Boldly flying the red, green, and white colors of the Italian flag, the St. Matthew's – Coals Artisan Pizza's version of the pizza Margherita made a splendid Covid recovery meal.

Best restaurant eats when you’re bouncing back from Covid

These three short features published in LEO Weekly today are my contribution to LEO’s 2022 Best in Louisville Staffpicks in LEO’s annual Readers’ Choice Awards. Be sure to check them out at the links!

By Robin Garr

Why, yes, I did get Covid last month, after 2 1/2 years of artfully avoiding the pandemic. And no, I am not recommending this to you as one of Louisville’s best things to do in 2022.

But Covid did teach me some useful things about eating. I didn’t have a lot of appetite while recovering, but a man’s got to eat, so I treated myself to local restaurant fare to fascinate my appetite. In this and the following two reports, I’d like to share with you my nominees for the best breakfast, lunch, and dinner (for me), when recovering from Covid.

Best breakfast when you’re recovering from Covid— Huevos Rancheros at Con Huevos

You need a good breakfast to start your day, and I can’t think of a better dish to jump-start my system when I’m not feeling it than the Huevos Rancheros at Con Huevos ($12.99). Yes! I’m feeling better just thinking about this gently spicy, crunchy yet soft combination of rich egg flavors and chile spice.

Literally “ranch eggs,” this is a hearty, filling dish that, in olden times, set up hard-working farm workers for a long day in the fields. Two glowing golden sunny-side-up eggs perch fetchingly atop crisp corn tortillas folded over creamy refried black beans and dressed with spicy salsa ranchera, avocado, and mild yet gently funky queso fresco.

Desayuno de campeones, I tellya … breakfast of champions!

Con Huevos, 2339 Frankfort Ave., 384-3027,
Another location: Con Huevos Holiday Manor, 4938 U.S. 42, 384-3744

Best lunch when you’re recovering from Covid — Margherita Pizza at Coals

Pizza has always been comfort food for me, since I was a little kid, and my infatuation only got worse after living in New York City for a few years and making frequent trips to Italy after that.

Naturally, when I was recovering from Covid and still felt short on appetite, pizza was one of the most tempting foods I could imagine. Must. Have. Pizza.

But where? Louisville is rich with pizzerias, and plenty of them are worthy. Heck, a good half-dozen favorites could call my name on any given day. But Coals Artisan Pizza always makes my top five with the tasty leopard-spotted crusts that emerge from its coal-fired oven; and Coals’ branch in St. Matthews’ Vogue Center is handy.

Best of all, its “St. Matthews” pie – Coals’ moniker for the classic Neapolitan pizza Margherita – is a perennial favorite. Simple, perfect, its three toppings of fresh tomato, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil reflect the red, white, and green colors of the Italian flag. Indeed, it was first created in Naples in 1889 and named in honor of the newly unified Italy’s first queen, Margherita.

The St. Matthews ($14.50) mirrors the original and ups the ante with fior de latte mozzarella and Coals’ tangy sauce. (You can even make it a breakfast pie, adding two eggs over easy and Nueske’s applewood smoked bacon for $2.50 more, but naah. Authenticity matters.)

Coals Artisan Pizza, Vogue Center, 3730 Frankfort Ave., 742-8200,
Another location: 11615 Shelbyville Road Suite 106, 253-0106

Best dinner when you’re recovering from Covid — Dal Makhani at Tikka House

The current Covid variants don’t usually completely demolish one’s senses of smell and taste. I’d have hated that. But Covid did tweak my taste buds. My whole tasting system was just off. Nothing tasted quite right. Bitter tasted more bitter, and spicy tasted like fire. The overall impact made me lose my appetite.

What could I do? Go for the dishes that make up my idea of comfort food: Huevos Rancheros, a traditional margherita pizza, and maybe best of all, to round out a day with a hearty, rich dinner, Indian daal makhani.

Daal in its many forms comprises spicy Indian lentil soups and stews, and you could call daal makhani the king of daals.

Makhani means “buttery,” and this rich, consoling dish from Northern India’s Punjab wraps a combination of long-simmered black lentils and red kidney beans in a rich robe of butter and cream. Reserved for special events, it’s often served at wedding feasts and other parties. And, of course, as an appetite kick-starter when I’m not feeling great.

The daal makhani at Louisville’s Tikka House ($13.99) is one of my favorites among many contenders, and two large pieces of tender, puffy garlic naan ($4.49) and long-grain basmati rice made it a filling meal.

Subtle, complex and harmonious spicing elevates Tikka House’s rendition, a thick, dark soup of black lentils and kidney beans – tender, flavor-loaded legumes – swimming in that thick, savory cream-and-butter sauce.

Tikka House, 3930 Chenoweth Square, 749-4535,