Memories! Recalling the restaurants we loved and lost

Robin Garr
LouisvilleHotBytes.com

If you have lived in Louisville for more than a year or so, you’re surely mourning at least one favorite restaurant that isn’t with us any more.

A lot of us are mourning dozens! The restaurant business is a rough road, and success is far from guaranteed in a business with very narrow margins for profit. A 2005 study by Ohio State University concluded that 60 percent of new restaurants didn’t make it past the first year, and 80 percent go under within five years. It’s not a venture for the weak. Continue reading Memories! Recalling the restaurants we loved and lost

Currito impresses with flavorful grains, greens, and more

By Robin Garr
LouisvilleHotBytes.com

I don’t review chain restaurants often. I’d much rather talk about Louisville’s great independent local eateries. But when a new corporate shop like Currito comes to town and people tell me the food is really good, I’m willing to take a look.

I believe the last time I did such a thing was in November 2018, when I finally got around to sampling the amazingly tasty fried free-range chicken at The Eagle on Bardstown Road, one of the first ventures of its Cincinnati-based corporation outside its home town.

Here we are, three years later, and I’m doing it again, this time at Currito. Continue reading Currito impresses with flavorful grains, greens, and more

Travel on a plate with our critic’s favorite world restaurants

Robin Garr
LouisvilleHotBytes.com

A lot of people call Vietnamese or Nigerian eateries “ethnic,” but they look at you funny if you use the same word to describe a pizzeria or a fancy French dining room. What’s up with that?

“Immigrants’ identities are deeply tied to the foods we bring with us,” Washington Post features writer Lavanya Ramanathan wrote in a 2015 story that explained it well. Added Krishnendu Ray, a New York University professor of food studies: “We use the descriptor ‘ethnic’ for a category of things we don’t know much about, don’t understand much about and yet find it valid to express opinions about.”

That’s enough for me. When people tell me how they’d like me to talk about them, I’ll listen. So let’s call them “world” restaurants in this week’s excursion into good things to eat, a round-the-world trip without leaving Louisville. Continue reading Travel on a plate with our critic’s favorite world restaurants

Sonal masters Indian vegetarian cuisine

By Robin Garr
LouisvilleHotBytes.com

Louisville has three all-vegetarian Indian restaurants, and to tell you the truth, the question isn’t why there are so many, but why it took them so long to arrive.

We have about 15 Indian restaurants now, and I’m happy to pull up to a table at every single one.

But all-vegetarian Indian? That’s new. Shreeji Indian Vegetarian Street Food opened in November 2018. Honest Indian Restaurant opened just about a year later, at the end of 2019. And somewhere in that same brief window of time – “three years ago,” the guy behind the counter told me – Sonals Kitchen Homemade Authentic Indian Vegetarian Restaurant popped up in a former Moby Dick shop on Chamberlain just north of Westport Road. Continue reading Sonal masters Indian vegetarian cuisine

What’s the critic’s favorite restaurant? It’s complicated.

By Robin Garr
LouisvilleHotBytes.com

“What is your favorite restaurant?” “What’s the best restaurant in town?” As a frequent diner who writes about my experiences, I get these questions often.

My stock answers, though, aren’t as simple as you might expect: My favorite is probably wherever I ate last. The best? I won’t name just one. I might name ten, but which ten? They change often. And that’s without considering the pandemic, the favorites that have closed, and new favorites still finding their footing.

In other words, to talk about my favorite restaurant is going to require a full column, because it’s like potato chips: I can’t do just one. High-end, white tablecloth, cheap eats? Down-home, world cuisine … from where?

So let’s break this down, and I’ll tell you about a bunch of places that I particularly like.

White Tablecloth
Anoosh Bistro’s braised lamb shank with mashed potatoes.Anoosh Bistro’s braised lamb shank with mashed potatoes.
Anoosh Bistro’s braised lamb shank with mashed potatoes.

For the record, white-tablecloth restaurants don’t actually require, you know, white tablecloths. But they should be elegant and upscale, with excellent food and attentive service. Two of my current favorites are Seviche (1538 Bardstown Road, 473-8560), where Chef Anthony Lamas presides over some of the best creative pan-Latino fare around, with a commitment to sustainable seafood and fish (including the tuna seviche pictured above); and Anoosh Bistro (4864 Brownsboro Center, 690-6585) where Chef Anoosh Shariat offers upscale American cuisine with international touches in a stylish setting.

Steaks

As an old stockyards town, Louisville has its share of steakhouses, most of which exist in the same rarified price altitudes as white-tablecloth restaurants. Among many, I enjoy Le Moo (2300 Lexington Road, 458-8888) for the quality of its steaks, yes, but also for the variety of its bill of fare; and of course the memorably wacky decor. Another favorite is Brooklyn and the Butcher (148 E. Market St., New Albany, Ind., (812) 590-2646. Located in the stylish environs of a historic former hotel, it offers an enticing mix of quality steaks and chops plus a raw bar, intriguing small plates, even creative vegetarian options.

Seafood

I already told you about Seviche, which fits equally well under white tablecloth, upsale Latino, and seafood categories. Another winner in this department (that could also be listed in top Italian) is Volare Italian Ristorante, 2300 Frankfort Ave., 894-4446) where Chef Joshua Moore combines an impressive, chef-driven Italian menu with locally sourced ingredients, and daily seafood specials featuring fresh, sustainably line-caught fish.

All these places are delightful, and on the pricey side. That’s a problem for me, because between pandemic restrictions and pandemic economics, affordable dining is both a choice and a necessity for me these days.

Happily, Louisville is rich with cheap eats, where a couple can dine in style for $50 or less, and sometimes even for $30 or below.

Burgers
Shady Lane Cafe's Brownsboro Burger.
Shady Lane Cafe’s Brownsboro Burger.

Can’t afford a steak? How about a burger? Louisville has a wealth of burger joints, and it’s hard to go wrong at any of them. I’m always happy to dine at Shady Lane Cafe (4806 Brownsboro Road, Brownsboro Center, 893-5118). a longtime favorite where a relatively recent ownership change didn’t affect the quality of the delicious Brownsboro burger. A more recent arrival, BurgeriIM (3733 Lexington Road, The Vogue Center, 901-1101), landed at the start of the pandemic, survived a leap from chain to independent ownership, and earns deserved popularity for its quality product.

Pizza, Italian
A perfect MozzaPi cheese pie topped with roasted red peppers and mushrooms.
A perfect MozzaPi cheese pie topped with roasted red peppers and mushrooms.

Pizza is so popular that a few new pizzerias even opened during the pandemic while most of us were hunkering down. I’ve rarely met a pizza I didn’t like, so it’s hard to narrow down to just two or three. Still, I’m never shy about recommending MozzaPi (12102 La Grange Road, 494-7012), for its exceptional pizzas and other baked goods made with flour from artisanal wheat milled on the premises. That’s commitment taken to the next level. Another favorite is Pizza Lupo (1540 Frankfort Ave., 409-8440). which offers remarkable wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzas, pastas, and small plates from a lovely old red-brick house on the edge of Butchertown.

For fine Italian eateries with exceptional pizza on the menu, I’d choose bar Vetti (moved during the pandemic from the 800 Building to the AC Hotel , 727 E. Market St., 883-3331) and Ciao Ristorante, 1201 Payne St., 690-3532), which excel in both departments.

Pub Grub
A glass of Hauck's American Pilsner at Monnik.
A glass of Hauck’s American Pilsner at Monnik.

It’s hard to go wrong at the region’s many pubs and brewpubs. They’re all worth a visit; I’m a particular fan of Pints & Union (114 E. Market St.. New Albany, Ind., (812) 913-4647) for its delicious small plates and extensive beer list; and Monnik Beer Co., 1036 E. Burnett Ave.. 742-6564), for its family-style Germantown vibe, first-rate brewpub brews, and tasty bill of fare.

Vegan
Barbecued vegan beef at V-Grits
Barbecued vegan beef at V-Grits

I’ve often declared that V-Grits (1025 Barret Ave., 742-1714) is not just one of my favorite vegan restaurants, it’s one of my favorite restaurants, period. Delicious chicken and beef dishes taste like the real thing, yet they’re made entirely from veggies. Try it: You’ll like it. And don’t miss out on a pint of excellent beer from its partner brewery, Chimera Brewing.

World fare

All this and I haven’t even gotten around to Louisville’s extensive world-wide selection of deliciousness from our immigrant neighbors: From taquerias to the Mediterranean, Africa and the Pacific Rim. This sounds like another column for another day. Bon appetit!

Kayrouz Cafe does food and safety right

By Robin Garr
LouisvilleHotBytes.com

Show me a fourth generation family restaurant that traces its heritage back through several locations to the 1920s, and I’ll show you a restaurant that’s doing things right. That would be Kayrouz Cafe, and it should come as no surprise that the current generation is handling Covid safety with style and grace too.

“Our entire kitchen and wait staff have been fully vaccinated,” a sheet on the front door assures customers. There’s ample outdoor dining, with a half-dozen patio tables offering a significant boost to the tiny eatery’s interior seating. Continue reading Kayrouz Cafe does food and safety right

Dining and the Delta variant

Robin Garr
LouisvilleHotBytes.com

When I got my Covid vaccination a few months ago, I thought this long national nightmare was over,. Ha! The nasty Delta variant has brought Covid roaring back.

“This is the worst the pandemic has been,” a masked Gov. Andy Beshear told Kentuckians last week, as more than 4,500 new cases were reported daily, and the state’s 13.66% positivity rate set a grim new record. “Please, at least take the same precautions you did earlier in Covid,” Beshear said.

But let’s face it: It doesn’t look as if that’s going to happen. The numbers may look as bad as they did in 2020, but we aren’t all huddled in our houses, again, living on takeout and delivery. Why not? Continue reading Dining and the Delta variant

Peking City Express cracks the Chinese restaurant code

By Robin Garr
LouisvilleHotBytes.com

If you’ve never wondered why so many Chinese restaurants use what appear to be very similar menus, you probably don’t get much Chinese takeout. The menus look alike, and the dishes are pretty much the same wherever you go.

What’s that about? It took me a lot of digging, but the often-reliable Internet finally led me to the secret: Most of the menus come from a group of printers packed into a few blocks in New York’s Chinatown, using newspaper-size printing presses to run hundreds of thousands of similar Chinese menus for the whole country!

This may help explain why most of Louisville’s 50 to 60 fast-food Chinese restaurant menus seem very much alike. Continue reading Peking City Express cracks the Chinese restaurant code

Many disability access barriers are easy to fix

By Robin Garr
LouisvilleHotBytes.com

“With today’s signing of the landmark Americans for Disabilities Act,” intoned President George H.W. Bush in March 1990, “every man, .woman, and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence, and freedom.” The ADA promised access for disabled people to public accommodations such as restaurants.

Now, 31 years after Bush’s glowing promise, how’s that working out for disabled diners in Louisville restaurants? Continue reading Many disability access barriers are easy to fix

Fill up on great sandwiches at Starving Artist

By Robin Garr
LouisvilleHotBytes.com

Not that I’m worried about the Delta variant or anything – well, not too much. But it may have been a factor the other day in my decision to try takeout for the first time in a while. This is how I ended up at Starving Artist Café & Deli in Lyndon, which may be the best restaurant in town that I’ve hardly ever heard of. Continue reading Fill up on great sandwiches at Starving Artist

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