How to live like a local in Covington

Chris Varias, Special to Cincinnati Enquirer || Published 11:11 a.m. ET June 22, 2018 | Updated 10:58 a.m. ET June 25, 2018

Our Live Like a Local series takes a closer look at the hidden (or obvious) gems in our diverse collection of neighborhoods across the region. We talk with a local guru about where to eat, where to drink and where to have fun.

As owner of Keep Your Shirt On Covington, a maker of satirical shirts and merchandise, Missy Spears serves as an unofficial, tongue-in-cheek spokesperson for the largest city in Northern Kentucky.

For Spears, making fun of Covington with the name she chose for her company is an act of love: “You can’t kick a dog when it’s down,” she says. “It’s only enjoyable to make fun of it when it’s on the upswing.”

What makes Covington great?

“It’s probably the people. The people are amazing. We have a ton of small businesses that have flourished. A lot of the college-type bars like Cosmo’s went away, and now we have amazing independent eateries and coffee shops and places to get a nice cocktail.”

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Where to grab coffee

Left Bank Coffeehouse. They make the best lattes. They have an amazing honey-vanilla latte. And everyone who works there is so sweet. There’s a lot of really good coffee places. We’ve got Roebling Point. They have a great bookshop as well as coffee. MainStrasse has the Bean Haus. They have a really good blueberry coffee. And then we got Point Perk, which is over by Hotel Covington.”

Where to eat dinner

Coppin’s at Hotel Covington. They have the most amazing food. You can dine in, and it’s really upscale at an affordable price. The steak’s amazing. They have a market-greens dish that’s phenomenal. It’s all sauteed and amazing. And they also have a walk-up window, if you don’t want to come in and sit down. The chef makes specialty sliders and sandwiches that you can just grab on the weekend.”

Where to get drinks

“If you’re talking dive bars, definitely Gypsy’s. Everyone who works there is hilarious. They have a street-hockey team that hangs out there that you can talk to. They do $3 wells. It’s just a real low-key place to hang out. The guys at Gypsy’s are launching a Covington street-hockey league, and they practice behind the bar in Goebel Park. They play on blacktop with roller blades. They just launched it on Facebook, so they’re recruiting more people to try to get multiple teams going.”

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Where to go for entertainment

Octave on Madison. It’s a new jazz bar that opened up, but they have different bands that will come in and play of all genres. (The space) hadn’t been anything for a few years. They opened within the last year. It’s a few doors down from the Hannaford. I’ve just kind of wandered in from time to time and always had a good time with friends. The decor inside is gorgeous. It has like an art deco vibe to it. They do a lot of fundraisers there. It’s just always a good time.”

The wildcard

Lil’s Bagels. They just opened up a walk-up location on Greenup right next to Roebling Point Books. They’re open Thursday mornings through Sunday mornings. They’re open 7:30 a.m. until 2 p.m., unless they run out earlier, and they have the best food in the world. She offers bagels, and then they also make spreads so you can make sandwiches with them. She has egg salad, tuna salad, lox, and she hand-makes everything, so you can get a dozen bagels or a meal. It’s amazing. It’s like the greatest thing in Covington in years.”

How to get there:

Covington is on the south bank of the Ohio River, across from downtown Cincinnati. From Ohio, take I-71/I-75 South and exit at Fifth Street, following the signs for Covington. From the south, take I-71/I-75 North and exit at Fifth Street, following the signs for Covington.

Where to park:

There is street parking and many surface lots, as well as several parking garages: RiverCenter Garage (50 E. RiverCenter Blvd.), Kenton County Parking Garage (220 Madison Ave.), Midtown Garage (25 E. Fifth St.) and City Center Garage (24 E. Seventh St).

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