(Guest post by The Boyfriend)
In the Greater Cincinnati area, Covington’s Mainstrasse Village is my absolute favorite place…that I never visit.
Julie and I rarely venture there unless we either have an event or there’s some other specific reason to be there. It’s not on our rotation of regular destinations. For one thing, parking can be a pain, especially on weekends. For another, there’s that whole Kentucky-still-allows-smoking thing. (I’ll go around the moon to avoid cigarette smoke.) And since so many of the establishments identify themselves as “pub & grill,” “pub & grille,” “bar & grill,” “bar & grille,” “Irish pub,” “English pub,” “village Pub,” “grille pub”…you get the idea…it’s a pretty safe bet that a battle with smoke would be waged.
Still, it’s such a lovely area, especially in the spring and fall. There are always events and goings-on along the Sixth Street median, particularly on weekends. I was there a few days ago on a weekday mid-afternoon when the heat index was near 100 degrees, yet plenty of people were still dining on sidewalks and on the median, and at least three artists were working on paintings along Sixth.
I had gone there specifically because I thought a weekday mid-afternoon when the heat index was near 100 degrees would be the perfect time to have a late lunch. Parking should be less of a hassle, and smoke might be easier to avoid.
I walked along the median and around the corner onto Main Street, a total of three times around, trying to settle on a place to eat. I finally decided on Wertheim’s Restaurant, near the corner of Sixth and Philadelphia Streets.
Wertheim’s is a venerable establishment, now in its twenty-first year. I don’t like the adjective “family,” when it’s attached to the word “restaurant” because it conjures images of Grandma and Grandpa sidling up to a buffet after the 11 a.m. Sunday Mass. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) But it’s certainly an apt descriptor for Wertheim’s. The interior of the dining areas is not fancy, but warm and welcoming. Nor is the food fancy. But if you’re looking for a place to take the family for good food at a good price, this is the place. (I also tend to think of “family” restaurants as having few or no options with regard to alcohol. Wertheim’s has a fully-stocked bar and at least four beers on tap.)
The menu is largely a mixture of American and German fare. The restaurant offers a wide variety of schnitzels, pasta dishes, meat entrees, sandwiches, soups, and salads.
After studying the menu, I decided to go with European items. I started with a mug of goulash, one of the house specialties. Goulashes exist in both soup and stew versions. Wertheim’s tends more toward the soup end of the spectrum. It was extremely spicy, yet tangy. It was heavily laden with paprika, and full of onions and celery. Though it was served piping hot (and I tend not to eat soup during summer), it didn’t seem at all out of place on a hot day.
For the main course, I took my server’s suggestion and opted for the king-sized bacon cheese dog. This is a knockwurst, split and grilled, served on dark rye bread, topped with bacon and cheese and served with lettuce, tomato, and pickles. Not the healthiest of options, no, but really tasty. The sandwich is also served with homemade mustard, the perfect condiment for this sandwich.
My choice for a side dish, however, was my favorite part of the meal: hot German potato salad. This is one of those dishes that seems so simple, yet can be done in almost endless varieties that can produce amazing depth and complexities of flavor. Wertheim’s version features hot cubed potatoes, topped with a few chopped onions and bell peppers, and heavily drizzled with a heated sweet bacon dressing. I left a few bites of everything else, but I finished every bite of the potato salad, and with the bread scraps I had saved from the sandwich, sopped every bit of the dressing. I’m a real fan of German potato salad, and this was the best I’ve had in a long time.
With a final bill of just over twelve dollars for the soup, sandwich, side, and iced tea, the meal was also a pretty good value.
As I was leaving, I noticed a couple of accolades on the wall. Wertheim’s Kentucky Silk Pie won the Best Dessert award at Taste of Cincinnati in 1999. And Cincinnati magazine awarded the restaurant its prize for Best Potato Pancakes in the City in 2002. Both items are still on Wertheim’s menu. Had I not been so completely stuffed, I would have loved to try the silk pie.
I suppose I’ll have to do that on the next visit.