A College Student’s Guide to How to “Be A Local” in Northern Kentucky

Friday, August 6, 2021 10:00 AM by Brooklynn DiPaolo

cup of graeter's raspberry chocolate chip ice cream cincinnati ohio

Welcome to your very own “How To Be A Local in Northern Kentucky” starter kit. I would not be a true Northern Kentuckian/Cincinnatian if I didn’t start this off by talking about The Big Three. Okay, so no one actually calls it that. Although I have heard the following local gems referred to as “the Trifecta.” The three cornerstone places to eat for every Cincy Metro resident are: LaRosa’s Pizza, Skyline Chili, and Graeter’s ice cream.

Hey, I don’t make the rules. Just go.

A slice of homemade goetta at Otto's in Covington, KY, surrounded by a Bloody Mary and lemon pancakes

Also, if you haven’t heard of goetta (pronounced “getta”) you better goetta educated (hehe). Here’s a handy Goetta Guide

Coffee and Tea in NKY

If you’re reading this odds are you’re a college student like me. We’ve all had more than our fair share of caffeine-fueled mornings (and nights for some of us), so let’s get right into some lovely little coffee and tea shops.

  • Velocity Bike & Bean (Florence)
    • Classic and cozy, this little bike-shop-turned-coffeehouse is one of my all time favorite places to sip and study. Their lavender infused iced coffee is my default every time. Their muffins are divine too. Live music every now and then!
  • Club Vape Coffee Lounge (Florence)
    • I only found out this place existed because my grandma told me about it!? I did not think I would see the day that my grandma would enter a vape shop, but anything in the name of amazing coffee I guess. They have more latte flavors than you and I can count on all of our hands. I’m not joking. It’s like 22, and counting. I love Dirty Hippies everywhere (the drink, people, the chai tea and espresso drink), but this place makes them iced too, which I go crazy for.
  • Roebling Point Books & Coffee (Covington)
    • Saving the best for last on the coffee list. This has to be the most quaint little place I have ever been to. It doubles as a bookstore. I mean, come on. “Sidewalk Choc” – dark chocolate and amaretto latte. “Redlegs” – white chocolate and raspberry latte. They even have little breakfast foods. I could go on. But I’ll let you experience it yourself. You deserve it.

Some of My Fave Northern Kentucky Places to Eat

Anchor Grill Covington Kentucky exterior

Anchor Grill in Covington, Kentucky

You could always just roll through the nearest McDonald’s drive through for like the fifth time this week, OR you could spend the same amount of money on food that is astronomically better at some of NKY’s best non-chain restaurants.

  • Anchor Grill (Covington)
    • You didn’t really think I was going to let you off the hook on this whole goetta thing, did you? Anchor Grill’s slogan is “Good food.” and they earn it! Get the goetta and cheese omelette and thank me later (or you can just take me with you). It’s one of those charming places you could go to countless times and get something different each visit.
  • Reality Tuesday (Park Hills)
    • Very similar to Velocity Bike & Bean as far as the live music and rustic coffee shop vibes go. But it’s here in the restaurant section because it’s also a cafe! They have salads, pizzas, sandwiches, and their donuts are incredible.
  • Sea Sushi & Grill (Florence)
    • This is a perfect example of not judging a book by its cover. This won’t be the prettiest building you see in NKY, but it’s about what’s on the inside, right?? And that’s the best (and most inexpensive!) sushi on this side of the Ohio River. But don’t take my word for it. Go check out the peaceful ambience for yourself. I order something different every time, but their Rock & Roll sushi is my absolute favorite.
  • Better Blend Nutrition (Florence)
    • Calling all health nuts. Even if you don’t consider yourself a health nut, this is your new favorite place for something quick and filling. Whether it’s a meal replacement shake that tastes like dessert or a smoothie bowl piled high with toppings, Better Blend is a go for on-the-go. The low sugar and other macros in their blends are unbeatable. (Pro tip: try the brownie batter shake with cherry flavoring blended in). They also have a ton of add-in supplement options like collagen and probiotic. Good rewards program too! I’ve already gotten 3 free shakes so far.
  • Kitchen 1883 (Union)
    • People look at me funny when I tell them Kroger has a restaurant. Would you believe me if I told you they serve some kicking American comfort food with a gourmet twist? Do yourself a ~flavor~ and get an order of their chicken and waffles. A little bit pricier for my fellow college budget pals, but I promise you it’s worth it.
  • Kung Food Amerasia (Covington)
    • A note to my fellow art lovers – this place rocks. And so does the food. I got an eggroll, wonton soup, sesame chicken, rice, and mixed veggies all for a grand total of $8. Among many of the great places to stop on Madison Avenue.
  • Newport on the Levee (Newport)
    • Let me map this one out for you, because this place can be a whole experience if you do it right. The best way to describe The Levee is a series of restaurants and shops and a movie theater. It’s all topped off by NKY’s favorite aquarium. First, you’re going to pick from one of the many restaurants. Newport on the Levee has — anything from casual at Tom & Chee (who knew you could do so many different things with grilled cheese and soup?) to a more snazzy night out at Brio Tuscan Grille (with Italian food from heaven). Next, you’re going to hit Coldstone Creamery and watch your ice cream get all rolled out on a big slab of stone. No one really knows why. We just go with it. Next, go to the Newport Aquarium to see all the fishies. Maybe catch a movie at Newport’s AMC Movie Theater. You’re never going to run out of things to do out at Newport on the Levee.
A case full of Moonrise donuts in various colors in Covington, Ky

Moonrise Doughnuts in Covington, Ky.

What’s a meal without a little dessert, right? You can’t go wrong with any of these places.

  • Whippy Dip (Crittenden)
    • You have to drive slow once you’re getting close because you’ll drive right past the little place. They have a ton of soft serve flavors. They also have things like hot dogs and sandwiches, so you could have a little dinner there too.
  • Piper’s Cafe & Ice Cream Bar (Covington)
    • The term “variety” barely covers this. Piper’s has everything and then some. From iced coffee cocktails for us 21+ year olds, to ice cream sandwiches and kiddie cones, I’m not sure what this place doesn’t have. You could go 100 times and never get the same thing twice.
  • Moonrise Doughnuts (Covington)
    • You don’t know donuts until you know a fresh blueberry donut from Moonrise. Get them before they’re gone though, because what would be Covington’s best kept secret is no secret at all. People start lining up before it even opens at 4pm. That speaks for itself.

Craft Beer and Bourbon in Northern Kentucky

glass of beer reading "in the beginning there was darkness" with a moon graphic at darkness brewing in bellevue ky

Darkness Brewing in Bellevue, Kentucky

Where are my 21+ darlings? You deserve a drink. Something a little – ahem – stronger than what we’ve toured so far.

  • Boone County Distillery
    • Have you ever toured a distillery? At Boone County Distilling Co., you can not only see the inner works, you will hear some bourbon stories that will make your mouth drop open. Which is the perfect position for the tasting that follows the tour, hehe. My favorite bourbon of theirs is the bourbon cream liqueur. Put a little (or a lot) of it in your coffee in the morning for some extra giddy-up. Mix it with root beer and you have yourself a more exciting root beer float.
  • Bircus Brewery & Kitchen (Ludlow)
    • People tell me it’s pronounced Beer-cus and not circus with a “B” but say whatever you want. Beer. Pizza. Live music. Did you need something else? I didn’t think so. An awesome rock band that came out of my local NKY high school performs here every now and then. Check out Trauma Illinois on Instagram.
  • Darkness Brewing (Bellevue)
    • Ambiance is everything, and this place HAS IT. Their taproom is incredible. They have a ton of options on tap that change just often enough to keep up a good variety. And on top of that, you can have yourself a merry little $5 drunk grilled cheese. They also have a brunch that is sure to cure the nastiest of hangovers.
  • Braxton Brewing Company
    • Okay you get it. It’s craft beer. And Braxton has ALL the flavors. So let’s run through all the awesome locations. The Braxton Barrel House is in Fort Mitchell, Braxton Labs in in the Party Source in Bellevue, and Braxton Covington is – guess where – Covington, The Rooftop is also in Covington and it’s exactly what it sounds like, and there’s also a Braxton location in Cincinnati, in Over the Rhine, aka OTR.

And to think that this is all just the tip of the iceberg. Check these places out and keep your eye out for the other hidden gems of NKY.

Author: Brooklynn DiPaolo

Brooklynn DiPaolo is a Freelance Graphic Designer and Writer.

She would love to say she’s started fulfilling her dream of traveling all over the world, but she’s finishing college first. She spends her free time digging up NKY’s hidden gems and being a mother to her dog Sadie

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