Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse & Raw Bar is not a diamond in the rough, it has been cut perfectly and polished to perfection in a building over a century old with dishes and service that will have you talking for a long time to come.
Admittedly I didn’t know the story of the actual Doc Crow, but our host and owner Brett (who is also one of only 102 master whisky sommeliers in the country) was gracious to sit with my wife and I and give a brief history of ‘Ole Doc, the history of the building, their concept – it was a very kind gesture and interesting but he had me at “Menu”.
I’m from New Orleans and have lived all over the South so I love good food – especially when it brings me back to my youth on the Gulf Coast. I was skeptical that brothers Steven and Michael Ton from “Basa” fame could produce real southern cooking and atmosphere in what I pictured being a flight-of-fancy ‘concept restaurant’ environment. Then our first appetizer arrived: crab cakes ($12). I’ve recently grown complacent with fried seafood that although was well cooked if not just well intentioned, were recently frozen in a bag. These creamy babies actually melt in your mouth and are pan-seared with large chunks of crab that even my seafood-novice wife could tell was fresh.
As we sipped samples of their enormous selection of spirits we sampled items such as fresh oysters from American destinations famous for their oysters, real pork rinds that melted in my mouth served from a martini shaker, shrimp and grits, fried fresh tomatoes, and a shrimp cocktail ($12) with a cocktail sauce - that like intimacy was perfectly hot enough to make you want more but know you should stop to save room for dessert.
Just before my eyes began rolling back in my head I noticed from the dimly lit booth in an intimate dark hallway that all the meat was being smoked in plain view across from me, which is not only a sign of confidence but quality. Then came the meat.
You can tell good southern cooking because you can almost feel the care and love in every dish. As much as I love good seafood (and theirs was great), I also live for well-cooked meat.
We sampled dry rubbed ribs which fell off the bone (1/2 rack $12), Brisket ($12 sandwiches), pulled pork ($9), and a southern fried pork chop ($12) that kept me from even touching fresh mashed potatoes that I took home and ate later that night. My wife had her first fried shrimp po boy ($11) coated in real remoulade sauce and fresh bread shipped in from New Orleans that made her such a fan I hated to break her heart by telling her it doesn’t get that good outside of the Big Easy.
We ended our meal with a much-needed walk around the remainder of the restaurant to see what else it offered. There is of course an amazing bar in front, the beautiful hallway with booth-lined walls that makes you feel like you are in a Bogart movie and in the back enter a wooden dining area where every black-and-white photo that adorn the walls pay homage to it’s place in Louisville. We looked out over the Ohio River at the walkway that leads directly to the YUM! Center across the street and as Servers buzzed around us with matching belt buckles we re-approached our table to finish with a sampling of dessert.
I chose a favorite of mine, pecan pie ($6) and my gal had the bread pudding ($5) both came with homemade whip cream and Comfy Cow ice cream ($2/scoop). We laughed that what the place really needed was a place to take a nap after experiencing a night with meal like this.
Sure, there were things I was feeling adventurous about of the menu like : “The Bubba” burger ($18) which consists of a ½ pound steak burger, pulled pork, sliced beef brisket, fried green tomato, onion rings, and one fried egg topped with coleslaw and bbq sauce, served on a toasted brioche bun. Followed with the “Wilber’s Sundae” for dessert: A brown butter praline ice cream with Bourbon caramel ribbon atop cinnamon pork rinds sprinkled with candies bacon topped with a Bourbon cherry…but that for another night or the show “Guy Meets Food”.
The service impeccable, location perfect, décor and ambiance beautiful, music eclectic and fun, and I dreamt so much about the experience that night that I actually took my in-laws back for a second round the following evening. From Greek roots they were as skeptical as I may have been when we first walked in but again Brett had them at the menu. A historical building that now houses a future Louisville landmark. Trust me, I’m (not a doctor but) am going back to “Doc’s”.
Featuring a casual, family-friendly atmosphere, the restaurant is located at 127 W. Main St. and is open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday, 11a.m. to 11 p.m. and Saturday, 5 to 11 p.m. Reservations are not accepted for less than six, but there is a call ahead system. Visit www.doccrows.com  or call (502) 257-7132 for more information.
(Photo: Kit Helton/Doc Crows)