Chef Vitor Abreu, a Westwood resident who emphasizes delicious, well-presented food over the fancy accoutrements that often accompany fine dining, may be the perfect advocate for West-side foodies.

His restaurant, Vitor’s Bistro, survived a tough economy to celebrate its one-year anniversary in December.

Convincing West-siders to stay on their own side of town for a nice meal isn’t complicated, Abreu says: “It’s just a matter of letting them know we’re here and our prices are reasonable for what you get.”

“We’re not a $5 million restaurant,” he states simply. “We have that old-world charm. We’re not stuffy. Fine dining doesn’t have to mean getting all dressed up to go out to eat.”

But Abreu’s down-to-earth manner doesn’t mean he serves traditional cuisine. In fact, the ability to be creative with menu items was the original inspiration for opening his own restaurant.

Abreu, who was born in Portugal and lived in various countries as part of a military family, graduated from culinary school at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He describes Vitor’s Bistro’s cuisine as “nouveau,” infusing styles from different regions of the country and world. The result is dishes such as the Thai omelet, pictured here, and the Unforgettable French Toast, which won “Best of Taste” at the Taste of Cincinnati in May. The toast is drenched in vanilla bean cocoa butter and rolled in Frosted Flakes, then topped in cappuccino crème brûlée and whipped cream.

“Our breakfast combinations are unlike anybody’s,” Abreu says. Vitor’s offers a three-course breakfast with weekly creative combinations until 2:30 p.m. on weekends, along with a full coffee bar.

After moving to Cincinnati in 2002, Abreu’s positions included sous chef at Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse and executive chef at Nicola’s. He then opened Mokka in Newport with a partner before moving to California for a few years. Upon his return, he opened The Coffee Cap Café, a small, 20-seat bistro down the street from Vitor’s current location in Westwood. He changed its name to Vitor’s Bistro in 2006.

Future plans for the bistro include adding a sushi bar and acquiring a liquor license. However, Abreu plans to uphold Vitor’s current BYOB policy even after obtaining the license, focusing instead on serving specialty drinks and martinis. “People appreciate it, and it’s a lot less expensive on their budgets,” he says.

Organic Dining
These vegetarian-friendly restaurants feature some of the best locally sourced food, and the fresh ingredients will keep you coming back.

Green Dog Café, Columbia-Tusculum
Green Dog Café serves dishes made from fresh, seasonal ingredients in a casual, contemporary atmosphere. The menu features a variety of sandwiches, soups, burgers and wraps, which guests can pair with a selection of beer, wine and specialty drinks. More than 15 menu options are vegan, wheat- and gluten-free.

Local 127, Downtown
Local 127 strives to obtain the ingredients for its meals as locally as possible. Classic, down-home dishes are created with a contemporary twist, resulting in such menu items as the grass-fed burger with aged cheddar and pickles ($13).

Melt, Northside
Melt offers a vegetarian- and vegan-friendly menu featuring unprocessed foods and meats free of hormones, preservatives and antibiotics. It offers a wide selection of gourmet sandwiches and housemade soups served in 90 percent biodegradable packaging.

Nectar, Mount Lookout
Nectar offers a small menu specializing in contemporary, seasonal cuisine with French Mediterranean flair. Nectar uses quality local and organic products whenever possible.

Virgils Café, Bellevue
Enticing vegan and vegetarian fare for brunch, lunch and dinner. The chef uses fresh local ingredients for the internationally inspired menus and seasonal wine pairings. Even the décor in the café is environmentally friendly; much of the furniture and flatware has been restored, repurposed or recycled.

The Wildflower Café, Mason
This family-owned and -operated café features locally sourced and organic food and, according to its web site, encourages consumers to “ask where their food came from” and “what occurred during its production.” Reservations are highly recommended.

— Taryn Kukucka