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My workshop in Covington, Ky., just a few minutes from the convention center.

My workshop in Covington, Ky., just a few minutes from the convention center.

Woodworking in America is next week, and if you have never been to Covington, Ky., here is a primer on where to eat and drink.

My workshop is in the heart of Covington, just one block off of Main Strasse. So the following recommendations are based on how a local (not a tourist) sees the world. All of these places are walking distance from the Northern Kentucky Convention Center.

Note: All of these opinions are my own. No one paid me anything or gave me anything for free to say them.

Let’s start with stuff that is very close to the convention center.

First Watch: It’s a breakfast place. Totally decent and good for vegetarians and vegans, too. The best things on the menu are the skillets.

Keystone: Upscale bar food. Good drinks. Good brunch. If you like macaroni and cheese (and all its crazy variants) this is the place.

Blinker’s Tavern: I’ve been there a couple times. While some people love it, I think it’s an upscale O’Charley’s.

NuVo: Insane. And insanely good. If you or your spouse is a foodie, then try to get a reservation. This place never makes the “best of” lists, which is some sort of crime.

Molly Malone’s: A beautiful space with basic pub fare.

The Gruff: A new pizza joint in the shadow of the Roebling suspension bridge. I’ve been there about a dozen times. Totally decent pizza and a really great beer selection.

On the westside (by the highway) there are a bunch of fast food joints, plus a newly refurbished Big Boy, which is a testing ground for the company’s new direction. If you want to see what Big Boy is like in the future (besides being slimmer), check this out. Friends say it’s really good; I haven’t been.

Madison Avenue
This is the main commercial artery through the town and is a 5-minute walk from the convention center.

Riverside Korean: I hate to tell you about this place because it is fantastic and has been a mainstay on Madison forever. Awesome food. Beer list: super meh. Karaoke: Sing “Lover Cop” and I’ll give you a free sticker.

Kung Food/Amerasia: It looks like a dive Chinese place, but don’t be fooled. The beer list is one of the best in town and the food is cheap and great. Highly recommended: How Fun Noodles with pork.

Braxton Brewing: A brewery right off Madison Ave. Great beer. And free very very very fast Internet. This is where the startup nerds congregate to drink nitro coffee in the morning and beer at night.

Point Perk: Also one block off Madison. It’s only open until noon, but it’s good local coffee.

Maine Strasse
This is the main dining district in Covington. I haven’t been to every restaurant there, but I’ve been to many.

Bouquet: Great wine-based restaurant. Small menu, but everything is good. And the service is always great. If you go for lunch, get the Cuban sandwich. A favorite.

Otto’s: Next door to Bouquet. I am a regular here. I have never had anything bad, for lunch or dinner. Great shrimp and grits. The tomato pie is something to write home about. Good selection of local beer and cocktails.

Lisse: A new Danish steakhouse. I haven’t been, but all the locals are raving.

Frieda 602: A Mexican place that specializes in mezcal and tacos. The queso dip is fantastic.

Cock & Bull: The best local pub. A draft beer selection that is unrivaled and creative. The fish and chips are superb.

Goodfella’s Pizza: Authentic New York pizza on the ground floor. Take the stairs at the back to visit Wiseguy, one of the best bourbon bars in the state.

OKBB: The Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar. This is one of the other best bourbon bars in the state. If you want your bourbon dreams to come true, this is where it is done. Yes, they have Pappy. But more important: Elmer T. Lee. Prices are very reasonable.

There are lots of other restaurants on Main Strasse that I haven’t been to. Mac’s Pizza Pub, Pizza Tower, Zula’s, and I could go on and on. So feel free to explore on your own.

Slightly Further Afield
Our shop is at 9th and Willard streets, which is right off Main Strasse but is not in the main commercial districts. So these places are where locals go.

Anchor Grill: Cash only. Yes, you can smoke (I know, that’s amazing). Fantastic goetta and pancakes. The best greasy spoon we have. And they never close. Ever.

Covington Coffee: Best coffeehouse in the area. Get the pour-over coffee. They also have Lil’s Bagels and make waffles on Saturdays. I love this place.

Crepe Cafe: This about a block from my shop on Pike Street. Great savory and sweet crepes. The street looks dodgy, but it’s not. Promise.

Wunderbar: A dive (in a good way) German restaurant and bar. Great sausages, pretzels and beer cheese. Cheap, friendly and good. Extra points if you feed your leftovers to the chickens around the corner.

All these places are walkable in Covington. If you go across the river to Cincinnati, your food choices explode. I don’t have time to write that entry, but here’s one word for you: Salazar.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 6 comments
  • 8iowa


    Are there any nice B&B’s within walking distance to the convention center.

  • Neitsdelf

    I was getting all ready to hock you about where to go for goetta, when I got the Anchor Grill mention. Now I’m happy.

  • jglen490

    So, how does a city of 40, 000 or so souls end up with so much awesomeness? It truly sounds like a great place to be. I hope to go there one of these second Saturdays.

  • wellsy1959

    I remember the Anchor Grill from decades ago, doing a movie in the Covington area. “We may doze, but we never close”. A frequent stop for night owls like we were.

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