Streetscapes pedals down Monmouth in the name of Kentucky Derby, ‘70s aesthetic

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This story originally appeared in the Sept. 1 edition of the Weekly LINK Reader. To see these stories first, subscribe here.

This Streetscapes covers classy dining, casual ambiance and, of course, coffee. With endless choices along this stretch of Newport, these places can get lost in the shuffle among trendy businesses, so for this Streetscapes, we head back to Monmouth Street. 

Trailhead Coffee and Reser Bicycle 

On the corner of Monmouth and East Seventh sits Trailhead Coffee and Reser Bicycle. Trailhead Coffee is an extension of Reser Bicycle, a cycling shop for the amateur to the novice cyclist. At Reser, guests can have cleaning and repairs done on bikes they already own or purchase a new one to best suit their needs. For bikers out on a long ride who need to refresh and relax, it’s a perfect oasis in a friendly environment. 

For those who aren’t cyclists, there’s still plenty of reasons to visit. The coffee shop is possibly the best place to visit during late summer. It has a walkup window with barstool seating to order coffee, tea and pastries, along with several small tables on the sidewalk. 

The walkup window makes for quick and convenient drinks on the go. Cyclists, walkers or those running late to work can all enjoy this option. For people who want to fully recharge and get some work done, there’s also seating indoors. The menu covers the basics of coffee needs, so whether it’s a latte to refuel for a long bike ride or a tranquil tea to accompany a walk, Trailhead Coffee has the answer.

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Pensive Distilling Co. and Kitchen

Originally opened in 2019, Pensive Distilling rebranded in 2021 and has focused on bringing fine distilled spirits to the NKY area. Pensive Distilling pays homage to one of Kentucky’s greatest traditions: the Kentucky Derby. Many of its menu items are named after famous Derby horses. Ordering Justify will give guests homestyle grits with shrimp, in veggie bourbon barbecue sauce. Guests who treat themselves to the American Pharaoh will have a traditional beef burger with caramelized red onion and spicy corn salsa.  

The craft drinks are even more creative and a refreshing match to the meal of choice. Since this is Kentucky, after all, there are plenty of house-made bourbon drinks, including the Kentucky-famous mint julep. The Authentic is created with its small-batch, house-made bourbon and house-made mint syrup. When a place takes this much care in the craft of its cocktails, sometimes even the most traditional drinks are best kept simple. 

Non-bourbon fans can enjoy the house-made vodka, as well as a number of outside liquors and beers. Pensive also offers tours and classes for those who really want to dive deep into distilling. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, it offers food specials, while Fridays feature live music. And no Sunday is complete without brunch. Breakfast just got better with bourbon on the menu. 

Guests can rent the Pensive space for large parties. It has two indoor spaces and an outside patio available for rent. 

Pepper Pod 

Pepper Pod is one of many greasy-spoon establishments along Monmouth. Since 1970, Pepper Pod has been serving diner-style foods from fried fish to Cincinnati-style chili. It has everything guests crave, and nearly everything on the menu is under $15.  

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Pepper Pod is a step back in time. The ’70s aesthetic, both inside and out, is practically unchanged since the restaurant’s opening, including a vintage mini-jukebox at every booth. 

Pepper Pod became a landmark diner for its all-day breakfast and 24-hour dining. Like many businesses over the past three years, Pepper Pod has had to make some changes, even to decadeslong traditions. 

Even with its hours being structured, Pepper Pod still serves its signature fried foods to visitors. It’s one of few places left in NKY that allows smoking inside, a well-known fact to those that frequent. It does have a nonsmoking area, but for newcomers who may want to avoid the smoke, carryout and online ordering are always an option.

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