Southern-Style Pub Grub Hub Main Street Tavern Joins the Lineup of Local Restaurants in Covington

There's more to eat in MainStrasse

click to enlarge Clockwise from bottom left: The Rev's Fried Chicken, Cowboy Bill Watt's Burger, baloney sliders and cranberry cheesecake - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Clockwise from bottom left: The Rev's Fried Chicken, Cowboy Bill Watt's Burger, baloney sliders and cranberry cheesecake

Although MainStrasse isn’t in Ohio, it’s certainly a destination for food-loving Cincinnatians — and for good reason. Foodies from both sides of the river can find their favorites on this small stretch of road, with not a chain in sight. It’s the ideal area to hop from place to place and have a small bite (or big one) at each eatery and make a night of it.

At first glance, Main Street Tavern is easy to overlook among the other trendy spots on the road with updated exteriors. The Tavern is in the building that once held Mulligan’s Pub and still rocks some of the gritty bar vibes, with chipped paint and a few beer signs. In fact, the building housed the original Main Street Tavern before it was Mulligan’s, which was around for 73 years, arguably making this Main Street Tavern an automatic mainstay on the strip.

The comfy bar aesthetic continues on the inside. I almost expected the Cheers theme song to start playing when we walked in, as the first thing you see are bar stools lined up against an old wooden bar with wood paneling behind it and a chalkboard menu listing beer and wine options. The tables are set with classic red tablecloths, and the modern version of a jukebox, TouchTunes, is set up along one wall. This is a cozy place to settle in for a casual, slow-moving evening.

click to enlarge Main Street Tavern dining room - Photo: Paige Deglow
Photo: Paige Deglow
Main Street Tavern dining room

Our friendly server was the bartender too, and he juggled both zones of the restaurant with apparent ease. The Tavern has multiple rooms for dining but only had the front one in service on the Friday night we were there. It was both spacious and intimate, without too many other diners or people sitting at the bar.

In a twist that epitomizes the passion that has gone into making this restaurant a reality, co-owner Bill Lynch (with Trent Riley) is also the chef and menu creator. Our server didn’t hesitate to tell us how much Lynch loves food, and happily declared that the only store-bought items Lynch allows on the premises are ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise. After tasting the food, I can well believe it.

The restaurant has an excellent dinner menu, but in a smart move, it also serves brunch from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays with various delicious looking arrangements of waffles, biscuits, gravy, meats, French toast and sandwiches. A few other weekly specialty events include Service Industry Mondays, Fancy Grilled Cheese Tuesdays (here for it; this night also includes $3 cherry and grape bombs), Waffle Wednesdays and $3 Craft Can Thursdays.

click to enlarge Main Street Tavern exterior - Photo: Paige Deglow
Photo: Paige Deglow
Main Street Tavern exterior

Cans play a fairly big role at the Tavern since they only offer a few beers on tap, but this doesn’t feel like a problem with their excellent selection of canned high-quality local and craft brews, plus a healthy wine list. When I asked our server about mixed drinks, he shrugged and asked what I was looking for. I got a beer. The website offers a list of six cocktails, but these didn’t seem to be an option in the restaurant. All’s well that ends with a beer, and the Urban Artifact sour IPA I got was delicious.

We started off with the biscuit and baloney sliders ($7). These come with housemade baloney glazed with either sweet or spicy sauce and a hefty scoop of chow-chow (a sort of pickled vegetable relish). The biscuit was beautifully browned with those strangely enticing bubbles on top. It was soft, but not too pillowy, and held its own against the thick ring of fried baloney, which was pleasant and mild, but succulent enough for multiple napkins. 

The chow-chow was a bit of a mystery. Its sweet-tart crunch played nicely alongside the meat. The spicy sauce was only spicy by north-of-the-river standards, but had good flavor, while the sweet sauce was a barbecue sauce. One order of sliders could easily be split in two for an appetizer, and as a serving for one, it was a small meal.

Our first entrée was a house special called The Rev’s Fried Chicken ($14). With a name as Southern as that we had high expectations for the bird and weren’t disappointed. The crispy skin was crunchy until the last bite, and the meat was literally falling off the bone, which was both strange and enticing in a fried meal. The juicy meat was offset by a rich peppered milk gravy that came draped on top of the leg, thigh and boneless breast. The black pepper was intense, and while the flavor was good, it would have been better served on the side. The chicken came with mashed potatoes and slaw.

click to enlarge A close-up of the cranberry cheesecake with biscuit crust - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
A close-up of the cranberry cheesecake with biscuit crust

The second entrée we ordered was the Cowboy Bill Watts Burger ($12), made with local beef and topped with pimento cheese, crispy fried onions, barbecue sauce, lettuce and tomato. The surprise star of this meal was the buttery, golden bun with a Wonder Bread-soft interior, and the french fries doused with everyone’s favorite: Grippo’s barbecue spice. The burger was cooked all the way through — a must if it’s my grandma behind the menu, but a bummer if you ordered it medium like we did. Choice in the doneness of beef is mostly a ruse in restaurants anyway, but it makes a difference when the meat is high quality, as it is at the Tavern. Still, there wasn’t a crumb left and won’t be the next time.

Dessert was a tough choice and without a dedicated spot on the menu, it’s clear the restaurant takes the time to switch up its seasonal offerings. Available that night was a cheesecake made with a biscuit crust and cranberry compote; a cranberry curd tart; a “fluffer nutter” brownie with a peanut butter layer and marshmallow top; and bread pudding. We opted for the cheesecake ($5), which made me go home and excitedly Google “biscuit crusts.” My Pinterest dessert board will never be the same.

Main Street Tavern, 701 Main St., Covington, 859-815-8236,

Scroll to read more Restaurant Reviews articles
Join the CityBeat Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join CityBeat Newsletters

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