The numbers that inform this issue’s survey of the changes in the Louisville metro area’s dining choices are just short of startling. We will be discussing here — and adding to the listings at the back of the magazine – 35 additional restaurants and marking the closing of just 15. The additions include eight existing restaurants that are adding new outlets; there are 27 brand new businesses. For some historical perspective, Food & Dining listed a total 103 openings and 52 closings for the entire year of 2017. Counting our enumerations this issue, 2018 has already seen 106 restaurants opening and 59 closing with the year still having three months to run. The last time that F&D noted more closings than openings was the Spring issue of 2014. The numbers seem to suggest that the restaurant industry continues to feel robust in town and in the contiguous counties across the river and continues to provide a growing choice of cuisine, styles of service and locations for area diners.
As this issue goes to press, commuters along River Road to and from Prospect should see the opening of The Pine Room at 6325 River Rd. The building on the edge of Harrod’s Creek has had several tenants, the most recent being Cast Iron Steakhouse. Now Augusta Holland has redesigned and modernized the interior and chosen to resurrect the name of a former restaurant in that area the still resonates in the memory of long-time residents. The new Pine Room will be managed by Steve Ton (Basa), and the kitchen will be run by Chef Coby Ming, formerly of Harvest and the Wiltshire group. Ming says her menu will be focused on updated classics (like her take on fried chicken) and a wide range of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dishes.
Adam Burress — who already has Hammerheads, Game and Migo under his belt — has taken over the Clifton space for his newest concept, Ostra, at 1758 Frankfort Ave. that most recently was Barcode 1758. There he will focus his menu on seasonal, sustainable foods. Oysters are among the most sustainable protein as well as “oily” fish such as mackerel (Burress’s favorite fish to cook) and sardines (full-flavored fish that are uncommon on most menus). He has discovered that rabbit is among the top sustainable terrestrial protein sources, and so rabbit empanadas will be on the menu, too.
One of the more interesting business plans to come to fruition is Purrfect Day Cat Café at 1741 Bardstown Rd. A café bar in the back serves wine, non-alcoholic beverages and pastries from various bakeries while the front hosts a glass-enclosed playroom where patrons must have reservations to play with (and potentially adopt) kittens from the Humane Society.
Two long-awaited and much-delayed openings have finally been accomplished. After extensive renovations to the former Lynn’s Paradise Café building at 984 Barret Ave., Martin’s Bar-B-Que is smoking whole hogs and serving related side dishes and drinks. The renovation of the former Monkey Wrench has taken time, too, but the vegan-centric V-Grits is on the brink of serving now at 1025 Barret Ave. as we go to press.
Payne Street Bakehouse is the new identity of long-time Clifton favorite Nancy’s Bagel Grounds. An expanded menu and more seating will be found at Nancy’s new digs at 225 S. Spring St., a site that had long been Willinger’s Beer Depot.
A half-dozen new ethnic eateries have opened recently. Latin food traditions dominate that group, but there is one interesting outlier: 4 Seasons Restaurant at 8402 Hudson Ln. The focus there is on Bulgarian interpretations of what is widely called Mediterranean or Middle-Eastern cuisine. Some specifically Bulgarian specialties on offer are kebapche (grilled meat) and banitsa (a feta-stuffed phyllo pie).
Among the new Latin restaurants is El Rinconcito, 4806 Bardstown Rd., another addition to the ethnic mix in increasingly cosmopolitan Buechel. Peruvian charcoal-broiled chicken is its niche in a crowded field. Havana Salsa Cuban Cuisine, 9909 Taylorsville Rd., brings its namesake ethnic foods (vaca frita, camarones al ajillo and bistec de palomilla) to J’town.
New Mexican restaurants include Las Americas Mexican Restaurant at 3719 Klondike Ln., Mexico City Taqueria and Restaurant, 3826 Hamburg Pk. in Jeffersonville, and Taco City Louisville, 1283 Bardstown Rd., tucked between Joy Luck (Taiwanese cuisine) and Kashmir (Indian food).
Also on Bardstown Rd. at 1220, The Cereal Box returns in a bigger space with bigger hopes that its cereal-centric offerings of snacks and desserts will catch on here as it reportedly has in other cities.
Sushi Master quickly renovated and moved into the space at 9415 Norton Commons Blvd. after Wild Ginger closed there. The menu features sashimi, classic sushi rolls, noodle dishes such as udon and cold soba and entrees such as teriyaki chicken, and grilled fish. A few Korean dishes such as bulgogi are on offer, too.
Pizza Bar, purveyor of New York-style thin crust pizzas by the slice or the whole pie (including a gargantuan 30-incher), replaces Birracibo at 4th St. Live!. Also on the menu: appetizers, salads and grinder sandwiches. Arcade games keep the kids busy after chowing down.
The name of Ville Chicken and Seafood, 4322 Poplar Level Rd., seems to encapsulate the principal offerings on its menu. The Wright House Bar B Q + Eatery, 638 Providence Way in Clarksville, adds smoked sausage, pork chops and meatloaf to the chicken and pulled pork suggested by its name. Geraldine’s Kitchen, 402 Wall St. in Jeffersonville, serves breakfast and lunch in a homey, inviting atmosphere, a tribute to the owner’s late mother. Jeff’s Burger Shack, 14126 Dixie Hwy., takes over a building that once was an A&W outlet. You can find freshly made burgers there with a wide choice of toppings, freshly-cut fries and milkshakes.
You can get substantial lunches at two new delis: Galan’s Meat Market and Deli at 2801 W. Market St. in the West End and Downtowner Deli at 428 W. Market St. The latter is an outlet of the popular Downtowner in Madison, Indiana.
Veterans Parkway in suburban Clarksville, where this issue has seen the most concentrated growth, is becoming a new restaurant row. Five new restaurants, both regional chains and locally-owned businesses, have opened, including three in the new Veterans Crossing retail development at 1225 Veterans Pkwy. Among those three is CoreLife Eatery, which focuses on fresh non-GMO and hormone free foodstuffs made into hearty bowls of greens, grains, broth or rice, or “power plates” of grilled protein. The Chillburger and Blaze Fast Fire’d Pizza are the other two businesses to take up residence at Veterans Crossing.
Also on Veterans Pkwy. at 1360 is Storming Crab, which concocts Gulf-style seafood boils in several flavors and spice levels to take home or to dump on the paper-covered tables to eat in-house. Other seafood and Cajun items (gumbo, crawfish etoufée) are also available. And Mission BBQ has opened its second store across the river at 1213 Veterans Pkwy.
For those who just want some quiet, classy drinking, three new bars offer varying ambience and liquor choices. The Champagnery at Architype Gallery, 1764 Frankfort Ave., will pour from a selection of 120 varieties of champagne and sparkling wines and serve a small selection of light bites. Waterfront Wine & Spirits sells bottles to take away and drinks by the glass in the Waterfront Park Place condos at 222 E. Witherspoon St., and in Butchertown, the top floor event space at Copper & Kings, 1121 E. Washington St., is now Alex&nder, a chic bar with views of downtown to the West. There are brandy cocktails, of course, but also “boozy milkshakes” for those looking for dessert along with their liquor.
Speaking of dessert, the iconic Louisville name Ehrler has returned with the opening of Ehrler’s Ice Cream at 201 E. Main St. And Fountain on Fourth Ice Cream Lounge has opened inside the Cellar Door Chocolates shop downtown at 601 S. Fourth St. There, ice cream flash-frozen with liquid nitrogen can be enjoyed in cups, sundaes and in ice cream cocktails made with real liquors. We will need a strong coffee after one of those. Off to Blackbeard Espresso Co., a former food truck java dispenser that has settled down at 718 W. Main St.
The apparent continuing hunger of Louisvillians for dining out has encouraged seven existing restaurants to expand into additional locations. It has been a rare F&D issue in recent years when we have not had occasion to list a new venture from Fernando Martinez’s Olé Restaurant Group. This issue, we note the opening of the third El Taco Luchador downtown at 500 W. Jefferson St. where a Zoe’s Kitchen had a nice run.
First Watch, the Florida-based breakfast and lunch restaurant, has added a new store at 2225 Taylorsville Rd., and two other local businesses have expanded. The Seafood Lady is taking her popular Old Louisville shrimp, crab legs and other Gulf-style offerings to the suburbs. Her second store has opened at 3207 Fern Valley Rd. Lemongrass Café now has a second location at 2956 Richland Ave., which will also house an ethnic market.
Of the short list of closings, we have already mentioned two. Junior Bridgeman’s Birracibo Italian restaurant at 4th St. Live! folded, to be quickly replaced by Pizza Bar. And the relocation of Nancy’s Bagel Grounds in Clifton was promptly followed by its transmogrification and resurrection as Payne Street Bakehouse.
Other closings, with no immediate replacements, include Zen Garden, the long-running vegetarian restaurant at 2240 Frankfort Ave.; Plump Peacock Bakery and Café at 11601 Main St. in Middletown; Gallery K, 1600 Story Ave; and Ville Taqueria, 3922 Westport Rd. Rocky’s Pizza & Panini in Gardiner Lane Shopping Center, 3022 Bardstown Rd, has closed.
A handful of multi-location businesses have decided to contract by shuttering one outlet. We mentioned briefly that the Zoe’s Kitchen location at 500 W. Jefferson St. closed, leaving two others still serving, and that Wild Ginger has closed its suburban restaurant at 9415 Norton Commons Blvd. but is still serving in the Highlands. Rafferty’s of Louisville is down to one restaurant after closing its location at 3601 Springhurst Blvd.
Skyline Chili closed its outlet at 6801 Dixie Hwy., leaving three others around town. Moe’s Southwest Grill still has four locations operating after closing its Clarksville store at 1020 Veterans Pkwy. F&D
And we end our quarterly survey by noting a few changes and moves by local businesses. Dragon King’s Daughter has moved its New Albany store from 202 E. Elm St. to 129 W. Market. Heine Brothers emptied its original location next to Carmichael’s Bookstore, 1295 Bardstown Rd., leaving room for Carmichael’s to expand. Heine Bros. then renovated the former Dunkin Donuts building at the entrance to Mid City Mall, where it has a roomier space and a drive-thru window.
The Manhattan Project has taken over the entire building in which it originally had just the rear half. To do so, it displaced Nancy’s Bagel Grounds, which we noted has re-imagined itself as Payne Street Bakehouse.
And Old Louisville hookah puffers can still do so at Prince Hookah Lounge, 1489 S. Fourth St., but they can no longer purchase food there.
Originally published in the Fall 2018 issue of Food & Dining Magazine