Chili, Shmili. How about a tongue taco?

Cincinnati Bites
Bibimbap from The Korea House

Posted Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It had been shaping up to be a pretty lousy weekend morning. The skies were gray, the rain steady and a leftover winter chill still clung to the air. But sometimes, all it takes is a little comfort food and a hot mug of coffee to turn it all around. That's exactly what happened when we visited Sugar 'N Spice at 4381 Reading Rd., just off the Norwood Lateral.

Loads of people had told us all about Sugar 'N Spice, because it allegedly had the best breakfast, best pancakes, etc. in town. Ever dubious, I long resisted the waves of recommendations. I learned, much to my surprise, that it's been around since 1941, an impossibly rare success story in this age of "now you see us, now you don't" failed restaurant ventures. Passing by the place, I'd mistakenly assumed the building once housed a Ponderosa or a Frisch's or something. They've painted it a vibrant magenta and the contours are completely unique. No, Sugar 'N Spice is an original and, knock on the proverbial wood, is here to stay.

Entering from the parking lot in the rear, the first thing we noticed was how the bar-like area dominated the room. This served as the central hub of the restaurant, with people filling every stool or chair wrapping around the U-shaped counter. On the periphery of this counter were a number of booths. The place was filled to capacity, save one booth, which we greedily claimed.

Neither of us is a big coffee drinker, but when the waitress came by and asked us if we'd like a cup, the prospect strangely seemed irresistible. Heavy, old-timey mugs were placed before us, the smell of steaming coffee rousing our hunger.

The menu offered both breakfast and lunch items, but we focused entirely on the breakfast, ignoring the sandwiches, soups, salads and burgers. I'd heard of Sugar 'N Spice's so-called "wispy-thin" pancakes and, quite frankly, I wasn't keen on the concept. When I want pancakes, I want them to be big and fluffy, and I was pleased to learn that they serve both kinds. Still, we were interested in knowing what this "wispy-thin" business was all about, so my girlfriend ordered a couple to go with her side of grits.

I chose the corned beef hash plate, which came with two poached eggs and an English muffin. I'd never ordered corned beef hash in my life, mainly because I'd been traumatized by the sight of those nasty-looking versions one can find in the canned meat isle of any grocery store. Watching shows like Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives got me interested, however.

Wispy-thin pancakes from Sugar 'N Spice

The waitress soon arrived with my girlfriend's wispy-thin pancakes and grits. I was still waiting for my food. But our waitress had my back --she aggressively defended my honor by yelling back to the cook, "Hey, where are my eggs and corned beef hash?" The cook replied that he was getting it and she playfully snapped back with, "I'm gonna get you in a minute if you don't hurry up." Seconds later, my hash and eggs were staring back at me.

My girlfriend and I shared a bite of each other's meals and I was very impressed with the wispy-thin pancakes. They were flavorful with that sour, buttermilk bite I associate with childhood. Her grits were tasty, too --if they were the instant variety, I couldn't tell.

Corned beef hash, poached eggs and an English muffin from Sugar 'N Spice

My poached eggs were perfectly cooked; I took pleasure piercing them with my fork, letting the yolk ooze onto the hash underneath. The corned beef hash's flavor was enhanced by a nice, crusty, crunchy char from the grill. The English muffin was pleasing in all its nooks-n-crannies toastiness. Between the cholesterol from the eggs and the caffeine from the two cups of coffee, I grew downright giddy, cold drizzle be damned.

Buzzing with renewed energy, I looked about the room, absorbing the atmosphere. I liked the cartoonish characters and breakfast food painted on the walls. I watched other patrons dive happily into their meals. The place had a pleasing, eclectic vibe to it. There were people here from all walks of life, from all classes and races. I saw a young Asian woman marvel at the omelette that had just arrived at her table. It truly looked as big as a Chipotle burrito. To my inner glee, she whipped out a camera and snapped a photo of it.

For us, Sugar 'N Spice lived up to the hype. It's a simple, down-home dive with a homey, diner-like feel. It serves good food, bustles with activity and warms the heart, turning potentially bad days into pretty darn good ones.

Sugar 'n' Spice on Urbanspoon
Sugar 'N Spice

Price: Cheap (under $11 per person)
Service: Good
Rating: 3.5 out of 43.5 stars






Other Recent Reviews

  1. There's a New Taqueria in Town: Chilango Fresh Mexican
    -posted Sunday, March 19, 2017
  2. Food Truck Sprouts Roots: Urban Grill on Main
    -posted Monday, March 6, 2017
  3. Northside Burger Impressions: Tickle Pickle
    -posted Sunday, February 26, 2017
  4. Reflections of a Thin Crust: A Tavola Madeira
    -posted Sunday, January 22, 2017
  5. Kitschy Country Breakfast at Apple Tree Cafe
    -posted Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Ratings Legend
four stars = Outstanding
three stars = Good
two stars = Fair
one star = Poor
  • From Tabitha about Tickle Pickle:
    Haha, love your comment: " If you were deemed "different" in high school, dressed "weird" or regularly got beat up only to go on to have a decidedly higher net worth and confidence level than the rest of your abusive, judgmental peers, Northside is your home away from home." I know I saw a Groupon for Tickle Pickle recently - might have to check if that's still available!
    posted: Fri., Apr 14th, 2017 @ 12:33 PM
  • From Tabitha about Chilango Fresh Mexican:
    This is definitely going on the list. Thanks for posting. Do they also have margaritas?
    posted: Fri., Apr 14th, 2017 @ 12:23 PM
  • From holly may about Urban Grill on Main:
    This is Israeli couscous, the super tiny stuff is Moroccan. I personally prefer the Israeli (also known as "pearl".)
    posted: Fri., Mar 24th, 2017 @ 4:28 AM
  • From Sommer about Chilango Fresh Mexican:
    We really love having Chilango so close to us in the Kings area!!! We have gone a few times and you are right - the Chicken Tinga is the best chicken taco you can get in Cincinnati!!! Thanks for reviewing this little neighborhood gem!
    posted: Tue., Mar 21st, 2017 @ 9:12 AM
  • From Tabitha about Lalo:
    But...do they have margaritas?
    posted: Thu., Jan 12th, 2017 @ 12:32 PM
  • From Cincinnati Bites about Swad Indian:
    @MJ: I heard family members of those who'd run Dusmesh now work out of the former Amol India in Clifton. It's called, Grill of India (http://grillofindiaoh.com/).
    posted: Thu., Dec 29th, 2016 @ 11:45 PM
  • From mj about Swad Indian:
    It seems Swad has changed hands. Have not see the former Dusmesh owners in my last visit (10/1/2016) and the food is just ok. Wonder where they went this time?
    posted: Wed., Dec 28th, 2016 @ 8:22 AM
  • From Rachel about Bamboo Kitchen:
    Hey there,
    I would recommend Basil Thai and Bangkok Terrace. They have wonderful Thai foods there :)
    posted: Sat., Nov 19th, 2016 @ 11:28 AM
  • From Tabitha about Maplewood Kitchen and Bar:
    Looks good - I definitely have been wanting to try this place!
    posted: Wed., Nov 9th, 2016 @ 2:55 PM
  • From Georgia about Maplewood Kitchen and Bar:
    So you order and pay at the counter before you get your food and they expect you to tip? That's not right.
    posted: Tue., Oct 25th, 2016 @ 10:19 AM
Where The Locals Eat featured blog
Cincinnati Web Design | Cincinnati Mobile Web Design