photography by Tine Hoffman

— Cincinnati, Ohio
During a recent evening at Please, we ordered the Crispy Potatoes with Tulip Tree Cheese & Grilled Garlic, fully expecting a sharable plate of roasted fingerlings and sauteed garlic. We were wrong. So delightfully, deliciously wrong. What arrived on the table was a Lincoln Log-esque stack of fried bâtons of puréed potato, resting in a pool of foamy, bright green sauce pungent with cheese and garlic. It was a welcome bit of culinary sleight-of-hand.

Chef Ryan Santos has a way of prompting diners to cast aside their preconceptions of what food should be. Cincinnati Enquirer food writer Polly Campbell called Santos’s cooking “incautious.” It’s a word he agrees with. “It fits,” he says. “We take some risks with the creative process. We’re constantly pushing ourselves. But the big philosophy behind the scenes is that we can be as creative as we want in the kitchen, we can explore techniques and ingredients—but it’s not all theoretical. It’s dinner. My dad has to come in and think it tastes good.”

Those potato bâtons were inspired by a classic French technique, yet updated in a thoroughly modern way. Santos and his staff are continually experimenting, drawing influence from
anywhere, starting with a particular flavor or ingredient and building the plate from there. Everyone’s equally invited to contribute ideas for new dishes, and Santos describes their creative process as decidedly nonlinear.

If the Please kitchen is full-on collaborative, so are Santos’s relationships with his suppliers. He calls Ohio Valley Food Connection “astronomically helpful” in sourcing local food. He works closely with Northern Kentucky farmer Annie Woods to plot out varieties and quantities of produce his team will work with all season long. As he was planning the space, he teamed with local artist Christie Goodfellow of CG Ceramics to design and produce custom tableware.

Those handcrafted plates, the open kitchen from which Santos can greet customers as they walk in, the unfussy decor, and the friendly servers—it all makes for a very personal experience, like dining with friends. “It was a conscious thought to make this feel like someone’s home,” he says. “When you go to a dinner party, everyone always ends up in the kitchen.”

1405 Clay St., Over-the-Rhine
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
Tue (Ramen night) 5:30pm–10pm;
Wed–Sat 5:30pm–10pm;
bar open until midnight Wed–Sat

Bryn’s long career in publishing took a left turn sometime around 2010, when she discovered the joy of food writing. Since then, she’s found professional nirvana as the editor of Edible Ohio Valley, author of The Findlay Market Cookbook, and occasional instructor at The Cooking School at Jungle Jim’s. Find her seasonal recipes at