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I confess that I spent the hiatus between last year’s Winter issue and this Spring 2020 issue feeling certain that my job here would be easier this first issue of the new year. The dreary, rainy, grey winter, with temperatures wildly swinging between eerily unseasonal balminess to face-stinging cold windy days, would, I was sure, put the damper on restaurateurs’ ambitions, leaving me with a shorter list of new businesses to have to narrate here.

(Originally published in the Spring 2020 issue of Food & Dining)

But it seems that the seasonal blahs that left me mopey and listless served only to rev up the ambitions and hopes of the restaurant business community. This issue F&D is listing 38 brand new dining spots, of which 13 are additional locations for established restaurants.

On the negative side of the ledger, 21 restaurants have given up the ghost. Three of that number are multi-location restaurants that have closed one outlet but continue serving at others. And a relatively high seven business have either moved to new locations, or are changing the design of their businesses enough to warrant mention. The totals then are 38 new dining choices opened against 21 that have closed — another positive quarter for the still-robust Louisville dining scene.

NEW TABLES

Three new high-style dining spots are on the verge of entering the scene. Barn8 (10500 W. Hwy. 42 in Goshen) is the newest project from the 21C Museum hotel chain founders Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson. The renovation of one of the outbuildings on their 600-acre Hermitage Farm into a rustic-classy dining and events space will likely become a significant culinary destination. Executive Chef Alison Settle will make sure their appetites, as well as their curiosity, will be sated. Their scheduled opening is March 18.

On April 24, the revolving floor atop the Galt House’s West Tower (140 N. Fourth St.) will continue to spin for the restaurant space’s latest incarnation, Swizzle, where the menu will focus on prime steaks, chops and sustainable seafood.

Churchill Downs (700 Central Ave.) is continuing with substantial renovations and additions, including adding the Matt Winn Steakhouse just in time for Derby. Executive Chef David Danielson plans a classic premium steakhouse menu on Millionaire’s Row, which will be open not just during the racing meets, but all year long.

Some familiar dining locations have assumed new identities. The former Ward 426 building (426 Baxter Ave.) is now home to Agave & Rye Epic Tacos. The Covington-based business offers tacos with an eclectic flare — kangaroo meat, lobster, Jamaican jerk mahi-mahi and several vegetarian options.

The space at 129 W. Main St. that has recently seen a succession of Mexican restaurants, has been taken over by the neighboring Doc Crow’s for Doc’s Bourbon Room. There you will find a thousand Bourbons (in case you’re counting), as well as other distilled spirit choices, and an upscale bar food menu with munchies and shared plates. In case that’s not what the doctor ordered for you, you’ll also find a coffee shop with perfect hours: it opens early and closes late.

On St. Patrick’s Day, The Ainsworth will open in the St. Matthews building (3929 Shelbyville Rd.) formerly home to the original BBC location and more recently Sullivan’s Tap House. The Ainsworth is an upscale pub, with dishes like a mac & cheese burger and wings finished with a sprinkling of edible gold leaf.

Three new eating spots are opening (or have opened) in Jeffersonville. Famed Southern Indiana bartender Tony Revak finally has a place to call his own in Harry’s (130 W. Riverside Dr.). This family-friendly sports bar with a southern and Creole influenced menu plans to open in time for March Madness at the former Flat 12 Bierwerks space. Set for an April 15 opening, That’s My Dog (125 W. Chestnut St.) will give hot dog eaters a choice of 30 toppings as they go through the serving line, and invites pet owners to bring their own dogs, hot or not, to the pet-friendly patio. And Parnelli’s Chicago Eatery has opened at 3548 E. Tenth St.

St. Matthews has a new burger place, BurgerIM (3733 Lexington Rd.). In addition to several kinds of beef patty, BurgerIM also puts falafel, chicken, lamb and salmon between buns.

In late March, Hometown Brewing Co. (4041 Preston Hwy.) will be producing ales and the like next to Hometown Pizza. The beers made there will be served at all the Hometown Pizza restaurants around the state.

Two new concepts from Fernando Martinez and his Olé Restaurant Group will begin serving at the end of March: La Bodeguita de Mima (725 E. Market St.) will be channeling a pre-Castro Cuban nightlife ambiance and offering upscale Cuban-influenced cuisine, including a lobster enchilada; Señora Arepa (721 E. Market St.), behind La Bodeguita, will focus on Venezuelan street foods, such as the namesake stuffed masa patty.

Other new Latin-oriented restaurants are Dos Gringos (149 Spring St., Jeffersonville), El Frijol (1999 Brownsboro Rd.) and I Love Tacos (9909 Taylorsville Rd.).

Gogi 1055 Korean BBQ (1055 Bardstown Rd.) has renovated and totally transformed the former Buffalo Wild Wings building on Bardstown Road. Patrons will be able to grill their own meats at tabletop gas burners.

Honest Indian (9008 Taylorsville Rd.) is the local outlet for this international Indian food chain located in the Stony Brook Shopping Center. Pier 17 Cajun Seafood (1975 S. Hurstbourne Pkwy.) will bring the Gulf coast phenomenon of Vietnamese-Cajun fusion cuisine to Louisville.

At Vibes Restaurant and Ultra Lounge (1346 River Rd.) you can chill out in the sophisticated space while listening to an eclectic mix of music, and enjoy an upscale bar menu with everything from egg rolls to steak salad to sandwiches, pizza, and grilled salmon.

If you like your reality virtual, crave to zoom around VR tracks, or maybe the feel of throwing real axes and busting stuff up a “Rage Room,” OvrDrive Games (112 W. Jefferson St.) is your kind of place. When you’re ready to chill, visit the self-pour tap wall of craft beers and premixed cocktails.

Other new restaurants include La Chandeleur (304 W. Woodlawn Ave.) which will begin dishing up crêpes in Beechmont at the end of April; Pure Blendz (1001 Logan St.) is a health food smoothie stand inside Logan Street Market; Sea Fresh Seafood (8129 Bardstown Rd.) brings an array of seafood to Fern Creek; and Scooter’s Triple B’s (3840 S. Hurstbourne Pkwy.), where you can find burgers, beer and ball games.

With confidence that the future is likely to be at least as economically stable as the present, the owners of a full dozen successful existing restaurants have plans to open, or have opened, additional locations in the last three months. Biscuit Belly (818 W. Kenwood Dr.) will open its third breakfast and lunch spot in April, this one in the South End’s Colonial Gardens complex.

Carali’s Rotisserie Chicken has opened two new stores, in the Lower Highlands (642 Baxter Ave.) and in Middletown (12531 Shelbyville Rd.), bringing their total of outlets to four. Louie’s Hot Chicken and Barbecue (505 W. Broadway) has taken over the former City Café building at the corner of Broadway and Fifth for a second outlet.

Great Flood Brewing Co. has expanded to the Middletown suburbs at 12717 Shelbyville Rd., and Heine Brothers Coffee has again looked north, and opened its 17th coffee shop at 3060 Gottbrath Pkwy. in Jeffersonville.

Derby City Pizza has opened its sixth store at 9910 Linn Station Rd. and Jersey Mike’s Subs has its third local outlet at 1983 S. Hurstbourne Pkwy.

The following restaurants have all opened — or will soon open — second locations: Barry’s Cheesesteak (2500 Bardstown Rd.); Bud’s Tavern Good Food & Barbecue (9119 Galene Dr.); Cancun (9424 Shelbyville Rd.); Union 15 (1301 Story Ave.); and Recbar 812 (336 Pearl St., New Albany).

Closings

The closings we have to report include several long-time dining favorites and some relative newcomers who couldn’t carve out a stable spot in the market. At one end of the restaurant hierarchy, Z’s Oyster Bar and Steakhouse (101 Whittington Pkwy.) closed suddenly after a long and classy run. On the other end of the dining spectrum, Jerry’s J-Boy (4832 Dixie Hwy.) has closed, the last of its breed and the repository of nostalgia for a simpler age of teenage cruising and socializing.

Downtown, Griff’s (133 W. Liberty St.), the sports bar named after basketball star Darrell Griffith, suddenly closed its doors. In Clifton, the ambitious Asian street food spot Mirin (2011 Frankfort Ave.) closed with a very public bang on social media. Out in Prospect, the Italian restaurant Bistro 42 (6021 Timber Ridge Dr.) has ceased serving.

Several other restaurants noted for either their longevity or their unique dining focus have closed.

Desserts by Helen (3500 Frankfort Ave.) has closed its retail store, but will still cater her luscious cakes. Sullivan University has closed its retail store The Bakery (3100 Bardstown Rd.) to concentrate its resources on teaching baking skills in its culinary education program.

At the Italian Table, Gina Stipo’s small, sincere trattoria at 2359 Frankfort Ave. will close April 18 after a five-year run. Himalayan Restaurant (1578 Bardstown Rd.) lasted two years, but has now closed. Across the river, Longboard’s Taco & Tiki (302 Pearl St.) had a brief but entertaining life in New Albany.

The locations of a couple of businesses that have closed have quickly found new life. The owners of Sullivan’s Tap House (3929 Shelbyville Rd.) have ended that concept, but have opened The Ainsworth in the same location. Flat 12 Bierwerks (130 W. Riverside Dr.) has closed, but that site in Jeffersonville will soon be Harry’s.

Other closings include Danish Express (102 Cannons Ln.); Cox’s Hot Chicken (134 Spring St, Jeffersonville); The Butchertown Social (1601 Story Ave.); and El Vaquero (5414 Bardstown Rd.). Also closed are Pita Pit (434 W. Jefferson St.); Kentucky Taco Company (502 Warnock St.); La Bonita Tienda Mexicana (1999 Brownsboro Rd.) and The Arctic Scoop (841 S. Hurstbourne Pkwy.).

Three multi-location businesses have closed one site each: Barry’s Cheesesteaks and More (7502 Preston Hwy.); Morris Deli’s outpost at the U of L Medical Center (110 W. Chestnut St.); and Señor Iguanas (9424 Shelbyville Rd.).

Moves & Changes

A number of interesting moves and changes by a variety of businesses are worth noting. The popular bar Vetti (800 S. Fourth St.), constrained by the limited space in its glitzy renovated first floor in the 800 Building south of Broadway, is moving by late April to a larger space in the AC Hotel (727 E. Market St.) in NuLu.

Across the river, Israel’s Delicias de Mexico Gourmet (1515 E. Market St. ) is also relocating to more spacious quarters in the former Destination Booksellers building (604 E. Spring St.) in New Albany. The popular Seafood Lady (107 W. Oak St.) has left Old Louisville for larger digs downtown at 601 E. Jefferson St. and Angio’s Pizza has moved to 1915 Blankenbaker Pkwy.

John Varanese has renovated the upstairs space at his River House/The Levee complex (3015 River Rd.) into the 300 seat capacity event space he is calling Savor.

And Tony Palombino continues to redefine his Boombozz pizza empire, gradually remodeling and refocusing his various branches into Boombozz Pizza· Watch Bar, a more sports-oriented concept. The Highlands store (1448 Bardstown Rd.) just reopened the first week of March and the Westport Village location (1315 Herr Ln.) will reopen on April 1. F&D