By Robin Garr
In the joy of this almost post-pandemic summer, diners are rushing back to local restaurants. But servers, line cooks and other restaurant workers aren’t in such a hurry, so if you’re dining out in Louisville these days, you may encounter a wait.
You’ve heard the stories: A three-hour delay at a popular riverside fried-fish eatery. Two hours for seating at a popular watering hole, with many open tables in sight. Kitchens so backed up that you can’t even place an order. Harried staffers pulling multiple duty as greeter, server, cook, and cashier.
Indeed, a host warned of a “15-minute hold” at La Suerte recently, when the brunch crowd was apparently slamming the kitchen and slowing the pace of orders coming out.
Should we wait? Of course! If the eye-catching decor of bold red-chile, guacamole-green and Santa Fe sky blue didn’t hold our attention, the passing scene on Bardstown Road from our window seat surely would. Not to mention the eclectic playlist that cycled from the early Beatles to reggae to Motown and back.
As it turned out, our cordial server was quick to deliver plates, napkins, tall glasses of ice water, and delicious black coffee ($2.99) in sturdy white mugs. By the time we got a good look at Executive Chef Adrian (“Jojo”) Jimarez Neri’s menu, she was back to take our brunch order, and everything went smoothly thereafter.
If you don’t know Chef Jojo’s name, there’s a good chance that you know his work. He was in the kitchen at North End Cafe for most of its 17-year run in Clifton before it closed last year. He may have influenced the popular Latin dishes (migas, enchiladas, tacos, tapas) on its international menu. The shorter-lived North End branch on Bardstown Road gave way to La Suerte, which he opened in April 2019.
Now it’s all Mexican and South American, all the time, with a full menu daily plus Sunday brunch.
The brunch menu offers a tasty range of egg dishes and other Latin-style breakfast dishes. If you go, take note that the current house menu is not as extensive as the menu on La Suerte’s website, a shift that I assume is pandemic-related. Don’t set your heart on a dish featured on the website until you confirm that it’s currently available.
The names of dishes are given in Spanish, mostly, but descriptions are in English. Thirteen egg dishes range in price from $7.99 (for molletes, which you might describe an open-face breakfast sandwich with refried beans, chorizo sausage, scrambled eggs, salsa and cheese) to $16.99 (for carne con huevos, an 8-ounce steak topped by two eggs). Save for that one outlier, every other egg dish is under $10.
A half-dozen breakfast specialties are $2 (for a cornmeal buttermilk pancake) to $9.99 (for a breakfast burrito stuffed with beans, rice, and chorizo). Twenty sides offer just about anything you’d find on a breakfast buffet, such as bacon or sausage ($3.25), plus beans, rice, fries, even your choice of a half-dozen salsas.
If you come back for dinner, the daily menu features salads, taco plates, a half-dozen seviches, tapa-style appetizers, and 14 entrees priced from $11.99 (for a cheeseburger, torta al pastor, or a vegetarian torta).
Huevos divorciados ($8.99), pictured at the top of the page, are named after a Mexican joke that you may have heard before: Two fried eggs are placed angrily facing away from each other atop a pile of home-fried potatoes, scrupulously not touching; one topped with green salsa, the other with contrasting red. If you’ve ever talked to a friend in the midst of an angry divorce – or been there yourself – you’ll understand this image right away.
La Suerte’s rendition of this dish will leave you anything but bitter and angry, though. The skin-on home-fries are tender and just as deliciously greasy as this breakfast tradition should be; they’re topped with thick refried black beans and crumbled queso blanco. The eggs were served over easy, with yolks still runny enough to melt into the dish when you break them with your fork. The green salsa is piquant and herbal; the red is more fiery and redolent of chile peppers, while snipped fresh cilantro adds grace notes to a flavor symphony. Don’t want runny eggs? They’ll make them as you like them.
A hearty potato melt ($7.99) started with a pile of the home fries slathered with a mix of Monterey jack and cheddar, run under the broiler until the edges of the potatoes charred and the cheese cloaked the potatoes in a cheesy shell. It was topped with a generous dollop of creamy guacamole, sour cream, and fresh-tomato pico de gallo.
A side order of breakfast sausage ($2.50) consisted of two hefty pork patties, juicy and seared with char marks from the grill.
Also ordered a la carte, a cornmeal buttermilk pancake ($2) was big enough to fill a plate, and cornmeal added a pleasant crunch and corn flavor to the tangy buttermilk batter. A dab of melted butter on top and a splash of maple syrup made it a splendid brunch dessert.
Brunch for two came to $29.11, plus a $7 tip.