Category Archives: $ Budget (under $20)

Get ready for the Year of the Pig, at Liang’s Café

Snow White Fish
Liang’s Snow White Fish is as pretty as its name and tastes even better. Photo by Robin Garr.

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes

In Western culture, even those of us who’ve learned to prize the tasty joys of pigmeat can’t fully escape our Old Testament heritage: Calling an associate “pig” will not win you friends or influence people.

The Chinese, however, informed by nearly five millennia of pig-loving heritage, take a broader view: In the legend and lore of the mysterious East, the noble swine is considered loyal, chivalrous and pure of heart.

Lunar Year 4705, the Year of the Pig, is coming on Feb. 18, and I for one plan to enjoy plenty of Chinese food before, during and after the 15-day celebration.
Continue reading Get ready for the Year of the Pig, at Liang’s Café

Hungry and lonely on Christmas?
Go Pho!

Dishes at Pho Binh Minh
Pho Binh Minh is a lovable and cozy six-table spot that recalls Vietnam Kitchen in its early days. Highlights include lemongrass beef stew (bottom) and grilled pork and noodles (top), plus plenty of fresh herbs and condiments. Photos by Robin Garr.

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Pho Binh Minh, Camille’s)

Psst! Lissen up … I’m going to whisper, because I wouldn’t want to admit this to anyone except you, and you, and you over there, and maybe a couple of hundred thousand other LEO and LouisvilleHotBytes readers: With just about everybody nestled snug in their homes among family and friends on Christmas Day, it can get a little bit creepy out there.

It’s not that I’ve got anything against family and friends and sugar plums and boughs of holly, but doggone it! Have you ever gone out and wandered the streets of Louisville on Christmas? The malls are closed and the parking lots empty. Groceries? Dark. Our favorite eateries? Closed, mostly, doors bolted and maybe a sign Scotch-taped to the front door wishing everyone a happy holiday.

It’s quiet. Way too quiet. The wind whistles through the empty streets with an eerie echo, and the traffic, such as it is, mostly involves happy families with cars full of kids and presents, headed over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house they go.

No matter how well-adjusted you are, it’s hard to blame a person for feeling a little bit cooped up and stir-crazy. Is there any relief? Other than, of course, Grandmother’s house?

Well, maybe.
Continue reading Hungry and lonely on Christmas?
Go Pho!

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

Taking my ‘cue in LaGrange

Big R's
Big R’s, out in the middle of La Grange in Oldham County, has all the signs of a serious barbecue joint. And the pigmeat backs it up. Photo by Robin Garr.

Meanwhile, I blazed a trail out to Oldham County recently to check out Big R’s, a fine new barbecue joint. It’s located in an attractive country house right in the middle of town, surrounded by all the signals that real barbecue is sold here: a big, black smoker, lots of hickory logs and a statue of an anthropomorphic pig out front.

It’s a smallish place but clean and neat, with freshly painted walls the color of lemon ice and tasteful red-checked curtains; maybe a half-dozen tables inside and a few more on the porch. The menu is basic and functional, too: Baby-backs range from $9 for a half-slab with no sides to $18 for a full slab with two sides. Other smoked meats – pulled pork, pulled chicken and beef brisket – are mostly $5.25 for a sandwich with one side, $6 with two sides.

We chowed down on ribs and a brisket sandwich and four sides between us and were generally pleased. Let’s put it this way: Big R is a master of smoking meat, a champion BBQ artiste who “slow-smokes” pork butts and briskets over hickory for 15 hours and ribs for five; but his tastes in sauces and rubs differs from my “less is more” philosophy: He likes to use a little more.

The ribs, indeed, were as good as I ever ate: They’re very meaty, with surprisingly little fat or gristle, smoked just right so the hickory flavor is like a condiment but doesn’t conceal the natural flavors of the meat. I wish he had throttled back on the dry rub and shiny glaze, though. The aromatic spices in the rub (I think I smelled cumin) and the sweet-sticky glaze didn’t really enhance the excellent pigmeat.

The same was true of the brisket: The smoky beef was tender and delicious, but they shredded it and served it in a thick, sweet sauce like a Sloppy Joe. Why do that to good brisket? I wish they’d just offer a no-sauce option.

The sides were quite good. Baked beans were just about perfect – small and pink in a savory-salty sauce. Potato salad was devilishly good, chunks of tender potato and crisp celery in a thick sour-cream sauce with a hint of herbs, maybe dill. Wide green beans were wide beans, long-simmered country-style, decent enough, though a little bit of ham hock would have taken them to bean heaven. My wife liked her mac ‘n’ cheese despite its alarming Velveeta color.

Too full for dessert, we got away from a generous meal for a very attractive $20.14 for two, plus a $4 tip. In spite of my barbecue maven’s nitpicks, it was darn good ‘cue, some of the best around, and the ribs and pork might have made my Hall of Fame if they had just left them alone.

Big R’s Barbeque Shack
109 E. Washington Court
La Grange, Ky.
222-0058

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