It's Not Tofu sandwich and an order of fries at Epic Sammich Co.

Epic Sammich Co. is not Rumplings, but it’ll do

For a too-short, brilliant seven months, the glory that was Rumplings blazed like a comet soaring across the sky of Louisville’s dining scene.

Then, just like that, one night in early June, Rumplings went dark, accompanied by a chorus of wails from despairing fans.

Okay. I admit it. That’s kind of dramatic. But dammit, that’s how I felt, and judging from the anguished voices I heard, I don’t think I was alone.
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Tea Station Chinese Bistro's Mongolian Lamb

New urbanism, same old Chinese in Norton Commons

There we were, Mary and I, sitting and chatting as we waited for our apps in the comfortably cozy confines of Tea Station Chinese Bistro. We sipped Tsing Tao beers and gazed out at the main drag of Norton Commons, the new subdivision with the old-time look, trying to figure out why this village somehow feels both appealing and a little creepy all at the same time.

Norton Commons was Louisville’s first large venture into the “New Urbanism” (or at least the first since St. James Court was developed in 1887). Hey, New Urbanism is cool! Something new, made to look old, compact and walkable, retro in style, quaint but, um, “safe.”

So what’s not to like?
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Chile Relleno and a burrito at Mango's

On the Mexican road again …

“On the road again” … “En la carretera nuevamente …” Hmm. Willie Nelson’s classic ballad doesn’t translate very well, rhythmically speaking. You just can’t make the syllables fit the notes. But that’s not important right now. What’s important right now is Mexican food, because it’s filling and spicy and delicious.

I like Mexican food, and I like languages, and I’ve still got a lot to learn about both things. But there’s always room for more learning, both in the food department and the linguistic department. Like most Americans — er, Norteamericanos, that is — my language skills are weak.

“Eureka,” I said, an exclamation that works in English, Spanish and Greek. “Why don’t I go eat at some Mexican restaurants? I can practice my Spanish on the servers!”
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The New Orleans-style BBQ shrimp at Roux

With Roux my English major’s heart is laden

“With rue my heart is laden,
for golden friends I had,
For many a rose-lipt maiden
And many a lightfoot lad.”

There! It’s not often that an English major actually gets to bring the fruits of his seldom-used bachelor’s degree into the real world. So how, I ask, could I possibly resist dragging the poet A.E. Housman into a “Roux/rue” pun to celebrate our first visit to Roux, a hot newish spot on Bardstown Road?
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The goat biryani at Shandaar.

We experience India at Shandaar and Kashmir

India! To Western eyes, it is one of the most exotic of lands. India seems very far away, and yet it is strangely familiar in ways that draw us in. In your mind’s eye, think about the Taj Mahal in moonlight: Those shimmering white marble domes look like nothing you’d ever expect to see in Louisville, yet its strangely compelling beauty transcends time and space.
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Shrimp and Weisenberger Mill grits at Mesh

Our critic can’t hate on Mesh in spite of himself

First, let’s get one thing perfectly clear: No matter how much I think I might dislike a place, I bring an open mind to the dinner table.

Sometimes this isn’t easy. Even if a restaurateur has responded to a review with veiled death threats or even mere front-yard TPing, it’s the critic’s job to swallow that bile and return someday, prepared to deal out judgment that’s honest and fair.

It’s a good thing, too, because I had a load of baggage in tow — much of it not particularly fair, but hey — when our friends Kathy and Rick joined Mary and me for a recent dinner at Mesh.
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Feast BBQ's Pulled Pork with Mac and Cheese and Collard Greens

We lock eyes with the bison and the bison wins at Feast BBQ NuLu

“Hey, let’s go over to the new Feast BBQ in NuLu and get some delicious brisket!”

A slice of gently smoked, tender brisket sounded good, or at least it did until I settled down at a long table in the back of the room and glanced up. There on the wall was a buffalo head, mounted like a game trophy. Was he real or fake? I’m not sure, but he looked pretty real to me. His fur was kind of scruffy, but his black glass eyes were soulful. They seemed to look right into my heart.

“Um, maybe not the brisket.”
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Against the Grain's cornbread hoecakes with homemade pimento cheese, and a cup of black-bean chili

Buy me some peanuts, Cracker Jack and pork belly on a stick

We live in the era of gourmet-style ballpark food. New York Mets fans can dine on sushi or summon a $17 lobster roll while they take in a game at Citi Field. San Francisco Giants fans also have sushi options and a wondrous array of other good things at AT&T Park. (Unlimited anytime minutes are extra.)
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