Our sibling print publication, Food & Dining Louisville Edition, will be on the streets with its Fall 2005 edition in a few weeks. Here’s a free preview, our quarterly report on openings, closings and changes on the local restaurant scene:
As we do every quarter, Food & Dining comes up with a quick, rough-and-ready diagnosis of the health of the local restaurant business by tracking recent restaurant openings and closings. This round, the doctor’s report is good, amid considerable activity: A total of 30 new restaurants have opened for business around the metro area, while only about 20 (including, unfortunately, a disproportionate share of mom-and-pop ethnic spots) closed their doors.
Perhaps the hottest recent opening features Primo, restaurateur Bim Deitrich’s latest venture, a stylish spot in a new building at 445 E. Market Street, near Slugger Field. Deitrich, a pioneer of the local restaurant industry who helped start the bistro boom in the 1970s, recreates the casual Italian concept of his late Allo Spiedo and moves it upscale here.
In the chain arena, two hot new corporate concepts are drawing huge crowds in the East End, with a wait of up to three hours reported for dinner at P.F. Chang’s China Bistro at 9120 Shelbyville Road, and an hour or two at The Cheesecake Factory, 5000 Shelbyville Road in the St. Matthews Mall.
Also in the ‘burbs, pizza enthusiasts who’ve been missing Benny Impellizzeri’s heavy-laden pies since he closed the family’s Highlands pizzeria will be delighted to see him back in business in the Lyndon Crossing shopping center, 812 Lyndon Lane.
Speaking of pizza, there’s more: Tony Boombozz’s familiar face turns up at a new suburban location with a spiffy touch of style. Tony Boombozz Pizza & Vino, 2813 N. Hurstbourne Parkway in Springhurst, offers his award-winning pizzas in a brushed-up “urban loft” setting, with well-chosen wine and beer selections to go with the casual Italian fare. Plus, Fat Tony’s Pizza moves in to replace Brick Oven Pizza at 9910 Linn Station Road, specializing in thin-crust, flavorful New York City-style pies and filling pasta dishes. On the pizza-chain front, Northern Kentucky’s Snappy Tomato chain stepped in to replace the Pizza Magia locations, with similar pizzas and, as a side dish, hot Buffalo-style wings worth a second look.
In Butchertown, New Jersey expatriates Frank and Debbie Travisano have opened the cozy diner-style Time to Eat Café in the premises vacated by the short-lived Fusion at 1605 Story Avenue. In Jeffersontown, partners Gene Stovall and Susan Cain offer homemade muffins and bagels and more at A Little Taste of Heaven Café in the historic old Seaton House, 10320 Watterson Trail. (No relation to the late, lamented Little Taste of Heaven in Crestwood, Stovall says.)
On the ethnic-eats front, please welcome Al Watan, a first-rate Near Eastern restaurant and bakery, 3713 Klondike Lane, and Liu’s Garden, with authentic Chinese fare in a hospitable family-run setting, 11517 Shelbyville Road in Middletown. There’s a taste of the exotic East in Karma Café, a casual, 24-hour dining room that replaces Rendezvous Cafe at 1126 Bardstown Road. Prefer Mexican? Marimba Mexican Restaurant, Louisville’s first outpost of the most popular Mexican restaurant in Shelby County, is open in the former Maharajah at 2901 Brownsboro Road; and Saul Garcia’s Sol Aztecas brings a Latino beat to the former home of Steam Fire & Ice, Diamonds and Timothy’s at 2427 Bardstown Road. For more Americanized Mexican, a corporate burrito-barn concept has arrived at St. Matthews’ Woodlawn Center in the form of Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina, a free-standing casual eatery and bar at 285 N. Hubbards Lane. Meanwhile, Southern Indiana says welcome to Tran Japanese Steakhouse, 4317 Charlestown Road.
Other recent arrivals on the local scene: Duke’s Grille & Bar, in the Holiday Inn at 4004 Gardiner Point; Hani’s, 1613 Bardstown Road, and Ocean Buffet, 11300 Maple Brook Way on the Kentucky side, and Jersey’s Café at 1515 Lynch Lane in Clarksville.
Out in Crestwood, Lanie Spooner has expanded her Lanie’s Latte from a coffee-and-pastry shop to a full-service family restaurant that’s drawing locals’ applause, now known as Station House Seafood Grill, 6000 Crestwood Station.
Also in Oldham County, Heather of the eponymous Heather’s on the River has leased out the property to proprietors Cherri and Rick Brown, who call the place On The River Dining now. The menu is down-home, and it’s still accessible by car or on foot at 1900 Victory Lane and by boat at Mile 589.9 on the Ohio River.
A number of restaurants have spawned additional properties at new locations: El Tarasco at 9901 Whipps Mill Road; FireFresh BBQ (all of whose properties have been re-christened from Firehouse BBQ), 12216 Shelbyville Road and 8610 Dixie Highway; Beef O’Brady’s, 3101 S. Second Street; Double Dragon II, 3179 S. Second Street; Quizno’s, 3173 S. Second Street and 10234 Westport Road; Tijuana Flats, 3598 Springhurst Boulevard, and, in Southern Indiana, Joe’s OK Bayou, 4308 Charlestown Road.
Finally, Vince Staten’s Old Time Barbeque is moving out the road a piece, leaving its longtime shopping-center storefront in Prospect for the spot where the old Melrose Inn building once stood, just across the Oldham County line at 13306 W.U.S. Highway 42. In Southern Indiana, the Ranch House burger joint in Highlander Point Shopping Center in Floyds Knobs gave up that historic name after a competitor acquired the rights. Call it Juke Box now, but the 1950s nostalgia style will remain.
A moment of particularly sad silence is due for the abrupt departure of Lentini’s, a half-century Louisville tradition at 1543 Bardstown Road. There’s talk of yet another effort to resuscitate the venture, but with a thorny legal thicket to be negotiated, we’re not holding our breath.
The loss of Mambo Cuban Cuisine, 5309 Mitscher Ave. in the South End, deprives the city of 50 percent of its Cuban dining, although we’re told that the management of Djuli, also in the Iroquois Manor shopping center at 5312 S. Third Street, is adding Cuban items to their Bosnian menu. Speaking of Bosnian, Papillon Grill & Bar, 1616 Grinstead Drive, has put up the shutters for the last time.
In addition to the previously noted Heathers On The River, Maharaja Indian Restaurant, Pizza Magia, Brick Oven Italian Eatery and Wang’s Wok, which have all given way to new eateries on the same premises, the down-home comfort of Blue Peppermill is gone from 1882 Blackiston Mill Road in Clarksville; and the nine-lives story of Pigasus closes another chapter, this time shutting down after a second shot at its original location at 822 State Street in New Albany.
Encore at Actors Theater has gone dark at 316 W. Main Street, though ATL’s management pledges that a new venture will replace it soon. Rollo Pollo closed in St. Matthews, but its spirit has been reborn as a steam-table meat-and-two option within the facilities at Prospect Fish Market, 9521A U.S. 42.
It was a particularly bad quarter for independent ethnic eateries: Edna’s Good Stuff, the city’s only Filipino eatery, closed its doors in Jeffersontown at 9810 Taylorsville Road. Also closing were House Of Dragon, which had been at 126 Breckenridge Lane in St. Matthews since the ’80s; the New Orleans-style Po-Boy Shoppe, 2286 Bardstown Road, and Asian Pearl buffet, 2060 S. Hurstbourne Parkway (although another Asian Pearl remains in Clarksville). Babylon Arabian closed at 1971 Brownsboro Road, El Paraiso is gone at 6201 Preston Highway, and Sarajevo Bosnian is dark at 325 Old Bardstown Road.
Two Kingfish properties shut down recently at 3401 Bardstown Road and 7483 Dixie Highway, and the J’town Mr. Gatti’s is gone from 9010 Taylorsville Road.