As I write this column, the view from my 8th floor windows shows a city beautifully dusted with snow. The roads and sidewalks are icy, though, and the gusting Arctic winds swirl the effect of the already frigid temperatures even lower.
That is not a good situation for any of the dozen and a half new restaurants, or new locations of existing businesses, that are just getting their feet under them.
It has been a hard three months for some 20 restaurants, which have closed, and four others that have closed one location of multi-outlet stores.
Those numbers result in a negative ratio, with more closings than new businesses, for the first time in several years. As we hunker down with warm drinks and the best of the basketball season in view, we await new life in the spring.
The rest of use might hunker down, but not Fernando Martinez, who continues to roll out new restaurant ideas almost faster than we can keep up with him. The focus of a profile in this issue, Martinez has two new restaurants, in addition to his nuevo-Mexican Guaca Mole in the East End, and Mussels and Burger Bar, 9200 Taylorsville Rd., where The Place Downstairs is set to open on the lower level. In the Highlands, he has also opened El Taco Luchador in the little house at 938 Baxter Ave. that most recently was the Lil Cheezers brick and mortar store.
El Taco Luchador is dispensing tacos, tortas and a few other Latin-themed quick service items, done with the flair and respect for top ingredients that Martinez’s fans have come to expect. At The Place Downstairs, Martinez will have the chance to perform at the higher levels of his skills, putting his Cordon Bleu training and experience at top Latino restaurants in Mexico and Florida on display. Look for an imaginative contemporary eclectic menu at a mostly moderate price point.
Those with a taste for Latin flavors have a few more choices. Wild Rita’s is a new concept from J.D. Rothberg and Shane Hall, who have made Wild Eggs a phenomenon. The space at 445 E. Market St. on the edge of NuLu will serve modern Mexican cuisine, and have an extensive selection of tequilas — up to 100 different labels. As if opening a whole new business model wasn’t enough to keep them busy, Rothberg and Hall are also opening a fourth iteration of their popular breakfast restaurant within a week of Wild Rita’s. The first downtown outlet of Wild Eggs will be a few blocks away at 121 S. Floyd St.
Brazeiros Churrascaria will be the first Brazilian grillhouse in the area, at 450 S. Fourth St in Fourth St. Live. Strolling “gaucho chefs” will slice grilled meats onto your plate until you cry uncle. And Riviera Maya is open at 2206 Frankfort Ave. in Clifton, serving, among other Mexican dishes, conchinita pibil, long-cooked pork shoulder with Mayan flavors.
In the Highlands, a Chinese restaurant, The Joy Luck, moves into the shotgun house at 1285 Bardstown Rd., across from Mid-City Mall. In the Douglass Loop, at 2222 Dundee Rd., Loop 22 is the newest concept from Adam Burress and Chase Mucerino, the guys at Hammerheads and Game. Eric Morris will be the chef, concocting Southern cuisine and slow-cooked rotisserie meats.
In Butchertown, at 1601 Story Ave., Louis “the Ton” will try an interesting concept, a bar serving tapas and cold plates and pre-dinner snacks, sourced as locally as possible.
Super Chef’s Breakfast and Lunch consolidates “superchef” Darnell Ferguson’s pop-up breakfast concept in the rear of the Ruby Slipper consignment store in St. Matthews, 307 Wallace Ave., in an expanded space that for several years was Blooms Cafe. (The two previous places where Ferguson popped up to do his breakfasts, Chicago Gyro, 2317 Brownsboro Rd. and Seafood Connection, 3941 Chenoweth Sq., have both closed.) Ferguson’s over-the-top creations like Neapolitan pancakes and The Hulk — eggs, cheese, sausage and bacon sandwiched between two green waffles and drizzled with syrup — are available for weekend brunch, too.
Other recently opened restaurants include Bread and Breakfast, 157 E. Main St., New Albany, a bakery and breakfast cafe whose owner started by selling her wares at farmers markets. Also, Sam’s Gyro’s has opened at 9104 Taylorsville Rd., and Thai Noodles is at 5800 Preston Hwy. and Masala Grill, 528 S. Fifth St. provides the downtown office lunch searchers a source of spicy Indian-Pakistani fare. Hungry high rollers now have The Spread buffet at Horseshoe Casino in Elizabeth, Ind., instead of Paula Deen’s buffet.
And a few other places are expanding with new outlets. Momma’s Mustard, Pickles & BBQ found such quick success in their first year that they are branching out with a second location at 119 S. Hurstbourne Pkwy., near the Shelbyville Rd. intersection. Roosters, a favorite sports viewing spot of the F&D staff, has a new place in Middletown at 10430 Shelbyville Rd.; Jets Pizza adds a location at 101 S. Hubbards Ln.; and Jimmy Johns has yet another sandwich store downtown at 223 S. Fifth St.
And Papalino’s Pizza has opened a suburban store at 3598 Springhurst Blvd., in a space considerably larger than their original Highlands store. There owner/chef Allan Rosenberg can offer his popular New York-style pizzas — by the pie or by the slice — and is also able to offer an ever-expanding small plates menu. The new place also has an in-store charcuterie room, where he prepares the sausages and other preserved meats he uses on his pizzas and appetizers.
Although 24 restaurants have closed, none of the notable tables in town have been casualties. One of the longer-lived places that called it quits is Erika’s German Restaurant, 9301 N. Hurstbourne Pkwy., which had been around for a decade or so.
Several other ethnic eateries have been casualties. Sitar Indian at 1702 Bardstown Rd closed, as has Beijing Grill and Sushi Bar, 8007 Hwy. 311 in Sellersburg, Ind.; Oasis Sushi and Soul, 3311 Preston Hwy.; Thai Smile 5, 5800 Preston Hwy.; Mucho Queso Pizzeria, 2208 Bardstown Rd.; Irie’s Caribbean Cafe, 255 Quartermaster Ct., Jeffersonville; and ZiaLaLa Latin Cafe, 12220 Shelbyville Rd. in Middletown.
Cafeterias seem to have lost their constituencies. Jane’s Cafeteria, 4601 Jennings Ln. and Piccadilly Cafeteria, 2131 S. Hurstbourne Pkwy. have both closed; the latter once has several local stores, and the Hurstbourne location was the last one.
Dooley’s Bagelcatessen, also once a thriving concern with 6 outlets, closed its last one at 2415 Lime Kiln Ln. Other closings include Boardwalk Fresh Burgers & Fries, 2909 E. Tenth St., Jeffersonville, Ind.; Hickory House BBQ, 2307 S. Preston St.; Home Plate Cafe, 400 E. Main St.; and Jackson’s Seafood, 400 W. Main St., New Albany, Ind.
Also in Indiana, up in Floyds Knobs, FX Pizza, 4865 Old Vincennes Rd., has closed. Out in Prospect, Take Out to the River, 950 U.S. Hwy 42, is no more. And downtown, Wolfgang Puck Express, 221 S. Fourth St., in the corner of the Convention Center, closed up shop.
Four multi-store restaurants have shuttered one of their locations. A fire destroyed the Clarksville location of Sam’s Food & Spirits at 3800 Payne Kohler Rd. The Sam’s at 702 Highlander Point Dr. in Floyd’s Knobs is still serving.
Ermin’s Bakery and Cafe in the Starks Building, 455 S. Fourth St., has ceased operation, leaving just the original store at First and Oak. And the Indi’s Restaurant in Charlestown, Ind., at 1085 Market St. has also closed.
A few changes are worth noting. The Little Ceasar’s Pizza at 9017 Galene Dr. has moved to 9593 Taylorsville Rd., and the Panera Bread at 601 S. Hurstbourne Pkwy. has moved a block away to 500 S. Hurstbourne.
And the first floor restaurant at the Seelbach Hilton, 500 S. Fourth St. that used to be Otto’s, is now Gatsby’s on Fourth, refurbished and now serving dinner as well as breakfast and lunch.