Category Archives: $$ Modest ($20-$40)

Pad Thai at Thai Cafe

I want to bring the heat at Thai Cafe, but the chef won’t let me

Where in the world do you find the globe’s most fiery-spicy cuisine? This seemed like a simple enough question when I dreamed it up amid a sudden craving for culinary fire the other day, but it’s hard to get a definitive answer. Continue reading

America The Diner's hamburger

America. The Diner. Funky, fun and open almost 24 hours

Today let us celebrate the noble hamburger, an iconic confection that’s easier to eat than it is to research.

Aka “hamburg steak,” this ubiquitous ground-meat patty on a bun has been known by that name only since around the 1890s, the usually reliable Online Etymology Dictionary tells us. The hamburger’s historic connection to Hamburg, Germany, is also asserted but unproven, but that’s not important right now.
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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 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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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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Fried green tomatoes, fried okra, steamed broccoli and mashed red potatoes at Goose Creek Diner.

Our critic goes Southern fried at Goose Creek Diner

There’s something about Goose Creek Diner that brings out the city boy in me, and not in a good way.

Don’t get me wrong: I really like this place, and I had an excellent meal there with a bunch of friends the other night. But it’s an odd mix – a self-proclaimed “diner” that serves Southern-style fare, and I bring some baggage to this concept that has to be unpacked before I can settle down and, well, dine.
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TropiCuba's Lechon Asado

We celebrate Cuba at TropiCuba

After 50 years of nutty national policy toward Cuba, our president, giving the finger to a recalcitrant congress, has shifted foreign-policy gears, reaching out to our island neighbor just south of Florida, demonstrating to our joy that Obama’s just another name for nothing left to lose.
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A full plate from the lunch buffet at Shandaar Indian Restaurant.

Something old, something new

Let’s touch down for a couple of quick hits on the metro dining scene this week. Uptown Café has been a Bardstown Road landmark for 20 years, serving always reliable fare in a friendly setting that keeps bringing people back for more.

Shandaar Indian is so new that its well-crafted Facebook page still has that new-page smell. So far out in the East End that it feels closer to downtown Shelbyville than downtown Louisville, it proved to be well worth the trek.
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The Dundee Gastropub's Dundee Dip

Dundee done be a gastropub now

What’s a gastropub, anyway? This culinary neologism has been floating around since the middle of the last decade, and some say it cries out for mockery. “Gastropub”? It sounds, a bit unnervingly, like some kind of medical condition afflicting the digestive system.

What’s more, plenty of the more pompous food scribes decry the term. I still remember an odd analysis by one local food reviewer, who dismissed “gastropub” as an annoying label, misused and meaningless, reserved for bars that wanted to serve house-made ketchup.
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