hen it was announced that Chalk Food Wine in Covington was closing its doors this year, it left an empty spot in our stomachs (or hearts, for you sentimental types). But it also left a clean and complete restaurant space ready for a new venture to breathe life into it.
Sandy Meyer and Gary Ginn — with years of local restaurant and bar experience under their belts — did just that. And pretty quickly, too. With their chef Jon Spencer, they created a menu and had Blinkers Tavern open by St. Patrick’s Day.
I was pretty bummed to see Chalk go, so I was excited to try Blinkers and see what they were doing with the place. The girlfriend and I headed down for dinner on a recent Wednesday night to try it out. We didn’t have a reservation, but we lucked out and got a table. They were busier than I remember Chalk ever being, though I tend to dine out at odd times of the day. Three o’clock lunch anyone?
The fixtures and layout from Chalk remain in the space, including the bar and the outdoor patios, but now the décor reflects a horse-racing theme, down to the servers’ uniforms (they dress like jockeys). The menu consists of casual American tavern fare with somewhat of a creative upscale twist. What does that mean? It means several types of burgers and sandwiches, salads and pasta, along with entrées like Filet Mignon, Chicken Marsalla and Shrimp Risotto.
We were seated in a cozy nook in the dimly lit dining room. Looking at the appetizer options, I felt that my surroundings were a little classy for the potato skins, cheese sticks or onion rings offered, so I went with the Mussels ($8.95). In keeping with the theme, I thought I’d also order a Mint Julep, but I didn’t see it on the cocktail menu and figured since mint wasn’t quite in season they probably didn’t have it. (The online menu shows a Mint Julep made with Woodford bourbon for $8, though.) In lieu of the Julep I went with a glass of Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale ($6) and the lady ordered a Caramel White Chocolate Tini ($7.50). The drink menu has a nice selection of wine along with Blinkertinis and Blinkertails (cocktails). The bourbon-based cocktails like the Maker’s Manhattan ($8) and Knob Creek Old Fashioned ($9) sound the best to me.
The mussels were cooked and served with tomatoes, leeks, white wine and garlic butter. The portion was enough to share among a group of four or so, but they were so good I ate them all myself. They were very tender and delicious. My ale was great and tasted even better with the food. My girlfriend Casey enjoyed her Caramel White Chocolate Tini, as well.
Casey recently decided not to eat meat (hence eating all the mussels myself), and we found that there aren’t many options at Blinkers for vegetarians. It was basically either a salad or Fettuccini Alfredo. Fettuccini it was ($11.95). We found it to be a pretty ordinary version of the dish, but quite a large serving and nothing to complain about. We both loved the side of Horseradish Mashed Potatoes, which were smooth and fluffy but not very horseradish-y.
With all the meat options in front of me (Ginger Pork Tenderloin, Meat Loaf, Fried Chicken, etc.) I decided to get my man on and ordered a half slab of BBQ Baby Back Ribs ($17.95) along with a side of Saffron Risotto (included). The ribs were great and went well with the Bourbon Barrel Ale. They had just enough sauce and were tender and juicy. The risotto was excellent as well — perfectly seasoned and perfectly cooked. I didn’t leave a thing on my plate. OK, except for the bones.
Somehow after all that food we felt like we had some room left for dessert. Our friendly and expeditious waitress Kristin listed our options, which included Bread Pudding ($4.95), Strawberry Tiramisu ($4.95) and White Chocolate Mousse ($5.50). We chose the Bread Pudding, which was flavored with white chocolate and raspberries. It was warm with gooey spots and crispy spots and we both loved it. It was a delicious ending to a great meal.
Is Blinkers a replacement for Chalk? Not exactly. Blinkers took the place in quite a different direction. Am I beating a dead horse by comparing the two? Probably. But if I were to compare the quality of food and service from both places, it’d come down to a photo finish. I’ll definitely be back next time I get a craving for ribs or other man food.
Go: 318 Greenup St., Covington
Hours: 4-10 p.m. Monday; 4 p.m.-midnight Tuesday-Saturday; 4-10 p.m. Sunday
Red Meat Alternatives: Salads and seafood
Accessibility: Fully Accessible