The Keystone Bar & Grill
313 Greenup Street, Covington KY
My husband and I awoke to a lovely, sunny morning and decided to make the most of it by joining in the tail-gating action prior to the Bengals-vs-Jets game over at Paul Brown Stadium. We wandered down to the Levee area in Newport and were surprised to see next to no action at all in the parking lots along the riverbanks. The single indication of it being Game Day was a parking attendant sitting in a lawn chair by the Hooters parking barrier, chatting on his cell phone.
As we continued along the river it became obvious to us that the game was not going to kick off at 1 p.m. as we had thought. A quick call to my brother confirmed our suspicions. It was a 4 p.m. kick off. So with plenty of time to kill, we ambled on into Covington and decided to check out The Keystone Bar & Grill, which we had watched being renovated during our trips to Jean Robert’s Greenup Café across the street.
If only all restaurants could be as veggie friendly as The Keystone! This is a restaurant that gets it right on all counts. It is surprisingly light and airy inside, with classic black and white photos on the wall and groovy stained glass panels behind the bar, and nice touches like fresh bouquets in the restrooms and single stem flowers in modernist vases on the tables. On game days there are beer specials, including a sweet Bitburger special in a keepsake earthenware stein. Very cool. If you are a beer aficionado, you will rejoice at the selection of microbrews, craft beers, imports and draft. Over-the-Rhine Pale Ale? Check. Flying Dog in Heat Wheat? Check. Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale? You know it. Unibroue Maudite on draft? Coming right up! They also offer an excellent array of single batch bourbons and a good wine list. Obviously this isn’t your average bar and grill.
And one look at the number of veggie options on the menu confirms that. Seven out of ten of their appetizers are vegetarian – that’s impressive. Most are fairly common, like Spinach and Artichoke Dip, Potato Skins and Beer-battered Onion Rings, but others, like the Slow Roasted Garlic Bulbs, Hand-breaded Cheese Wedges and Red Onion/Roasted Red Pepper Quesadillas are a nice improvement. They also offer an intriguing Beer Cheese Bowl consisting of warm, homemade beer cheese served with bread and chips for dipping. Yum!
They boast a nice selection of salads too, all of which can be made vegetarian with the omission of bacon bits. For the non-vegetarians in the group, grilled chicken or grilled steak can be added to any of the salads for few dollars extra.
The Keystone really shines, however, in their selection of sandwiches and entrees. They offer three different vegetarian sandwich options: Grilled Cheese (made with cheddar, Swiss and gorgonzola cheeses), a Veggie Burger on whole wheat, and a Veggie Wrap stuffed with roasted red peppers, avocado, lettuce, tomato, Roquefort bleu cheese and honey mustard. At $5.95, that’s seriously good value for money. All the sandwiches come with Keystone’s homemade potato chips, or for a couple of bucks you can substitute any number of sides.
The main reason we decided to visit The Keystone, however, was the Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie entrée, which we’d seen on the menu posted in the window when the restaurant was still undergoing renovation. A veggie Shepherd’s Pie! Can you believe it?! Me either and I knew I HAD to try it.
And it is well worth trying, although be forewarned that it is heavy on the potato topping and skimpy on the veggie mince. As someone who has prepared a LOT of vegetarian shepherd’s pie over the years, I consider myself something of an expert on the dish, and I’d give this one a 5 out of 10. The mince/vegetable mixture should comprise at least half of the dish, not three quarters potato to one part mince as this one was. A small quibble, but at $10.25 there should have been a lot more mince and a lot less potato in this dish. I would also have liked to have seen vegetarian gravy offered alongside the pie, because the over abundance of potato made it rather dry. I would have gladly taken veggie gravy instead of the melted cheese topping that covered the potato.
Don’t get me wrong- it was a very tasty dish, all in all, and one that only needs a little bit of tweaking to be a real show stopper. I give them a 10 out of 10 for offering a unique vegetarian option to their menu, and they get full marks all around for the excellent selection of beer on offer.
We’ll be going back. I can hardly wait to try to Veggie Wrap next!