Category Archives: Commentary

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

Travel on a plate with our critic’s favorite world restaurants

Robin Garr
LouisvilleHotBytes.com

A lot of people call Vietnamese or Nigerian eateries “ethnic,” but they look at you funny if you use the same word to describe a pizzeria or a fancy French dining room. What’s up with that?

“Immigrants’ identities are deeply tied to the foods we bring with us,” Washington Post features writer Lavanya Ramanathan wrote in a 2015 story that explained it well. Added Krishnendu Ray, a New York University professor of food studies: “We use the descriptor ‘ethnic’ for a category of things we don’t know much about, don’t understand much about and yet find it valid to express opinions about.”

That’s enough for me. When people tell me how they’d like me to talk about them, I’ll listen. So let’s call them “world” restaurants in this week’s excursion into good things to eat, a round-the-world trip without leaving Louisville. Continue reading Travel on a plate with our critic’s favorite world restaurants

What’s the critic’s favorite restaurant? It’s complicated.

By Robin Garr
LouisvilleHotBytes.com

“What is your favorite restaurant?” “What’s the best restaurant in town?” As a frequent diner who writes about my experiences, I get these questions often.

My stock answers, though, aren’t as simple as you might expect: My favorite is probably wherever I ate last. The best? I won’t name just one. I might name ten, but which ten? They change often. And that’s without considering the pandemic, the favorites that have closed, and new favorites still finding their footing.

In other words, to talk about my favorite restaurant is going to require a full column, because it’s like potato chips: I can’t do just one. High-end, white tablecloth, cheap eats? Down-home, world cuisine … from where?

So let’s break this down, and I’ll tell you about a bunch of places that I particularly like.

White Tablecloth
Anoosh Bistro’s braised lamb shank with mashed potatoes.Anoosh Bistro’s braised lamb shank with mashed potatoes.
Anoosh Bistro’s braised lamb shank with mashed potatoes.

For the record, white-tablecloth restaurants don’t actually require, you know, white tablecloths. But they should be elegant and upscale, with excellent food and attentive service. Two of my current favorites are Seviche (1538 Bardstown Road, 473-8560), where Chef Anthony Lamas presides over some of the best creative pan-Latino fare around, with a commitment to sustainable seafood and fish (including the tuna seviche pictured above); and Anoosh Bistro (4864 Brownsboro Center, 690-6585) where Chef Anoosh Shariat offers upscale American cuisine with international touches in a stylish setting.

Steaks

As an old stockyards town, Louisville has its share of steakhouses, most of which exist in the same rarified price altitudes as white-tablecloth restaurants. Among many, I enjoy Le Moo (2300 Lexington Road, 458-8888) for the quality of its steaks, yes, but also for the variety of its bill of fare; and of course the memorably wacky decor. Another favorite is Brooklyn and the Butcher (148 E. Market St., New Albany, Ind., (812) 590-2646. Located in the stylish environs of a historic former hotel, it offers an enticing mix of quality steaks and chops plus a raw bar, intriguing small plates, even creative vegetarian options.

Seafood

I already told you about Seviche, which fits equally well under white tablecloth, upsale Latino, and seafood categories. Another winner in this department (that could also be listed in top Italian) is Volare Italian Ristorante, 2300 Frankfort Ave., 894-4446) where Chef Joshua Moore combines an impressive, chef-driven Italian menu with locally sourced ingredients, and daily seafood specials featuring fresh, sustainably line-caught fish.

All these places are delightful, and on the pricey side. That’s a problem for me, because between pandemic restrictions and pandemic economics, affordable dining is both a choice and a necessity for me these days.

Happily, Louisville is rich with cheap eats, where a couple can dine in style for $50 or less, and sometimes even for $30 or below.

Burgers
Shady Lane Cafe's Brownsboro Burger.
Shady Lane Cafe’s Brownsboro Burger.

Can’t afford a steak? How about a burger? Louisville has a wealth of burger joints, and it’s hard to go wrong at any of them. I’m always happy to dine at Shady Lane Cafe (4806 Brownsboro Road, Brownsboro Center, 893-5118). a longtime favorite where a relatively recent ownership change didn’t affect the quality of the delicious Brownsboro burger. A more recent arrival, BurgeriIM (3733 Lexington Road, The Vogue Center, 901-1101), landed at the start of the pandemic, survived a leap from chain to independent ownership, and earns deserved popularity for its quality product.

Pizza, Italian
A perfect MozzaPi cheese pie topped with roasted red peppers and mushrooms.
A perfect MozzaPi cheese pie topped with roasted red peppers and mushrooms.

Pizza is so popular that a few new pizzerias even opened during the pandemic while most of us were hunkering down. I’ve rarely met a pizza I didn’t like, so it’s hard to narrow down to just two or three. Still, I’m never shy about recommending MozzaPi (12102 La Grange Road, 494-7012), for its exceptional pizzas and other baked goods made with flour from artisanal wheat milled on the premises. That’s commitment taken to the next level. Another favorite is Pizza Lupo (1540 Frankfort Ave., 409-8440). which offers remarkable wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzas, pastas, and small plates from a lovely old red-brick house on the edge of Butchertown.

For fine Italian eateries with exceptional pizza on the menu, I’d choose bar Vetti (moved during the pandemic from the 800 Building to the AC Hotel , 727 E. Market St., 883-3331) and Ciao Ristorante, 1201 Payne St., 690-3532), which excel in both departments.

Pub Grub
A glass of Hauck's American Pilsner at Monnik.
A glass of Hauck’s American Pilsner at Monnik.

It’s hard to go wrong at the region’s many pubs and brewpubs. They’re all worth a visit; I’m a particular fan of Pints & Union (114 E. Market St.. New Albany, Ind., (812) 913-4647) for its delicious small plates and extensive beer list; and Monnik Beer Co., 1036 E. Burnett Ave.. 742-6564), for its family-style Germantown vibe, first-rate brewpub brews, and tasty bill of fare.

Vegan
Barbecued vegan beef at V-Grits
Barbecued vegan beef at V-Grits

I’ve often declared that V-Grits (1025 Barret Ave., 742-1714) is not just one of my favorite vegan restaurants, it’s one of my favorite restaurants, period. Delicious chicken and beef dishes taste like the real thing, yet they’re made entirely from veggies. Try it: You’ll like it. And don’t miss out on a pint of excellent beer from its partner brewery, Chimera Brewing.

World fare

All this and I haven’t even gotten around to Louisville’s extensive world-wide selection of deliciousness from our immigrant neighbors: From taquerias to the Mediterranean, Africa and the Pacific Rim. This sounds like another column for another day. Bon appetit!

Dining and the Delta variant

Robin Garr
LouisvilleHotBytes.com

When I got my Covid vaccination a few months ago, I thought this long national nightmare was over,. Ha! The nasty Delta variant has brought Covid roaring back.

“This is the worst the pandemic has been,” a masked Gov. Andy Beshear told Kentuckians last week, as more than 4,500 new cases were reported daily, and the state’s 13.66% positivity rate set a grim new record. “Please, at least take the same precautions you did earlier in Covid,” Beshear said.

But let’s face it: It doesn’t look as if that’s going to happen. The numbers may look as bad as they did in 2020, but we aren’t all huddled in our houses, again, living on takeout and delivery. Why not? Continue reading Dining and the Delta variant

Many disability access barriers are easy to fix

By Robin Garr
LouisvilleHotBytes.com

“With today’s signing of the landmark Americans for Disabilities Act,” intoned President George H.W. Bush in March 1990, “every man, .woman, and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence, and freedom.” The ADA promised access for disabled people to public accommodations such as restaurants.

Now, 31 years after Bush’s glowing promise, how’s that working out for disabled diners in Louisville restaurants? Continue reading Many disability access barriers are easy to fix

Noosh Nosh satisfies at any time of day

By Robin Garr
LouisvilleHotBytes.com

Here is the eternal question about dining out: Do we want to go someplace excellent but pricey, or shall we hit an eatery with great affordable fare?

Thanks to the wit and wisdom of Chef Anoosh Shariat, you can jump in the car and hold that decision until you swing into your parking place. Continue reading Noosh Nosh satisfies at any time of day

A happy return to El Mariachi, a favorite taqueria

By Robin Garr
LouisvilleHotBytes.com

Hola! I finally got back to a favorite taqueria, El Mariachi, last week, and oh, did it make me happy.

Now I wish it hadn’t taken me so long, but I felt uneasy about the idea before I finally got fully vaccinated. There’s typically some language barrier for me at the storefront places I love best – I can read Spanish fairly well, but I’m not good with conversations en español – so I couldn’t gear up to investigate a favorite spot’s takeout and curbside delivery options.

Now that’s over, and I hope it’s over to stay. Continue reading A happy return to El Mariachi, a favorite taqueria

Pints & Union, a London pub in New Albany

By Robin Garr
LouisvilleHotBytes.com

Let’s head over to New Albany for a London pub experience at Pints & Union! It’s the real deal: They’ve got great beers, ales, porters and stouts! They’ve got that dark and cozy British pub vibe! They’ve got great fish and chips! And they’ve got Indian tikka!

Wait! What?

Yes, you heard that right: The most characteristic British pub-style dish is not the fish and chips that I can hear you assuming, but chicken tikka, the spicy chicken curry dish that Indian immigrants brought to Britain and shared with the world. Continue reading Pints & Union, a London pub in New Albany

We find our way to good eats at Joy Luck

By Robin Garr
LouisvilleHotBytes.com

It doesn’t seem reasonable to say that it’s hard to find good eats on Bardstown Road on a Sunday afternoon, but I was sure feeling that way the other day.

Trekking through this usually busy restaurant row on a sizzling afternoon, I struck out at three places before we got to Joy Luck. Success! Heck, I really wanted Chinese food anyway, or so I told my easily convinced self. Continue reading We find our way to good eats at Joy Luck

Wild Eggs scores with every plate

By Robin Garr
LouisvilleHotBytes.com

One cloudy, stormy looking March afternoon last year, when lockdown had just begun and we all were starting to reckon with the scary reality that the pandemic was here to stay for a while, I got out and walked through a completely deserted Westport Village.

I walked up to the big windows at Wild Eggs and saw an eerie scene, chairs perched upside down on tables in the empty room, and a vacant expanse of empty parking lot reflected in the big plate glass windows.

In that moment I decided to come back for a meal, or maybe a few, when things returned to normal. Continue reading Wild Eggs scores with every plate

The restaurant critic ponders the new normal

By Robin Garr
LouisvilleHotBytes.com

Slowly, gradually, with some stutter steps, Louisville’s restaurant scene, like the nation’s, is edging back toward normal, and I for one am delighted to see that.

But even with widespread vaccination and declining positivity rates that mean many of us are pocketing our masks much of the time, it’s a new kind of normal. Some restaurants have been lost. A few new ones have arrived. Takeout, delivery, even curbside service seem likely to stick as more frequent options than ever before. Continue reading The restaurant critic ponders the new normal