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

The fish taco at El Mundo

El Mundo: Still a favorite after 20 years

It’s hard to believe that it has been more than 20 years since we moved back to Louisville after a sojourn in New York City. This town has changed a lot in the past two decades, and certainly the Frankfort Avenue restaurant row has evolved almost beyond recognition.

“You’ll like Frankfort Avenue,” a friend told us as we packed the moving van to head west from Gotham. “There’s a great new place called the Irish Rover!” And she was right. Along with Deitrich’s, which had been a pioneer in the neighborhood, and more recent arrivals Porcini and a local coffee shop that preceded Heine Bros’ Crescent Hill branch, the avenue was looking pretty exciting.

And then in 1995 came El Mundo, and the “new” Frankfort Avenue was on its way. Continue reading

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Pad-Thai at TanThai.

It’s worth fighting the bridges to get to TanThai

The news that Thai-Siam had closed after 25 years of dishing up Thai cuisine to Louisville-area diners came with more of a sense of nostalgia than loss, I’d say.

When it opened in 1989, I was beside myself with joy. Having discovered Thai cuisine in California way back in the day, I loved it so hard, and ached for it to make its way east. Continue reading

Huevos Rancheros at El Camino

El Camino’s brunch wows us with Latino style

What? The food guy is going Mexican again? Three weeks running, he’s ricocheted from Argentine beef to taqueria offal to fancified Chicano fare in the surfer tradition? ¿Qué pasa? Or, in the Queen’s English, what’s up with that?

Hmm. I suppose I could claim that I’m dining Latino-style out of solidarity with the flood of kids from Central America who are piling up at our border. I could say I’m doing it to take a stand in a national debate that prompts some Americans to yell that Lady Liberty lifts her lamp beside the golden door only for immigrants who look like us.

And those things could be true.

But to be honest, I mainly went to El Camino this week to check out the Sunday brunch Continue reading

Oyster hushpuppies at Craft House.

Craft House packing them in on Frankfort

Folks in our Crescent Hill neighborhood have been watching with considerable anticipation as a crew associated with Louisville’s Bluegrass Brewing Co. sped through a major “gut rehab” of the old Darkstar tavern, converting what had been frankly a rather grim saloon into an airy, inviting temple to all things local beer and food.
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Soup Dumplings at The Joy Luck

Soup dumplings? Soup in dumplings wins at The Joy Luck

When I was a child, country-style chicken and dumplings wasn’t a thing in my citified family, but I wanted them to be. I would read about dumplings in children’s books and dream of tasting these succulent-sounding goodies.

“You wouldn’t like them,” my mother said, declining to make some for the family table.

Eventually I got to try some, and sure enough, Mom was right as usual. Thick rectangles of flabby dough, floating in chicken stew? Meh.

But that was before most folks in these parts knew of Chinese dumplings. Continue reading

Stir-fry of broccoli, tofu and black beans over tender rice noodles.

Thai Cafe: Not Quite “Consummate,” But Fun

Well, hey now. What’s this? A new restaurant reviewer at The Courier-Journal? How about that! This sort of thing fascinates me because I used to occupy that pulpit myself, as dining critic for the late, great Louisville Times (and, after its death, The CJ) until I left the building in 1990.
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Seared snapper at The Brewery. LEO photo by Frankie Steele.

We study Reinheitsgebot and good eats at The Brewery

I like to think I’m a bit of a beer geek, but our friend Don puts me in the shade when it comes to knowledge of things malty and hoppy. I’ll bet he could recite the rules of the ancient Reinheitsgebot beer laws forwards and backwards, and our multilingual pal Anne could help us do it in the original German.
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Gorgonzola ravioli with beef tips at Corner Cafe.

Corner Café, dishing up comfort food for 20 years

Think of a quintessential Louisville neighborhood, and chances are your thoughts will turn to Germantown or Clifton, the Highlands or Crescent Hill.

“That stretch out past Lyndon where Whipps Mill twists around the railroad tracks and tangles with Lagrange Road,” not so much. Continue reading

Pad Thai at Thai Noodles.

Celebrate the Noble Noodle at Thai Noodles

Life as a hunter-gatherer was hard, no question about that. As the philosopher Thomas Hobbes famously put it, this life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

But at least paleolithic humans didn’t have to make many decisions at supper time. Knock over an animal, whack off a chunk and chow down. Cooking it was optional, once people learned to tame fire. It was only when humans settled down in agricultural societies about 10,000 years ago that culinary life got complicated. Continue reading

Tacos and a house margarita at Wild Rita's. LEO photo by Frankie Steele.

The ‘ritas are the wildest thing at Wild Rita’s

So, just how wild are the ‘ritas at Wild Rita’s?

Well, this new spot just east of downtown, within the noise penumbra and particulates shadow of the Great Bridge Boondoggle, offers 10, count ‘em 10, variations on the margarita, not to mention tequila cocktails, tequila tastings and nearly 100 fine tequilas by the bottle or drink. It would take more effort than I’m willing to expend to answer this question definitively. Continue reading

Fish and chips at the Irish Rover. LEO photo by Frankie Steele.

Irish Rover takes us to the Emerald Isle

I’ll never forget my first and only visit to Ireland. We spent a week or two driving around the country, learning wrong-side driving and stopping at every pub we could find to enjoy a pint of Guinness. Damn, it was hard to find traditional Irish music, though. Pub after pub after pub, the food and the mood were Irish, but the music was international rock. When I finally found a crew with a harp singing “Danny Boy” in a tiny pub in Killarney, it was jammed with American tourists, of course. Continue reading

Buddha's daydream at Saigon Cafe

We Meet The Buddha on The Road at Saigon Café

Does the Buddha daydream?

As the ancient story is told, more than 2,500 years ago when Siddharta Gautama experienced his awakening, his six years of meditation and study provided him with sudden vast insight into the meaning of life. Thus he became the Buddha, “The Awakened One,” and one of the world’s great religious traditions was born.

So meditate me this: Does an Awakened One sleep? Probably not. What would be the point? But surely the Buddha daydreams, for what is daydreaming, after all, but random meditation?

Buddha’s Daydream! It’s a Zen koan, and it’s a dish at Saigon Cafe in St. Matthews. Continue reading