Stalking the Dairy Dozen

Illustration by Gina Moeller

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(A dozen ice-cream delights, and we beef it up at Palermo Viejo)

When summer comes and the days turn us into overheated crankpots (pun intended), says Eat ‘N’ Blog correspondent ANDREA ESSENPREIS, she knows what to do: “We need to go out for ice cream. The simple act of sharing a scoop brings back memories of laughter, sticky chins and endless possibilities – which flavor will it be tonight? Cup or cone? Sundae or scoop?”

With Independence Day coming up and July designated as National Ice Cream month, it seemed only right to take on a simple but decidedly appealing challenge: Present a creamy, ice-cold and delicious overview of many things sweet and frozen in the Metro (and a few delights beyond the city limits). Essenpreis was delighted to volunteer for the duty, and I had no qualms about pulling a share of the load. Off we went, in quest of ice cream, and in no particular order, we now present … the Dairy Dozen.
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Finding a deal of a deli in Louisville

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Herman’s Deli, Stevens & Stevens and an Omega My Oh quest for salmon)

Illustration by Gina Moeller

Here’s something I’ve never quite understood: The word delicatessen, from the German delikatessen, which the Teutons borrowed in turn from the Italian and French words delicatezza and delicatesse, means, well, delicacies or maybe delicate eats.

Delicate? What in the heck is delicate about fatty meats like pastrami, corned beef, tongue and chopped chicken liver, piled high on thick rye bread with mustard and onions and dill pickles? Or, depending on your ethnic preference, an antipasto on a bun, salami and capicola and sopressata and mortadella and maybe a little prosciut’ and some peperoncini peppers on a crusty hero loaf?

Let’s face it: Deli fare is European po’ folks’ comfort food, filling and fatty, designed to fill and fuel the inner person for a hard day’s work.
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Big Bubba’s smokin’

Illustration by Gina Moeller

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Scotty’s BBQ, Heady’z, Gelato Gilberto, Westport General Store)

Yes, we’re talking barbecue again, all right? Get used to it. Properly smoked meat is one of nature’s most perfect foods. Get yourself outside of a rack of juicy, smoky ribs, and you really don’t need much of anything else.

Way out on the far east end of town, a gent who calls himself Big Bubba has been dispensing excellent ribs, with no extra charge for homespun commentary, since back in the day when there wasn’t much else around this tract-mansion-riddled region but corn and potato fields. Eat ‘N’ Blog correspondent DAN FARLEY says it just doesn’t get much better than this:

Let me say this right off the top: If you like barbecued ribs better than I do, you’re one sick puppy. I love them; I can’t do without them; I believe I can tell you where to get the best ribs in the Louisville area: Scotty’s, located at the end of a little strip mall on Shelbyville Road across from Copperfield, is the place.
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El Toro wins critic’s “Olé!”

El Toro

(El Toro and Salsarita’s, Voice-Tribune, June 7, 2006)

El Toro, the brave bull, sounds like it ought to be the name for a place that specializes in beef, and now that I think of it, the beef dishes at El Toro restaurant are, well, bueno. But it’s the mariscos – the seafood and fish – that really rattle my marimbas at this popular new East End eatery.

My Mexican-American foodie friend Javier put me on El Toro’s trail the other day with an excited E-mail message. “I am from Mexico … I think honestly that El Toro is the best [Mexican] restaurant in the city of Louisville right now. The service was excellent and the food was prepared very well. It is still somewhat Tex-Mex which bothers me but somehow they manage to make you forget that fact.”

This was high praise, coming from a guy who’s done time in the restaurant business himself. So I hastened to check it out, and came away convinced. If not the No. 1 Mexican restaurant in the metro – competition for that title is keen – it certainly exceeds expectations, and earns my recommendation for food, service and environment.
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Proof does lunch, and it’s good but pricey

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Proof on Main, Big Dave’s Outpost, Gasthaus, Erika’s)

Illustration by Gina Moeller

I’ve been just as impressed as everyone else by Proof on Main since this upscale eatery with its strong New York City connections opened at the beginning of March. As I wrote on after early dinners there, “I can’t rate it head and shoulders above Louisville’s top restaurants, but it’s certainly nudging its way into the city’s top tier, and it earns a place just into my four-star range based on food, style and service.”

Proof added lunch service this week, a move I had eagerly awaited, and it didn’t take me long to pop in to check it out. What we found was very good, if a little short of perfection, and – in slight contrast with Proof’s reputation for a comparatively affordable dinner bill of fare for a top-tier eatery, it may have been the most expensive lunch I ever ate. Our foursome – including a sophisticated 10-year-old – shared two appetizers, four lunch entrees, four desserts and only a single glass of a very modest Pinot Grigio, and ended up paying more than $120, with an appropriate tip bringing the tab up to a heart-stopping 150 bucks. For lunch!

Was it worth it? That’s a close call.
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Nios at 917: small plates, big taste

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Nios, Mayan Gypsy, Jeff Ruby’s preview)

Photo by Robin Garr: Nio’s at 917.

If these old walls could talk, what stories they might tell. This stunning, century-old red-brick building, with its big semicircular fanlights over glass-paned front doors, was originally the Gem theater, where actors trod the boards in a small but imposing barrel-vaulted room that now houses a dining room and the open kitchen at Nios at 917.

Did they play Shakespeare? Or vaudeville, or burley-cue? It’s hard to say. Before the 1950s, it was Shibboleth Hall, a Masonic lodge, and in recent years it has housed a succession of eateries and bars. The still-lamented Jupiter Grill was here, followed by a short-lived incarnation as a fish-taco spot, then @mosphere, a trendy establishment that ran into licensing problems that turned on the thorny issue of whether it was an eatery or a saloon.

Nios should have no difficulty with this regulatory question. Although it boasts a splendid bar with a lofty wine rack so tall that it needs library-style rolling ladders to reach the top shelves, it’s a restaurant indeed, and one that’s already showing potential to compete with the city’s top tables.
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