While I live in Cincinnati, I work and spend quite a bit of time in Covington, Kentucky. Before you tell me of your adventures to Louisville or your love of the Derby, let me say this: Northern Kentucky is a very different animal from the rest of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Only about a 5 minute drive from downtown Cincinnati, Covington is often thought of as Greater Cincinnati….but not really quite Ohio and not really quite Kentucky. Covington is a little hamlet of small businesses, a busy art and design scene and FOOD. Covington has always had its unique local spots, but over the past year, several more bars and restaurants have entered the scene, all for the better.
One such delight, is Commonwealth Bistro. Located in the village of Mainstrasse, this Main Street storefront restaurant boasts a fresh and Kentucky-centric menu. What’s that mean? Expected Southern classics like Shrimp & Grits and Biscuits, but other more Kentucky-only delights like KY Fried Rabbit or Benedictine spread (to which I am addicted). Don’t let the home cooking fool you into thinking this isn’t fine dining; the menu features sumac-brined pork chops and a herbed potato gnocchi to name a few of the other dishes.
Trying Commonwealth for the first with several girlfriends, we decided to each have a starter and an entree, then pass the plates around. My favorite style of dining out. Seriously – the friend or boyfriend who won’t share a bite of their chicken? Lose them, immediately.
To start, I opted for the Fried oysters with chicory, arugula, shaved fennel, benedictine spread and charred citrus powder. For the uninitiated, Benedictine spread is Pimento spread’s fresher and greener cousin: it’s a bright mix of cucumber and green onions with the usual cream cheese and mayo. It is freaking delicious.
I LOVED this. Oysters were perfect. A one bite of sweet oyster and light, crunchy cornmeal breading. The Benedictine and little salad were excellent complements. I didn’t need the crostini (I was slathering Benedictine on the oysters. Drool.) but it was a nice addition. We also tried the Grilled celery root salad, with bucheron cheese, wild greens, orange and pistachio and then the limestone lettuce salad with green goddess dressing, shallot, fines herbs and micro crouton. Plus French fries, because French fries (these came with smoked mayo, house ketchup and Owensboro black bbq sauce. Yeah, pretty good). Smiles all around, each starter was well-executed and tasty.
For my entree, I tried the Country Ham Wrapped Shrimp with Carriage House Farms Grits, Red-Eye Gravy and a 62.5C Egg. Loved it. Snappy shrimp, salty ham, creamy grits. Plus #putaneggonit is how I live my life so yeah, this hit the spot. The girls tried the Rice Middle Risotto with winter squash, hakuei turnip, collard greens, and hen of the woods mushrooms, the Homemade burger with cheese, the southern staple, Duke’s Mayo and fries. Also around hte table was the Spotted Bass with braised artichokes, castelvetrano olive and caramelized sunchokes. And we shared a side of Brussels Sprouts with toasted almonds and preserved lemon. Good reviews all around, except on the bass, which was cooked well but oddly bland, felt like the exception not the rule as everyone else was raving about their meals.
Commonwealth itself is a cozy spot with large storefront windows and a rustic vibe. Perfect spot for these cold nights. While dinner was a delight, I hear brunch is even better, I shall be back (and will demand Benedictine spread).