When I finished the 12-year review of restaurants that had opened and closed during the first 50-issue run of Food & Dining for the previous issue, I heaved a sigh of relief and thought that we were caught up, and that the next stab at that feature would be easy. Well, that certainly was not the case. The vigor of the restaurant business continues unabated, with 20 new businesses already opened or set to open in the next few months, and eight other additions to chains, local and otherwise, added in the last three months. Twelve restaurants have closed since we last took count, two others with multiple outlets closed one of them and four others have closed for the time being due to fire damage or remodeling. Those total numbers are fairly consistent with the churn reported in recent issues, with the numbers favoring growth overall. Since Louisville has made a couple of different “Best Food Cities” lists in recent weeks, it is a relief to note that the trend in this tricky and uncertain business continues to be positive.
For six out of the last eight issues, we have reported on new restaurants opened by Fernando Martinez and his OLÉ restaurant group. The new Martinez property, Mercato Italiano, 10640 Meeting St., is a snazzy little restaurant and Italian marketplace, a fine addition to the growing restaurant presence out in Norton Commons.
The lengthy renovation of the old tire store and garage at 2235 Frankfort Ave. is finally done, and the result is The Hub, an elegant but inviting play space (with pool tables and other games), L-shaped bar (featuring several popular cocktails on tap) and restaurant, with an ambitious small plates menu by young chefs who have come out of Dean Corbett’s organization.
Downtown diners can sample another version of Nashville-style hot chicken at Royals Hot Chicken, Ryan Rogers’ take on the trendy dish. He has taken over the old neighborhood theater at 736 E. Market St. that had been Toast, then Taco Punk, and remade it in his own style, just a stroll west from his Feast barbecue store.
Opening soon, if plans go right, will be two new operations by John Varanese, both with the same address, 3015 River Rd. River House Restaurant and Raw Bar will be the more formal space, with a menu reflecting both Kentucky tastes and the dishes of South Carolina Low Country, along with a raw bar, because, Varanese said, there is a need for one locally. Levee at the River House will be a less formal, more entertainment-focused space in the same building, a former boat storage facility right on the river.
Another longtime presence on the local food scene who has been expanding her reach in recent years is Susan Hershberg, whose Wiltshire operation will open and run Wiltshire at the Speed when the Art Museum, at 2035 S. Third St., reopens in March after a multi-year renovation.
The towns across the river continue to see new restaurant businesses popping up, too. In Jeffersonville, the O’Shea’s organization is renovating a 19th-century dry goods building and naming its new restaurant after the proprietor of that historical property. H.M. Frank’s: an O’Shea’s Public House will be at 355 Spring St.
New Albany will soon see two new restaurants. Ian Hall, owner of the popular Exchange Pub + Kitchen, is opening a steakhouse he is calling Brooklyn & the Butcher at 148 E. Market St. The offerings will include fresh seafood and small plates, as well as a range of beef cuts, from New York strip and bone-in rib eye to flatiron steaks.
Also in New Albany will be Gospel Bird, at 207 E. Main St. There, Eric Morris and his crew (which includes his 10 Tables partner, Ethan Ray) will cook up Southern staples such as apple cider and ham hock collard greens, and variations on chicken (rotisserie, fried, etc.), but will not limit themselves to only Southern dishes and ingredients. A build-your-own buttermilk biscuit menu with multiple proteins, gravies, veggies and heat levels to choose from is likely to be a hit.
As long as we are in New Albany, we have to say a few words about the two new breweries that have opened recently, Donum Dei, at 3211 Grant Line Rd., and Floyd County Brewing, at 129 W. Main St. These are small-scale craft operations, started by home brewers who just couldn’t stop there. Both are profiled by Roger Baylor in this issue (see page 14).
And while the topic is beer, we can segue back across the river to Germantown, where Monnik Beer Co. has finally finished its long rehabbing of the space that was Zeppelin Café at 1036 E. Burnett Ave., across from Check’s Café. The brewers are cooking up a variety of beers, but the IPA has been winning raves, as has the brief menu, with English pub-style dishes such as curry beans and Mokie’s Pie, in either pork and currant or roasted root vegetables versions.
Joining this continuing upsurge of locally made craft beer is World of Beer, a national chain offering lots of different beer choices and an extensive pub menu. The Louisville location is at 9850 Von Allmen Ct., an area that is fast becoming an East End restaurant hot spot.
Other recent openings include Corner, the bar and small bites restaurant in the new Aloft Hotel, 102 W. Main St.; Wiseguys Italian Kitchen, an Okolona pizza parlor at 4413 St. Rita Dr.; and the only other chain operation we can report on in this issue, Which Wich?, a sandwich emporium at 9850 Von Allmen Ct. Soon to open are BirraCibo, at 445 S. Fourth St., in 4th Street Live (an Italian restaurant started by Junior Bridgeman’s restaurant group); Press on Market, a coffee house at 252 E. Market St.; and 502 Bar & Bistro at 10401 Meeting St. in Norton Commons, an upscale sports bar with a full dinner menu. Old Louisville Tavern, a longtime institution on the edge of U of L that suffered considerable fire damage last year, is set to re-open at 1532 S. Fourth St.
Joella’s Hot Chicken, Tony Palombino’s newest venture, has proved so popular that he decided to open a second location almost immediately, at 12222 Shelbyville Rd. in Middletown, with a third in the works in NuLu. Joella’s also has an outlet in Lexington, and Palombino plans to bring his take on Nashville-style hot chicken to Indianapolis as well.
Zeggz Amazing Eggs, a breakfast and lunch spot, has opened two new locations locally, at 11615 Shelbyville Rd. in Middletown and at 2400 Lime Kiln Ln. in the East End. Two new Shiraz Mediterraneans have opened, one downtown at 237 S. Fifth St. and one in the East End at 4614 Chamberlain Ln.
For the first time ever we are listing a Fernando Martinez restaurant as closed: Cena, the Italian restaurant that was located in the basement rooms below the original Mussel and Burger Bar at 9200 Taylorsville Rd. Martinez, with several other irons in the fire, decided that Cena was not performing as well as he had hoped and reasoned that, since he had many requests for large parties and meetings at Mussel and Burger Bar, the Cena space could be used better. His Italian food jones is now being worked out at Mercato Italiano in Norton Commons.
Two long-lived favorites have decided to retire after many years in the restaurant biz. John Petrie had met St. Matthews’ lunch needs for 28 years at The Feed Bag, 133 Breckenridge Ln. The building was sold, and he decided not to try to move. His Reuben sandwiches and his Chumbo, a mixture of chili and gumbo, will be missed.
Also retiring after an even longer stretch in the restaurant business, but not as long on the local scene, is Louis Retailleau, owner and chef at Louis le Français, 133 E. Market St., New Albany. The warm and engaging Retailleau made many friends and fans in his all-too-short stay in Southern Indiana.
Other closings include Yafa Café, which lost its building at 22 Theater Sq. to the Kindred expansion along Fourth and Broadway. Shane’s Rib Shack closed at 2420 Lime Kiln Ln. as did Bluegrass Cafe, 3819 Bardstown Rd., and Sweetie Pie Soul Foods at 4900 Poplar Level Rd. Don Juan Birria & Carnitas was converted into a Señor Iguanas at 5637 Outer Loop. Also closed: Overtime Sports Bar & Grill, 307 Central Ave.; Catrachos Restaurant, 4231 Taylor Blvd.; Bread and Breakfast, 157 E. Main St., New Albany; and Charlie Noble’s Eatery + Draught House, 7815 Old Ind. 311, Sellersburg, Ind.
Fuji Japanese Steakhouse has closed its Middletown store at 12905 Shelbyville Rd. but is still serving at its other location, 3576 Springhurst Blvd. Breadworks has closed its East End outlet at 2420 Lime Kiln Ln. but still bakes at three other locations.
CLOSINGS (FOR NOW)
Both SuperChefs, 106 Fairfax Ave., and Silvio’s Italian Restaurant, 104 Fairfax Ave., were severely damaged by fire a few weeks ago. Both intend to reopen, but it is still unclear when that might be. The Chop Shop Salads store downtown at 436 W. Market St. has been closed for remodeling for a while now, but no progress has been noted. And finally Winston’s, the fine dining restaurant at Sullivan University, 3101 Bardstown Rd., is closed. The Culinary and Hospitality program at Sullivan, which used the restaurant for training culinary students, has decided to rethink the restaurant’s focus and is renovating the space and the concept, but no word has yet come about what they have in mind.
And finally, it is appropriate to mention a few personnel changes at major restaurants that have occurred recently. Harvest, The Oakroom, 610 Magnolia and Milkwood have all seen changes in their kitchens. The big shuffle started when Coby Ming left Harvest to rejoin the Wiltshire organization to help Susan Hershberg start up the new café, Wiltshire at the Speed. Patrick Roney, who had been chef at The Oakroom at the Seelbach Hilton, left the hotel restaurant world to become executive chef at Harvest. Nick Sullivan, longtime executive chef at 610 Magnolia, moved to take over the helm at The Oakroom, where he has recently introduced a new menu. Edward Lee shifted his staff around a bit, naming Milkwood’s Executive Chef Kevin Ashworth to that position at 610 Magnolia, and that round of musical chairs stopped when the executive chef position at Milkwood was filled by the promotion of Chef de Cuisine Glenn Dougan to the top spot there.
But there have been other moves by chefs elsewhere in town, too. Tyler Morris, who came to Louisville from New York with Rye’s founder, Michael Trager-Kusman, has departed Rye to join his wife in California. At the helm there now are Chef Adam Mace and Chef de Cuisine Zachary Chancey.
Both Eric Morris and Ethan Ray, who have been involved with a number of interesting new restaurant concepts in recent years, including 10 Tables and Epic Sammich Co., have left both of those businesses to start Gospel Bird.
Griffin Paulin, the first chef at Over the 9, has left that successful startup to cook at Corbett’s. The executive chef at Corbett’s, Michael Dunbar, left Corbett’s late last year, and Corbett’s Sous Chef Jeffrey Dailey was promoted to executive chef.
Chef Oscar Maldonado left Wiltshire Pantry Bakery and Cafe to join Ryan Rogers’ crew at Royals Hot Chicken. And, finally, Robert Temple, formally sous chef for Mesh, has been named head butcher and executive chef at Brooklyn & The Butcher, soon to open in New Albany. F&D