The Spring 2023 issue of Food & Dining Magazine is now available in all the familiar places: Louisville area eateries and food shops, newsstands and online. For the online links to articles, go here:
And now, enjoy “Comings & Goings” in its entirety.
Restaurant Comings & Goings — Spring 2023
Like Charlie Watts playing drums or Ted Williams hitting a baseball, Ron Mikulak made F&D’s quarterly “Comings & Goings” column swing in a seemingly effortless way.
Ron, who died in January at 75, was an educator, journalist and accomplished chef, known to our readers for his “Cooking with Ron” column as well as this very compendium of Louisville area restaurant openings, closings, relocations and transmutations, which he patiently edited, annotated, sprinkled with magic dust, and rendered impeccably authoritative well more than sixty times during the magazine’s history.
In F&D’s forthcoming Summer 2023 issue, which marks our 20th anniversary, Ron’s contributions will be showcased yet again when we present 20 years of “Comings & Goings.”
But Ron would be the first to remind us there’s work to do, because 2023 is kicking off at a frenetic pace. 33 restaurant closings in only three months are nearly half the number (72) experienced all of last year. Concurrently, almost 50% of an encouraging 40 openings being reported here are new locations of existing concepts, restaurant reboots, chain shops or franchises.
It seems that hard decisions are occurring, bets are being hedged, adaptation and opportunism maximized, and risk reduction made a priority. Considering the upheavals facing the Louisville food service during the post-pandemic era, a period of circumspection and retrenchment should come as no real surprise. Let’s dive in.
Leading the list of openings is the much anticipated Lou Lou on Market (812 E. Market St.), where owner Jared Matthews and team have revitalized the former Decca space in NuLu, retaining the Nawlins culinary focus of the St. Matthews Lou Lou progenitor, and expanding the concept: downstairs (the STAVE bourbon bar) and outdoors (a French Quarter-styled courtyard), along with live jazz and bluegrass, and an expanded menu.
The oft-documented North American proclivity for moguls of meat, in the form of steakhouses and chophouses, is thrice verified in our survey. The Capital Grille at Oxmoor Center (7600 Shelbyville Rd.) features dry-aged steaks (and on on-site butcher), along with seafood, shellfish and an extensive wine list. At 615 S. Hurstbourne Parkway in Jeffersontown, Connors Steak & Seafood’s first Louisville location specializes in aged, mesquite-grilled steaks and seafood; it opens in April.
Exemplifying a more eclectic approach, Naïve eatery owner Catherine MacDowall has launched Nostalgic at 1306 Bardstown Rd., adjacent to The Bellwether Hotel. The traditionally stolid chophouse menu features whimsical edibles inspired by childhood nostalgia. Are you ready for upscale hamburger helper?
“The Curious Case of Cottage Inn” is not one of Miss Marple’s mysteries. Rather, it’s a feel-good generational comfort food revival. The Cottage Inn closed in 2021 after cooking continuously at 570 Eastern Parkway since 1929, but now returns with new ownership and the same classic menu of Salisbury steak, fried chicken livers and other staples of Southern cooking.
If a Reuben sandwich (extra kraut, please) or pastrami on rye calls out to you, Good Belly’s has you covered. The New York Jewish delicatessen-meets-Highlands vibe debuts in March at 2216 Dundee Road.
Remaining restaurant openings for the first quarter of 2023 span the gamut of neighborhood geography in Louisville. There is no clear pattern, so we’ll begin with the closest real estate to downtown and radiate outward, beginning with a glance toward the South End.
Maya Bagel Express has turned heads with its genuine New York-style bagels and bagel-based sandwiches, available at 3029 Poplar Level Rd. in Audubon. The family-owned InKredibles Burgers & Shakes is serving at 1506 Dixie Hwy., with chicken sandwiches and express breakfast options also available. Nearby in Old Louisville, Griyo Caribbean Restaurant (519 W. Oak St.) provides a tasty primer in Haitian cuisine, like an immense jerk chicken platter.
The iconic Keswick Club has been reanimated as a bar and performance venue in Shelby Park (1127 Logan St.), while Kamysha Blackwell is conjuring her vegan comfort food at Soul Hi Vegan in the Mellwood Art Center (1860 Mellwood Ave.).
Dessert savant Nicole Clark has opened Big Nita’s Cheesecakes in Butchertown at 1011 E. Main St., and an energetic stroll across the Big Four pedestrian bridge from the Louisville riverfront leads to Taylor’s Cereal Bowl Kitchen (438 Spring St. in Jeffersonville), an utterly unique safe space for neurodivergent children. Meanwhile at 1613 Bardstown Rd. in the Highlands, Cookie Crush USA vends handmade doughnut-sized cookies to soothe the sweet-tooth in you and me.
Hopping from the Highlands to Clifton, here’s a plan you probably haven’t heard before: Harvey’s, formerly Logan Street Market’s resident cheese monger, has relocated to 2011 Frankfort Ave., where the business will sell cheese by day and become a Sydney-inspired Australian bistro by night.
In St. Matthews we find the Playa Bowls health food chain up and running at Shelbyville Road Plaza (4600 Shelbyville Rd.), with a second location coming soon to Middletown. Next is House of Marigold (10310 Shelbyville Rd.) in Douglas Hills, with breakfast, lunch and a cocktail bar, operated by a husband and wife team of caterers.
Paradise Fine Indian and American Cuisine (12951 Shelbyville Rd., Middletown) is an omnivore’s delight, with curry, wings, chow mein and red velvet cake side by side, with a full bar. Northward in Springhurst the family-friendly regional LaRosa’s Pizzeria chain is open at 10641 Fischer Park Dr.
Southeast of center in Fern Creek, carry-out-only Uncle D’s Franks is hand-dipping corndogs at 6409 Bardstown Rd., and an extensive Mexican menu awaits at El Sinaloense (5520 Fern Valley Rd.) in Okolona near Appliance Park, formerly O’Connell’s Irish Pub.
Buechel and environs possess one of the city’s most diverse dining scenes, from Bosnian to Ethiopian, and now including Fa & Ada African Cuisine at 4806 Bardstown Rd., a Senegalese eatery.
NEW LOCATIONS FOR EXISTING RESTAURANTS
For those who crave a memorable breakfast experience in Louisville, two Spanish words are vital: con and huevos, meaning “with eggs.” Replacing the spinoff Ramsi’s at 10639 Meeting St. in Norton Commons, the fifth Con Huevos continues this enduringly popular Mexican daytime-only restaurant’s tradition of hospitality, with huevos rancheros, chilaquiles, breakfast-style enchiladas and much more.
Parlour Pizza is a paragon of adaptive reuse, and seized the ideal opportunity to create its fifth pizza and craft beer outlet in Jeffersontown, taking over for decades-old Chubby Ray’s at 3910 Ruckriegel Parkway.
In Clifton, Yellow Cactus quickly filled the space (and the hunger for Mexican cuisine) vacated by Ramiro’s Cantina at 2350 Frankfort Ave., and similarly, at 2226 Holiday Manor Center, Bahn Thai & M stepped into the breach when Thai Café’s owners retired.
A great many multi-site local and regional chains also established new locations since our last wrap-up. Two healthy new-school options landed in Norton Commons: Smoothie purveyor I Love Juice Bar at 10512 Meeting St., and Lueberry Acai & Superfoods just a short power walk away at 6308 Meeting St.
Conversely, Jeff’s Donuts bought its array of glazed doughnuts and sugary baked goods to Forest Hills (1985 S. Hurstbourne Pkwy.) Speaking of coffee sourced from Yemen, the second Louisville location of Haraz Coffee House arrived at 1541 Highland Ave. in the Highlands.
Bandido Taqueria Mexicana’s third San Diego-influenced eatery emerged at 4214 Shelbyville Rd. in St. Matthews, supplanting Bubbakoo’s Burritos. Mirage Express (4000 Dutchman’s Ln.), also in St. Matthews, broadened the original location’s lineup of Middle Eastern fare to include a quick and easy steam table.
On the national chain and franchise front, Springhurst has witnessed a new Jaggers Restaurant (10690 Westport Rd.), a burger and shake concept from Texas Roadhouse, as well as the breakfast- and brunch-oriented First Watch, at 10639 Fischer Park Dr.
Also, Scooter’s Coffee unveiled a shop at 3410 Preston Hwy. in Audubon Park, while in Pleasure Ridge Park, The Wing Zone opened at 5210 Dixie Hwy. In New Albany, Panera Bread Co. and Qdoba Mexican Grill are open near the I-265 interchange at 2133 State St. and 2216 State St., respectively.
How many nervous first dinner dates concluded at Sweet Surrender (1804 Frankfort Ave.) during the fabled Clifton dessert shop’s 35-year run? The memories surely are as countless as the calories.
A number of unusually venerable restaurants specializing in pizza and Italian food have concluded in the first quarter of 2023, including two in Jeffersontown. Chubby Ray’s, the elder statesman at 30 (3910 Ruckriegel Parkway) is gone, but was immediately replaced by a Parlour outlet. Angio’s Italian Restaurant at 1915 Blankenbaker Parkway closed after 25 years in business.
La Grange lost its 17-year-old Steve-O’s Italian Kitchen (4205 KY-146); the spot has been filled by the Puerto Rican-themed Restaurante El Jibarito. Take ‘n’ bake has concluded at the Papa Murphy’s in St. Matthews, also 17, although seven other area locations remain.
Everyday Kitchen and Everyday Kitchen Café opened in NuLu (552 E. Market St.) in the fall of 2021 as ambitious components of Lodgic Everyday Community, a workspace outreach of the non-profit Moose International. All these units now have been shuttered, presumably for reasons of non-profit.
File under “Superchef”: Darnell Ferguson has officially taken a sabbatical from local restaurant ownership to focus on his burgeoning television-oriented culinary career, and as a result, Tha Drippin Crab (1219 W. Jefferson St.) in Russell permanently closed.
Logan Street Market lost two popular tenants to relocation: Harvey’s Cheese moved to Frankfort Ave. to rebrand, and Bapion Ziba, owner of Ziba’s Bistro, moved to Washington D.C.
When V-Grits shifted its vegan kitchen into Logan Street Market, Chimera Brewing Company (1025 Barret Ave.) was left high and dry, but we’re told a popular Kentucky regional brewery may soon arrive to save the day (sorry, can’t say which one). At Gravely Brewing Company (514 Baxter Ave.) the current task is finding another tenant for the brewery’s food truck after longtime partner Mayan Street Food departed.
Elsewhere in the Highlands, The Bard’s Town (1801 Bardstown Rd.) evacuated to prepare new digs in Meriwether, but La Que at 1019 Bardstown Rd. and the incredible Al Hamra Halal Buffet inside Mid City Mall both are gone for good.
Might red-hot Germantown finally be cooling? In spite of good ratings, neither Germantown Social (1318 McHenry St.) nor Redbud Dining Room (983 Goss Ave.) lasted very long in buildings previously occupied by Couvillion and Eiderdown, respectively.
The brief run of Phantom Cafe Modern Eatery ended at 1813 Frankfort Ave., while the far lengthier 15-year residency of Ramiro’s Cantina nearby (2350 Frankfort Ave.) came to an end when owner Ramiro Gandara consolidated his holdings and resumed service in Jeffersonville, Indiana.
The downtown business district and adjoining residential areas continue to recover from Covid’s varying dislocations. Daddy Rich’s, a graduate of the Chef Space restaurant incubator, and Riot Café both closed. The former Baraka Restaurant’s storefront at 519 W. Oak St. in Old Louisville now houses Griyo Caribbean Restaurant, and Sweet Peaches (1800 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd. in Russell) is slated to reopen in summer under new ownership as Tino’s Taste of Heaven.
Rather anti-climactically, the Fourth Street Live! downtown entertainment complex announced that Chef Ed Lee’s Whiskey Dry would not reopen following a lengthy “temporary” post-pandemic closure (however Lee has a Korean steakhouse project cooking in Butchertown as we write).
An accounting of restaurant closures in the ‘burbs begins in St. Matthews, where the long-lived Frisch’s (4800 Shelbyville Rd.) and Peking City Express (4000 Dutchmans Ln.) were shuttered, as well as Thai Café (2226 Holiday Manor Center), O’Connell’s Irish Pub (5520 Fern Valley Rd.) in Okolona, and El Rinconcito at 4806 Bardstown Rd. in Fern Creek.
New Albany’s north side lost a Topp’t Pizza & Salads franchise (373 Professional Ct.), and in downtown Jeffersonville, both the breakfast- and lunch-oriented Close Enough Café (250 Spring St.) and Common Haus Hall at 134 Spring St. concluded brief runs.
A final “closing” is Tres Amigos in Lyndon (9921 Ormsby Station Rd.), a restaurant that actually never opened even though we thought it had. What comes next is unknown.
MOVES & CHANGES
Our survey concludes with four changes requiring brief explication. Sandwich source Barry’s Cheesesteaks has relocated from Old Louisville to 5408 Valley Station Rd., while the vegetarian and vegan soul food exemplar V-Grits is reformatting in the Logan Street Market, minus its aforementioned Chimera brewery.
Ramiro’s Cantina in Jeffersonville shifted its satellite restaurant a block south to 149 Spring St., remodeled and added seats, dropped the “express” tag, and now serves as the flagship (and only) Ramiro’s location. Finally, The Smokery (2354 Frankfort Ave.) stayed put but rebranded, and now offers chef-driven barbecue, sides and entrees in Clifton.