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MainStrasse''s Main Bite
522 Main Street
Covington, Kentucky 41011
Main Bite is the restaurant of the moment in the forums and blogs. The published buzz about the Bite runs up & down the gamut of “Love it” to “Not so much to love”. So what’s up with the mixed reviews? I first sampled Margie’s dishes in her previous venture, MJ’s on Main (Old MIlford). I found much to rave about there. I was impressed with the flavor, fragrance and freshness of her dishes. I expected Main Bite to be a new and improved version if not at least satisfyingly equal. In May, Main Bite took over the old Lime spot. They did a fine job on redesigning the interior, utilizing the space for maximum efficiency and seating. The patio area looks amazingly inviting too. The once smallish space now features 13 tables in the dining room and 16 tables outside. Royal purple and wine red walls, rich wood floors and black furniture give the space a cozy it never had before. Fresh flowers are abound all around as well as an herb garden. Sounds like a woman’s touch? It looks like one too. That’s the signature style of owner/chef Margie Potts. Margie is a foodie from way back. She’s been featured on radio, TV and books. She is passionate about great food, local ingredients, clean healthy recipes and she can crank out some seriously tasty treats.
Walking up, my wife and I were hit hard in the nose with an awesome “sizzling steak” aroma before we even opened the door. “Now that’s appetizing” I commented. A sweetheart server kindly seated us and quickly produced menus. After a brief browse, I realized this is a much condensed offering compared to MJ’s. Aside from the appetizing descriptions the first thing I noticed were the prices. Six apps (“First Bites”) run a healthy $9-11. The ten entrées (“Main Bites”) all run a normal $10-14. The four salads and a soup (“Fresh Bites”) are priced at $8-11. The six lunch items (“Lunch Bites”) run high at $9-10. There is also six desserts and six items on the brunch menu (Sunday 11-2).
Despite my culinary curiosity those descriptions created, we ordered a couple simple staples, to test the quality, presentation, flavor and value of the dish. Many flatbreads are featured, I’m not a big flatbread eater. Some of the more interesting Main Bite’s menu items are not seen anywhere else and while they all sound enticing, they make poor choices in an unbiased review comparison, as they have little or nothing to compare to. Despite the feeling of missing out on something special (Inside-Out Seafood Stuffed Shrimp, Tex- Mex BLT Croissant and Hot Wing Lettuce Wrap to name a few) I ordered Blackened Tilapia Tacos ($12.95) and a Sarasota Shrimp Bowtie ($13.95). They came out fairly fast and while appetizing, looked petite for our appetite (it was noon and the first food in our mouths all day). Actually the tacos were loaded to the brim. Overflowing with chunks of fish, crumbled cheese and chopped orange & red cherry tomato. A side of house made sauce and guacamole accompanied. The sauce was mayo based and tasted of mostly mayo. Neither of us really found it complimentary. The guac was fresh and mild. Picking up the taco a stream ran out of the end. I held it sideways for a half a minute to drain as much juice out as I could. Why it has juice at all I have no idea. The flavor on the fish was bold and spiced right. The shell was raw and I never appreciate that. After my first big bite I realized the over-loaded look is due to a thick layer of shredded iceberg on the bottom. All in all it was a good taco. The first I ever had to drain, but decent. Not stellar, nor worth $13 for the pair that come with no sides (by my standards). I could have done with a bit of rice or some kind of side. At 13 bucks I don’t think it’s asking too much. I could eat two of these entrées for dinner easy. $32 for a taco dinner. Whoa. I ate one and passed the other off in a trade for half of the Sarasota Shrimp Bowtie.
Again with the petite portions here as well. I guess that’s where the “Bite” in the name comes from. Five small salad size shrimp sat atop a large “saucer-ful” of (boxed) bow tie pasta. Four strips of grilled pita slices sat along side (Why would you bother to grill the pita but not the taco shell?). The saving grace to the dish was the nearly invisible savory buttery garlic, lemon, white wine sauce. Man it was divine. Delicate and delicious. I wiped every smear of it off the plate with my precious last few bow ties and lone pita slice left. Best pasta sauce I’ve ate in a long (long!) time. We both liked this dish, but didn’t find it worthy of the $14 price tag. Simple box pasta and sadly small shrimp can’t make the grade on their own. Sure the sauce came on strong with praise, but in the end we felt the order wouldn’t be repeated. Neither of them. It gives me great pain and heartfelt hesitation to print this review of Margie’s Main Bite. I really respect the lady, her talent and her food. I might as well go ahead and offer honest condolences for my words here. But I work for the readers, not the advertisers, nor my personal favorite restaurants and restaurateurs. I stick to dishing the straight dope, or lose the respect CV has earned for unbiased honesty. For my taste, the portions are too petite to merit a $31.00 lunch tab for two (one water, one tea). I dig the talent involved and it does show through. But in these economic times, with the local competition for every buck and the abundant options available in this town, I can’t see getting excited about repeating the experience. With petite portions several dishes are required to fill the bill (and a hungry belly).
I dig that concept. But at 13 and 14 bucks a pop, it will get damn pricey damn fast. I’m not so certain folks come to Covington pubs to drop $80-100 on dinner. Two apps, three or four entrées, a couple glasses of the (nicely selected) local wines or creative cocktails and you’re out well over a hundred. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I expect too much for too little. Then again, maybe many feel just like me. I had the impression this was and upscale pub type place from the look and locale of it. And to be fair I guess it is. If you’re the “mindful of your figure kinda person” who appreciates finesse and quality, but prefers small portions as not to be tempted to over-eat, Main Bite might be just what you were hoping for. If you’re a hungry bear or bunny looking for a belly full, you may want to come ready to spend like it’s your anniversary. If the dishes I ordered were half the price, the experience would have been totally different. I could see this place as a serious staple for locals if the prices were just toned down a bit. Then again, maybe I’m just a cheap bastard. In the end my advice is worth just what this rag cost. A big fat nothing. I say give Main Bite a try. After the “Just Opened” buzz wears off, repeat business will tell them it’s on the right track. Empty Saturday night tables will say otherwise. It’s anyones guess.