Fried chicken? Falafels? Captain Pepper Jack’s mixes it up

LEO’s Eats with LouisvilleHotBytes
(By Paige Moore-Heavin)

When my friend Lynn suggested Captain Pepper Jack’s Aero Bistro for girls’ night out, I was a little confused. This place, which opened near Bowman Field in May, was new to me. “It’s part Southern American and part Mediterranean,” she said. Well, that’s an odd combination. But, ever the foodie, I was willing to give this culinary mash-up a try.

I arrived at 6:15 p.m., and a friendly waitress/hostess offered my pick of tables. The restaurant is a big, open room painted in dark colors, with a small tiki-style bar in the back and vintage travel posters lining the walls.

Within a few minutes, the waitress returned to ask for my drink order. Because beverages aren’t listed on the temporary, photocopied menu, she brought a price list from the bar. Drink prices are affordable: $2.75 for bottled domestic beer, $3.50 for a glass of house wine to $4.50 for top-shelf liquor.

I ordered a bottle of import beer ($3.50), browsed the menu and waited for my friends. As the dining room filled, the speed and quality of service declined noticeably. Drink orders were slow to arrive. Water came by request only. By the time we were ready to order appetizers, we had to wave our arms for attention.

Our first appetizer, artichoke pub nuggets ($6.99), consisted of perfectly batter-fried artichoke wedges with a tangy horseradish cream sauce. They were so good that we ordered a second helping. Our second appetizer, coconut prawns ($7.99), arrived with a side of mango marmalade – but without the side of plantains described on the menu. We told the waitress, who hustled back to the kitchen. Within a few minutes, the chef arrived with piping hot wedges of plantain, which we used to sop up the rest of the mango sauce.

Later, our waitress nowhere to be found, the chef returned to take our entrĂ©e orders. All hit a high note, but we waited way too long for them – perhaps because Lynn’s fried chicken ($11.99) was cooked to order. But after the first bite of that chicken, we realized the wait was worth it. It was crispy and golden brown outside, flavorful and juicy inside, without a speck of extra grease. That chicken is doing someone’s grandma proud.

Aside from the fried chicken, we ordered from the western hemisphere (chicken and dumplings), the eastern hemisphere (a gyros) and somewhere in between (the kibby burger – a hybrid of burger and bulghur). I got the hot twist ($11.99), a chicken kabob seasoned with a sweet-spicy kick of Pakistani and Indian spices. The chicken was tender and juicy, served with a side of nutty, subtly spiced rice and a perfectly cooked medley of zucchini, squash and peppers.

Everyone at the table raved about their food – especially the artichoke appetizer and fried chicken. If management can kick up the slow, disjointed service, Louisville’s newest culinary mishmash will really shine.

Captain Pepper Jack’s Aero Bistro
2810 Taylorsville Road
Rating: 83 points