Remember the old joke about a hunter’s repeated efforts to bag a giant grizzly bear? It’s a little too long and risque to quote here in full, but it ends with the bear lovingly whispering, “You’re not really here for the hunting, are you, Bob?”
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. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
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 →
How good is Exchange Pub + Kitchen? Why, it’s a Pillar of its community.
I mean that literally: This month the popular spot in New Albany’s buzzing downtown dining scene won one of the city’s Pillar Awards, which recognize contributors to downtown restoration and renovation. Exchange Pub won the Horizon Award, honoring co-owners Ian and Nikki Hall for their 2012 move from the Grant Line Road area into the historic 1875-era Shrader Stables building downtown, the New Albany Tribune reported. Continue reading →
Few of us are eager to admit we’re getting older. Every now and then, though, some sudden recognition of time’s passing steps up and smacks us in the face with a solid reality check.
Take Equus, for example: A local destination restaurant that opened just a few years ago. Well, OK, OK, it opened in 1985, but who’s counting? Not me, that’s for sure. In some ways, after all, Equus never seems to change very much. Continue reading →
NA Exchange got a new name when it moved down the New Albany hill: Now it’s The Exchange Pub + Kitchen. It got a new look, which is actually an old look, as it makes creative use of a historic building in New Albany’s rapidly gentrifying downtown.
But it didn’t get new food, insists Chef Rick Adams, who swears that the menu he forged at the previous location — including his signature shrimp and grits — hasn’t changed a bit.You would have a hard time making some of the Exchange’s regular customers believe that, though. Adams says one gentleman in particular is adamant that the “new” shrimp and grits is much better than the “old.”
“I haven’t changed a thing,” the chef says, “but he’s sure it tastes better now.” Continue reading →
When Tony Palombino opened AP Crafters over the smoking remains of the short-lived Indigo Joe’s in Westport Village a year ago last spring, I couldn’t help wonder what the guy who might rank as Louisville’s most innovative entrepreneur of good eats was up to now.
After all, Palombino is the guy who built Tony Boombozz from a tiny pizzeria into a local chain of pizza-and-brew houses more than 15 years ago, while spinning off and incubating one new restaurant idea after another. Thatsa Wrapp, Benny B’s, Bazo’s … some flared then fizzled, while others have become local standards. Just last month, Palombino opened another new concept, Manny & Merle, in the Whiskey Row neighborhood, a hearty Bakersfield-style mix of Latino and Anglo food and music. I’ll head over there one of these days, but first, let’s see what’s going on at AP Crafters.
Anchoring a corner of the Westport Village shopping center, AP Crafters mirrors the evolution of Westport Village, a modern remake of the old Camelot center that has thrived on a base of local restaurants and indie businesses that make an attractive commercial magnet for its suburban neighborhood. AP Crafters fits right in, taking the place of a franchised sports-bar concept with 47 units in 10 states. Never mind that it seemed to cover much of the same sports bar ground as had Indigo Joe’s; there was a familiar face at the helm and clubby dark-wood paneling and antiques, and it was all good.
They called it a “gastropub,” which is OK, I guess, as this is a malleable term, although when I hear that trendy buzzword I think of something more like Butchertown’s estimable Blind Pig, which at first glance didn’t seem to have a lot in common with AP Crafters except for a very good beer list.
But AP Crafters is evolving, and during a leisurely dinner visit the other night, I was delighted to discover that, while it still executes pub grub very nicely, the place has also developed a more upscale persona featuring serious, well-executed entrees such as you might expect at a more trendy bistro on Bardstown Road or Frankfort Avenue or NuLu’s urban streets.
The menu begins, as it has from the start, with a good selection of soups, salads and munchies, offering a broad choice among healthy green salads ($7-$8) and delicious fatty and salty goodies, including charred wings ($8) or a platter of crisp beer-battered fried pickle chips with ancho dipping sauce ($7). Those who choose the gastropub route may be infatuated with a charcuterie plate ($11, and none dare call it “cold cuts”) or the chef’s weekly selection of hummus and olives with pita — whole wheat, of course.
Sandwiches, served with your choice of seasoned fries, slaw or fruit, are mostly $8 (for a griddled cheese sandwich, with 75-cent upcharges for tomato or bacon), to $11 (for a grilled chicken BLT). Burgers include a fancy Reuben burger ($11), a burger topped with pastrami, kraut and Swiss atop your all-beef patty. Or they’ll hold the patty on request and make it a plain Reuben. Another option: Schmear your burger with beer cheese, bacon and onions and serve it on a pretzel roll ($11). If a more traditional burger is your style, go for the Build Your Own option, which does burgers the way Boombozz does pizza: Start with the basic dressed patty ($7.50), then make it your own with a smorgasbord of toppings at 75 cents each: cheese, bacon, an egg, onions, sauce … just about anything but the proverbial kitchen sink.
More and more, though, diners are flocking to AP Crafters for the entrees, a short but interesting list of nine items from $10 (for chorizo and pulled-pork tacos or fish tacos) to $28 (for blackened beef filet medallions with blue cheese Mornay).
Twenty craft beers on tap plus shorter selections of bottled domestics for those who insist give Crafters a brewpub feel; there’s also a short but well chosen wine list and a good mix of creative cocktails.
We went with a group and enjoyed sharing bites, and not one of us uttered a discouraging word about crisp retro iceberg wedges loaded with blue cheese and BLT toppings ($8); bacon bruschetta ($7), toasted baguette rounds spread with bacon jam, caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, arugula and more; or a tasty side bowl of broccoli florets ($3.50) flavored with garlic and Parmesan.
A trio of fish tacos ($10), served Baja-style with blackened fish, also drew praise, as did the bistro-style braised lamb shank ($22), long-simmered and very tender, served on a succulent slab of potatoes au gratin. Perhaps our favorite entrees were the smoked pork chop ($18), a good-size chop, bone-on, juicy and tender and very flavorful, coated with a tart-sweet sun-dried tomato-basil demiglace atop a rich pool of creamy, cheesy polenta; and the fire-roasted vegetable napoleon ($14), an artful stack of roasted veggie-polenta cakes sandwiched with fresh arugula, tomatoes, chunks of zucchini and mild goat cheese.
Dinner for two, with a couple Crafters-brand microbrews, came to a reasonable $58.28 plus tip.
AP Crafters Kitchen & Bar
1321 Herr Lane
Even in a region singularly blessed with strong local microbreweries and brewpubs, Against the Grain stands out in its relatively short life (it opened last October) as an operation seriously dedicated to the production and enjoyment of excellent beer. Continue reading →
Yum, I love me some fine diner fare. That’s fine “diner,” now, not fine “dining,” which I like, too, but which might be a little out of place in the noisy and very casual environs of The Silver Dollar, whose retro-style sign out front blares “Whiskey By The Drink.”
]Now that I think about it, Chef Jonathan Schwartz and sous chef Dave Hawkins do an estimable job of fine cooking, too, but they keep it in the blue-collar style of Bakersfield, Calif., a dusty Central Valley town where agriculture and oil, the Dust Bowl diaspora and the Chicano diaspora meet and blend in an environment that gave birth to the Bakersfield Sound in country music and, it goes without saying, honky-tonk saloons. Continue reading →
It’s been a quite a few years now since a couple of Louisville’s favorite neighborhoods sprouted so many eateries that we dubbed them “Restaurant Rows.” Bardstown Road arguably came first, starting with the Bristol in the 1970s, quickly joined by Jack Fry’s, Cafe Metro, Lilly’s and many more. Frankfort Avenue, with Deitrich’s on its leading edge, quickly gained critical mass in the ‘90s. Then St. Matthews grew into a dining and nightlife zone, and now we’ve seen Nulu burst like the finale at Thunder Over Louisville.
Now something new is happening: All these prosperous restaurant rows are growing into each other, melding into one gigantic, delicious city-wide restaurant zone!Starting in the bustling quarter around the Yum Center, an ambulatory diner could easily work his way out through Nulu and Butchertown to Frankfort Avenue, strolling right out to St. Matthews with few breaks in the action all the way to Oxmoor. Or you could hang a right from Nulu onto Baxter, push through its busy nightspot zone and on out Bardstown to the Watterson. You’d rarely be more than a minute’s walk from an eatery either way.
Stick a pin into the epicenter of this culinary earthquake, and you’d probably jab it down on Baxter, right about where The Brewery recently opened its doors.
Wait! The Brewery? Wasn’t that a popular watering hole back in the ‘80s and ‘90s?
It closed around the beginning of the new Millennium, though, leaving thousands of bereft fans nostalgic with memories of a lively setting for good music, tasty pub grub and plenty of cold beer.
But now owners Mike Ryan and Dan Evans are back, joined by restaurateur Kevin Daly, with a new Brewery that looks a lot like the old Brewery but maybe even better. Open for lunch and dinner daily, until 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, its expansive space includes the dark, amiable tavern with its historic bar, a 5,000 pound installation that once served the 19th century Vienna Bar and later Kunz’s; a lighter, brighter dining room, and a patio.
The beer list features mostly the usual suspects but adds a couple of upscale imports and one or two microbrewery locals (NABC Hoptimus and Falls City Ale). The menu remains heavy on the kind of delicious salty, crunchy fried goodies that go so well with beer, plus a broad selection of sandwiches and burgers, virtually all under $10. If you’re feeling more like a restaurant meal, a half-dozen more substantial entrees range in price from $8.95 (for linguine with meatballs and marinara sauce) to $12.95 (for a grilled 10-ounce sirloin or grilled or fried fresh Florida grouper, both served with veggie and potato).
We found everything satisfactory during a recent visit, but perhaps as befits a place named after a beer factory, the beer-friendly starters shone the brightest. Cheese bites ($4.95) consisted of two or three dozen small cubes of Cheddar and Monterey Jack, perfectly fried, crispy without and molten within, with a gently spicy remoulade for dipping. Grouper fingers ($7.95) were on the mild side for grouper, perfectly fried, too, and generously portioned.
A single-size mushroom-and-olive pizza ($6.95) and the Brewery’s famous Brew Burger ($5.95) passed muster, and a spinach salad ($5.95) was, well, a salad. But here’s our advice: Say hi to the new Brewery, much like the old Brewery: You can’t go wrong with a crunch bar snack and a cold beer.
Dinner for three, with a couple of pints of the local brews, was $46.65 plus a $10 tip.
Back in the day, when I was young and stupid, I would often make the long drive down California’s agricultural Central Valley, burning up the Golden State Highway to visit a girlfriend at UCLA.
When I hit the dusty town of Bakersfield, surrounded by oil rigs and potato fields, I knew I was within 100 miles and a couple of fast-driving hours over the Santa Monica Mountains to my destination. Sometimes I would reward myself with a pit stop and a cold beer at some dark and noisy honky-tonk, where the dominant sound was invariably loud country music. Continue reading →