The York St. Café
in Newport is well known for its rich history and unique panache. Packed floor to ceiling with tchotchkes and artifacts of all shapes and sizes collected by previous owners Terry and Betsy Cunningham, the Newport mainstay’s interior still comes off as elegant and neat.
Guest experience is prioritized within the well-preserved structure. Respect for the heritage of the 1880’s-era building is evident in the staff’s knowledge of its colorful and sordid past – punctuated by the visible, lingering remnants of its long-ago speakeasy days.
While Vincent the dachshund mix wasn’t privy to interior views, he found the patio dining area large and accommodating, yet segmented and cozy. With many tables and planted areas situated between two brick buildings, it has a quiet, green – yet distinctly urban – vibe. Vincent gratefully took note of the consistent breeze and the shade provided by a large, overhanging tree. On a sweltering day, patrons and their dogs can easily find a cool respite from the summer heat at York St.
Vincent adores a good happy hour, so he visited in the late afternoon to check out the specials. While the legendary spanakopita and dirty hummus sounded appealing, Vincent’s unyielding carnivorous nature caused his tail to wag for the Wagyu beef sliders, made with locally sourced beef from Kentucky’s Black Hawk Farm
As the humans sipped on York St.’s signature Old Fashioned (distinctly prepared with both Old Forester '96 and Bulleit Rye poured over a demerara sugar cube), Vince imagined himself wrangling cattle as a ranch dog at Black Hawk Farm.
Attentive and gracious server Genesis came by with a refreshing bowl of chilled water for the discerning critic. She casually made mention that her menu favorites include the Caesar salad with house prepared dressing, as well as the stuffed chicken and the brie appetizer. This prompted Vince to abandon his daydreaming and tune in to the conversation. Executive Chef Richard McCollum discussed things like York St.’s ever-changing seasonal menu. Vincent politely lapped the refreshing water, preparing his palate for the mouth-watering meat.
Upon first taste, Vince was taken aback. This was no Heinz 57.
Scrumptiously-charred mini burgers in toasted brioche buns arrived at the table in due time, loaded with fresh and abundant toppings. These included tender mixed greens, large dill pickle slices, and chef Richard’s own ‘94 sauce. Upon first taste, Vince was taken aback. This was no Heinz 57.
“What is this unexpected, yet familiar, flavor?” he pondered to himself. The sauce was sweet and creamy with a smoky, chipotle kick, giving the slider experience a south of the border flair. “Olé!” Vincent conveyed with a nod to the chef. He licked his lips, finishing the last remnants of tangy, taco-y remoulade.
“Terry (Cunningham) started here 27 years ago and it originally was a coffee shop,” McCollum informed Vince and his companions. “That was in ‘94. And so, we have the ‘94 sauce as a tribute. I was tasked to come up with that. We’re a completely from-scratch kitchen.”
In addition to its relationship with Black Hawk Farm, York St. has established partnerships with Berry Farms
for fine cuts of meat and 16 Bricks
for baked goods. Herb planters adorn the patio, providing homegrown, flavorful freshness for human patrons and some good sniffing options for dogs.
“Tuesday is like our special dog day. Fridays and Saturdays are kind of hard because this place is packed with people,” McCollum advises potential guests with dogs in tow.
McCollum takes pride in his many customizable vegan options, often ordered by omnivorous and pescatarian guests with added meat or seafood. Summer vegetable farfalle with a sauce made from pureed hearts of palm is a popular option.
Special 5-course meals with themed wine pairings are another of the chef’s favorites and are offered every third Thursday of the month. June’s offering was “rosé all day.”
With another successful dog day afternoon of dining in the books, Vincent gives York St. Café a coveted five-paw rating. Outstanding, friendly service and a relaxed, eclectic atmosphere make it alluring in a Northern Kentucky bucket-list sense – especially for memory-making occasions like anniversaries or Mother’s and Father’s Days.
York St.’s second floor bar also hosts live music (primarily jazz ensembles and acoustic acts), for nights when the dogs crave a night in but their owners want to howl at the moon.
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