LINK streetscapes: Back to college edition at Northern Kentucky University

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This special edition of Streetscapes looks at Northern Kentucky’s largest university, Northern Kentucky University. Last edition we started with my alma mater, Thomas More, so I turned to friends, current students and alumni for the top NKY spots off campus that every student must visit before graduation.

Carabello Coffee: 107 E 9th St., Newport

This was nearly unanimous — almost every single person I surveyed mentioned Carabello. Whether it was for their welcoming yet calm atmosphere or their coffee that is just *baristas kiss,* this was top of everyone’s list.

To be fair, I don’t think it’s simply an NKU spot. Carabello is basically a must see for all NKY residents. It’s the perfect spot to relax and recharge without being distracted by the large number of people who want to just goof off in the library when you want to actually get work done. It’s great for a change of scenery, as well as the perfect spot to hang out with friends in between classes. It’s close enough to campus that it’s an easy trip any time of day.

If you’re a newbie to NKU it’s a perfect off-campus trip to get to know some classmates better.

Iced Vanilla Latte from Carabello. Photo by Maria Hehman | LINK nky contributor

Their cold brew coffee and teas are good, but there is something about their espresso drinks that are just so rich, smooth and velvety that I cannot find anywhere else. They always have unique and festive seasonal drinks as well, so they’re a fun way to try their espresso.

Carabello is pretty much always busy, so I try to be mindful about how long I camp out when I’m there.  After all, everyone should be able to experience the lattes here with friends. I’ve found midday weekdays seem to be the best time to visit; it’s harder to find seats on nights and weekends.

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Skyline Tavern: 430 Johns Hills Road, Highland Heights

I mentioned that Carabello was almost unanimous. Skyline Tavern however, was unanimous.

Of course, when I hear Skyline I think of, well Skyline. Chili, that is. I had to ask several people to clarify before going to make sure that they weren’t just sending me to a Skyline Chili merged with a bar. (A stellar idea, if someone wants to get on that.)

I headed out and found a mecca for college students. Now, I may not be as young as I used to be, but nostalgia washed over me walking in and I felt the same excitement I used to feel walking into a dive bar as I did when I was newly 21. The thing about bars when you’re in college is how much you appreciate the little things; a cheap beer, bar games and a night out with friends.

Nothing on this menu tops $10, so I see why it’s so appealing to college students, but on top of that, I was really impressed with the food. It was typical bar grub but it was alarmingly good, and that was with only one drink in me.

If I enjoyed this bar as someone bordering 30 going on 90, and I can’t imagine any college student who wouldn’t also love this place.

Skyline Tavern. Photo by Maria Hehman | LINK nky Contributor

You can see NKU’s campus from all angles of Skyline Tavern — it’s literally on a random road sandwiched between housing and the campus itself, so it’s a must-visit for NKU students. It’s also worth the trip for someone who isn’t enrolled at NKU. The atmosphere is fun, the food is good, and the drinks are cold. What more can someone ask for?

View of NKU from Skyline Tavern. Photo by Maria Hehman | LINK nky contributor

Mac’s Pizza Pub: 42 Martha Layne Collins Blvd, Cold Spring

Mac’s Pizza Pub can be found in various places throughout the region, but the location in Cold Spring is the one that NKU students flock too. Nothing ends a night out better than a pizza.

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Mac’s has been a staple for students since they opened, with their close proximity to campus. Like most sports bars, this place can get packed during games but watching NKU play in the NCAA tournament here would be an unmatched atmosphere.

Their pizza is an obvious order, but deciding which one to order is the real dilemma. My favorite is the chicken bacon ranch, a specialty pizza that has seemed to become the norm at most pizza places these days — but Mac’s does it best.

Their homemade ranch sets this pizza well above any other I’ve ever had. Spinach and goat cheese is also in the running for my favorite, especially if I want some greens in me (even if it’s on top of dough). The most unique and probably the best one to order after a night out is the French Fry Pizza.

A pizza with beer cheese, waffle fries, onions, tomatoes, three cheeses and sour cream. It’s the perfect amount of savory foods to munch on after a night out. It’s one where I can only have one slice as there’s so much too it, but if you’re going with friends and wanting to try a few this one is an absolute must order.

Mac’s Pizza Pub. Photo by Maria Hehman | LINK nky contributor

The burgers, sandwiches and salads are also really good, but if you’re coming here and not ordering at least one pizza, you’re not doing it right.

Their drinks were also really impressive. I was expecting mostly beer and seltzers, but always love when I can order a cocktail that’s reasonably priced and actually good. They always have good deals going on with both drinks and food, so you can always find a good reason to visit Mac’s.

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Nittha Siam Kitchen: 2415 Alexandria Pike, Highland Heights

In a very small building right off campus is a suspicious looking Sushi and Thai restaurant. Anytime a restaurant stands alone and isn’t really around many other spots, I’m always curious about how the food will be.

A few of my friends who graduated five years back swore that this was their go to restaurant throughout college. The price and large portions kept them coming back and was enough to make me want to try it. I love Thai food, so anytime I can venture to get it, I will happily oblige.

Thai Iced coffee is truly one of the best drinks out there. Sweeter than your average iced coffee, these are a treat for anyone who likes coffee. And as odd as it may sound, iced coffee and Pad Thai is one of my all-time favorite meals. Usually coffee doesn’t seem to mix with anything other than breakfast food, but for me, coffee goes with everything. Thai Iced coffees are so sweet that you could order it as a dessert. It’s common in most Thai restaurants to carry both this and Thai Iced tea, but between the two, this is a must.  

College is all about trying new things and meeting new people and these places near campus are perfect to do just that.

Have a favorite restaurant, coffee shop, store or street that you love and want me to visit next? Email me at [email protected] and it could be featured on the next edition of LINK streetscapes.

Link NKY Streetscapes series is powered by Duke Energy, proud employer of 2,300 people in southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky who live, work, and play in the vibrant communities and neighborhoods highlighted through these stories.

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