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Food Tour Etiquette: How to Eat Like a Local in Cincinnati

a piece of cake on a plateIf you have done any traveling, you know food etiquette varies throughout the world. Street food and sandwiches are common in many areas. But in other countries, the only acceptable way to eat is while seated at the table using proper silverware.

Most of our food tours are casual because most of the locals are very acceptable of different eating styles. We often try dishes while “grazing” around our public market. Sometimes we pick up food from a walkup window and find a nearby bench where we can taste the sample. On other occasions, we’re seated at indoor tables with dishes served from shared plates. While still other tours offer a more typical sit-down restaurant experience with table service.

Part of the fun of taking a food tour is meeting people from other parts of the country or even other parts of the world. On a recent tour, I noticed some international travelers eating a sandwich, typically a handheld food, with a fork and knife. It certainly didn’t bother me because I think “anything goes” in Cincinnati. You can be as formal or as casual as you like, and no one will care at all. It got me thinking about how I might help visitors feel more comfortable as they enjoy the wide range of foods in our region.

a plate of food on a tableHere are a handful of personal observations and suggestions:

  1. Cincinnati Chili–Most often served as a 3-way, 4-way, or 5-way, a pile of noodles covered with meat sauce and cheese, perhaps with beans and onions. We don’t usually cut the noodles. More likely you will see locals curling the noodles or scooping up as much as a fork will hold. The little oyster crackers can go right on top of the pile, but don’t be surprised if you see some folks eating one oyster at a time sprinkled with hot sauce. And, yes, we eat our hot dogs covered with chili and piled high with cheese, too. But a chili dog is a handheld item for sure.
  2. Goetta–A local breakfast specialty similar to a sausage patty. Perfectly fine just to eat it with your fork alongside your plate of eggs, but also quite common to enjoy a runny fried egg plopped right on top of the goetta to blend together like hash.
  3. Chicken wings–Definitely pick these up with your fingers. Sure, it’s messy, but that’s what the napkins are for. Same for tacos. Same for bbq ribs.
  4. Pizza–We often pick up a slice with our hands. If the slice is too big or too messy, we use a fork and knife. You won’t see too many people folding the slice around here, but we get it if you do.

What local food etiquette tips should I add to the list? After all, we want our visitors to feel at home.

a person sitting at a table eating food