Opened by husband-and-wife duo Bill and Morgan Whitlow in 2019, Rich’s Proper Food and Drink is located in the heart of Covington, Kentucky’s downtown. The storefront’s original 18-by-4-foot sign adorns the building, displaying the restaurant’s namesake: Rich’s Gruen Watches.
Since the building’s inception in the early 1900s, Bill says it has housed several businesses: an ice cream shop, liquor store, and, for the longest stint, it was Rich’s Gruen Watches, which sold fine jewelry. When they took over, Bill says they redid the storefront and took the sign down to restore it, even though getting a new one would have been cheaper.
“I’ve been a part of eight historic renovations at this point. So, we like the history,” says Bill. “We restored that sign to its original and lit it back up. We opened the space; we exposed the brick. Morgan made chandeliers out of wood we got out of the basement, where we had to do some structural work.”
Bill and Morgan’s personal history in the restaurant business stretches way back; Bill has worked in the industry since he was 16 and even helped develop Goodfella’s first Wiseguy Lounge location, which launched in 2012 in Covington’s Mainstrasse Village and is also on The B-Line®.
Similarly, Morgan grew up entrenched in restaurant culture. Her mom bartended for 30 years at Cincinnati’s Washington Platform, which closed in 2021 after 150 years of business.
When they first opened Rich’s, it was more of a bar with a restaurant. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bill says they realized it should be the inverse. They brought in a third chef in 2020, who Bill says helped elevate their dining options.
Their menu offers American pub fare with Southern and Creole influences. Customers can feast on everything from oysters to fish and chips to sandwiches, and a Kentucky spin on jambalaya. Bill says their hot honey chicken sandwich is their most popular offering––and for good reason. According to Bill, it beats any chicken sandwich in the city.
“Also, our broiled oysters, I’ll put up against anyone in New Orleans,” says Bill. “Our broiled oysters are ridiculous. I push them on every table and nobody sends them back.”
Of course, they’re also known for their wide bourbon selection, including 40 private barrel picks and vintage and hot-button choices. Rich’s also has wine, a range of cocktails and beer. You can also take a bottle home via their bottle shop.
“And our bourbon slush is fantastic,” says Bill. “We do a rich, not-so-sweet bourbon slush that people love. One Last Smoke is one of our more popular cocktails, it’s like a smokey chocolate Manhattan.”
Bill likes the community aspect that The B-Line® and other local businesses encourage. Instead of competing, he feels that Covington works together, citing the aphorism, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Similarly, when he and Morgan were designing the business, their hope for Rich’s was that it would be inviting and accepting.
“We wanted a place people could come twice a week,” says Bill, “not once every six months.”
If you’ve enjoyed getting to know Rich’s Proper Food and Drink a bit better, check out our behind the scenes looks at other stops here on The B-Line.