Zips is a Cincinnati landmark that's known for its burgers. My wife and I met there on a blind date a few years ago so we try to stop in on a fairly regular basis and we've never been disappointed. Our bartender/server (we tend to prefer the small bar located in the back of the restaurant) informed us that the burgers have no special preparation or secret ingredients - they're not even salted, but the meat is brought in fresh every day except for Sunday and they're broiled on a grill that sears them on both sides. The method insures that the burgers hold their juices.
An odd variation from the traditional "Zip Burger" is the "Girth Burger", a burger with a met, sliced long ways, on top. Ordinarily, I wouldn't want to subject my digestive system to this monstrosity but for the sake of our review I figured I'd better give it a shot. Turns out, the "Girth Burger" was pretty good. The first bite all I could taste was the met but as I continued the hamburger flavor showed up too. The two meats complimented each other more than I expected.
The burgers are served with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and (surprisingly) miracle whip (my wife and I always substitute real mayonnaise). They come with your choice of salad or fries, which are thin but good. One side item of note is the chili-cheese fries. We've never had 'em but have noticed them coming out of the kitchen and thought they looked amazing.
The Setting: 4 our of 5 stars
Zips was established in 1926. It's changed hands a few times since then and the current ownership has had it since 1996.
As you walk through a narrow hallway at the entrance and through a set of saloon doors, you'll notice a relatively small dining room with booths on both sides and a few long tables in the middle. A model train slowly makes its way along the outer wall, on which is painted a mural depicting Mount Lookout as it was a few years ago. In the back you'll find another set of saloon doors, behind which is a small bar that seats about 10.
Don't try to show up at normal dinner hours and expect to find an open table immediately (especially on weekends). We suggest you wait until later in the evening before arriving. That way you'll avoid the noisy and crowded atmosphere and you'll get better service. Lots of families with young kids frequent this place.
The drink: 4 our of 5 stars
Zips is almost as much a bar as it is a restaurant. Knowledgeable bartenders serve up cold draft or bottled beers, liquor and mixed drinks. You don't see much wine consumption, though. Our friend, Sarah, ordered the bloody mary and said it was a good one. The bartender said he used a pre-mixed concoction and added olive juice, Guinness and horse radish.
About Zips Cafe:
- Location: 1036 Delta Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45208 (North end of Mount Lookout Square)
- Phone: (513) 871-9876
- Hours: Sunday through Thursday 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Friday through Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.