Just across the river, in Covington, KY, sits a 19th century village as unique as its heritage. MainStrasse Village is a commotion of pubs, quaint boutiques and eateries. With over 30 establishments, there is no time for a visitor to experience them all in one trip, but if you had just one day to explore MainStrasse, let me recommend how to do it.
Get there early, around 10 am would be best. With so much to do and shops closing around 5 p.m. on most days, you’ll want to allow yourself enough time to take it slow. Free parking is available so don’t worry about meters or expensive garage fees, just pull into the 5th Street parking lot off the main drag. Not only is this a great place to park, but it also allows you to enter MainStrasse Village almost directly in the center of everything. Once out of your car you’ll feel almost immediately the quaintness of the Village. The first recognizable landmark is the bronze Goose Girl Fountain, located in the center of MainStrasse Square. The fountain was inspired by the Goose Girl fairytale written by the famed German Grimm brothers. Goose Girl also serves as a landmark for the Village directory in case you happen to get turned around sometime along the way.
Most restaurants in the Village only serve breakfast or brunch on Sundays, so for a sure thing for your first meal of the day, visit La Cherie Bakery on Main Street. It’s hard to miss the bakery’s large rainbow umbrellas that catch your eye as soon as you turn the corner—which is exactly why sisters and co-owners Cheri Wagner and Sue Burnett choose them for their outside dining tables. With a full breakfast menu serving everything from fresh baked goods—which Wagner personally makes—to omelets, pancakes and of course goetta, La Cherie is the perfect place to start your morning. Also, be sure and try a cup or organic tea of coffee, offered as part of the bakery’s intent to “offer a more healthy menu,” says Burnett.
Following breakfast it’s time to take a stroll down the charming boulevard. On your way, stop and read about the famous Margaret Garner slave escape of 1856 which took place on this very street and which inspired Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved.
During the day it’s the small, independent shops that draw visitors. You’ll observe Julie’s Inspiration Consignment Shoppe by its its pink and white sign. Owner Julie Boone says, “Everyday is like Christmas here,” and trust your author, there are tons of holiday finds no matter what time of the year it is. Whether you’re looking for a Jackie-O inspired dress or an obnoxious Sunday church hat, this consignment shop has it all. Another plus, this store is “The only consignment shop which carries vintage,” said Boone.
Across the street are two shops with a more modern take on merchandise. Ottoman’s Imports sells jewelry, pashminas and other fashion accessories with a Middle Eastern/Asian Flair. Right next door is The Jewelry Shoppe which sells everything from Marilyn Monroe purses to funky beaded pendants.
If you need to take a break, Bean Haus is a great place to rest your feet with a cup of coffee. Bean Haus has all the amenities and flavors of a modern coffee shop. You can choose from over 50 different tea and coffee flavors, or as the menu puts it, “Feel free to ask the barista to make you a drink of your liking.” Board games are a bonus to this delightful coffee shop.
After your caffeine break, take a left back on Main and keep on going until you hit Leapin Lizzard, a functional art and retail gallery at the end of MainStrasse. The gallery, originally a Methodist Church built in 1888, grabs your attention with its bright purple and green paint job. Peruse out-of-the-box art, from over 100 different national artists, which use everyday objects to make useful creations including lamps, tables and clocks. Be sure to take a walk in the sculpture garden before leaving. If Leapin Lizzard inspires you to check out more contemporary art, Pivot Gallery and Boutique on 6th Street is a more exhibit-like gallery featuring modern works by varying artists.
Another shop of interest on 6th Street is Linden Noll Gift Haus, a fixture of the Village for 25 years. This shop, which carries more Christmas décor than the North Pole, may seem a bit overwhelming but take the time to explore all three rooms of mostly hand-crafted trinkets, many imported all the way from Europe.
While the feeling of enchantment is still fresh, wander on down to the Magic Shop. Owner Artie Kidwell, a local magician who once opened for David Copperfield, has a one-stop-shop for anyone interested in magic. If you’re lucky, Kidwell may even pull a few tricks out of his hat for you. And don’t go too far because right across the hall is the Northern Kentucky Museum of Military and Local History. Private collector Doug Hamilton decided to put his collection on display and open this museum for the public to enjoy. The one room museum houses military pieces from WWII thru the Vietnam War, which come from all across the United States.
Now that you’ve reached the other end of MainStrasse it’s time for a little more history. If you head across Philadelphia Street you’ll be in Goebel Park, home of the Village’s landmark Carroll Chimes Clock Tower. Read about the clock tower’s central role in the creation of MainStrasse and how Haven Gillispie was inspired to write the Christmas favorite, “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” while on a ride thru the Village.
By now your appetite is sure to be worked up. If you are in the mood for genuine German cuisine, check out Wertheim’s Restaurant. Misty Nipper, a waitress for this German-American eatery, recommends the Champignon Schnitzel, the restaurant’s specialty dish. If you’re in the mood for some jazz, then Chez Nora is the place to dine. With a wide range of appetizers, quesadillas, salads and sandwiches, and daily specials, this place has something for everyone. Come to the rooftop after 5 pm and dine while overlooking the village and listening to some smooth sounds. One patron recommended visitors “spend the whole day here.”
If it’s award-winning fish and chips you’re in the mood for then Cock and Bull’s English Pub is your spot. Dine inside or outside by the fountain, a spot that was awarded Best Outdoor Dining in 2005 by CityBeat. Dee Felice Café is another appetizing place to grab a meal. This café serves up traditional Cajun and Creole food with traditional entrees such as steaks, fresh seafood, chicken, pork and pastas. The corner pharmacy turned restaurant in 1984 also features music most nights in the form of trios or quartets. Dee Felice waiter Scott Harmeling says, “You can’t get musicians up early enough for breakfast.” No matter where you choose for dinner, it’s sure to be an excellent meal.
For those visitors who want to stick around after the sun goes down, there are plenty of pubs in which to get acquainted. Straus Haus, literally a house and garage both with full service bars, is a relaxing place to stand around and have a drink. If it’s excitement you want, then head over to Cosmo’s Bar and Grille. Waitress Michelle Guilfoyle says the best thing about Cosmo’s is, “the amount of space in here.” The most spacious of all the bars, it features a main bar, outside courtyard, outside lounge, Fitzgerald’s cigar bar and nightclub on the second floor.
On a smaller scale is Pachinko’s which houses one bar inside and one outside on a covered porch. Next door is ZaZou, another lively pub which offers cornhole in the outside courtyard.
Go to one, or go to all. It doesn’t matter because none of the Village’s pubs have a cover charge. When you’re done indulging in the nightlife and dinner has worn off from dancing, visit Lucy Blues for a slice of pizza.
So if you ever get the chance to come by this little village, make sure these mentioned locales are among your stops. If feeling energetic and wish to see it all, good luck, but be sure to check out MainStrasse’s website for more information on the different business’s hours of operation.
Sheila Owens is a senior at the University of Cincinnati where she studies Journalism and Communication. She is currently an intern for Soapbox magazine and plans to pursue a career in the media field after graduation this December. Sheila’s two loves are writing and her family.
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