(Bristol – Prospect, Voice-Tribune, Nov. 9, 2006)
Louisville old-timers fondly recognize the Bristol Bar & Grille as the great-grandpappy of just about all the popular eateries that now virtually line Bardstown Road and Frankfort Avenues.
When the original Bristol opened at 1321 Bardstown Road in 1977, the idea of an upscale urban bistro seemed a little strange, but the idea quickly caught on, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Over the years, the Bristol became well-known for its casual gourmet-style signature dishes, from the Bristol Burger (served on an English muffin, what a concept), to the beloved Green Chile Won Tons. But when I look back over all the years that I’ve been a fan and happy customer, one Bristol tradition stands out: Sunday brunch!
A few branches around town have joined the original location, sharing similar menus but each with its own mood. The downtown branch (614 W. Main St.), fits in beautifully with its 19th century storefront surroundings, and the Hurstbourne Bristol (300 N. Hurstbourne Pkwy.) seems just as compatible a fit with the suburbs.
And now there’s a Prospect Bristol, opened this past summer in shopping-center space that had housed a Max’n’Erma’s. The underlying structure is pretty much the same, with seating mostly in large, squarish wooden booths. The decor is understated and attractive, in shades of dark red, deep green and teal. Interesting glass art pieces abound, hanging in front of windows and perched atop room dividers. Even the light fixtures are glass art.
The regular menu is consistent with the Bristol model, and I’m happy to report that Sunday brunch is right up to specifications. It’s served every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., a splendid all-you-can-eat deal for $12.95 for adults, $4.95 for those 11 and under.
One entire room of the restaurant is turned over to the buffet, which is spread out over at least three long tables. On the occasion of our summertime visit, one bore salads including a large cold salmon; thin-sliced tomatoes with a creamy sauce; pasta salads, mixed lettuces, grapes and melons.
Another table featured trays over warming heaters, about half of them holding traditional breakfast dishes including scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, sausage, cheese grits and white rolls. I assembled my first plate here and found it mostly fine, although a few nearly raw bacon slices didn’t excite me. The grits were wonderful if calorific, loaded with sharp cheese and, if my taste buds aren’t fooling around with me, real butter. Biscuits are as good as biscuits get, so rich and fluffy that you don’t really need to put butter on them, but hey, why not? I’m not a great fan of biscuit gravy, but this was a good, creamy, peppery, meatless milk gravy.
Luncheon-style dishes included pot-roasted beef with tomatoes and perfect roasted red-skinned new potatoes, cut in quarters and dusted with black pepper. Asparagus was pale but flavorful, mixed with bits of roasted red pepper. Ravioli, a special dish for the week, were well-made, generous portions of fine-chopped spinach and walnuts and ricotta cheese tucked into pasta pillows, lightly cloaked with Alfredo-style sauce. Fried chicken was first-rate, tender and flavorful, with a light, crisp and grease-free breading.
The “waffle station” keeps a steady stream of smallish ones coming. Pick up one – or two – and build your own toppings from an appetizing selection of fruit and, a bit less than elegantly, a commercial aerosol can holding real whipped cream.
The dessert table – as if we had room – was loaded with cookies, scones, cheesecake, brownies, chocolate cake, cream cake, chocolate mousse pie, pretty slices of watermelon and fresh strawberries.
Service was good but not great; after our initial orders, coffee and iced tea never refilled. Still, it was a fine brunch and a worthy extension of the Bristol tradition to the suburbs.
Bristol Bar & Grille – Prospect
6051 Timber Ridge Drive