The activity in the local restaurant scene continues to be surprisingly strong, steadily chugging along, adding up to a total that took by surprise even this writer, who thought he was keeping is antenna tuned to the news.
But it turns out the four new places that had caught my attention — Loop 22, Atlantic No. 5, Jackknife Cafe and the return of La Peche — were only the tip of the 20 new restaurants have opened in the last three months, and that doesn’t count the seven established businesses that have opened new locations. In the same time, 17 restaurants have folded, and four other businesses with multiple outlets closed one of their locations. That makes for 27 restaurants that have opened against 21 that have closed, if you are counting.
The four new places that registered on my radar are all new enterprises spun off by established restaurateurs. Michael Kusman-Trager and his crew at Rye have opened a New York-style deli, Atlantic No. 5, at 605 W. Main St. The charcuterie that Rye executive chef Tyler Morris has been crafting will be one attraction on the new deli’s menu.
After several years developing her upscale Cellar Door Chocolate line, Erica Chavez-Gratiano is venturing into the restaurant world with Jackknife Cafe, 1201 Story Ave. The brunch and lunch cafe in the Butchertown Market building will offer a thoughtful selection of breakfast sandwiches and hot cereal, and sandwiches, soups and salads for lunch.
The ambitious fellows behind Hammerheads and Game, Chase Murcino and Adam Burress are backing Chef Eric Morris at Loop 22, 2222 Dundee Rd., who plans a rotisserie based menu with “world flavors”. And Kathy Cary is re-opening her La Peche Gourmet to Go and Cafe in what has been for many years the private dining room at Lilly’s, 1147 Bardstown Rd.
The Louisville central area has seen four new restaurants open recently. W.g. Grinders is downtown at 430 W. Jefferson St., Le Bossier Cafe caters to the near West End at 1800 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd., Pizza Donisi provides take out pies for Old Louisville and beyond at 1396 S. Second St., and Old Louisville Tavern offers beer and upscale bar food for the U of L community at 1532 S. Fourth St.
Elsewhere in Louisville, Atypical Man BBQ is smoking at 119 St. Matthews Ave. Ginza Asian Bistro serves sushi and more at 9420 Shelbyville Rd., and Clay Oven Indian Restaurant brings tandoori and other Northern Indian specialties to Middletown at 12567 Shelbyville Rd.
Teena’s Pizza is now baking at 3799 Poplar Level Rd., in the location that was Frolio’s Pizza for many years. Three new places are serving Mexican cuisine at various locations. Benito’s Burritos is at 13301 Magisterial Dr., La Riviera Maya is at 8104 National Turnpike, and Hay Chi Wa Waa at 808 Lyndon Lane has garnered strong early word of mouth for its convincingly authentic preparations.
Across the river, Jeffersonville has seen two new restaurant openings, and New Albany has added three. Big Four Burgers and Beer is serving its titular items at 134 Spring St. in Jeffersonville, and JJ Fish and Chicken is frying at 1701 E. Tenth St.
In New Albany, Daisy Mae’s offers Southern home-style food in a homey atmosphere at 223 W. Fifth St. — the old Lancaster’s location. Primo’s Delicatessen makes sandwiches and soups at 153 E. Main St, and at Aladdin’s Cafe, 111 W. Market St., you can find the usual range of Middle Eastern fare — gyros, shwarma and hummus.
Three chains that first set up shop downtown have opened additional locations in the suburbs. Zaxby’s has a fifth outlet at 10715 Dixie Hwy., Potbelly Sandwich Shop has opened another sandwich shop at 4023 Summit Plaza Dr., and Chipotle Mexican Grill has another store at 10333 Westport Rd.
Golden Corral has opened another grill spot at 5326 Dixie Hwy., and China 1 has another Asian hot table place at 8105 Lagrange Rd. Cellar Door Chocolates is opened a kiosk at 7900 Shelbyville Rd, in the Oxmoor Mall, just in time for the holidays. And the amusingly named Muscle Monkey Grill opened its fourth store in the New Albany Public Library at 180 W. Spring St., New Albany.
Odd, unfortunate events contributed to the recent closings of some popular eating places. A bold daylight burglary of cash from Lil Cheezers added to the financial problems that led to the closure of the store at 938 Baxter Ave., but Matt Davis’s Lil Cheezers food trucks are still running and serving.
Accumulation of significant arrears in tax payments forced the closure of two long-time dining favorites. Baxter Station Bar & Grill, 1201 Payne St., and Seafood Connection, 3941 Chenoweth Sq.
A long-running dispute with the landlord resulted in the rather abrupt closing of The Blind Pig, 1076 E. Washington St. There was no “rather” modifying the unexpected closure of Ri Ra Irish Pub, 445 S. Fourth St., one day it was there, and the next it was gone.
And Champps Americana closed after a relatively short tenure, leaving a major retail space empty at 302 Bullit Ln.
Speaking of short tenures, Christopher’s barely opened at 1250 Bardstown Rd., on the Baxter Theater side of Mid-City Mall, before it faded away.
Other restaurant closures include Fish-Fry House, 2280 Bardstown Rd., Hazelwood Restaurant, 4106 Taylor Blvd., Soul Food by Tiffany, 701 Algonquin Pkwy., and Sato’s Zen Sushi and Sake, 285 N. Hubbard’s Ln. Long-time pizza purveyor Frolio’s closed, but its space at 3799 Poplar Level Rd. was quickly taken over by Teena’s Pizza.
And for some reason, it has been a hard season for barbecue joints. Five have recently closed, including Bluegrass BBQ at 119 St. Matthews Ave., Derby City BBQ & Catering, 2932 S. Fourth St., Duvalle Grub N Scrub, 3501 Cane Run Rd., Pit Stop Bar-B-Que at 13303 Magisterial Dr., and Rite Way Bar-B-Cue House at 1548 W. St. Catherine St.
Four multi-location food businesses have shrunk by one outlet each. Queen of Sheba Ethiopian closed it downtown location at 528 S. Fifth St., and Java Brewing closed one suburban coffeehouse at 135 S. English Station Rd. Earth Friends Cafe closed the New Albany store at 180 W. Spring St., but is still serving a mostly vegetarian menu in downtown Louisville on Market St.
Two dining establishments decided to change their names, but keep most other aspects of their businesses the same. Great Life Cafe has changed the names on their four locations to Muscle Monkey Grill (go figure) and La Bocca Pizzeria in the Indiana Knobs at 2708 Paoli Pike is now Mimo’s Pizzeria.
And, finally, we apologize to the good folks at Gavi’s Restaurant, 222 S. Seventh St. Try as we might, we don’t always get it right. F&D reported last issue that Gavi’s Restaurant had closed. We are happy to state correctly that Gavi’s has not closed, but, indeed continues to provide good food to its loyal customer base. F&D regrets the error.