Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Keystone Bar & Grill

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!


Dan said...

Dear Veggie Option,
As the owner of The Keystone Bar & Grill and a fellow vegetarian I was dismayed to read your blog yesterday. We were forced to take the Shepards Pie off the menu due to low popularity. We do however, as you were kind enough to mention have a wide array of veggie options. In addition to the items you mentioned you can always substitute veggie burger/meal to just about anything like a veggie reuben sandwich or veggie Buffalo Chix Wrap.
I was surprised that you thought our brunch menu was limited, it is three pages with multiple veggie choices.
I was also surprised to hear disappointment in the veggie potato crisp. The Potato Crisps are hugely popular with our clientele. It weighs about a pound so I was surprised to hear you felt like there was not enough on your plate or that the price of $7.95 could not be justified. For really big appetites I recommend the Paul Bunyan with the veggie gravy. I do apologize about your friends order getting screwed up and would like to make it up to him with a gift card.
I also wanted to let you know about our non smoking room, The Art Room. It is the dining room that is completely separate from the bar and smoking areas, far enough away that you will not even detect a person smoking at the bar.
Any way as a fellow vegetarian and hard working independent business owner I was disappointed to read so much negativity in your blog. I hope you give us another try and come to agree with us that there simply is no other place in town that rivals us in vegatarian options for brunch, lunch and dinner. Thank you.

Travis said...

I am also a vegetarian and the Keystone is one of my favorite places in the city to eat. There are about 10-15 veggie options that you cannot find anywhere else. Not to mention the fact that you can substitute a veggie patty for nearly everything on the menu. I would suggest checking out the Mac and Cheese on Mondays (half price. great deal) My favorite is the Buffalo Springfield sub veggie. Not to mention that the wait staff is absolutely fantastic and the atmosphere is just plain cool. My favorite spot to chill out with a beer and watch the game in Cincinnati... (even though it's in Covington

Veggie Option said...

Since this review is from Oct 2007 and both Dan and Travis's comments are from 2009, I can only conclude that their comments are in response to the newer (2009) review.

I realize that there are plenty of veggie options on the Keystone menu and my friends and I were stoked to try them. Thing is we visited around midday on a Sunday, when the only thing going was the brunch menu, and while it has vegetarian items on it, the one we chose - the potato crisp - disappointed us because it wasn't good value for money. Did we just chose the wrong thing?

Dan, thanks for letting me know about the non-smoking room. We would have requested it if we had known about it, but we didn't and the hostess didn't tell us about it. Perhaps it is worth reminding the staff that not everyone who comes in knows about it.

I'll give Keystone another try, but until then the only thing I have to go on is my personal experience of the restaurant's brunch service, and I stand by my comments.