Category Archives: St. Matthews, Westport Village, and environs

The Earl of Sandwich and his portable feast

Bootleg's Q
You can get mutton (on bun at lower right) and lots of other good Q at Bootleg Bar-B-Q. Photos by Robin Garr.

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Ole Hickory Pit, Bootleg Bar-B-Q, Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches)

Let us sing the praises today of John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich, who one day in 1762 decided to place his lunch between two slices of bread, creating the portable meal that to this day bears his name. “Sandwich,” I mean. Belly up to the bar and call for a ham-and-cheese Montagu, and people will just look at you funny.
Continue reading The Earl of Sandwich and his portable feast

Our critic joins the ladies who lunch at Meridian Cafe

Meridian Cafe

(Voice-Tribune, Dec. 14, 2006)

First, let’s get one thing straightened out, Meridian is demonstrably a “ladies who lunch” place. It’s open only for lunch, and the last time I was over there, I think I was one of only three males in a house packed with women. The other two were the chef and one of the servers. But if you think “ladies who lunch” is in any way negative, you need to get over here for a thorough re-calibration.

Under new ownership and management by Heather Yaron and Chef Mike Ross, who had cooked here several years ago and now returns, this charming little spot has gone from strength to strength. An excellent lunch the other day got my “A” grade, even if I did feel a little as if I had wandered into a sorority house for a minute there.
Continue reading Our critic joins the ladies who lunch at Meridian Cafe

Craving Crustaceans

“I have yet to meet a pile of shrimp that I was not immediately on good terms with and could not devour promptly,” says Eat ‘N’ Blog correspondent KIM MASSEY. “My deep affection for these little parcels of protein is well matched with my passion for ethnic foods. It’s a fortunate thing, then, that Louisville’s ethnic restaurant community offers so many opportunities to indulge these cravings.”
Needless to say, Kim was quick to volunteer for the challenge of finding some of the region’s most delightful ethnic shrimp dishes. This is her crustacean-loving report:

Let’s start with a duo of appetizers that come dangerously close to displacing shrimp and grits as my favorite way to begin a meal.
The Banh Xeo ($5.60) at Vietnam Kitchen is an inspired creation. An eggy crepe that falls somewhere between a pancake and an omelet, Banh Xeo is pan-fried to a decidedly crispy exterior, then folded over stir-fried shrimp and bean sprouts in a simple but complementary combination of tastes and textures. The salty-sweet acidity of the soy-based sauce provides a perfect foil for the rich crepe. It’s one of those appetizers that you would gladly order in entrée-sized portion, if only you could! (One possibility: Order two.)

Vietnam Kitchen
5339 Mitscher Ave.
363-5154

The Camarones de Alio ($6.99) served at Havana Rumba offer a sumptuous prelude to any meal. A half-dozen plump, tail-on shrimp are sautéed in a simple sauce of olive oil and butter with a smidgen of red pepper and lashings of minced garlic, served sizzling in their clay-pot cooking vessel. This is culinary minimalism at its finest. It’s served with warm, crusty French bread, perfect for mopping up the delightful sauce after the sweet and tender shrimp are down the hatch.

Havana Rumba
4115 Oechsli Ave.
897-1959

That’s just the beginning of the diverse and delicious shrimp dishes available at the city’s ethnic eateries. Consider the shrimp tips ($13) at Queen of Sheba. This splendid dish combines shrimp, onions, tomatoes and green peppers, lightly sautéed in butter with Ethiopian spices. It is served with Kik Wot – a mound of creamy stewed split lentils that would make a satisfying vegetarian dish in itself. Both shrimp and lentils are piled atop injera, the spongy, pancake-like Ethiopian flatbread, which adds a hearty element to an otherwise light entrée. This delightfully complex dish will leave you clamoring to sample more of this wonderful cuisine.

Queen of Sheba Ethiopian
3315 Bardstown Road
459-6301

Another shrimp dish, less subtle but just as satisfying, is the Camarones al Chipotle ($11.50) served at Fiesta Mexicana. A dozen plump shrimp are liberally smothered in a rich, dark sauce of tomatoes and chipotle peppers, with a sprinkling of just-melted Chihuahua cheese. Its smoky heat packs quite a punch, which can be pleasantly tempered with a dollop of sour cream. Served with a side of savory Mexican rice and salad, it’s a hearty, warming dish, a welcome respite to a cold winter evening.

Fiesta Mexicana
5414 Bardstown Road
762-0840

When my crustaceous cravings unite with a desire for the familiar, I beat a hasty retreat to India Palace – a regular port of refuge for a sometimes homesick Brit. It can be so difficult to choose just one dish from the many impressive shrimp options that I frequently give up the struggle and select a contrasting duo. The volcanic, spicy, tangy, Shrimp Vindaloo ($11.95) creates a delightful reverse trajectory of creeping warmth from the back of the throat to the tip of the tongue. It partners perfectly with the mild and aromatic Shrimp Saag ($11.95), a delicate light curry that combines spices, herbs, spinach and a dash of cream. Add a side of Pilau rice, a warm fluffy round of naan flatbread, and there you have it: a culinary hug from a much loved friend!

India Palace
9424 Shelbyville Road
394-0490

Indulge your pork cravings at Pig City

Pig City
Pig City BBQ: Certain songs with food allusions may or may be what they seem, but there’s nothing ambiguous about Pig City BBQ. It’s about the pigmeat, brothers and sisters. Photo by Paige Moore-Heavin

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Pig City BBQ, Fresco Southwest Grill & Pizza)

Food was never very far from the thoughts of Mississippi blues great Armenter Chatmon, better known to the world as Bo Carter. At least we assume he was thinking about food when he dreamed up blues ballads like “Banana in Your Fruit Basket” and “Your Biscuits Are Big Enough for Me.”

OK, so maybe those references are just a little ambiguous. Maybe he was thinking about food, and maybe he wasn’t. But there’s no doubt that Bo had his dinner plate in mind when he warbled the tune I love best, “Pigmeat is What I Crave.”

I’m right with him there: Meat, fish, fowl or soy protein, it’s hard to beat pork for sheer deliciousity.

Naturally when I heard about a new barbecue joint out in the East End called Pig City, I knew where I had to be. Continue reading Indulge your pork cravings at Pig City

This drink’s for Fido

Tyler Dorsett
In a rare display of common sense, Kentucky recently made it OK to take home an unfinished bottle of wine from a restaurant. Tyler Dorsett of the Bristol-Downtown shows the first step, re-corking the bottle … Photos by Robin Garr

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Wine doggy-bagging, Cutting Board Café, Aldi’s)

You order an excellent wine to go with your restaurant meal, and when dinner is done, the bottle is half empty. Or half full, depending on your worldview. What do you do?

Common sense would dictate that you poke the cork back in the bottle and take it home to enjoy another day. But common sense, by and large, does not inform alcoholic-beverage-control laws. In Kentucky, restaurants are generally not licensed for “package liquor” sales and, historically, have risked a fine or loss of their drinks license if they permit customers to carry out wine.

In a rare display of common sense, however, Kentucky’s legislature this year passed a new law allowing consumers to take the partially consumed bottle home. The law requires that restaurant staff re-seal the bottle, place it in a closed bag and provide a dated receipt. The consumer must keep the bottle in the trunk, a locked glove compartment or other place “inaccessible to the driver” during the trip home, a rather bureaucratic set of requirements apparently aimed at ensuring that thirsty motorists won’t slug their Chateau Gotrocks right out of the bottle while speeding along the Watterson.
Continue reading This drink’s for Fido

Chains – Was Mr. Marx right?

P.F. Chang's
Long waits were common when P.F. Chang’s opened in Louisville last year. Photo by Robin Garr

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(P.F. Chang’s, Cheesecake Factory)

“Unite,” Karl Marx urged the workers of the world. “You have nothing to lose but your chains.” And speaking of chains, my experiences with dining at the franchised variety too often remind me of another Marx – Groucho – who famously said, “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.”

Please note that I’m not simply bashing all chains, sight unseen. I’ve had splendid meals at quite a few, and published glowing reviews. But whether you’re looking at a restaurant chain like Cheddar’s or a newspaper chain like Gannett, simple logic argues that when corporate bean counters rule spending, corner-cutting and diminished quality are likely to follow. Chains simply operate under different constraints than an independent local business run by an owner-chef whose passion drives him or her to excel regardless of costs.

This seems to work, most of the time. Consider the popularity of the Louisville Originals restaurants and similar locally owned eateries: You’ll find few chains knocking the locals out of any critic’s list of Top 10 places to dine.

And yet … some chains clearly do something right, because hungry crowds fairly knock down their doors. Take the suburban culinary meccas P.F. Chang’s and Cheesecake Factory. The three-hour waits of the early days may have diminished a little since they opened last autumn, but eager diners still line up hungrily at dinner time.

What is their secret? Continue reading Chains – Was Mr. Marx right?