15 Best Restaurants And Bars In Covington, Kentucky

Perched at the edge of the Ohio River, across the historic Roebling Bridge from Cincinnati, sits a singular American city at a unique convergence of history, culture, and cuisine. The largest city in northern Kentucky, Covington is a community that bridges the Midwest with the South, all while serving as the veritable gateway to Kentucky Bourbon Country.

This is a city that, while adjoining both Cincinnati and the bucolic rolling hills of Kentucky's bourbon country, still manages to carve out its own tasty niche. A best-of-both-worlds city, this is the rare place where hungry visitors can blend their own bourbon at an urban distillery or embark on a bourbon bucket list drive, all while sampling southern Ohio specialties like goetta breakfast sausage and Cincinnati chili. Along with its abundance of historic architecture and metropolitan boutiques and hotels, Covington's impressive dining and drinking scene is also a convergence of old and new, where legacy staples share neighborhoods with chic new cocktail bars, inclusive cafes, and seasonal tasting menus. From Southern-meets-Midwestern comfort food to bourbon aplenty, these are the 15 best restaurants and bars to check out in Covington, Kentucky.

Second Sight Spirits

While many of Kentucky's distilleries are found in more rural areas throughout bourbon country, the state's native spirit is so omnipresent that the Covington area teems with urban distilleries distinctly its own. Chief among them is Second Sight Spirits, a distillery that zigs where bourbon country zags — i.e. this is the rare distillery where you can sip house-distilled booze while getting your fortune told by a fish tank.

Whimsical and one-of-a-kind, this destination-worthy distillery, in the adjoining town of Ludlow, is the crafty vision of friends and co-founders Rick Couch and Carus Waggoner, both of whom used to create projects for Cirque Du Soleil in Las Vegas — and it shows. Their penchant for theatrics manifests in their Houdini-esque still and a lounge space heavily influenced by magic and fortune-telling (hence the mystical name, Second Sight). The distillery is open for tours, cocktails, and coffee, and in addition to bourbon, they distill everything from smoked cherry rum to hazelnut liqueur.

Lil's Kitchen

When one door closes, another door opens. That's the case with Lil's Kitchen, a pint-sized cafe with a huge heart that originated as a beloved bagel shop in downtown Covington before shuttering and reopening at a new location. Now stationed within the particularly quaint spot of Roebling Point Books & Coffee, a likeminded business that shares Lil's' ethos as an inclusive beacon for the LGBTQ+ community, the cafe has settled nicely into its new home — and brought its fan-favorite egg salad with it.

While the bygone bagels are a thing of the past for now, the wholesome menu wafts of Middle Eastern influence, featuring the likes of date and tahini-based smoothies, beet and veggie hummus toast, za'atar-spiced "hawt pockets" wrapped in Lebanese flatbread, and Israeli couscous salad. Then there's the "famous" egg salad, served as a sandwich with butter lettuce and pickled green tomatoes on salted rye. Coupled with a latte, it's the perfect combo while perusing literature, or the perfect pre-cursor before a queer wine tasting.

The Baker's Table

A few years back, upon its debut, The Baker's Table was heralded as being among the best new restaurants in the nation by the likes of USA Today and Eater. Nowadays, chef David Willocks' homage to seasonality and northern Kentucky ingredients is going stronger than ever, dazzling guests with ever-changing tasting menus in a homey dining room in Newport. Not only has the restaurant branched out across the street with its own bakery, but The Baker's Table is still the ultimate go-to for fine dining in the Covington area — while still managing to feel approachable and comfy.

In addition to a meticulous wine list and vibrant cocktails, the menu offers a dynamic spree of rustic, seasonal fare, all at an affordable price point. Depending on the time of year, examples could include seared rapini with crispy prosciutto and zucchini, agnolotti with mustard greens and ricotta, and king salmon with sorrel beurre blanc and bok choy. No matter the time of year, though, The Baker's Table is a special experience and a lustrous homage to the region.

North South Baking

An impassioned ode to the slow food movement – a dedication to farm-fresh sourcing and scratch-made craft — is the through line at North South Baking. The wholesome downtown bakery uses the purest regional provisions for some of the tastiest and most interesting pastries in town. Housed in an eccentric rustic-hip space, the bakeshop puts the spotlight on locally milled grains, naturally fermented breads, and as many fresh ingredients as possible from area farms.

On any given morning, customers can expect a rotating lineup of Danishes, babka, cakes, pies, and cruffins (aka flaky croissant muffins). These include everything from lavender brioche coffee cake and strawberry lemon meringue tarts to coffee-glazed babka, savory spanikopita Danishes, and peanut butter-miso chocolate chunk cookies. Whatever you do, don't miss out on the cruffins. Flavors and fillings are constantly changing, but cross your fingers for a Boston cream version, bursting with silky custard.

Wenzel Whiskey

For proof that high-proof alcohol just hits different in the city than the rest of bourbon country, look no further than Wenzel Whiskey, a sleek downtown distillery that sets itself apart by being located down an alley within a former pickle factory. So named for the building's first owner, Henry Wenzel, the boozy business is more than merely a standard distillery or bar. It's a full-fledged whiskey-blending experience that allows imbibers to get a little more hands-on with Kentucky's signature spirit.

While bourbon connoisseurs are welcome to come by and just sample the wares, what really makes Wenzel Whiskey such a gem is its personalized blending experience. With helpful guidance from friendly, impassioned barkeeps, guests are able to play "master blender" and concoct various combinations from four different barrel-proof bourbons from throughout Kentucky and other states. Once you're satisfied with your combination, distillers bottle it, date it, and offer the opportunity to purchase your own custom-blended bourbon.

Libby's Southern Comfort

If ever there were a restaurant that typified Covington's convergent location as a bridge between the Midwest and the South, straddling two harmonious cuisines and culinary pastimes, it's Libby's Southern Comfort. As the name suggests, this is indeed a haven for Southern comfort staples, but beyond the crowd-pleasing fried chicken and fried green tomatoes, the menu branches out with inspiration from Cincinnati and the rest of northern Kentucky.

Housed in the former Dixie Wholesale Grocery with an aesthetic that blends history and contemporary style, the restaurant's menu opens with unique offerings like goetta hush puppies, a crispy fritter version of the Cincinnati breakfast sausage, as well as a decidedly more Southern option of pimento cheese fritters. Heftier dishes include oyster po' boys, fried bologna BLTs, fried chicken, and the Charlie Brown — a riff on the Kentucky-famed hot brown sandwich. For drinks, don't miss the Cheerwine bourbon slush, a spiked blend of the famous Southern cherry soda.

Revival Vintage Bottle Shop

If northern Kentucky is basically the Disney World of bourbon, then Revival Vintage Bottle Shop is its marquis attraction. A veritable Cinderella Castle of vintage spirits, many of them brown and local, this masterfully curated spot is distinct in that it feels less like a regular old bottle shop and more like a boozy museum stocked with spirits that pre-date Prohibition.

An apt homage to the regional spirit, presided over by savvy connoisseurs Brad Bonds and Shannon Smith, the shop features numerous shelves brimming with endearingly dusty bottles and decanters shaped like poodles. While Revival doesn't operate like a standard bar (i.e. don't expect to come in and order an espresso martini), the shop does offer up to four half-ounce pours of whatever bottle they feel like popping that day — and rest assured, it'll be dripping with history. The best part is how Revival offers the special opportunity to sample exceedingly rare spirits at a fraction of the standard price for such novelties.

Mama's on Main

Strolling through Covington's Mainstrasse Village, a vibrant, bustling, and culture-rich neighborhood lined with eclectic shops and restaurants, it's easy to feel like you've inadvertently strode into Brooklyn. That sentiment is exemplified by restaurants like Mama's on Main, a relative newcomer to the main drag that embodies the red sauce Italian Americana of New York City — all served up in an artsy, hip space bedecked with stained glass, a romantic red motif, and decor inspired by Botticelli's "Birth of Venus."

The menu offers a refined approach to Italian American comfort food. The familiar flavors are all there, the ingredients are of the utmost quality, and the portions won't wallop you over the head. Start with lemony fried calamari or crispy arancini, then move on to soulful pastas like spaghetti al limone or rigatoni in vodka sauce. A sleeper hit is the eggplant Parmesan, which delivers thick slabs of crispy fried eggplant atop a toothsome bed of marinara-splashed spaghetti. At the end of the meal, the housemade limoncello makes for a perfect nightcap.

Secret Bar

When most folks think of speakeasies, they envision dark hideaways tucked in basements or nestled behind bookshelves. But a speakeasy clad in rainbows, slinging frozen cocktails from the back of a queer-owned art shop? Not so much. Secret Bar is the aptly dubbed speakeasy-style watering hole located in the back of Creative House of Art and Design, a vibrantly inclusive art shop — named after owner Chad Turner — that features Pride paraphernalia and paint nights hosted by drag queens.

Secret Bar emerged as a pandemic project, initially under the name Liquid Palette. Once it was rebranded, giving it more of an intriguing moniker, customers flocked in droves to sip cocktails, frozen drinks, and beer in the back of the kaleidoscopic art space. In addition to a small indoor bar, there's a spacious back patio that's just as colorful as the store itself. The whole vibe blends together to create a speakeasy that's far merrier and brighter than most secretive bars of yore.

Second Story Bar

While much of the drinking culture in northern Kentucky is exemplified by timeworn distilleries and wood-filled bourbon bars, Covington's bar scene continues to innovate and evolve. Case in point: the splashy, whimsical ambiance at the recently opened Second Story Bar. Located above an axe-throwing range, the nondescript bar teems with surprises, from its fantastical decor and sprawling patio deck to its intricate cocktails.

The aesthetic feels like a ballroom meeting a rainforest, with wide-open lofty space up front and fake jungle-style trees behind the massive bar. Said trees are used to shelve spirits, which go into meticulously mixed drinks that go well beyond bourbon. Try the Fire Alarm, a tequila and mezcal tipple with curaçao, lime, beet-vanilla-clove syrup, and cayenne, or the Columbines In Your Hair with gin, lime, aquafaba, orange flower, and flower water spritz. Whatever your drink of choice, it's best enjoyed on the huge back patio with a decadent garden party vibe.

Covington Yard

Thanks to Covington Yard, it's possible to have a full-blown backyard party in the heart of downtown Covington. Complete with artificial turf, outdoor TVs, yard games, and al fresco booze aplenty, this all-ages venue is a huge shipping container park outfitted with multiple bars, fast-casual eateries, and a dizzying array of picnic-style tables.

An idyllic summer hangout, Covington Yard slings ice-cold beer, cocktails, and wine, including their own custom brew, Yard Lager. They also have refreshing mixed drinks (try the Mariposa with tea-infused tequila and lemonade) and quenching frosé slushies. Food-wise, look for sliders, tacos, and fried chicken from vendors Talons Chicken + Waffles, Hangry Omar's Slider Shack, and Nacho Average Taco Cart. Truly offering something for everyone (dogs and kids welcome and included), this is the kind of place where you can come to drink beer while watching sports and then return for drag bingo with a bottle of sparkling wine.

Molly Malone's Irish Pub

For as much bar culture as there is in Covington, real-deal Irish pubs aren't exactly the norm. That is, aside from the fact that one of the city's most beloved and venerable bar institutions is Molly Malone's Irish Pub, a wood-clad cornerstone that feels more like Dublin than northern Kentucky.

Irish-owned and operated, the cozy pub has been a downtown fixture since 2007, having amassed a loyal following for its TVs showing soccer and rugby, its festive live music, and its lineup of authentic Irish eats and drinks. In addition to offering an extensive Irish whiskey selection (including Jameson on tap) and requisite Kentucky bourbons, the menu features a full slate of cocktails, beers, and shots, plus hearty eats like burgers, fish & chips, shepherd's pie, and bangers & mash. From its well-worn tavern atmosphere to its authentic recipes, it's about as legit as pubs get this side of the Atlantic.

The Standard Covington

Where once customers used to come to get their tires rotated, nowadays folks flock for burgers, brisket Benedict, and bourbon-splashed slushies. That's all courtesy of The Standard, a not-so-standard entry in a vintage auto shop that's taken a dated space and retrofitted it with colorful murals, lime-green chandeliers, and ample indoor and outdoor space, making it a particularly popular stopover in the summer.

The menus are just as playful as the ambiance, with playful and shareable plates like barbecue-dusted deviled eggs, hand-breaded chicken nuggets, and burgers with fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese. They also serve brunch on weekends (look for whimsical dishes like French toast with Cinnamon Toast Crunch butter, and — what else — goetta and egg sandwiches). To top it all off, the drink list is what patio dreams are made of. Try Marge's Bourbon Slush, a fun slushy riff made with bourbon, green tea, fresh lemonade, and orange juice.

Anchor Grill

As the saying goes at Anchor Grill, "We may doze, but never close." It's a testament to the timeworn commitment of one of Covington's most enduring institutions, an adorably dingy diner that's been in business for more than 75 years. Nowadays, though the restaurant does indeed close late at night, it's become an adored relic in a city that supports its classic standbys as much as its buzzy newcomers.

That's easy to do when a restaurant is as memorable as this, emblazoned with an iconic steamboat mural outside, outfitted with kitschy decor, and renowned for its diner-style comfort food — among the best in the country, in fact, according to Food & Wine. The menus are frills-free and consistent, slinging the likes of biscuits & gravy, waffles, and an Anchor specialty: goetta and cheese omelets. Later in the day, look for burly sandwiches, country fried chicken, pork tenderloin, and liver & onions with brown gravy.

Coppin's Restaurant + Bar

One of the most historic and revered buildings in Covington is the city's namesake Hotel Covington, a luxurious gem housed within the city's first modern skyscraper. Said skyscraper was once owned by John Coppin, who ran a high-end department store. While the shopping experience has long since waned, the building's founder lives on in the form of his namesake restaurant, Coppin's Restaurant + Bar.

The ornate lobby-level restaurant, an architectural spectacle of soaring exposed-brick walls and rustic-chic beauty, boasts a menu rooted in local sourcing and peak seasonality. Open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner, the crafty menus feature items like country ham biscuits, brown butter cornbread, bourbon-glazed carrots, country-fried mushrooms, elote fritters, and burgers with beef fat fries. To drink, there's a substantial bourbon selection and an inventive cocktail program. Drinks change seasonally, but current libations include the heady Supernova — a savory blend of bourbon, chile liqueur, barbecue spices, bourbon-smoked paprika, and chipotle cacao bitters.