Cincinnati Classics: Maury’s Tiny Cove is a retro steakhouse full of memories and West Side charm | Food and Beverage Features | Cincinnati

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Photo: Hailey Bollinger

Little creek of Maury

Matt Huesman, owner of Little creek of Maury, don’t like the word “regular”. When referring to customers, menu items, staff, or anything that continues the timeless charm of one of Cincinnati’s oldest restaurants, he prefers “faithful.”

“It gives them a regular sound,” he says. “A regular guest might be someone who uses the washroom every day. A repeat customer, when I say that really encompasses customers who have come to help us renovate, and they come every week or even every two weeks ( to eat).There are our guests who have their usual seats at the bar; most want to sit in front of the creek.The loyal guest has a better connotation because he is so much more encompassing than the regular guest.

When Huesman bought the West Side steakhouse 12 years ago, he was down. Maury’s had served Cincinnati since 1949. Today, it persists as an icon of what it means to be a West Sider, which Huesman says has a lot to do with pride and loyalty.

Huesman relied on the word of this loyal clientele to draw his attention to the restaurant’s challenges. “The three Ds” – dull, dark and dirty – were the resounding answers, he said. Maury’s didn’t have a cleanliness issue, he adds, but rather outdated and unused interior features like the bulky now-removed sidestations or the carpeting in the upstairs bar.

After pinpointing areas for improvement, Huesman was forced to marry Maury’s beloved signature interior with necessary updates and minor redecoration.
As a testament to their dedication to the restaurant, customers participated both physically and financially, Huesman says. Some helped paint, while another paid to update the entire exterior landscaping. Huesman added a deck and door to the upstairs lounge, Maur’s Bar, which gave the establishment its second window and allowed Huesman to tweak the darkness as part of the cozy charm of L’Anse Cove. ‘business.

“I like to think the guest is our focus,” says Huesman. “Even when we did the renovation, we did everything with the mindset of, ‘We don’t want to upset the apple cart, we want to honor Maury’s tradition,’ and it worked. Even our music is designed for this kind of atmosphere.

A jukebox filled with 1950s music usually rules the mood, with plenty of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. “The More I See You,” by Nat King Cole is a mainstay, Huesman says.

Accompanied by the soundtrack is a retro interior – most of which hasn’t changed in 70 years – and when Cole’s sweet voice reigns over soft violins, you can almost hear the crackle of a record player. Red leather booths line the cove’s wood-panelled walls on the first floor, reaching to a low pewter ceiling embossed with a doily pattern. Each table is draped in white linen and dimly lit by personal lamps. Glass cabin dividers are etched with martini glasses that morph into bull horns, a familiar symbol at Maury.

The late Maury Bibent, Maury’s first owner, was a Taurus. Friends and clients have made a tradition of gifting him all manner of trinkets and bull figurines, which have made their way into interior decorations and even Maury’s logo. The restaurant has only had two owners since.

Huesman recently replaced a number of Bibent’s bulls with a collection of character mugs that honor his father, and the bulls were auctioned off to help pay for renovations to the restaurant.

Maury’s exterior is unassuming. The entrance, marked with a simple black and white lettered sign, is on the main strip of Harrison Avenue in Cheviot. Its long gray and white facade houses another bull, on an almost life-size sign, holding a martini glass with a napkin tied around its neck.

Upon entry, guests are greeted warmly and promptly by any member of staff within earshot. Brittany Ammer, bartender and manager, juggles between serving the bar, holding the tables and responding to requests from staff members. Huesman sits at the end of the bar, returning calls to confirm reservations, noting times and details, stopping periodically to deliver food to tables or chat with a guest. The bustle of the evening rush stirs and a line forms for pick-up to go. There are only a few free tables left.

“Hello, welcome to Maury. How’s it going ? Ammer asks the crowd. She serves a customer a Maur-hattan, Maury’s classic cocktail in Manhattan, and says briskly, “Let me know if you need anything else.” I’m here until the lights go out.

Click to enlarge Maury's Tiny Cove bartender and manager Brittany Ammer - PHOTO: KATIE GRIFFITH

Photo: Katie Griffith

The bartender and manager of Maury’s Tiny Cove Brittany Ammer

“It’s only because she returned them,” jokes a smiling hostess as she walks past the bar, a group of guests following her.

Much like Maury’s venerable interior, much of the menu features dishes from the original restaurant, which Bibent named after local sports teams. When Huesman took over, he added several of his own dishes but took nothing away.

The Bearcat is an 8-ounce filet mignon served with Maury’s famous shredded lettuce salad and a choice of side.

The Panther, a fish sandwich named after Elder High School’s mascot, is a favorite of 50-year-old customer Mary Sue Cheeseman. Cheeseman likes to indulge in the weekly specials thought up by Huesman, but she says her late mother’s favorite dish was salad.

“My mom thought Maury’s salad was the only salad that was good because, in quotes, she didn’t like ‘weed salads,'” says Cheeseman. “She didn’t like all that new lettuce. She loved going to Maury’s before she died.

As a lifelong West Sider, Cheeseman chose Maury’s to commemorate some of the most memorable moments of his life. In addition to regularly visiting her husband Terry, she has groups of friends who often meet there. Cheeseman says one of his fondest memories is bringing friends and family together to celebrate his late mother’s life in 2016.

When the Cheesemans were looking forward to their 50-year reunion at Oak Hills High School, they found themselves in a last-minute scramble to find a location. Cheeseman says she called Huesman the same week of the event and he was able to move things around to get the group together.

“I said that then, I need to find a place where all these people can go,” Cheeseman says. “And he opened the floor for us. And as Oak Hills grads, coming back for a reunion meant a lot to us. It was as comforting as being back in high school.

“I describe it as our own Cheers. It’s like everyone knows your name,” Cheeseman continues. “That’s really what I appreciate. And like I said, you’ll always know a person or two in there – if you don’t know much more than that. It’s nostalgic and comforting.

Walking through the dining room every evening, you get the feeling that anyone inside could share a fond memory of a time at Maury’s. And while “regular” doesn’t do any facet of the place justice, as a term of endearment, there are plenty of simple, regular things that make Cincinnati’s West Side what it is – traditions like church parties and the Harvest Home Fair, high school rivalries and football matches. The unpretentiousness and friendliness of its patrons give this side of Cincinnati the beloved hometown charm it’s known for, and Maury’s Tiny Cove punctuates it perfectly.

Maury’s Tiny Cove, 3908 Harrison Ave., Cheviot, maurys-steakhouse.com.

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