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Continual changes roil the food scene

There’s always something to write about when you are writing about the local restaurant biz. Places close unexpectedly, new ones open, sometimes quickly, and sometimes only after long-wait even after the initial announcements. Long-time fans of quirky places feel bereft when their favorite lunch joint folds, and others with eager appetites are ready to try out the newest arrival, whether a place anchored by a foundation or a food truck rolling here and there. Here is some New Year’s restaurant news, starting with some openings.

  • Louis’s the Ton, the long-delayed, strangely-named place whose opening we announced some months ago, has now finally opened at Story Ave. Construction problems that required adjustment of the intended design delayed the opening, but owner Emmanuel Dumigron found ways to keep his project moving forward even as expenses mounted. The official opening after a week or so of soft opening nights was Dec. 31.

Dumigron, a native of France, plans to offer European-style small plates along with a sociable atmosphere. Ten beer taps are pouring, and a short wine list is focused to complement the food, which will be mainly cold small plates that will feature meats, paté (including a smoky wild boar version), cheeses, olives, mustard, pickles, breads and more.

The menu will evolve as Dumigron discovers what works with his clientele, and he has plans for a beer garden as the weather improves.

  • Yummy Pollo, 4222 Bishop Ln, is serving Peruvian-style grilled chicken, well seasoned and slowly grilled over real charcoal–think rotisserie chicken, but with some flavorful herbs and slightly spicy.

You can eat in or take carry-out home. Sides are chickpeas, two different rice dishes, along with side sauces, one a mild aioli and the other a vibrantly spicy green sauce. Early word is very enthusiastic about the seemingly authentic flavors.

  • The space behind Oxmoor that once house Champp’s Americana and the Fox and Hound on Bullitt Lane will soon be home to the second metro area Aspen Creek. There is also a Fern Creek location at 8000 Bardstown Road and one in Irvine, Texas. The still-building steakhouse chain was started by the people behind Texas Roadhouse and Buckhead Mountain Grill, and sold last year to Ultra Steak Inc. of Anderson, Ind., which plans to expand the Aspen Creek concept, adding a fourth location in Amarillo, Texas soon.

Aspen Creek features mountain lodge-themed decor, with a big bar and lots of flat screen TVs and roomy booths. In addition to steaks, you can find pasta, salads, chicken, pot roast and meatloaf on the medium-priced menu.

  • For those with even more modest tastes, keep you eyes peeled for Squirrely’s Food Truck. Shawn Arny and Katie Lannon like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches a lot, but are also into organic and non-GMO foods. So, their idea is  for a food truck featuring gourmet PB&J sandwiches, homemade nut butters and jams, and smoothies.

Arny and Lannon are still in their capitalization phase (trying to crowd source start-up money) and their web site lists lots of intriguing ideas, hopes and dreams: all real ingredients, no Frankenfood, as organic as possible, choices of breads including gluten- free and soy-free and protein shakes with vegan options.

They envision nut butters made from peanuts, plain and honey-roasted, almonds, sunflower seeds, and weekly flavor specials, like ginger peanut butter, chocolate cherry almond butter, and bacon pistachio butter. Using any of the butters as a base, you can choose ordinary stuff like strawberry, grape or raspberry jam, or higher-fat combos with homemade Nutella-like hazelnut choco spread, cream cheese or honey, but they also are cooking up specialty sandwiches, like peanut butter, bacon, pickle and Sriracha; peanut butter, banana  and honey; goat cheese, strawberry jam and basil; and, of course, S’mores.

They want a stable storefront, eventually, after they raise the paltry $12K to get their food truck up and running. All you PB&J junkies, here is your chance to stand up and be counted. Their Indiegogo funding site is here.

As for recent closings, one sudden shuttering took many by surprise. The others are mostly minor, neighborhood restaurants, but they all had their fans.

  • The abrupt closing of Cunningham’s downtown after the first Sunday of the New Year is the biggest news to date. The venerable luncheon and dinner place has been a mainstay of middle-of-the-road dining for a s long as any can remember, at the funky Fifth and Breck location that burned down a decade ago. That was the Cunningham’s that old-timers remember with affection, including the endless whispered stories of political and other shenanigans in the upstairs rooms in decades past.

Cunningham’s move into the street level space of the Fourth St. Garage was a bit surprising when it happened, but the George family, long-time owners, tried their best to transfer some of the ambience of the old place to the new, and for quite a while it seemed as if the move was successful in drawing in old fans and new. Recent announced changes to the mix of businesses at Theater Square, just south of Cunningham’s, made the future of the business less certain. Cunningham’s on River Rd. is still serving.

And a few other restaurant closings:

  • Great Wall has moved from their spot at the end of the Dirty Kroger strip on Brownsboro Rd to the nearby spot that recently housed Thai Taste,1977 Brownsboro Rd.
  • The Fishery branch in Middletown, at 11519 Shelbyville Rd., has recently closed, leaving only the original store in St. Matthews at 3624 Lexington Rd.
  • And to keep rumor mills stoked, we should keep an eye on the locations of the former 3rd Ave. Cafe, at the corner of Third St. and Oak; at the Irish Hill site that for so long was Baxter Station; and the Clifton space that has been the location of several not-very-successful ventures, the most recently of which was Cubano. Renovation activity has been spotted at all three in recent weeks. If you have any solid grist for the rumor mill, let us know.