Nios at 917: small plates, big taste

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

Nio's
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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Fish story

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Islamorada Fish Co., Widow’s Walk, Limestone brunch and more)

Islamorada Fish Co.
Photo by Robin Garr: The Islamorada Fish Company holds forth inside the gigantic Bass Pro Shop in Clarksville. It’s named after a popular eatery in the Florida Keys.

It’s a long and winding trail, assuming you take the scenic route. Hike along a babbling brook, watching fish darting just beneath the surface (don’t throw in any coins, please … it’s not good for the fish).

Eat'n'Blog
Illustration by Gina Moeller

Hang a left near the waterfall, where a looming glass wall frames an aquarium significantly larger than the biggest that the Louisville Zoo has to offer. Climb the stone mountain – oh, all right, the three flights of stairs – marveling as you pass antelopes, mountain goats, even a family of black bears, oh my.

When you see a giant blue lamprey dangling from the ceiling, you’re there; and so what if the animals are stuffed and the lamprey shiny plastic and the scene straight out of Disney. There’s nothing in this town that can top Islamorada Fish Company for sheer exuberance. Call it “hunter-and-fisher gothic,” if you will; snobs might judge it tacky, but I find it hard to behold this vista without breaking into a goofy grin.
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Battle of the Big Dogs

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Lonnie’s, Zap’s, Wings-N-Things, Al Watan, Marrakech and more)

Eat'n'Blog
Illustration by Gina Moeller

Derby and Mother’s Day are behind us, proms and graduations are winding up, and we assume that most of us have had our fill of celebratory gatherings and white-tablecloth dining for a while.

Let’s give our battered wallets a break this week, as the Eat ‘N’ Blog crew fans out over the city to check out some affordable and savory snack foods: hot dogs, chicken wings and the more exotic realm of shish kebab.

Correspondent PAIGE A. MOORE takes us to the weenie-dog races as she stages a standup shootout between two of the city’s top purveyors of Chicago-style hot dogs.
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Brendan’s: Pub grub goes upscale

Brendan's

Voice-Tribune, May 10, 2006

It’s hard to believe that so many years have gone by so fast since I was a boy reporter for the old Voice-Jeffersonian back in the early 1970s. My beat included St. Matthews City Council, and this was no easy chore, as then-Mayor Bernard Bowling Sr. didn’t like the newspaper, an attitude that we reciprocated in full.

Bernie couldn’t keep us out of council meetings (although he would have liked to), but he ordered city officials and staff not to talk to “The Rag,” as he indelicately called us. This made reporting profoundly difficult, especially for a 20-something reporter without much investigative experience. But I had a secret, and 30-some years later, I guess it’s safe to let it out: A few of the city council members, kind gentlemen in their 70s who just weren’t as comfortable as their boss about the idea of being blatantly rude, would let me tag along when they went over to Maier’s Tavern to unwind with a few beers after meetings.
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If you knew sushi …

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes: Raw, Sapporo, Maido

Eat'n'Blog
Illustration by Gina Moeller

Like so many great culinary masterpieces, sushi traces its origin to the most prosaic of sources, according to sushi expert Dave Lowry, author of the useful pocket-size handbook, “The Connoisseur’s Guide to Sushi.”

“Legend credits the invention of sushi to an old woman who was worried that bandits might steal a pot of her rice,” Lowry writes. “She shinnied up a tree and stashed the rice in an osprey nest until the threat passed. When she retrieved the rice, it had begun to ferment. She also discovered that some of the ospreys’ fish scraps, which had fallen into the rice, were not only edible, but also, as far as comestibles left exposed to the elements in the living quarters of messy birds of prey go, rather tasty.”

Well, isn’t that appetizing?
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Tips on dining out during Derby

LEO’s Eat’n’Blog, May 3, 2006

Eat'n'Blog
Illustration by Gina Moeller

You’ve probably figured out by now that if you didn’t make your reservations around this time last year, you’re pretty much out of luck if you were planning to see or be seen at any of Louisville’s top tables on Oaks or Derby night – or for that matter, any night this week.

Like Mardi Gras in New Orleans or Super Bowl Sunday whatever town it’s in, Louisville’s great cultural and religious festival turns into the nation’s biggest party for the duration, attracting visitors from all over and, for at least this one week of the year, providing some credibility to our odd claim that the merged metro really is the 16th largest city in the nation.

And just about all of the gazillion locals and tourists, it seems, think they’re going to get in to Jack Fry’s on Saturday night. Well, here’s our Derby tip: It ain’t going to happen. No matter how well you tip your hotel’s concierge to make a connection for you.
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