Whether it’s a burger, Belgian waffle or boar, roasted and served over polenta, the chefs of Northern Kentucky deliver. So, annually, NKY dares to declare the best of the best.

These are our favorites, but we are not content with a one-way conversation on something so important. Do you have a favorite chef? A little-known treasure of an entree? The perfect secluded table for two?

Let us know. Contact us at dfrench@bestofnky.com or on Facebook at NKY magazine.

20 Best Restaurants

Artfully Cozy
All In Café

Before you are even in the door, strangers slide over to a smaller table to make room for your group. Before the evening ends, you are swapping stories with the folks on both ends of your table and chatting with the singer. Maybe it’s the music of Danny “Man of 1,000 Songs” Sidebottom or the atmosphere that owners Mark and Kathy serve at this oh-so-neighborly tavern in a brick house with a porch that welcomes you. We’re not sure. But we’re heading back on a Tuesday for Mark’s non-traditional Sicilian lasagna with lots of meat, including shredded pork. He says he has a lot of favorites on the menu of daily pasta and fish specials, but his description of the lasagna left us wishing it was already the day after Monday.

480 Erlanger Road, Erlanger. (859) 360-2878 or www.all-in-café.com.


Better with Bordelaise
Blinkers Tavern

A perfectly rare filet mignon with bordelaise on the side accompanied by a rich cabernet awaits. As the weather warms, go for the patio table, and make a note that the new Sunday brunch should be up and running by the time the ink dries on this issue of NKY.

318 Greenup St., Covington.(859) 360-0840 or www.blinkerstavern.com.


Best Bocce

Roll a gentlemanly Old World game of bocce before a meal of homemade lasagna at this Newport treasure where co-owner Larry Geiger says the special ingredient is love. We knew it was something along those lines.

600 Washington Ave., Newport. (859) 581-3065 www.pompiliosrestaurant.com.


Cozy Quality
Greyhound Tavern

It’s more than the fried chicken and blackberry cobbler; it’s the perfect place for family dinner, red-checkered curtains, knotty pine paneling and all.

2500 Dixie Highway, Fort Mitchell. (859) 331-3767 or www.greyhoundtavern.com.


All In One
York St. Cafe

Great service is still the first thing folks say about this Newport gem in the late 1880s Queen Anne style building. But it’s also an art gallery with a live music and a menu that everyone from meat lovers to vegans can celebrate.

738 York St., Newport. (859) 261-9675 or www.yorkstonline.com.


Artfully Perfect Pizza
Newport Pizza Company

Finding a pizza place isn’t hard, but discovering a locally owned joint that offers consistently good pie is a thrill. The house special, fittingly named the Monmouth, is loaded with pepperoni, Italian sausage, bacon, mushroom, green pepper, red onion, mozzarella, provolone and Parmesan. It’s as much a work of art as a meal. Share the antipasti basket that is served with warm Italian bread and fresh seasonal vegetables to start the evening.

601 Monmouth St., Newport. (859) 261-4900 or www.newportpizzacompany.com.


Perfect Launch
Mokka and the Sunset Bar & Grill

Visit Mokka for breakfast or brunch before it morphs into the Sunset Bar & Grill at 3 p.m. for dinner. It’s a fine destination as the sun sets, but starting the day with one of the Belgian waffles is simply the perfect launch.

500 Monmouth St., Newport. (859) 581-3700 or www.mokkasunset.com.


Food WITH Friends
Cobblestone Café

Brownies and cookies come straight from the oven at this popular family eatery that normally closes at 3 p.m. You can come later on Tuesday when they stay open until 7 p.m. Homemade chicken noodle soup is a warm attraction.

654 Highland Ave., Fort Thomas. (859) 781-3000 or www.thecobblestonecafe.net.


Like Family
Vito’s Café

Holly, the bar manager, makes you feel like you are old friends as you slide onto the banquette for a cocktail and a glorious antipasta appetizer — with cheeses to die for and large enough to share with friends. As the waiters sing in the dining room, you debate veal piccata or pork osso buco?

654 Highland Ave., Fort Thomas. (859) 442-9444 or www.vitoscafe.com.


Louisiana Lovin’
Knotty Pine on the Bayou

Hit the right Saturday night and savor lobster bisque that speaks to you. Chunks of succulent … oh, you get it. But any night is a great night for the Cajun shrimp boil of the tender, spicy darlings or gumbo with real Andouille sausage. Sit at the bar as folks on both sides chat you up before introducing you to the bartender,who knows wine, bourbon and true customer service.

6302 Licking Pike, Newport. (859) 781-2200.


So Many Choices

Just to be fair, we should try something other than the seared salmon but we’re hooked on the sweet thai chili sauce at the MainStrasse institution that bills itself “a bistro, a bar, a cafe, whatever
you want us to be.”

521 Main St., Covington. (859) 491-6678 or www.ottosonmain.com.


No Secrets
Oriental Wok

Mike Wong shares everything: His smile, recipes and sauces, but treat yourself to the dining room service and you can appreciate his signature General Wong’s Chicken, leaving someone else to do the dishes.

317 Buttermilk Pike, Lakeside Park. (859) 331-3000 or www.orientalwok.com.


Fabulously Fresh

Straight from the farmers market, the Findlay Market salad is crisp with cashews and green beans while Italian fava beans enhance the lamb shank just perfectly.

519 Main St., Covington. (859) 491-7777 or www.bouquetrestaurant.com.


For The Adventurous
Europa Bistro & Café

Salads change daily, the dinner menu changes every two weeks. So how can we choose a favorite? Chef Nicola Palmieri roasts the boar to perfection and every fish dish hints at Cajun. This is a tiny gem worth exploring.

616 Main St., Covington. (859) 916-5511 or www.europabistrocafe.com.


Thanks, Nonna
Buona Vita

With a woodburning oven and Nonna’s meatball recipe, the brothers running this neighborhood spot just a few blocks from the bustling riverfront have all the ingredients for the perfect Italian restaurant. The servers are so friendly and warm, even Oma would think she was home for dinner.

441 Sixth Ave., Dayton. (859) 261-6792 or www.buonavitapizzeria.com.


Keeping It Fresh
Virgils Café

The andouille and pastrami is made in the house, the sweet potato fries are handcut and chef Matt Buschle won’t let anything get in the way of his local, fresh and fabulous creations.

710 Fairfield Ave., Bellevue. (859) 491-3287 or www.virgilscafe.com.


Best Bartender

He likes his customers, he likes his work and he likes to do things right at the classic wooden bar that dominates the café. So Mike hangs on to repeat in this category.

2053 Dixie Highway, Fort Mitchell. (859) 331-4339 or www.indigoftmitchell.com.


Rooftop Jazz
Chez Nora

This venerable MainStrasse spot invites you to chill with the right sounds, the right food, the right wine and the right rooftop terrace. How smooth it that? Date night nailed.

530 Main St., Covington. (859) 491-8027 or www.cheznora.com.


Hopping & Happening
Grandview Tavern

On a gorgeous day, hold out for a table on the patio and enjoy the Black and Bleu salad. On a cold day, snuggle in one of the tall booths and take comfort in food the likes of smoked chicken pizza or tavern meatloaf with bourbon brown gravy. On any day, look no further for your friends — they’re all there.

2220 Grandview Drive, Fort Mitchell. (859) 341-8439 or www.grandviewtaverngrille.com.