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Ohio, in the foodie world, is best known for its Chocolate Peanut Butter candies called Buckeyes. These are named after the state nut — which is poisonous, by the way. We do, however, have a lot more food to offer!
If you’re visiting Ohio, even if you’re just passing through on a road trip, use this guide to eat something better than fast food. I literally wrote the book on Ohio food, so let me introduce you to my favorite foods, those you can only get in the Buckeye state.
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Best Grilled Cheese in Ohio
Melt Bar and Grilled is a statewide, gourmet grilled cheese sandwich chain. Melt has a very diverse and large menu, including a great kids menu and a selection for vegetarians. They also have a huge drink menu, which includes plenty of fun, non-alcoholic options too! Don’t let the word “bar” scare you. I always see kids dining there when I go. Melt offers many great seasonal sandwiches, so you’ll want to visit more than once if you get the chance! It’s worth noting, the sandwiches at melt are huge! My sister and I can easily split one.
Best Cincinnati Style Chili in Ohio
Cincinnati Style Chili is chili spooned over spaghetti, and sometimes topped with onions and cheese. In 2013, the Smithsonian named it one of the “Most Iconic Foods in America.” Cincinnati style chili is almost never served by the bowl. It’s really a topping. Calling the dish “chili” is a bit of a misnomer because it’s not like the soupy style chili you’re thinking. Instead, think of it as more of a spiced meat sauce. The most famous is Skyline Chili, but you can try the dish in most of the diners around the area. The ordering system is based on “Ways” — which is how it will be served. Such as Two Way: Spaghetti topped with Chili; Three Way: Spaghetti, Chili and Cheese; Four Way: Spaghetti, Chili, Cheese and Onions or Beans; Five Way: Spaghetti, Chili, Beans, Onions, and Cheese
Skip the fast food on your next trip and try the best food in the Buckeye State! From Ice Cream to Lake Erie Fish, we have a lot to offer!
Best Ice Cream in Ohio
Ohioans love Ice Cream! Each of our major cities has its own favorite ice cream company. Mitchells and Honey Hut is in Cleveland, Jeni’s in Columbus, Handel’s in Youngstown, and Graeters in Cincinnati. I’m partial to Honey Hut, especially since they carry my favorite flavor, Banana, year-round. But all of them are excellent! Why did a state where it’s below freezing at least 5 months of the year inspire at least 5 different major ice cream brands? Let me know if you find out.
Best Ohio Valley Style Pizza
Did you know that Ohio has its own style of pizza? Ohio Valley Style Pizza is made by piling cold cheese onto a thick but soft crust with hot tomato sauce (usually with cold pepperoni) and then cut into squares. Order it with extra cheese, trust me. DiCarlo’s in Steubenville invented it, so there is no better place to give it a try.
Tony Packo’s is arguably the most famous restaurant in all of Ohio. That’s because Corporal Max Klinger, from the TV show MASH, portrayed by Toledo’s own Jamie Farr, missed it and talked about it a lot on the show. If you find yourself in Toledo, stop in and try a “great Hungarian hot dog, with chili peppers, and a cold beer” which was Klingler’s favorite! In 1972, Burt Reynolds stopped by for a bite and when asked for his autograph, he grabbed the closest thing, a hot dog bun! Since then, hundreds of celebrities, presidents, and astronauts have signed buns, which are proudly displayed at the restaurant.
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Best Fish Frys
In the spring, you can find Lake Erie Perch being sold at just about every Catholic Church in Ohio! Since Catholics traditionally skip meat on Fridays during lent, many churches decided to do fish frys to fill the demand for fish and as a fundraising opportunity. There are many seafood restaurants along Lake Erie where you can also get a Lake Erie Perch sandwich — if you don’t find yourself here during lent. If you’re in the Mentor/Grand River Ohio area, I’m particularly fond of Pickle Bill’s. As a kid, I was fascinated by all the cool decorations. As an adult, I love the outdoor dining right on the lake. All summer long, fresh Lake Erie fish find their way into sandwiches, platters, and even tacos.
Possibly the most famous of Ohio’s microbreweries, Great Lakes Brewing Company makes a lot of great specialty beers. The most famous is their Christmas Ale, which features cinnamon and spices. It’s a heavier beer, perfect for winter. It’s worth noting, they only brew Christmas Ale once a year, at Christmas time. Sometimes, I will see Christmas Ale for sale in July, but since they do not brew it that month, you know it’s old beer. I wouldn’t recommend trying it then, it’s just not the same.
They also make a brew named after Elliot Ness, a famous prohibition agent who served in Cleveland. They named a brew after him because, famously, there is an actual bullet hole from him in the bar area of the restaurant. Elliot Ness is an amber lager, it’s a pretty dark beer.
They also named a beer after Commodore Perry, who led Navy ships in nearby Lake Erie during the war of 1812. Commodore Perry is an IPA. You can take a tour of the brewery and learn about how beer is made. Don’t have a lot of time? You can pick up their beer at most grocery stores in Ohio.
So remember, no fast food when you’re in Ohio! There are so many great places around the state to eat! Ohioans are obnoxiously friendly, we can’t help it. I couldn’t possibly cover every town in Ohio, so if you find yourself in a small town, just stop by any local gas station and ask someone where to eat. They will be more than happy to brag about their secret local spot in town. I promise. You might even end up with a new friend.
When You Go
There are several daily flights to Ohio but the only non-stop is into Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE), which takes about 4 hours from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). We like to shop for the best deals when we travel but finding time for a bunch of research is challenging.
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