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Waiting to Inhale

Going smoke-free in a smoke-filled state

By Anne Mitchell · November 24th, 2010 · The Dish

The only smoking I want with my breakfast is the bacon. Maybe the ham, too — but no cigarettes.

With the indoor public smoking ban, of course, you Ohio diners have taken smoke-free eating for granted for a few years now. But in Kentucky it’s still a big bone of contention. We were almost at a point where our county leaders — we call ’em judge executives — had agreed that all three of the Northern Kentucky counties would go smoke-free at once, so that all of the smokers within a 50-mile radius didn’t zoom over to the holdout county simultaneously, therefore causing traffic congestion (and lung congestion) on the bridges.

That’s the kind of imaginary scenarios people come up with, anyway, when faced with the fear of losing their Right to Choose. No, not that right to choose — hell, they’d take that one away in the blink of an eye if they could get away with it. But the right to choose indoor air pollution? That’s god-given, in a tobacco state, and it’s not for the gummint to deny it. Anyway, the three-county agreement appears to have died on the vine, so only the bravest businesses in the Commonwealth post “No Smoking” signs at their doors.

Meet Fort Wright Family Restaurant (1860 Ashwood Circle, Fort Wright, 859-331-8359). Years ago, I was assigned to review it but couldn’t manage to finish a meal there. The smoke was so thick I couldn’t taste the food.

But last year when they remodeled, they went smoke-free. I asked the owner about that decision when I was paying for my breakfast recently.

“I had everything fixed up nice. New floors, new paint. Why would I want it all smoky?” she replied.

Did everyone accept it?

“No, we lost some people. Some of the regulars, who had come in every day, they just never came back,” she said. “But we’ve had new customers. And lots of them say they come here just because we don’t let people smoke.”

Exactly. The smokers might have decided to take their business to the Anchor Grill, but the people who enjoy breathing with their breakfast now had an alternative.

How is breakfast at Fort Wright? Plenty and good. You get a slab of goetta the size of a prayer book alongside a cheese and ham omelette, and you’re pretty much set for the day. But if you add hash brown potatoes with fried onions to that? A delicious feast. The biscuits are topped with gravy that’s so peppery it’ll wake you right up. And their French toast? It doesn’t look fancy, but it tastes moist and yummy — better than the picture-perfect kind that’s so often dry and dull. An order of bacon is a half-dozen crispy strips, so be prepared to share. Two people can overeat, over-caffeinate and over-tip for less than 20 bucks, and that’s a bargain.

People tell me all the time that the food at a certain pub in Covington’s MainStrasse is great. There are some dishes on the menu that I’d like to try, but until the smoking laws change or they get brave like Fort Wright Family Restaurant did I won’t stop in. I live just a few blocks away, and when I hung out one night for a beer with friends the smoke was oppressive. The cigarette smell was so awful that my hair and clothes reeked afterwards.

I can’t imagine trying to eat there. I would expect the food to taste like it had been served on an ashtray instead of a plate.

They want customers. I’m hungry. It’s nearby, but I’m not going. That’s the dilemma, and it’s a dilemma for smokers, non-smokers, restaurant owners and legislators. I don’t have the answer, but I’m glad to be one of those new customers enjoying the smoky bacon and the clean air at Fort Wright Family Restaurant.

CONTACT ANNE MITCHELL: amitchell@citybeat.com



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