Diner: Covington Getaway

Behle Street Cafe offers a laid-back, beachy feel

As the humidity level begins to hover around the 70 percent mark, my favorite restaurant game is to close my eyes and pretend I'm someplace else, perhaps a far-off island, so I don't mind the suffocating heat. Behle Street Café, nestled between the Marriott and Embassy Suites hotels near the Covington riverfront, evokes that feeling without having to close your eyes.

On one such recent night, we slid our sticky legs onto the padded chairs under one of the restaurant's patio umbrellas. The last stragglers from happy hour were saying sloppy goodbyes at the outside bar, and a steel drum duo was setting up for the dinner crowd. Men in peach and women in short sets began to amble down from hotel rooms. Everything said, "I'm on vacation, so what the heck — give me a Bikini Martini." Even the ripped vinyl table clothes and besmirched paper menus had a laid-back, beachy feel.

Inside, the restaurant transforms into a New Orleans sports bar. Filled with wood, ornate chandeliers and chrome, the room is big and the crowd boisterous as you make your way from the front bar to the dining area. The walls and bathroom doors are covered with portraits of movie stars from another time.

Some I recognized — like Greta Garbo and Robert Mitchum — but I had to send Mr. Husband in to identify others.

Behle Street's menu is eclectic. Appetizers range from Fried Pickles ($6.50) to the chef's special Crab Cakes ($11), and entrées offer everything from Homemade Meatloaf ($15) to creamy Lobster Penne Pasta ($18.50).

Still under the spell of my dining game, Mr. Husband and I settled on seafood for appetizers — the Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail (market price) and Crab Cakes. Unfortunately, what they say is true: You do eat with your eyes first. And I was having second thoughts about keeping mine open when they were greeted with rémoulade sauce slopped onto the rim of the crab cake plate and a limp, yellow spinach garnish.

When we moved on to using our taste buds, however, we found both choices to be very good. The shrimp, served in a bowl over ice, got an enthusiastic nod from Mr. Husband. My cakes were crunchy on the outside and creamy in the middle with specks of carrot, scallions and red pepper.

The greens for his spinach salad were just as limp as the garnish had been, but once he poured the scrumptious, warm bacon dressing over the leaves it didn't matter. My house salad was fresh, but I shouldn't have picked the signature cabernet vinaigrette dressing. It was a bizarre accompaniment to the cheddar cheese and tomato in the salad.

Since our server mentioned that pizzas were a new addition to the menu, I decided to try the Bar B Que Chicken ($12) with homemade barbeque sauce, chicken, mozzarella, roasted red pepper, onion and cilantro. (I passed on the pineapple.) Mr. Husband, still in a fishy frame of mind, chose one of the many chef's specialties, a 5-ounce. Alaskan Salmon ($19.50) served with lime cilantro rice and Mexican cucumber salad and topped with Coho sauce, a sweetened soy sauce.

When the salmon arrived first, I encouraged him to start so it didn't get cold. The sauce was a light, well-chosen flavor for the salmon. While I waited for my food, I nibbled at the yellow and red pepper, cucumber and jalapeno in the Mexican cucumber salad. It was a wonderful, crunchy, zippy accompaniment to the salmon.

As Mr. Husband popped the last piece of salmon in his mouth, my pizza made its tardy appearance. Our server, who had been attentive and pleasant throughout the evening, apologized profusely, but the major dining faux pas was not her fault. The pizzas apparently haven't been smoothly integrated into the kitchen brigade's timing yet, but this problem will likely disappear.

The dark, smoky barbeque sauce was the pie's highlight. I don't claim to be a barbecue aficionado, but in my book Behle Street's sauce gives Montgomery Inn a serious run for its money. Unfortunately, it sat atop an underdone Wonder bread crust covered with a frightening amount of underdone cheese.

While Behle Street's food is hit and miss and certainly won't be winning any plate presentation awards, most patrons probably will be forgiving. After all, not every restaurant in town can offer you a much-needed mental escape from the summer's heat without even leaving the city. ©

Behle Street Cafe
Go: 50 E. Rivercenter Blvd., Covington

Call: 859-291-4100

Hours: Daily 11 a.m.-midnight

Prices: Moderate

Payment: All major credit cards except Diners Club

Red Meat Alternatives: Lots of seafood, vegetarian pasta, pizzas and salads

Accessibility: Fully accessible. Valet parking is offered at Embassy Suites; there's a pay lot across the street.

Grade: B-

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