New owner brings new life to iconic Covington diner
COVINGTON, Ky. (WKRC) - As George Stamatakos fried up bacon, burgers and warmed up buns on the grill, a crowd started to build at Covington Chili Friday morning, August 12.
Stamatakos bought the 80-year-old chili parlor 20 years ago and when he started talking about retirement the regulars got worried. A few months ago, he floated the idea of selling the business and Cincinnatian Greg Harris caught wind of it.
“I came out here. I didn’t say anything. I just ate,” Harris said from a back table in the restaurant. “I was spoiled by the waitress. I got great service. I loved the food. My sons loved it. And then I introduced myself to the owner.”
August 1, Harris bought the diner from Stamatakos and is keeping it alive. Stamatakos is staying onboard for a month or so to teach the new owner how things work and how to make the chili to its 80-year-old specifications. Harris is putting in 80 hour weeks to learn the business.
“I want to honor the traditions. I feel like I’m inheriting something.”
Harris plans to pare down the menu to its core items and eventually open Sundays for brunch. He said Covington Chili will not change dramatically. Regulars, like Dan Murray, who started eating at Covington Chili in the late 1950’s, like it just the way it is.
“When I was a child when my Mom brought us downtown we’d got to Eilerman’s or Coppin’s and this was a treat,” Murray said between bites of a ham and roast beef double-decker. “We’d come in here and get a cheese coney.”
For Harris, this is a dramatic career change. He has been a teacher, run non-profits and run for political office. He was appointed to Cincinnati City Council several years ago but lost a re-election bid.
“Hopefully I’ll be a much more successful restaurateur than I was a politician.”
Covington Chili is open from 7am to 7pm Monday through Saturday. In addition to Sunday brunch, Harris also plans on staying open late on Saturdays to cater to Covington’s downtown bar crowd.