This article appears in the January 2012 issue of LouisvilleMagazine. To subscribe, please visit loumag.com.
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Here’s the origin story of the Silver Dollar (1761 Frankfort Ave.): “We thought of it while drinking whiskey and listening to vinyl at my house,” co-owner Larry Rice says. The inspiration is a Bakersfield, Calif.-style honky-tonk, which means two things. First, Rice says, the food is “Midwestern or Southern and influenced by Mexico.” Empanadas, Texas-style chili, baskets of livers, chicken-fried steak with thick gravy, side dishes like collard greens and macaroni and cheese. A burger is two thin-and-greasy patties. “There’s a high-style burger trend right now,” Rice says. “We wanted to do something that reminded us of eating at diners — just a good time.” The second thing you should know: The twang will drip from the voice blaring through the speakers — Loretta Lynn or Merle Haggard on vinyl, possibly from Rice’s personal record collection — like maple syrup on the chicken and waffles.
The restaurant occupies a former firehouse that was built in 1890, and the firepole is still near the front. While Rice and his partners were gutting the place, they found a soot-covered box that contained old-school fire-hydrant markers, “folk art” that now decorates the wall opposite the bar. Oh yeah, the bar. You might recognize Rice from his days mixing cocktails at 732 Social (go ahead and pour a little out for the departed). At the Silver Dollar? Plenty of mescal and tequila. But also bourbon. “We tried to go one step further and make it a little Kentucky,” Rice says.
Photo courtesy: John Nation