As an Appalachia transplant to the Midwest, there are times that I long for the down-home flavors of the South. Whenever these urges arise, though, I’m lucky enough to have a Mecca to Southern cooking close at hand. Serving up elevated and exceptionally-crafted renderings of classic Southern fare – such as terrine, biscuits, rabbit and barbeque – Commonwealth Bistro is simultaneously familiar and gastronomically complex.
Located in the quaint dining district of MainStrasse Village – the beating heart of Covington, Kentucky – Commonwealth invites guests in with its rowhome charm and unassuming façade. Once inside, rustic exposed beams, refinished hardwood floors, and powder blue rabbit-muraled wallpaper evoke a rural elegance that perfectly foreshadows the delectable cuisine to come. It’s all the character of Grandma’s house with the sophistication one would expect at a gourmand eatery.
Although my wife and I have dined countless times at Commonwealth for dinner since it opened in 2016, the siren song of brunch has recently been our harkening call. Offering equally delicious and curated dishes at much thriftier prices, Commonwealth’s brunch menu is the perfect way for all eaters, no matter their budget, to enjoy the host of fine fare this wonderful bistro has to offer.
Like any self-respecting brunch spot, Commonwealth offers a mid-morning drink menu, including mimosas and Bloody Mary’s. For my wife and I, coffee is always the beverage of choice, and a heaping cup of Deeper Roots’ locally roasted and ethically sourced java hits all the right notes.
In addition to the coffee, nearly all the ingredients prepared at Commonwealth come from farms within a 30-mile radius. Hills Family Farm, Carriage House Farms, Eckerlin’s Meats, Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese, and Sally’s Farm are just a few of the restaurant’s local suppliers, many of whom personally deliver their products each morning.
Although a number of restaurants around the Queen City have an organic, farm-to-table perspective, Commonwealth’s Southern cuisine lends itself better than any other to the ingredients farmed and produced nearby. In each and every bite, the superior quality and freshness of the ingredients shine, and Commonwealth’s changing menu keeps it seasonal and true to its locale.
To begin our brunch in classic Southern style, my wife and I shared a plate of the biscuits and gravy. As die-hard biscuit lovers, we have been raised to distinguish a well-crafted bake, and Commonwealth’s biscuits strike just the right balance of dense, soft and moist. Smothering these whole-wheat wonders is a velvety gravy seasoned with pepper, country ham and sausage. Unexpectedly from a Southern restaurant, the salt level is restrained, resulting in a sweeter, creamier gravy that marries harmoniously with the biscuits.
For a main offering, my wife chose the porchetta breakfast sandwich. An Italian favorite, porchetta is a rolled pork roast typically seasoned similarly to a sausage. At Commonwealth, they bread and fry slices of porchetta and top the porky goodness with melty provolone, astringent collards, and a creamy garlic aioli. The result is a messy and delicious sandwich that provides the perfect start to a weekend morning.
I, on the other hand, decided to partake of Commonwealth’s chicken and waffles. Hands-down, chicken and waffles is one of my top two or three favorite dishes, and Commonwealth’s version takes the cake. First, they start with a perfectly fried chicken quarter that is succulent, well-seasoned and superbly crunchy. Next comes the dense and nutty cornmeal waffle, along with a spicy vinegar and maple hot sauce. Finally, and most gluttonously, the dish is finished with a quenelle of sweet and tart buttermilk ice cream.
From the smoked paprika in the breading to the hot sauce-soaked raisins, every element of the dish pairs beautifully. It’s sweet and savory and acidic in all the right places, and if the bones in the chicken didn’t impede my progress, I could easily wolf it down in an instant. For any eater trying the dish for the first time, I suggest letting the waffle soak up as much of the hot sauce and melted ice cream as possible for an impeccable accompaniment to your bites of golden fried chicken.
With a few final sips of coffee, my wife and I left Commonwealth Bistro with filled bellies and happy mouths, ready to enjoy the weekend. Costing only $41 before a tip, the restaurant is reasonably priced for a brunch spot, especially for one offering such filling dishes made with local-sourced, high-quality ingredients.
I hope you have the chance to hop on down to Commonwealth Bistro too and enjoy their exceptional Southern cuisine for yourself!