnut St, Cincinnati, OH 45202, United States Cincinnati, United States
Ice cream has been around since the fourth century, but was only enjoyed by the wealthy. The advent of insulated ice houses in the 1870s made it more widely available. Although ice cream became cheaper and mass-produced by the 1920s, Graeter’s still uses the old-fashioned French pot method to churn small, dense batches of their home-style ice cream.
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