Cheviot, Ohio is perhaps Cincinnati’s archetypal “West Side” neighborhood and tucked into an unassuming streetside barspace is Maury’s Tiny Cove, one of Cheviot’s hallmark vintage gems. Opened in 1949 by Maury Bibent, the bar and steakhouse has stood the test of time as a regional favorite.
Before I-74 was built to bypass Cincinnati’s West Side neighborhoods, the city of Cheviot was a comfortable stop along a major route to downtown. While the suburban-style developments along Glenway Avenue have appeared in the time since, Cheviot’s historic business district on Harrison Avenue still harkens back to the first half of the 20th Century.
Maury’s Tiny Cove holds the distinction of being the West Side’s oldest steakhouse. And, in the nearly 70 years of its operation, it hasn’t changed all that much. Walking in the front door feels like walking into the past. The low ceilings, wood paneled walls, and bright red leather booths all give the feeling of another time.
When Maury’s first opened, Bibent served a limited menu--steak, chicken, and seafood. He served no appetizers; he served no dessert. A small dish of pickles was complimentary to keep the guests thirsty. The menu today still spares customers any nonsense. It’s classic steakhouse fare: hand-cut steaks, pasta, seafood, and burgers (voted Best in the city by Cincinnati Magazine in 2015). Old fashioned meat and potatoes; old fashioned cocktails.
Honoring tradition; bringing in new faces
Matt Huesman, owner Maury's Tiny CoveCurrent owner Matt Huesman has been in the restaurant business since his first job washing dishes and had always wanted to own his own place. 10 years ago, he answered a blind ad in the paper for a “50 year-old steakhouse for sale,” joking with his son that it might be Maury’s coming up for sale. He was right. He bought the business in 2009.
From a street view, Maury’s Tiny Cove is admittedly odd. It’s a historic 19th Century house in the back--where one of Cheviot’s first Mayors once lived--with a mismatched brick addition on the front. The home had been a residence for most of its early life but, a few years after Bibent opened Maury’s, he opened a piano bar on the second floor. The Key Club, this small club with a piano player and singing and dancing servers, was so popular in its day that it had over 500 open bar tabs on the books, billed monthly.
The street level, which holds the original “cove” bar has grown multiple times over the past 70 years, expanding back into the basement of the home and into two nearby buildings to include two dining rooms and a large kitchen. But aside from its size, it still looks much like it did in 1949. With a few subtle updates, it has aged well.
Maury’s Tiny Cove’s vintage atmosphere is what drew a location scout for the 2015 film Carol, staring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Set in 1950’s New York City, the film was shot entirely in the Cincinnati area at locations like The Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza, the old Shillito’s department store downtown, and the University Club. A prominent scene in the film takes place in a booth tucked into the back of the lower level of Maury’s.
Heusman has a lot of love for the history of Maury’s and he’s worked hard to maintain the historic charm of the place while updating it when necessary.
He says, “Everything we’ve done we’ve done with an eye toward keeping the tradition of Maury’s and keeping our old guests happy while trying to appeal to newer folks. From the response we’ve had, I’d say that it worked out pretty well.”
After being closed for years, Huesman reopened the second floor and renovated it to include a few separate dining spaces--perfect for private parties--and a more casual bar lovingly referred to as “Maur’s Bar.” A few years back, he added an outdoor patio for seating. To attract some newer guests, Huesman has been programming the upstairs bar with special events like live music and wine dinners.
One of the biggest attractions to Maur’s Bar is a monthly beer tasting event that features six craft beers paired with seven foods. As many as 120 people have attended the event, with guests of all ages.
Even with a new generation of customers, Huesman says his average guest is still a life-long Cincinnati “Westsider.” And he’s heard plenty of stories of their history at his restaurant--first dates, first beers, etc. Seventy years of business makes for a lot of great stories.
Trademark Taurus the Bull logo at Maury's Tiny CoveThere are still some traces of Maury Bibent himself hanging around, including the trademark bull logo--in homage to his horoscope sign: Taurus--and menu items named after his family members and beloved local sports teams, many of which he sponsored. Huesman has introduced some of his own family heirlooms, as well, like a model beer train over the cove bar and a collection of antique Royal Doulton toby mugs up in Maur’s Bar.
But Huesman makes it clear that Maury’s Tiny Cove isn’t about him. “I feel more like a steward of the restaurant than an owner,” he says. “This really belongs to our guests. And we have more loyal guests at this restaurant than I’ve ever experienced at any job that I’ve had.”
Plan your visit
Maury’s Tiny Cove is at 3908 Harrison Ave in Cheviot, Ohio. It opens at 5pm daily for dinner. The next Beer Tasting with Food Pairing is scheduled for June 26th. Call 513-662-2683 to reserve your spot.
The restaurant entrance is street side; Maur’s Bar entrance is in the rear. Parking is available in the rear, off of Lovell Ave. Go Metro with bus Routes 21 and 40x.