Category Archives: Commentary

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

Dining trends come and sometimes go

By Robin Garr

How can you tell when a trend has run its course? Yogi Berra had the right idea with his memorable observation, “Nobody goes there any more. It’s too crowded.”

Restaurant and culinary trends are sort of like that, too. A great new concept takes hold, catches fire, and before long everyone is doing it, some in slavish imitation, others adding their own riffs. And then everyone tires of the idea and we move on.

Except when we don’t. Continue reading Dining trends come and sometimes go

A stroll down restaurant Memory Lane

By Robin Garr

Covid, Delta, Omicron, BA.5, bah! Sometimes it seems as if the pandemic will never end. In fact, the experts say, it’s more likely to shift from pandemic to endemic status, which isn’t much better since it’s essentially acknowledging that it will always be around, like the flu or common cold.

While in some ways the pandemic has shown the resilience of the restaurant business, I sometimes wonder, too, how long that can last. We’ve lost too many favorite places, and those that remain are struggling with rising costs and shortages of both labor and food. Everyone is tired of Covid. Hardly anybody wants to wear a mask any more.

And yet, with the latest variants pushing Louisville back into the scary red zone, it’s all too tempting to skip dining out for a while, or at best to grab takeout or have something delivered to the relative safety of our homes. Continue reading A stroll down restaurant Memory Lane

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should: Menu edition

By Robin Garr

When a new friend or neighbor finds out that one of my jobs involves writing restaurant reviews, their first response is usually something like this: “Wow! You get to eat out at a different restaurant every week? That must be great!”

Why yes! Yes it is! It’s fun to try new eateries, and the older ones too. We’re fortunate in this food-loving city to have a restaurant culture that understands what diners want and knows how to deliver it.

I can hardly remember a place that really disappointed me. No, wait, now that I mention it I can remember a few, but let’s set that aside for now. Continue reading Just because you can doesn’t mean you should: Menu edition

Napa wine maker comes to town to make bourbon

By Robin Garr

I’ve often joked that Louisville’s effort to build bourbon tourism as a gigantic revenue source looks like a plan to turn Louisville into an urban version of the Napa Valley.

Since the late 1800s, Napa has lured tourists to come visit wineries, learn about wine, taste the stuff, and not incidentally, spend time and money at local eateries, taverns, and hotels. Who could blame our city government and business leaders for wanting to do something like that too, only with bourbon?

Great concept. But is it working? I wasn’t sure until I met Mark Joseph Carter, owner of California’s Carter Cellars at Envy Winery. Carter is a Napa wine maker who came to Kentucky to make bourbon. Continue reading Napa wine maker comes to town to make bourbon

Like food? Learn about food justice. This form can help

By Robin Garr

I’ve liked food for a long time. Coming of age in the time of Julia Child and James Beard and culinary stars like that, it didn’t take me long as a young adult to get interested in cooking and dining out.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the restaurant critic’s mic: The more interested I became in food and cooking, the more I wanted to learn about food. Where does it come from? How does it grow? How is it distributed? And maybe most of all, why is it that some people on this green Earth have so much food that they can throw it away, while others might want to fight for those scraps? Continue reading Like food? Learn about food justice. This form can help

Everything – well, some things – you wanted to know about appetizers

By Robin Garr

Appetizers! There’s something about simply hearing the name that gets your taste buds working, or mine, anyway. It even sounds so much more appealing than the hoity-toity French “hors d’oeuvres,” am I right?

So what is an appetizer, anyway, and where did this idea of offering a small, tasty bit before the main course come from? Continue reading Everything – well, some things – you wanted to know about appetizers

Half-price wine, what a deal!

By Robin Garr

It may be true that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, or at least that a free lunch rarely comes without a quid pro quo. But half-price wine? Now, that is a thing!

Locally and around the nation, a surprising number of restaurants choose at least one evening per week to offer all or part of its wine list at half-price, usually with the purchase of a meal. A few, like Louisville’s Volare Ristorante, go a step further with half-price wine seven days a week for patrons dining at the bar. Continue reading Half-price wine, what a deal!

It’s not your grandma’s church supper when Chef Lamas is in the house

By Robin Garr

Chef Anthony Lamas wrapped a towel around the handle of a screeching hot black iron skillet, swung around and showed off a dozen beautifully seared fresh-caught dry scallops the size of baseballs to an eager crowd.

“This is how you do it,” he said with a smile. “Dry scallops, never stored in liquid. Season them, slap them in a dry skillet as hot as you can get it, and don’t turn them until they come loose.” Continue reading It’s not your grandma’s church supper when Chef Lamas is in the house