Restaurants & Reservations: Dining in Cincinnati

What happens when a rabbi and a lawyer walk into a bar? We'll let you know in a few years, but until then we'll do our best to share with you our favorite (and not-so-favorite) Cincinnati restaurants and hope you'll share some with us, too!

Shanghai Mama’s: Standard Chinese Food in the Heart of Downtown

Shanghai Mama's • 216 E. 6th Street • Cincinnati, OH 45202 • (513) 241-7777

Her Take

Shanghai Mama’s is a casual Chinese restaurant right downtown, a couple blocks from Fountain Square. I was there with a big group on a weeknight. The restaurant was fairly empty, and we got a few less-than-pleased looks from other diners when our group got a little loud. Nonetheless, the staff was happy to have a big group, and they were attentive and helpful throughout the meal.

I had the Vegetarian Cashew Chicken, and it was perfectly good, although not fantastic. I have had vegetarian-meat in the past when I was concerned that they had actually put meat on my plate because the taste and texture was fairly accurate. This was not one of those times. I think I would have liked my meal better if it had been more accurately billed as Cashew Tofu. While not always named accurately or in beautiful English (our favorite name on the menu was “Ho Fun”), the menu at Shanghai Mama’s is definitely extensive with plenty of options for carnivores and vegetarians alike.

Most of their meals seem to come in a big bowl, and there was not all that much difference between some of the soups and the dishes, aside from noodles instead of rice. I had a taste of a friend’s Buddha Bowl, and I liked it a lot. It was a good mix of noodles and vegetables with a little broth. Although it was billed as a soup, most of it was more effectively eaten with chopsticks or a fork than with a spoon.

As we were there for a birthday celebration, someone in the group had brought a cake. The restaurant was accommodating, and they brought us plates and forks so that we could cut it and eat it at our table, even though we had brought it in from outside.

Shanghai Mama’s was fairly quiet, although that was probably also due to it being a Tuesday night, and the restaurant being fairly empty. The other patrons were couples. I would recommend Shanghai Mama’s as decent Chinese food downtown, although I plan to continue to explore for other Chinese places—I’m not convinced that there aren’t better ones around.

His Take

While I wasn't around for the recent big group visit to Shanghai Mama's, I was there several months ago for lunch, so I'll do my best to share my recollections from that visit. I went to Shanghai Mama's with a group of about six for a lunch gathering during the week. I'd never heard of the restaurant before then, but we went on the recommendation of a co-working of mine. And it was a great choice.

The first thing you notice at a weekday lunch there is the crowd. Word is out about the place, so there is always a pretty solid lunchtime crowd. That said, turnover in the kitchen and at the tables tends to be relatively quick given the business lunchers and the speedy cooking, so the wait is usually not a problem.

The food is served in large portions (though a hungry person can certainly devour any dish) with excellent flavor and a great variety on the menu, particularly for dinner. The lunch menu is somewhat condensed to facilitate the quick turnover, but there are plenty of options.

This is definitely some of the best Chinese food you can find downtown for lunch, so if you're in the area, make it a point to stop by sometime soon!

Shanghai Mama's on Urbanspoon

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