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Two neighborhoods near downtown are your best best:
1. OTR (Over The Rhine) is an historic German neighborhood that’s been revitalized over the past several years. Lots of great options, depending on what you’re looking for. LouVino is southern style tapas with a great wine flight selection. A Tavola has excellent pizzas. Senate for gourmet hot dogs (!!), the Eagle for fried chicken, or Maize for Latin American. Hard to go wrong! And there’s a Graeter’s for ice cream afterward. You can park anywhere in the area and stroll around to find what strikes your fancy.
2. The Banks is right along the river, by the Reds ballpark. It gets lively when there’s a game going on, so check schedules. The Yard House and Moerlein’s Lager House have nice outdoor seating with views of the river and park, with extensive beer lists (that German brewing heritage!). Joella’s Hot Chicken is excellent and a good tune-up for Nashville, where it’s a specialty. You can park in the garage at the Banks and easily get back on the road when you’re done.