Category Archives: Commentary

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

When KFC gets faux chik’n, plant-based meat’s time has come

If you still think the recent wave of faux meats made from plants is just a passing fad that won’t last, consider this: On Monday, KFC rolled out Beyond Meat’s new plant-based chicken nuggets for a short-term test at all 4,000 U.S. shops, boxed not in the traditional red but a tasteful environmental green. Continue reading When KFC gets faux chik’n, plant-based meat’s time has come

Two more closings end a bleak 2021

And the hits just keep on coming. It seems appropriate, in a meta kind of way, to quote a hit by the musician and songwriter Michael Nesmith, who died this month, to mark the passing of two more Louisville restaurants as the year nears its close.

Both spots – Faces Bar/Bistro at 1604 Bardstown Road, and The Fuelery Restaurant and Cafe at 2011 Frankfort Avenue – were born, lived, and died during the pandemic. Faces opened in June 2020, pushed back by the looming pandemic from a planned March opening. The Fuelery opened at the beginning of 2021. Continue reading Two more closings end a bleak 2021

Why leave? Local chef becomes a full-time Dad

Just about a year ago, sadly listing about 30 favorite restaurants that had closed forever during the first full year of Covid-19, I wrote, “the arrival of a pandemic that none of us saw coming at this time last year turned 2020 into a swirling black whirlpool that didn’t make anyone happy.”

Would 2021 be better? With a vaccine on the near horizon, a new national administration coming in, we dared to hope so, even while caseloads and positivity levels remained high.

So here we are, almost at the end of 2021. Most of us are doubly vaccinated now, and many are boosted. That’s good, right? Continue reading Why leave? Local chef becomes a full-time Dad

The Great Resignation: Why a CIA-trained chef quit

If I was asked to name a local chef most likely to join the Great Resignation, I would never have thought of Meghan Levins. Yet now she’s a full-time webinar monitor for a national virtual education firm.

Look at Levins’ biography, you might think, “There’s a chef for life.” She’s been working in restaurants since she was 15, when her Mom told her that if she wanted a car she was going to have to earn it. She took the challenge, grabbed an after-school job at the Molly Stark Tavern in her home town in New Hampshire.

Her job was bussing tables, she said, but she quickly fell in love with working in the kitchen. Management nurtured her, created a pantry chef job for her, and by her senior year in high school, gave her the recommendation that got her into CIA, the Culinary Institute of America. Continue reading The Great Resignation: Why a CIA-trained chef quit

D. Nalley’s owner gives an MBA’s-eye view of the supply-chain roller-coaster

Imagine yourself as the owner and cook at a popular short-order diner. Suddenly you look around and discover that the price of your cooking oil has tripled, and you can’t buy biscuits for love or money.

Those challenges make things tough when your customers are looking for breakfast all day and the many fried delights that make diner fare so delicious. And that’s just the beginning, says Gibin George, owner and chef at D. Nalley’s Diner. Continue reading D. Nalley’s owner gives an MBA’s-eye view of the supply-chain roller-coaster

Memories! Recalling the restaurants we loved and lost

Robin Garr
LouisvilleHotBytes.com

If you have lived in Louisville for more than a year or so, you’re surely mourning at least one favorite restaurant that isn’t with us any more.

A lot of us are mourning dozens! The restaurant business is a rough road, and success is far from guaranteed in a business with very narrow margins for profit. A 2005 study by Ohio State University concluded that 60 percent of new restaurants didn’t make it past the first year, and 80 percent go under within five years. It’s not a venture for the weak. Continue reading Memories! Recalling the restaurants we loved and lost

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

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