Category Archives: Downtown, NuLu and Butchertown

NO-ni and more wacky pizzas

Danny Mac's pizzas
A couple of pies from Danny Mac’s: At left, the wacky bacon chicken ranch with a base of ranch dressing in lieu of tomato sauce. At right, a more traditional version with sausage, onions and peppers. Photo by Robin Garr.

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Cafe Lou Lou, Primo, Tony BoomBozz, California Pizza Kitchen and Danny Mac’s)

Pizza fundamentalists, not unlike the other kind of fundamentalists, insist that there is only one true way. Any variation on the strict Neapolitan tradition – save possibly for a select few authorized New York City variations – is not merely blasphemous but perverted. Let the congregation answer: “Amen!”
Continue reading NO-ni and more wacky pizzas

Coffee buzz

If we get many more coffee shops around this town, Louisville might just take over New York City’s reputation as the city that never sleeps, and the most audible Thunder Over Louisville may become a caffeine buzz.
The two latest entries – Blue Mountain Coffee House and Jackson’s Organic Coffee – both offer a truly splendid cuppa, but they differ dramatically in style.

Chris Stockton
Christopher Stockton is co-proprietor of Jackson’s Organic Coffee, a drive-through located next to the Sav-A-Step on Lexington Road near Payne Street. Photo by Robin Garr.

Jackson’s Organic Coffee is not even a coffee shop. There’s no sit-down or table service, only a drive-through window, at this little pumpkin-color building next door to the Sav-A-Step on Lexington Road near Payne Street.

Co-proprietor Christopher Stockton, an expatriate Brit, is an aggressive perfectionist about organic, sustainable and fair-trade coffees, sold through the drive-up window or canned on the premises for sale by upscale vendors like, so far, Rainbow Blossom, two of the Valu Markets and Mayan Café.

Coffee and espresso drinks range in price from $1.75 for a small drip coffee to $3.75 for a large cappuccino or latte. The drive-up window is open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays except holidays; closed weekends.

The other recent and welcome arrival is Blue Mountain Coffee House Wine & Tapas Bar (400 E. Main St., 582-3220), where host Nicholas Arno adds a Jamaican accent as he vends Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee in sleek, sophisticated new quarters. Eat ‘N’ Blog correspondent LEAH STEWART declares it her favorite caffeine dispensary, and files this report:

Blue Mountain is a treat to the senses. A curved saltwater fish tank inset into the bar greets guests with colorful fish; tempered glass countertops are the color of island waters, and artfully contemporary tables and chairs look as though they leapt from the pages of a magazine. Jamaican art adorns walls painted in a sun-kissed gold and sapphire blue.

Blue Mountain coffee is some of the most expensive in the world, and there’s a good reason for that. The Blue Mountains of Jamaica have the perfect climate, terrain and rainfall to produce coffee. It’s as if the coffee gods touched the earth at this one spot and said, “Here!”

I tried it in a drink combined with cocoa and chunks of chocolate. It was smooth, unbelievably rich and pleasantly not sweet. Some mocha coffees are sweet enough to make your teeth hurt, but Blue Mountain’s coffee drinks are decidedly adult. Our daughter’s Submarino, a sophisticated hot chocolate, was a decadent, silky chocolate experience created for sipping, not guzzling. For lunch, a Blue Mountain Cheese Platter ($9.95) consisted of three finely crafted cheeses, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, grapes and two kinds of crackers. Friends enjoyed the Southwest chicken paninis ($6.95), declaring them crispy on the outside and chock full of savory chicken on the inside.

An evening visit proved that there are people downtown at night! Several groups of friends were discussing work, sampling and choosing wine at the wine bar and enjoying coffee and tea. A basic espresso drink, a decaf latte, was dark and rich, topped by a generous head of foam. A chai tea was deliciously different: Not sweet, and without any overpowering notes of clove and cardamom, the peppery chai was spiced delicately and perfectly.

QuickBytes: Konnichi-wa at Caviar

Caviar

Komban wa,” I told the sushi chef, bowing politely and doing the best I could to get out the Japanese words for “good evening” with at least marginal fluency.

He gave me a friendly but very puzzled look.

“I guess I just can’t speak Japanese,” I said, switching back to English.

“No,” he said. “I can’t speak Japanese. I’m from Korea.”

Whatever. He was a heck of a nice guy, and over the course of our first dinner at Caviar, the sleek new Japanese spot next door to the Seelbach on Muhammad Ali, he would fashion us more than $50 worth of sushi, all of it creditable and much of it splendid.
Continue reading QuickBytes: Konnichi-wa at Caviar

Has Vincenzo’s lost a step?

Chef Agostino Gabriele presides over Vincenzo's table at last summer's WorldFeast. Photo by Robin Garr.
Chef Agostino Gabriele presides over Vincenzo’s table at last summer’s WorldFeast. Photo by Robin Garr.
One of the toughest challenges that faces the long-term food critic is that, eventually, most of the players in the local restaurant business figure out who you are. Even when you keep a very low profile, it doesn’t take the sharper cookies long to figure out who’s covering the eats beat.
Continue reading Has Vincenzo’s lost a step?

Nothing succeeds like excess

Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse
Jeff Ruby’s: Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse at Fourth and Main is one of several upscale restaurants that opened here this year. Photo by Robin Garr.

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(2006 wrapup and Jeff Ruby’s review)

History may record 2006 as the year that the Louisville restaurant industry finally shucked the post-9/11 attitude that eschewed upscale, pricey dining.

Two of the year’s biggest downtown restaurant success stories are the arty, glitzy Proof on Main, and the very pricey Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse. It’s easy for a diner to blow past the $100 mark for an evening meal at either of these fine spots. Said diner will go home stuffed and happy.

Nor did these two stand alone in the year’s march back toward more conspicuous consumption: From the upscale RAW sushi bar downtown and the classy Danielle’s in Clifton, Nio’s on Baxter and Stratto’s in Clarksville to the lovable Bistro New Albany, the upscale (if not necessarily expensive) restaurant hits just kept on coming. And we’re glad.
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The Fixe is in: English Grill on a budget

Brown Hotel
English Grill: The Brown Hotel’s English Grill is worth a trip, but try the regular menu. Photo by Ben Schneider.

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(English Grill’s pre-theater menu)

If you want to create an impression of class in your restaurant, just drop in a little French.

Unfortunately, some French words aren’t easy for English-speakers to handle. Take “prix fixe,” which means “fixed price” – a full meal of several courses offered for a set tab. Neat concept. Not easy to spell and pronounce. I’ve seen it rendered as “prefix” and pronounced as “pricks fix,” but nooooo: Make it “pree feese,” and you’ll hear no snobby Frenchmen snickering at you.

Whatever you want to call it, we invited Eat ‘N’ Blog correspondent ANDREA M. ESSENPREIS to try it, sampling the pre, er, pri, um, fixed-price dinner at the Brown Hotel’s English Grill on the company tab. Her conclusion: You get what you pay for. Continue reading The Fixe is in: English Grill on a budget