Even in the depths of winter the local restaurant world is churning, offering new options, and sadly bidding adieu to old friends. Burger trucks and beer pubs are leaving, and even more pizza joints are arriving. Here’s what’s been happening recently.
- Liz and Jesse Huot, the impresarios behind Grind Burger Kitchen, 3311 Preston Hwy., have announced that they are are retiring their career-building food truck. Why? Because their restaurant has been so successful. They posted the news on their Facebook page:
“The success of the restaurant has really taken a lot of focus off of event planning and coordinating truck services to the point that it’s hindering business in the place where our hearts really are – the restaurant.”
The food truck–a trailer, actually–was a success too, with mentions on Food Network, citations by Eater National in its “America’s 30 Top Burgers” list, and named by LEO readers this year as best food truck.
Grind Burger Kitchen opened in the fall of 2014 at 3311 Preston Hwy., now serving Wednesday through Saturday. Retiring the food truck will likely lead to slightly expanded hours. With settling down at a store, the Huots were able to add a few new things to the menu beyond what the truck could accommodate: fries, of course, and a kale salad, and beer, which grew into a collaboration with Great Flood to brew a signature beer for the restaurant.
- The Bluegrass Brewing Co, at 660 S. Fourth St. in Theater Square, will close by the middle of February, pushed out of their first downtown location by the recently announced expansion of Kindred Healthcare, which will expand into most of the west side of the block north of Broadway.
The company is hoping to absorb as many of the 30 employees as they can, relocating some to other restaurants, but those they can’t relocate will receive severance packages, a rarity in restaurants.
- A metamorphosis is in store for Banh Mi Hero, 2245 Bardstown Rd. Owner Lee Tran announced recently on Facebook that the Vietnamese sandwich place will close on New Year’s Eve and will reopen in February 2015 as a panAsian noodle bar. Banh Mi Hero opened in December 2012, offering banh mis (Vietnamese sandwiches), fusion tacos, rice cups, and traditional Vietnamese coffee made with condensed milk. The company also launched a food truck this year.
Tran suggested that in addition to noodles, there might be room on the menu for a few banh mis and Vietnamese fusion tacos as well. His noodle dishes will be based on those passed down to him from his grandmother and mother, who runs Annie’s Cafe in the South End.
- Check’s Cafe, 1101 Burnett St., recently expanded its Germantown space, adding 1,900 square feet to its restaurant, for a total of about 4,500 square feet. The cafe was closed briefly in the summer to consolidate the the existing building and the new space.
The restaurant also added an 60-seat dining room on the second floor that is primarily used for large gatherings. Anyone can reserve the space for free. The business also is building a large outdoor patio upstairs, able to seat about 30 people.
- Chef Arpi Lengyel will leave Hillbilly Tea, 120 S. First St., at the end of the year to open a Hungarian restaurant called Gypsy, an idea that has been brewing in his imagination for 10 years, since he began to rediscover for himself his native cuisine. “Coming to America was so different and exciting,” Lengyel says. “It took me years and years to realize Hungarian cuisine is really good. People think it is only about goulash and paprika … It’s so far beyond that.”
Lengyel says he’ll re-create the country’s old dishes with his own twist. “I’ll make it a little more modern,” he says. “Hopefully, I can work in a little bit of molecular cuisine, just a little bit to make it more exciting.” He’ll visit Hungary early next year to gather more ideas, and hopes to find a space in downtown or NuLu.
- And when will pizza reach a saturation point? Two new out-of-state chains have Louisville in their sights for expansion.
Pie Five Pizza Co., a Dallas-based fast-casual chain, has visions of ten outlets in Lexington and Louisville by 2022. Kentucky franchisees Mark Mehrizi and Ford Lankford are set to open the first in Lexington next summer.
It’s unknown when the first Louisville store could open, Lankford told Business First.
“A lot of that depends on the real estate market and what kind of properties become available,” he said.
The Pie Five menu includes salads, desserts, traditional pizzas and nontraditional pizzas, such as a buffalo chicken pizza. The thin-crust pizzas are quick-fired for five minutes until cooked.
And, an eagle-eyed poster on hotbytes reports that a Pizzology store has opened on N. Hurstbourne Ln, “within walking distance” from the new Boombozz, in the strip next to the Penn Station, Moe’s and The Melting Pot. There are a couple of Pizzology outlets in the Indianapolis area, and though their business philosophy, as stated on their website, sounds at first a lot like the tag-line for a well-known local Louisville operation (“Pizzology has always held the belief that better food comes from better sources”) the statement goes on to talk about local sourcing of ingredients and getting meat from “animals raised with integrity,” which goes a bit further than “better ingredients, better pizza.”