In 1949, Maury Bibent took over a tavern called Tolles Tiny Cove on Hamilton Road in Cheviot. Back then, the Cove was a small one-room bar, but Bibent purchased the two adjacent buildings, expanded the premises and renamed it Maury’s Tiny Cove. Sixty-five years later, the iconic Cheviot steakhouse still flourishes in this West Side neighborhood.
A little more than five years ago, Matt Huesman became the proud owner of Maury’s. He’d worked at LongHorn Steakhouse down the street until serendipitously coming across a classified ad that changed his life.
“There was a blind ad that said, ‘50-plus year-old steakhouse for sale,’ ” Huesman says. “The way it was described, I said to my son — I was reading it to him — ‘You know, wouldn’t this be funny if it was Maury’s Tiny Cove?’ And that’s exactly what it turned out to be.”
Huesman, who had always dreamed of owning a restaurant, bought the property from Paul Yamaguchi, who bought the eatery from Bibent in 1994.
When Maury — who passed away in 2001 — transformed the bar into a restaurant in 1949, he served steaks, seafood and chicken dishes. During the ’50s through the ’70s, lines snaked out the door because everyone clamored to dine at what was considered a city hot spot.
“One of the things that was kind of genius about Maury was he named so many of the items on the menu after sports teams,” Huesman says. There’s The Bomber, a 12-ounce ribeye named after St. Xavier high school’s mascot; The Panther, a cod sandwich named for nearby Elder’s mascot; The Reds (two lobster tails); and of course The Bengal, a prime rib.
“We continue to keep those things on the menu with those same names,” Huesman says.
“We found old menus from the ’50s that Maury used to use — those sandwiches are on those menus. They stood up for 65 years, those particular items.”
In the past few years, Huesman has added things like chicken nachos, potato skins and pasta dishes to the menu.
Steakhouses have sprung up all over town, including ones within a couple miles of Maury’s. In order to stay competitive, the restaurant instigated an in-house butchery where they cut all the steaks themselves. This not only maintains high quality but also allows Maury’s to sell all their steak entrees for $25 and less.
Walking into Maury’s is like walking into the past. It has low-hanging ceilings, wood paneling coating the walls and red, naugahyde booths with mirrors hanging next to the white tablecloths. No wonder the movie Carol filmed there last month: The place looks like a 1950s restaurant in midtown Manhattan — where the movie takes place.
Huesman likes to keep tradition intact, but in September Maury’s went under the knife, so to speak. “Business had slowed quite a bit over the last couple of years,” he says. “What I was hearing from the guests, and seeing on reviews on sites like Yelp and UrbanSpoon, was the common denominator seemed to be the place was dated, it was very dark.”
Not to disrespect Maury, they removed the curtains and wrought iron railing that encircled the booths in the dining area. They painted the red ceiling a whitish color and removed some of the upstairs carpeting, replacing it with hardwood flooring. “We did everything we could to preserve the Maury’s tradition and the Maury’s feel, but at the same time we kind of brought it up to a little bit more current standards,” Huesman says.
Another part of the renovation entailed removing Maury’s famous bulls. Because Maury was a Taurus (the bull is its zodiac symbol), he collected bull paraphernalia, even going as far as having a caricature of a bull holding a martini glass used for exterior signage. “Over the years guests would bring him bulls from wherever their travels were,” Huesman says. “There are bulls that came from Mexico, Argentina, China, Scotland. Basically all over the world.”
Until recently, those bulls were displayed throughout the establishment, but during Maury’s 65th anniversary celebration last month, about 80 bulls were auctioned off to raise money to complete the remaining upgrades. Huesman would like to tear down a wall in the upstairs dining area that divides the room, which right now makes it difficult to host larger parties. Maury’s loyal customers — some of whom have been eating at the restaurant even before Bibent took it over in ’49 — have donated their time and money toward the upkeep.
“There was a huge amount of goodwill and people that stepped up just because they love Maury’s and they have so many great memories there and they want to make sure it continues,” Huesman says.
Maury’s Tiny Cove
Go: 3908 Harrison Ave., Cheviot
Hours: 4-9 p.m. Monday-Tuesday; 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 4-11 p.m. Wednesday-Friday; 5-11 p.m. Saturday; 4-8 p.m. Sunday