Category Archives: Commentary

Robin Garr’s musings about food and restaurant matters that don’t fit neatly into the “review” category.

Oakroom’s Richards vs. Iron Chef!

Chefs Duane and Todd
Photo by Food & Dining Magazine

Chef Todd Richards, executive chef of the Seelbach Hotel’s Oakroom, has been invited to compete on Food Network’s Iron Chef America.

Richards, with his chef de cuisine Duane Nutter (left in the photo) and a third Oakroom chef to be selected, will travel to New York City for the taping on Oct. 17. The episode will be broadcast on FoodTV in January.

“We will be doing some intense training,” Richards said, adding that the chefs plan practice sessions every Sunday and Monday from now until show time.

The January broadcast will give the Oakroom a double-barreled blast of national publicity, Richards said, as they also have an invitation to James Beard House in January or February.

With its enduring American Automobile Association five-diamond rating, the Oakroom under Richards and Nutter is said to be the nation’s only “five-star” restaurant operated by a team of African-American chefs.

“This is great for the city also,” Richards said. “Most of the chefs they pick are in New York, California or Chicago. So to be in Louisville and on the show is great.”

LouisvilleHotBytes congratulates these honored chefs. We can hardly wait to see which of the Iron Chefs they take on. Allez Cuisiner!

Italian dining in our city’s Bermuda Triangle

Amici
Amici aims to break the jinx associated with the property at 316 W. Ormsby in Old Louisville. The restaurant has a cool neighborhood vibe and a large menu that leans toward Italy. Photos by Robin Garr

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Amici, Windy City Pizza and more)

Wits in the restaurant business often evoke the mysterious waters off of Eastern North America as a mean metaphor for a restaurant property that can’t seem to hold an eatery in business very long.

In Louisville, the classic “Bermuda Triangle” location has to be the big brick house at Bardstown and Bonnycastle that began as Parisian Pantry and has housed a succession of at least a dozen short-lived successors (although the funky and downscale Cafe 360 seems to be beating the curse). After the Fountain Room of yore closed in the ’60s, the old Mayflower Hotel went through a similar series of restaurant shipwrecks before Buck’s came to stay; and a small house on Bardstown near Longest boasted a similarly eerie restaurant-killing reputation before Kashmir broke the spell.

Now comes the amiable Amici in what may be the strongest effort yet to banish the Bermuda Triangle moniker from the fine, historic Old Louisville building that had briefly been home to Central Park Cafe and 316 Ormsby, both of which sputtered out within a year of opening their doors.
Continue reading Italian dining in our city’s Bermuda Triangle

All’s fare at the Fair

Corn dog
Ever seen a more artistic corn dog? Photos by Robin Garr

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Food at the State Fair, Benedict’s Garden Café)

Ahh, the State Fair. Marking the fullness of summer and the golden harvest to come, this annual celebration of nature’s bounty opens a virtual cornucopia. Kentucky’s farmers all but bust their galluses in pride as they show off the Commonwealth’s finest farm animals and agricultural produce, and of course it’s all good, healthy and natural.

And then there’s the food. What could be more healthy or natural than corndogs, elephant ears and funnel cakes? Um. Well, at least it’s good. Up and down the Midway, around the exhibition halls, hundreds of vendor booths offer a bewildering variety of tempting fare, much of it breaded, sweetened, sugared and, best of all, sizzling hot from the deep-fat fryer. One of my favorite Midway food booths, somewhere down near the Tilt-A-Whirl and the Headless Woman (“Still Alive!“) puts it right out front in big red letters: “Ryan’s FRIED DOUGH.”
Continue reading All’s fare at the Fair

Kayrouz family tradition, Part III

(Kayrouz Cafe, Voice-Tribune, Aug. 16, 2006)

Kayrouz

As far back as most of us can remember, the name “Kayrouz” has been synonymous with quality family dining in Louisville. J.P. Kayrouz Restaurant on St. Matthews Avenue, operated by Joseph Paul Kayrouz and his wife Norma, was one of the city’s most popular family restaurants for more than a quarter of a century, and J.P.’s father ran Kayrouz Cafe at Preston and Fehr streets downtown as far back as the 1920s.

So there was great wailing and hungry gnashing of teeth when J.P. Kayrouz closed in June 2003 and its building was demolished, giving way to the new Wilson & Muir Bank & Trust Co. building.

But everyone who misses the Kayrouz commitment to quality cooking and attentive service may now rejoice: J.P.’s son, Christopher, has brought the family name back to the local dining scene in a small but charming little spot in St. Matthews, just a few blocks from his father’s longtime dining destination.

The little building had housed a series of “concept” restaurants, tested here before moving out to new locations, including the original Tony Boombozz, Thatsa Wrapp, the first Bazo’s and the short-lived Benny B’s sandwich shop. Now thoroughly and attractively renovated by Mr. Kayrouz, it appears the latest occupant is here to stay.
Continue reading Kayrouz family tradition, Part III

You’re Toast, and that’s good

Lunch at Toast
Toast on Market chef George Morris has crafted an inventive menu based on comfort food, such as a meatloaf sandwich, a garlic cheddar grilled cheese and roasted garlic tomato soup. Photos by Robin Garr

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Toast on Market, and Kim’s ethnic fish tour)

Some of the wits on the LouisvilleHotBytes Restaurants Forum have taken to calling the growing cluster of eateries and watering holes on East Market and Main streets “Clay Street Live.”

From the BBC Tap Room to Jenicca’s Wine Bar, Artemisia and Kim’s and Melillo’s, Felice Winery and the Bodega and more, this unorganized collection of funky, independent local spots in the gentrifying zone east of I-65 boasts a lot more local character than Fourth Street Live, as far as we’re concerned. We love its distinctly Louisville accent, shorn of franchise logos and plastic.

The latest arrival, Toast on Market, makes a good thing even better. Continue reading You’re Toast, and that’s good

Four-star fish at Seafood Connection

Chef Mike Hungerford
Mike Hungerford cooks up fish tacos and more at the Seafood Connection in St. Matthews. Photos by Robin Garr

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Seafood Connection in St. Matthews, and six worthy plates of hummus)

I’ve never taken the position that an eatery must boast white tablecloths or tux-clad servers to qualify for four-star status. Upscale or down-home, if a restaurant takes on a specific challenge and does everything as well as it can possibly be done, then it earns my top rating, whether it’s a luxury dining destination, barbecue joint or neighborhood saloon.

Award a stellar galaxy, then, to what may be one of the smallest and least pretentious restaurants in the Metro.
Continue reading Four-star fish at Seafood Connection