[Originally published in the F&D Fall 2015 issue] This past spring and early summer have seen a flowering of restaurant ambitions here in the river city. In that time, sixteen new restaurants have opened their doors, and nine existing restaurants have opened additional outlets around town.
But equally significant is the fact that between this issue and our winter issue in October, six more new restaurants are scheduled to open, and four more additional branches of established businesses are in the works, most looking to start serving by the end of August. That all adds up to 35 additions to our listings.
Sixteen restaurants that were in those listings last issue are now gone, a few of which had regrettably short runs. Three other multi-location businesses closed one outlet; each of those still have two locations each.
Let’s start with a run-down of those places still under construction, renovation or final detailing and staff training. When they finally open their doors and hand out menus, we will be sure to keep you informed via our social media presence online, on Facebook (/FoodandDine) and on Twitter (@FoodandDining).
We would have to research our archives to determine when was the last issue in which we did not take notice of a new restaurant from Fernando Martinez. By late August he plans to open Artesano Tapas Vino Y Mas, a small plates and Spanish wine place, which will feature margaritas on tap. It will be in the Westport Village space that briefly was home to AP Crafters at 1321 Herr Ln. And, it should go without saying, Martinez is well on the way to planning his next — and quite different — restaurant venture.
Several other veteran restaurateurs well known to local diners are putting the finishing touches on new dining concepts. Allan Rosenberg is opening Fontleroy’s at 2011 Grinstead Dr. in the corner space that opened a year or so ago as Uncle Maddio’s Pizza. Rosenberg has named his new place for an early 20th-century Louisville mayor, but his menu will feature 21st-century upscale bistro fare.
The space at 732 E. Market St. is slated to become Galaxie Bar, a new idea from the folks at Rye. They plan a moderate-priced cocktail list and bar food that can be eaten in, or carried out as guests explore more of the Green Building. A beer garden/patio at the rear should take shape by early autumn.
Le Moo, the much-anticipated re-imagining of the space that for a generation was KT’s, at 2300 Lexington Rd., will be a European-style steakhouse, an idea from Kevin Grangier, who has been riding the success of his Village Anchor and Pub in Anchorage. He also is developing part of that sprawling Lexington Rd. space as a jazz music venue.
Dueling hot chicken places will be fun to sample when Tony Palombino opens Joella’s Hot Chicken at 3400 Frankfort Ave., and Michael Crouch starts frying at the Butchertown Chicken Shack behind Bistro 1860 at 1765 Mellwood Ave.
New restaurant action across the river has been limited this quarter. Out at Horseshoe Casino in Elizabeth, IN, Smoke & Rye, an upscale burger and BBQ restaurant will replace the current restaurant, Legends. The beef will be ground fresh, and the buns baked daily, in house. In New Albany, the nostalgic corner space at 147 E. Market St. that for a long time was Little Chef is now Coqui’s Café, where the owners (she is a Southern gal; he is Latino) are combining their food heritages and offering fun, tasty dishes that are drawing in fans.
If you just can’t wait for these not-quite-opened-yet places to finish all the details they have to get ironed out before they can start serving, you can check out a few spots that have already opened in the last few months. Over the 9 is perhaps the most ambitious of these newly shaken-down places, an urban pioneer at 120 S. Tenth St. (F&D introduces Over the 9 more fully on page 36.) In the same complex as, and under the general oversight (and roof) of Old 502 Winery and Falls City Beer, Over the 9 offers an imaginative, moderately-priced small plates selection, many of which are made with their neighbors’ wines and beer.
Highlands purists have been resistant to chain eateries, but Stout Burgers and Beer, at 1604 Bardstown Rd., the first venture into the Midwest by a small California company, seems to be seducing those who want to keep things weird with their rich, juicy burgers (made with house-ground chuck and brisket), thoughtful craft beer list and pleasant industrial-rustic interior.
After popping up in various venues over the last two or three years, “Superchef” Darnell Ferguson has settled down now in St. Matthews, at 106 Fairfax Ave., where his SuperChefs is offering imposing breakfast platters as well as lunch and dinner in a space decorated with his collection of superhero comics.
The area’s scanty diner offerings have grown by two in recent months. Bella’s Diner is serving at 4106 Taylor Blvd., and Moca Diner has opened at 2610 Chamberlain Ln.
Aspire Café, Deli and Fresh Market, 418 S. Eighteenth St., aims to offer West End residents a choice of healthier, fresher foods, both prepared in the café and for takeout from the deli and market. In Butchertown, Gallery K offers coffee and baked goods, as well as art, at 1600 Story Ave.
The efflorescence of small ethnic restaurants so notable last issue has abated somewhat. Two new Asian restaurants have opened, Lucky House at 291 N. Hubbard’s Ln. and Peking City Express at 4000 Dutchman’s Ln. Add to those Mount Everest View at 4109 Bardstown Rd in Buechel, a Nepalese/Indian restaurant, and that’s all that’s new for Asian-themed eating. Perhaps more surprising, in light of recent activity, only one new Mexican restaurant has opened, Taqueria Ramirez, at 4506 Bardstown Rd.
Coco’s Cakes is a new bakery at 501 W. Oak St., and the Arctic Scoop dispenses ice cream (including liquid nitrogen flash-frozen confections) at 841 S. Hurstbourne Ln. Over in New Albany, Kolkin Coffee is now brewing at 2736 Charlestown Rd.
For those hungry souls who have migrated out to the city’s fringes beyond the Snyder Expressway, the new Middletown Commons development on Shelbyville Rd. offers lots of eating choices, mostly chain restaurants, but mostly familiar names, and half of those are locally owned. The mailing addresses of the various restaurants are between 13301 and 13401 Shelbyville Rd., but addresses are not the way to find restaurants at malls — just keep your eyes peeled once you are there.
The only unfamiliar name diners will find in the restaurant explosion at the Commons is Taziki’s Mediterranean Café, which offers a Greek menu. Nearby is Blaze Fast Fire’d Pizza outlet, the second in the area. A Chipotle Mexican Grill, the area’s fourth, and a Firehouse Subs are there as well (and another new branch of Firehouse Subs will be slinging sandwiches at 4905 Outer Loop).
Yang Kee Noodle is opening a second store at Middletown Commons and Texas Roadhouse has its fifth local location there. Comfy Cow will open a store also at the Commons in late August (in addition to their new outlet in Jeffersonville, at 1450 Veterans Pkwy.), and in September a new Boombozz Pizza & Taphouse will join the mix.
With all that action at the new center, we shouldn’t ignore openings in some other places around the area. Coals Artisan Pizza has fired up its coal-fired ovens at a second store, also in Middletown, but at 11615 Shelbyville Rd. Buffalo Wild Wings has a new location, 4917 Outer Loop, which is also the location address of a third Five Guys Burgers & Fries. And Bazo’s Fresh Mexican Grill’s third location fills the spot at the back of Mid City Mall, next to Baxter Ave. Cinemas at 1250 Bardstown Rd.
The list of recent closings is dominated in numbers by small ethnic places that failed to distinguish themselves in a big market, but several larger, better known names also are no more.
Downtown, two places at Fourth St. Live have closed (or will be closing soon), Maker’s Mark Bourbon House & Lounge and Sully’s Saloon. Cordish, the managers of Fourth St. Live, have announced plans to replace these spots, plus the addition of two more, but no definite names have been mentioned yet.
The most sudden downtown closing was St. Charles Exchange, when its out-of-town investors decided to pull the plug on their restaurant venture to focus on their main business, software for the insurance industry. The business — a prime location at 113 S. Seventh St. — is up for sale.
Two other sudden closures came as a surprise. Strati Wild Italian, a different concept from Eggheadz LLC (Wild Eggs) did not seem to work out at 1702 Bardstown Rd. And Loop 22 at 2222 Dundee Rd. closed, but owners Adam Burress and Chance Mucerino have plans for a new restaurant idea there.
As mentioned, Uncle Maddio’s Pizza Joint at 2011 Grinstead Dr. closed, and the space was quickly assumed by Allan Rosenberg for his new upscale casual Fontleroy’s. And at Horseshoe Casino Legends closed, to be transformed into Smoke & Rye. Pearl, the Asian restaurant at the casino, has also closed and plans are underway to replace it with a Mexican concept.
Six businesses that have closed were ethnic restaurants: TropiCuba, 2206 Frankfort Ave., which lasted only a few weeks after a rather upbeat opening; Saigon Café, 106 Fairfax Ave. (the space snapped up by SuperChefs); Shoyu Asian Fusion & Sushi, 2610 Chamberlain Ln.; Asian Bento Express, 4000 Dutchman’s Ln.; King Wok, 291 N.Hubbard’s Ln.; and La Carreta, 7319 Preston Hwy.
SuperChef’s Breakfast & Lunch at 307 Wallace Ave. closed so Darnell Ferguson could expand into SuperChefs on Fairfax Ave. And Warehouse Hookah Bar & Café, 504 State St., New Albany has fired up its last hubbly-bubbly.
Three restaurants with multiple locations have recently scaled back, leaving each business with two active locations. BBC closed its Theater Square location at 660 S. Fourth St. to make way for the expansion of neighboring Kindred Healthcare. Shiraz Mediterranean Grill closed its Crescent Hill store at 2011 Frankfort Ave., and La Rosita Taqueria closed the Clarksville location at 1404 Blackiston Mill Rd.
Finally — and rather oddly — a full six restaurants are changing their names, but little else. Except for The Coach Lamp, 751 Vine St., which is changing its focus to a lower price point neighborhood burger, sandwich and fried chicken menu, along with its name — it will be known after mid-August as Brooke & Billy’s Bites, Bourbons and Brews.
Four Chinese restaurants have shifted their identities. Shanghai Restaurant at 526 S. Fourth St. will now be known as Wei Wei Chinese Express; Oriental Café at 3360 Hikes Ln. was, until recently, Asian Moon; East Star Buffet used to be Golden Palace Buffet, at 161 Outer Loop; and Wok Express at 234 W. Broadway is now China Bistro. And El Burrito Loco once was known as Pujols, at 9904 Linn Station Rd.