Frida 602 (Review)

New MainStrasse taqueria serves superior mezcal and tequila with quality antojitos

click to enlarge Tacos still top the popularity list this year, including these from Frida 602 in MainStrasse.
Tacos still top the popularity list this year, including these from Frida 602 in MainStrasse.

I

n August, mezcal bar and taqueria Frida 602 opened in Covington’s MainStrasse neighborhood. Owners Paul Weckman and his wife Emily Wolff, who also run Otto’s down the street, wanted Frida to be a hub for the growing village. So far they’ve succeeded — the locals have been coming out in droves. 

For those who aren’t acquainted with mezcal, it’s a liquor derived from the agave plant; tequila is a type of mezcal in the same way bourbon is a subset of whiskey. Tequila can only be made from the blue agave plant, whereas mezcal can be made out of 30 different types of agave. And where tequila is usually mass-produced, mezcal is handcrafted using an old-fashioned method. The piña, or the heart of the agave plant, is roasted in an underground earthen pit, which gives mezcal a peaty taste and smell, similar to Scotch. A donkey pulling a large stone wheel then crushes the smoked piñas, and the remains are fermented.

The restaurant, named after the legendary painter Frida Kahlo, has Kahlo’s portrait and famous unibrow emblazoned all over the place — in paintings on the wall, and in the fuchsia-colored women’s bathroom. Her husband, Diego Rivera, is represented on the bathroom door: Men get “Diego” and women get “Frida.” Akin to Kahlo’s colorful paintings, the restaurant mirrors her work with cerulean bar stools, bright-orange chairs, a floral banquette and Day of the Dead artwork, including decorative calaveras everywhere. Cute salt and pepper shakers shaped like cats and hedgehogs sit on the tables, and candles burn in the fireplace, illuminating the restaurant. An outdoor area contains a few picnic tables alongside a foosball table, and they have a second-floor lounge, which is not yet open.

Their cocktail list is divided into margaritas and house cocktails made with either tequila or mezcal, and they offer a long list of tequilas and mezcals ranging from $3.50-$11.25 per “shot,” or you can get a flight, both served in copitas (small clay cups). If you don’t like tequila or mezcal, they do have several beers — including Day of the Dead craft beer (Cerveza de los Muertos) from Mexico — and an assortment of wines. But, when in a mezcal bar, try the damn mezcal.

The Viva La Vida! cocktail was concocted with Frida Kahlo-brand anejo tequila, falernum (almond-flavored syrup), blackberries, lemon and cayenne pepper. The Frida margarita, served in a cactus glass, was made with Frida Kahlo tequila blanco, damiana liqueur (a plant that is rumored to have an effect similar to Viagra), agave nectar and lime juice. The best drink we tried was the Xibalba — mezcal, vermouth, cherry liqueur, blood orange liqueur and orange juice; it exuded an ocherous tint and tasted rich and smoky.

Frida is a bar first, but food comes in at a close second. The menu is categorized into antojitos of chips and salsas, chips and queso dip, salads, nachos and several kinds of tacos. After we ordered, the apps came out super fast, but the tacos took longer. The melon and jicama salad was light and refreshing with a citrus-chile vinaigrette, piled with leafy cilantro (if you don’t like cilantro, you’re screwed here).

You can order either two or three of each taco ($8-$14). The fish tacos came with thick slices of mild mahi mahi rubbed with spices and served with slaw, pineapple chunks and aioli. The goat in the goat tacos (hopefully not sourced from the nearby Goebel Park, which recently added a herd of goats to help eat weeds as part of restaurant co-owner Wolff’s Make Goebel Great initiative) was roasted a long time to eliminate some of the gamey flavor. Of the tacos we tried, the vegetarian chickpea and Brussels sprout were the best. Usually I don’t like sprouts, but these were slightly caramelized, and the chickpeas and peanut salsa sealed the deal.

Also a must: the queso dip. It’s a blend of melted pepper jack and Parmesan cheeses, corn and hot peppers served in a round iron skillet and accompanied by a metal bucket of crispy tortillas to scoop up the gooiness.

For dessert, we tried the sticky-and-sweet chocolate torte and paired it with two mezcals: Los Nahuales Reposado and Los Nahuales Blanco. The blanco had a clean, minty taste, and the reposado was more peppery. Our waitress, who just happens to own her own mezcal brand in Mexico called El Amor del Diablo, suggested rubbing the mezcal on our hands and wrists in order to bring out the scent more — l’eau de mezcal.

If anything, Frida demonstrates that tequila and the superior mezcal can thrive in harmony, with some good snacks thrown in. If this is what Mexico is like, sign me up for a long stay.

Go: 602 Main St., Covington, Ky.
Call: 859-815-8736
Internet: facebook.com/frida602
Hours: 5-11 p.m. Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday; 5 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday and Saturday

Scroll to read more Restaurant Reviews articles

Newsletters

Join CityBeat Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.