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Exploring Kentucky | Fun Food!

Check out Northern Kentucky for an array of culinary delights

By Katherine Tandy Brown

Paul Wechman, the owner of Otto’s, with his family in front of the Covington Mainstrasse eatery.

If you believe all the cool food eateries in the top of the commonwealth lie across the river in Cincinnati, think again. Northern Kentucky boasts foodie spots old and new, and the wintertime is perfect for a road trip to fill your tummy.

How about a bit of comfort food to warm those chilly innards? Say…hot tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich? As seen on Shark Tank, The Chew and the Travel Channel, Tom+Chee offers that combo as a specialty. Located at Newport on the Levee, this remarkable restaurant tickles your funny bone as it sates your hunger. In addition to 25-plus sandwiches, salads and four soups, including two tomato choices daily, you can munch on a “life-changing” grilled-cheese doughnut or a s’more grilled doughnut – a modern take on over-a-campfire food.

Okay, full disclosure. Tom+Chee is a chain that began in Cincinnati. However, every location in different cities serves offerings unique to the area and its culture. And besides, three of its four founders have Northern Kentucky roots. Seasonal faves include gazpacho and blue cheese chili.

Their slogan is “Eat What’s Fun!”

The Anchor Grill in Covington could say, “Eat what’s local” because that’s what this 24/7 eatery is known for: goetta. A legacy of immigrants that settled south of the Ohio in the 1700s, this German breakfast sausage is a stick-to-your-ribs combo of pork, beef, oats, spices and water that’s boiled, shaped into a loaf, chilled and fried. Originally part of a hearty farmer’s breakfast, goetta is now available commercially at Glier’s Goetta, the world’s best-selling producer.

You can tuck in your napkin to savor some across the street from Glier’s at the Anchor Grill, which serves it any way a customer asks for it. On grilled cheese, with eggs sunny side up, et al.

Goetta also stars on the menu at the Greyhound Tavern in Fort Mitchell, alongside the establishment’s award-winning fried chicken on its glorious Sunday brunch buffet, and with an oriental twist, goetta egg rolls.

The Tavern has quite a history. Originally called the Dixie Tea Room, it began in 1921 as an ice cream parlor located at “the end of the line,” where street cars turned around to head back to Cincinnati. In the ‘30s, Al Frisch bought it and named it The Greyhound Grill, in honor of his brother Benny, a successful greyhound trainer. Eventually, the ice cream parlor was eliminated, the bar moved to its current site, a beer garden with a jukebox was added, and “world famous” onion rings, juicy burgers and double-deckers emerged.

Now the Tavern offers an extensive selection of bourbons. Plus, for the past six years, it has garnered “Best Steak in Northern Kentucky” kudos from Northern Kentucky Magazine.

Family-owned Otto’s offers – located on Covington’s Mainstrasse (German for Main Street) – serves up a variety of fun dishes, such as upscale eggs. Think smoked salmon deviled eggs and B.L.F.G.T.’s (bacon, lettuce, fried green tomato, egg, cheese and mayo on a toasted croissant) at lunch or brunch. Or crab hash – lump crab and potato hash topped with a poached egg and spicy sour cream sauce. Drooling yet?

If you arrive at dinnertime, consider the shrimp and grits, complete with gulf shrimp and shitake mushrooms instead of the usual andouille sausage. Nice touch, Otto’s!

Meat is king in the world of barbecue and true to its name, a mouth-watering joint in Florence smokes a ton of it per week. The community-minded owners of Smokin’ This and That, Guy and Mandy Cummins, met during Operation BBQ Relief that helped New York victims of Hurricane Sandy. With a shared passion for good food as a healing tool, the couple teamed up to provide food for funerals, police officers, military service personnel and numerous other causes.

And from this, Smokin’ This and That emerged. Ever had a barbecue parfait? The restaurant’s signature dish tops layers of barbecued meats and beans topped with “Miss Mandy’s house-made slaw” and barbecue sauce. Or how about “Miss Mandy’s loaded hot tots”? Tater tots piled to glory with baked beans, slaw, barbecue sauce, cheese sauce and of course, their barbecue. Oh my!

Or simply buy that heavenly barbecue by the pound to take home and brag about.

So far, we’ve been rollicking through specials and main courses without a thought of sweets. For dessert to die for, head east to Maysville, where for the past 60 years, Magee’s Bakery has been whipping up transparent pie – not to be confused with pecan pie or chess pie. Originated in the 1800s, when small farm kitchens had to be creative with ingredients they had on hand, this delectable treat contains only sugar, eggs, butter, vanilla and whipping cream. Magee’s sells whole pies and cute little tarts. And just so you know, those little pups are the favorite pie of Maysville native George Clooney. You’ll be in good company!

Now that Northern Kentucky has stuffed you to the gills with fun food, you’ll want to put your feet up in a fun-filled spot. Without a doubt, the Wildwood Inn in Florence is the place, complete with a heated pool in a tropical dome, a massaging waterfall and themed family or romantic suites. For instance, the Happy Days Suite is a trip back to the ‘50s, with old Coke machines and a bed nestled in a 1959 red Cadillac convertible with serious fins. The bed in the Rustic Country Suite lies in the back of a 1949 Ford pickup and you can watch TV in an outhouse. A red, heart-shaped spa for two dominates the Cupid Suite.

All the above are sure to bring a smile and lighten your heart in the midst of a gray January.

Head North for Foodie Fun

Anchor Grill, Covington
(859) 431-9498

Greyhound Tavern, Fort Mitchell
greyhoundtavern.com (859) 331-3767

Magee’s Bakery, Maysville
(606) 759-4882

Otto’s, Covington
ottosonmain.com (859) 491-6678

Smokin’ This and That BBQ, Florence
smokinthisandthatbbq.com (859) 817-0492

Tom + Chee, Newport
tomandchee.com (859) 291-2433

Wildwood Inn, Florence
wildwoodinnky.com (800) 758-2335

Katherine Tandy Brown is a correspondent for The Lane Report. She can be reached at [email protected]