A few weeks ago I went home to Louisville for my aunt’s wedding…
…..and I have to say, I’m impressed with the culinary progress Louisville is making. I’ve always had my go-to places: Cheddar Box for a country ham sandwich or a house salad, Jack Fry’s for the brie salad and a steak, but I’m all about trying new places, and this trip was quite a pleasant Food and Bev tour for me.
I started out on Friday evening with some fat and tasty oysters at my friend’s restaurant, Rye on Market. This joint opened in January, and has a pretty nice following from what I can tell. I know my brother goes there once a week, so that’s at least one regular (I’m sure there are many more). The menu looks like it came straight from New York City. Menu offerings change regularly to reflect the season, there are ingredients I’ve never heard of and dishes often get adventurous with stuff like fish head or oxtail ravioli. There’s not much I won’t try, but I wonder how other Louisvillians are responding to such adventurousness?
Rye was just a pre-dinner snack, so mom, Patt and I headed to a new French bistro, Le Coop, right down the street from Rye. Market street is turing out to be quite a nice little stretch of new, hip restaurants. Le Coop was formerly “Social,” which was known for their specialty ice in their specialty cocktails, but I guess you need more than fancy ice to impress people. I once ordered an Ol’ Fashion at Social. They brought me my cocktail with a huge spherical piece of ice which took up most of my glass….. : / Although it was impressive, I wondered where the rest of my drink was..? They might have shelled out a lot of cash on that ice machine, but they certainly saved on the booze flow. Anyway, back to Le Coop. Same small, intimate space (which I like), different ice. The tight quarters make for a noisy experience, so if you have hearing problems or hate to speak at high octaves, don’t go to Le Coop.
We ordered a caraffe of Coté du Rhone for the table and Patt and I split escargot. All escargot pretty much tastes the same to me: like garlic, and this was no different. But nonetheless, it was delicious. I like garlic. For my entree, I ordered the special salmon with quinoa, Patt got the steak frites and mom chose the short ribs. Personally I preferred mom’s dish, with rich sauce and tender meat that I barely had to chew. Luckily she doesn’t eat a lot, so I can always count on her to share.
After dinner, Patt and I ditched mom and went to a speakeasy-style bar in Butchertown called Meat, which doesn’t serve meat, or any food for that matter. It’s located above the Blind Big restaurant, with a nondescript staircase in the rear of the building. The bar has no signage and is pretty well hidden from view, except for a red light at the top of the stairs. I overheard the owner telling someone that he hasn’t done any advertising; he’s relying solely on word of mouth. This appeared to be working because the place had a good crowd. I’d heard that Meat was known for their prohibition era cocktails and had a “special ice machine,” but as we’ve seen with Social, it takes more than fancy ice to attract customers. Meat pairs the special ice with inventive, flavorful, exotic cocktails made by attentive and knowledgable bartenders. The drink list is divided into “well done,” “medium,” and “rare,” which basically means “easy drinkin,” “not-so-easy drinkin,” and “expert drinkin.” I chose from the easy drinkin’ column. Some of the concoctions are potent enough to warrant this note on the menu:
“We love your coming into Meat, but for
your sake & the sake of others, please do
not try to ride all the rides. It will end
badly, trust us… we’ve tried.”
This is one of the cocktails Patt tried… Not sure what it was called, but it was spicy and contained tequila.
Didn’t get a pic of mine, but I’m pretty sure it was called “The Monk’s Cup,” and contained ginger beer, lemon juice and Pimm’s. The flavors were “complex, from beginning to end,” as a sommelier once told my brother regarding a wine he’d asked about : )
Besides the drinks, Meat features a cozy, dimly lit living-room inspired interior. Unfortunately, it was cold in the bar, so the feeling wasn’t so cozy. Maybe they’re trying to simulate a meat fridge or something…
Saturday was filled with wedding activities. Since the ceremony started at 5:30 and the party lasted until after 1am, I didn’t have an opportunity to check out any new additions to the Louisville scene, but I have to say, I had a blast at the wedding.
Here’s another picture:
The next afternoon, mom and I were right back on it, checking out a new brunch/bar spot on Frankfort Ave called Silver Dollar. The building was recycled from an old fire station, and was open on both the front and back ends, which really added to the atmosphere.
The menu is a mix of Southern and Californian fare with items like juevos rancheros and chicken’n’waffles. They claim to be an “homage to gritty honky tonk music and gritty Southerners transplanted in California”… That’s a lot to wrap your head around. The food was good. I ordered juevos rancheros, even after I was warned about the heat it might generate in my mouth. Mom got a burger. The drink list features whisky and tequila, so I did not partake in brunch-time drinking. Neither did mom.
After brunch, I waited around for dinner. I made plans with my friend Hayley, who agreed to check out yet another new restaurant: St. Charles Exchange. It’s about 3 months old and is another restaurant “famous” for their cocktails. Patt and I checked this place out briefly on Friday during our downtown Louisville tourist day, and the manager raved about the drinks. He was actually the one who recommended Meat. Food and Bev guys lookin’ out for each other!
St Charles Exchange is located right across the street from 21C hotel and museum, which is a big hotspot for Louisvillians and out-of-towners alike, so if “location, location, location” is true, I imagine it’ll be a success. Hayley and I started with the rosemary “daily popcorn,” which I’ve noticed “popping” up on menus throughout the country. I guess because it’s cheap and easy, and who doesn’t love popcorn? Neither of us were super hungry so we split the Sockeye salmon with potato cakes and spinach. Perfectly cooked with a tender center and crispy skin, the fish was delish. The atmosphere is a little “corporate” looking (it’s part of a Philly-based restaurant group), but the large space will surely be popular for parties after UL games, due to the proximity to the KFC YUM Center, or special events like Derby.
Well, that just about wraps up the culinary tour of my own lovely hometown. Louisville, I’m impressed. Makes me proud.