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    The Hall on Washington // by William DeShazer
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    We narrowed the field of new restaurants to these favorites that have us coming back for more.

     


    Sausage sampler at the Hall on Washington. // by William DeShazer

    THE HALL ON WASHINGTON
    108 W. Washington St.

    Guess you could call it “research.” While planning the Hall, on the Washington Street side of Whiskey Row downtown, Chip Herchert and his team sampled 200 sausages. “Well, at least more than 190,” he says. Herchert also traveled the country, exploring German-style beer halls in Chicago, St. Louis, Ohio (Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland). “Everybody in Louisville is focused on bourbon,” he says. “We wanted to be German, and we wanted to be beer.”

    The Hall, with deer-antler chandeliers and a 67-foot-long bar of smooth concrete, occupies the narrow building that housed the maker of Magnolia Hams in the 1870s and, after that, a blue jean manufacturer and Old Kentucky Distillery. Herchert’s approach is a modern nod to Louisville’s German heritage and pre-Prohibition beer scene. That means you can order the forearm workout that is a German lager in a one-liter stein. The menu features a “wursts” section (the heat in the Polish jalapeño sausage sneaks up on you), fried cheese curds, sloppy Joe fries, sauerkraut, red cabbage, a chicken schnitzel sandwich, coleslaw that is somehow airy. The edges of the potato pancakes are crunchy, served with a sweet lingonberry jam. “People coming downtown for a game or an event, they don’t want a heavy-ass plate of food,” Herchert says. “They want to snack.” Question: If I eat everything I just mentioned, is that still “snacking”?

    — Josh Moss

     

    COX'S HOT CHICKEN
    114 E. Main St., New Albany
    ​134 Spring St., Jeffersonville

    TVs play basketball games as the waitress delivers our trays: golden tenders slathered in auburn hot sauce on a plate-sized waffle with cinnamon butter and bourbon maple syrup. The tea is puckeringly sweet, a perfect pair for fried food: fried pickles, fried potatoes, fried strips of chicken. But the surprise of the meal is “Mary’s greens.” Ordered as a reprieve from everything fried — nearly everything on the menu takes a dip in oil — the deep-green leaves are spicy, garlicky, juicy.

    — Jenny Kiefer

     


    La Catrina // by Joon Kim

    LA CATRINA
    212 E. Elm St., New Albany

    If you’ve seen the movie Coco, you get what La Catrina is all about. Bright spray-painted murals, including several catrinas (those skeleton women in floral Derby-like hats) look like they could come to life in a Día de los Muertos–style song and dance. Get owner Roza Segoviano talking about life in her husband Juan’s native Mexico, and you can almost smell the dirt on the family’s farm. The Dona Nena taco (with potatoes and chorizo, almost like a breakfast taco) is named after Juan’s late grandmother. The birria taco (a mole beef short rib) has been a family recipe for 40-plus years. “Those put the family on the map,” Segoviano says. “(People) come from towns away.” It’s surprising to learn that the couple owns the small local chain of Señor Iguanas, which serve the expected Mexican fare — much different from La Catrina’s street food that Segoviano says she loves to cook at home. Even more surprising is that she and Juan are in the kitchen cooking on the Wednesday evening that I visit. Their son is bussing tables. Aunts and uncles manage the other restaurants. It’s all en la familia.

    — Mary Chellis Nelson

     

    AJI SUSHI AND ASIAN CUISINE
    5610 Outer Loop

    The Sunset Roll has the largest chunk of salmon I’ve ever eaten in a sushi roll. It takes up at least a full three-fourths of the inner seaweed loop, the triangle of avocado tiny by comparison. Bright-orange roe sticks neatly to the rice like a wig. Decked out with cherry-blossom room dividers and a wooden dragon’s head above the hostess stand, Aji Sushi and Asian Cuisine is the only spot for nigiri, ramen, pad thai — anything beyond standard Chinese takeout — between Fern Valley Road and I-265. The egg rolls are skinny, the right amount of greasy. An earthy broth swirls with noodles and pork belly in the ramen. Just don’t blink or you’ll miss it; they haven’t installed a street-side sign yet.

    — JK

     

    SOUL FOOD DINING
    4900 Poplar Level Road

    Maybe it’s buttermilk. Maybe it’s the gorgeous, sinful magic of lard. Whatever it is, the cornbread here squishes and delights like a pudding, none of that standard crumby, cake-y fare here. Chubby, cupcake-sized and golden, the cornbread’s function may be to sop up puddles on a plate, but, please, take one bite all by its lonesome, in the bare. Appreciate and savor, then put it to work. The sweet potatoes taste like Thanksgiving pie and tearing into the chicken wings is a pleasure. She isn’t much to look at from the outside — a squat building with a black awning and barred windows in the industrial badlands of Poplar Level Road. But you can taste the care and time put into this soul food. And that cornbread? Heavenly.

    — Anne Marshall

     


    Taylor's crawfish boil. // by William DeShazer

    TAYLOR'S CAJUN MEAT CO.
    3306 Plaza Drive, New Albany

    Ellis Taylor grew up in the corner meat market his grandfather operated in tiny Maurice, Louisiana, learning how to make sausages, gumbo and étouffée from scratch. Taylor, who moved to this area from just outside Lafayette, Louisiana, now has his own specialty market. And this spring, he’s putting the boil to fresh crawdads every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Best hurry: The little red crustaceans are expected to sink back into the mud and out of season sometime in June or July.

    Taylor has perfected his own dry rub (including the requisite “secret ingredients”) and will doctor the spice level by request when you order. Three pounds of the freshwater delicacy are served in a teeming heap on a platter (with corn on the cob and potatoes) for $25, five pounds for $38. The 43-year-old picked New Albany for his business because the action has been cornered, so to speak, back home. “There are good meat markets on every corner,” he says, “and one is best for its sausage, another for its étouffée , and so on. Cajuns can cook!” (His wife Serena also works at the market, and they discovered this area after her sister and her husband made the move here.)

    Driving every Wednesday evening to meet a seafood wholesaler he knows in Memphis (Tennessee, not Indiana), Taylor picks up crawdads and shrimp caught that morning. It’s just hours from pond to pot, and the lobster-like succulence of the crawfish, as well as the sweetness of the jumbo shrimp, will keep you peeling until the last tail is dipped in zippy house-made sauce.

    — Bruce Allar

     

    EL RINCONCITO
    4806 Bardstown Road

    When the majority of the five-star reviews require Google Translate, you know you’re in for an authentic treat. While Peruvian chicken is the star at the easy-to-miss spot on Bardstown Road near the corner of Watterson Trail, it’s the tostones — plantains sliced, smashed and twice-fried into something like a latke — that earn a best supporting role, especially when dunked in either of the creamy, garlicky sauces. Ask for extra sauce for the inevitable mounds of leftovers, which hold up after spending a day in the fridge.

    — MCN

     


    Galan's Meat Market // by Jessica Ebelhar

    GALAN'S MEAT MARKET AND DELI
    2801 W. Market St.

    Just before noon on a Tuesday, the kind of hazy, hot day that makes you squint, the smells rising from the smoker outside Galan’s Meat Market and Deli in Portland tantalize. Ask for brisket, and the pit master carefully unwraps a slab from foil and slices it into juicy medallions, allowing a pungent aroma to escape up into primal places in my brain. Inside, a crowd of about six has lined up to order various sides. I get two types of potato salad, macaroni salad and a pudding-like banana split. On the drive back to the office to share the goods with the editorial team, I get stuck in downtown traffic and, the smells replacing the air in my car, contemplate eating it all myself.

    — MCN

     

    SHREEJI
    1987 S. Hurstbourne Pkwy.

    Few things justify traversing Hurstbourne Parkway at rush hour. Shreeji is one of those things. I’m a regular at Kashmir and other Indian restaurants, yet the majority of Shreeji’s vast vegetarian street-food menu was unfamiliar — so don’t go in expecting the usual tikka masala, saag paneer and naan. The place truly is casual: You fill your own tiny Styrofoam water cups via a plastic jug, and food arrives in waves as it’s prepared. My favorite was the Delhi chaat, a savory street snack of puffed rice, garbanzo beans, vegetables, spicy sauces, cool yogurt and cilantro atop a bed of flat fried flour crisps. Think Indian nachos. The one familiar dish we ordered was vegetable samosas, stuffed with spiced potatoes and peas and cooked golden brown. My husband declared, “I don’t even miss the meat.”

    — SK

     


    Naive // by William DeShazer

    NAIVE
    1001 E. Washington St.

    If you have a Pinterest board devoted to interior design, you’ve already got a good sense of Naive, the Butchertown restaurant across from Pyro Gallery. All the current trends are accounted for. Hexagonal tile transitioning into hardwood? Check. Clusters of hanging lights? Check. A ropey tapestry? Check. Add to that a snake plant by the window, what looks like a ficus in a woven basket further back, and neon signs, one over the bar reading, in cursive: caffeine. A “plant-based eatery with meat options” according to its website, Naive offers everything from beet hummus (a vibrant dish that could manage its own Instagram account) to General Tso’s cauliflower (addictive) to — wow, really? — a pulled-pork sandwich (with maple teriyaki and pickled shallots). I would wife my chicken pesto sandwich, with a slab of roasted red pepper, gooey mozzarella and a slathering of potent walnut pesto that turns the top ciabatta bun a forest-canopy green. After dinner, hit up the extensive coffee bar menu for an Ex Mrs. Palmer (espresso, lemonade, activated charcoal), a Naked Lunch (mint tea, honey, orange blossom, and CBD oil in honor of American writer William S. Burroughs), or, my fave, a simple espresso.

    — Dylon Jones

     

    OSTRA
    1758 Frankfort Ave.

    A friend recently sent this text: “Best sexy, swanky spot for me to take Scott on a dinner date?” Without giving it a thought, I replied: “Ostra!!” The Clifton restaurant seems more Los Angeles than Louisville. Nothing at Ostra is too trendy (yet, at least), from the wicker pendant lights, to the orange glow accenting the bar in the otherwise dimly lit space, to the rough-edged rock tabletops and serveware that seem to emulate oyster shells (a nod to the prominent menu item and namesake, in Spanish). It’s a refreshing change from tired trends like Tolix chairs and subway tile. And the food? Go hungry and adventurous. I’m talking rabbit corn dogs with blueberry ketchup, and oyster shooters with a quail egg, truffle soy and salmon roe. Cricket flour makes its way into some desserts. That’s an aphrodisiac, right?

    — MCN

    More on Ostra.

     


    Buttermilk ricotta dumplings at Couvillion. // by Adam Mescan

    COUVILLION
    1318 McHenry St.

    During a night out with friends at this Germantown spot, I’m fairly certain I retreated from conversation entirely as I savored every bite of my duck Creole, interjecting every so often with an, “Oh, my god, this is amazing.” Duck legs are braised in Abita beer, then shredded and served in a thick and flavorful tomato sauce infused with a dark roux. The highlight was four plump buttermilk ricotta dumplings — fluffy on the inside, slightly crisp on the outside — that dotted the cast-iron skillet in which they were served. A heaping plate of pork rinds comes fried to order and dusted with some magical seasoning referred to as Cajun Cheeto dust, and smoked cornbread is served with whipped cane syrup butter. The restaurant’s motto is “So good, it’d make a rabbit smack a bear,” a phrase borrowed from the grandpa of one of the owners. I didn’t see any rabbits smacking bears, but I did swat my husband’s hand away when he went for a second bite of my dumplings.

    — Sarah Kelley

     

    CHILAKILES
    5600 National Turnpike

    Marooned in a strip mall next to a nail salon that’s missing half its sign (“Nails” is all that’s left), Chilakiles doesn’t look like much from the outside. But passing it by would be a huge mistake, not least of all because the closest thing to another sit-down restaurant nearby is a Captain D’s. Slick tables with simple orange chairs fill a large dining room with a bar in the back. I’m the first one here for breakfast this rainy morning in mid-April, but my spirits brighten when the waitress brings out my plate of chilakiles, which is how this restaurant spells chilaquiles. If you’ve had chilaquiles before, you might be picturing a mess, but this dish is artfully plated: a bed of tortilla chips, coated in salsa roja, supports a sprinkling of cheese, a generous helping of not-too-spicy chorizo, and two gorgeous over-easy eggs, topped with pickled onions and a couple pinches of cilantro. I can’t help but take a video of the yolks as they burst from my fork. Oh, that golden ooze.

    — DJ

     


    Grassa Gramma // by Joon Kim

    GRASSA GRAMMA
    2210 Holiday Manor Center

    Prepare for Italian immersion. Following a massive renovation of the former Emperor of China space, Grassa Gramma includes stone-accented arches, large-scale Renaissance-style art and a circular fountain installed on the main floor near the open kitchen. Amid the meatballs, wood-fired pizzas and bistecca at this Italian dinner house, an item instantly popped out: frutti di mare. The restaurant’s employees tell you that Grassa Gramma translates to “plump grandma,” and the name carries over, I’d say, to this dish, with “grassa” Maine scallops and Gulf shrimp bobbing in the bowl along with Prince Edward Island mussels. A house-made bucatini pasta adds bottom to this teeming sea of flavors. The broth, reduced from Gulf shrimp into a savory stock, finishes with a slight Aleppo chile kick. I kept diving in!

    — BA

     

    BOUJIE BISCUIT
    1813 Frankfort Ave.

    Boujie Biscuit has me locked in a high-stakes debate with myself. Hot chicken with sausage gravy on a biscuit? Peaches cooked in a buttery brown sugar sauce, on a biscuit? Even, despite the early hour, an Angus burger with spicy mac and cheese — you guessed it — on a biscuit? Finally, I decide to forego the more ambitious parts of the menu and try something simple: the Gravy Train, which is a biscuit topped with chunky sausage gravy. You’ve got to nail the fundamentals, right? Well, damn, does Boujie Biscuit nail them. I grew up in southeastern Kentucky, Appalachian Kentucky, lard-and-cast-iron Kentucky; I know my biscuits. And I have never, ever had a biscuit like this. A big, buttery, flaky sucker — so devoid of the dryness that plagues lesser biscuits I almost want to call it juicy — sitting in a box, half submerged in rich, creamy gravy. How am I supposed to accomplish anything after a breakfast so hearty and knockout delicious? Oh, who cares? All that matters is that last bit of gravy I’m about to sop up with my final bite of biscuit.

    — DJ

    More on Bougie Biscuit.

     


    A parfait at V-Grits. // by Adam Mescan

    V-GRITS & FALSE IDOL
    1025 Barret Ave.

    Beneath a mural of a goat draped in golden flowers — a look that’s part Brothers Grimm, part fairy dreamscape — syrup cascades from my toddler’s chin and latches to his shirt as he tips a vegan waffle into his mouth for another eager bite. Next to him, my daughter dredges her fingers through coconut whipped cream. I’m barely more polite, the way I’m shoveling vegan “cheese” grits, tofu and coconut “bacon” into my mouth. Chef Kristina Addington, who started her Southern-vegan menu as a food truck, expertly whips plant-based ingredients into tempting, flavorful dishes that can teeter on the edge of inducing gluttony. Brunch offers breakfast tacos, biscuits and gravy, and flashy, colorful parfaits. Recently, a kiwi-berry-chia parfait practically winked from its glass cup, all dressed in lime green and lavender layers. The kicker: It is good for you. Chia seeds, cucumber, blueberries and spinach were all pureed into this dandy morning meal. One more kicker: mimosas or beer to wash it all down, thanks to False Idol Independent Brewers, housed just to the right of the kitchen.

    ­— AM

     

    EATZ VIETNAMESE
    974 Barret Ave.

    Eatz is the kind of place you’d diplomatically call “intimate.” But the flavors this casual spot concocts dwarf its modest square footage. Refreshing spring rolls take a dip in a peanut sauce I would, in private circumstances, pour all over my face. Perfectly fried eggs — crispy, sturdy bottoms; jiggly, golden yolks — ooze into a bánh mì with just enough savory pâté to balance the julienned carrots. And then there’s the main event, brought out without any of the pageantry it deserves: pho. Specifically, the “combination pho,” with rice noodles, onions and more parts of beef (meatballs, slices, tendon, tripe) than you’ve ever had in one meal. The Thai basil, jalapeño slices, lime, bean sprouts and cilantro that come on the side make welcome additions to a beef bone broth that, according to the menu, has simmered for 30 hours. Do yourself a favor and add bone marrow. Heads will turn at the gigantic bone sticking out of your bowl.

    — DJ

     

    80/20 @ KAELIN'S
    1801 Newburg Road

    If you don’t already know the Kaelin’s story, let me sum it up for you: The burger joint first opened at this Highlands spot in 1934. It claims to have been the first place to ever put cheese on a burger. (We’ll give it that.) After closing in 2009, it’s back and under new ownership, with a reconfigured, cheery, family-friendly space (including an ice cream parlor!), and fat, juicy burgers that hit craving spots that only cheeseburgers seem to touch. Which is why this may surprise: Don’t leave without trying the shrimp and grits.

    — MCN

     


    Sushi Master // by Adam Mescan

    SUSHI MASTER
    9415 Norton Commons Blvd., Suite 101

    “The Japanese do everything with purpose. Nothing is done unintentionally.” I overhear a guy at the table next to me say this during a recent lunch at Sushi Master, in Norton Commons. He no doubt is commenting on the Sushi Master experience. As you walk in, water trickles from a fountain onto rocks and greenery. Very fusui (the Japanese version of feng shui). The server is neatly dressed in a black-and-white bamboo-patterned hat and robe. The red chopsticks and cute little soy sauce dishes add even more pizazz to the neatly wound Crown roll, with lobster, avocado and salmon. Popping a good piece of sushi in my mouth always makes me want to do a little dance. It all sparks so much joy.

    MCN

     

    LOUIE'S HOT CHICKEN AND BARBECUE
    4222 Poplar Level Road

    Behind the ordering counter, through a door leading to the kitchen, I spy a cook scooping a red-orange powder from a container. “We have all kinds of powder back there,” says the young man taking my order. “Ghost pepper, Carolina Reaper.”

    “I’ll go with plain-old ‘hot.’ Will it kill me?”

    He answers with a real-life version of the shoulder-shrug emoji.

    Louie’s occupies the corner of a prefab strip that also houses a hair salon called Blown Away, near where Poplar Level Road meets the Watterson. The picnic tables in the parking lot offer a view of the baseball diamond at Taylor Memorial Park, but I instead sit inside and face the wall, so I can eat my fried chicken in privacy, like some sort of feral animal protecting its kill. The skin crunches. Syrup-sweet, heat lurking.

    “Not too spicy,” I say.

    “Next time ask for scorpion pepper,” says the guy behind the counter.

    — JM

     


    Mexican pizza at La Bonita. // by Jessica Ebelhar

    LA BONITA TIENDA MEXICANA
    1999 Brownsboro Road

    I’ve come to a little strip mall in Clifton for a whole roasted chicken. Unfortunately, La Bonita isn’t serving them anymore. A man steps out from behind the counter and over to our table to tell us that the woman responsible for the roasted chicken is in Mexico now, but that he plans on calling her up for the recipe. Fortunately, though, the restaurant attached to a Mexican grocery will serve us just about anything else. “If there’s anything you’ve seen somewhere — taco salad, chimichangas — we can make it for you,” the guy says. But off-menu ordering is unnecessary. The chicken tacos on corn tortillas and the gordita — strips of beef stuffed into a tortilla pouch — make me forget all about those chickens. For the spice freaks out there, the attached grocery offers any kind of dried pepper you could imagine. Oh, and more perks are coming. “We’re going to add a bar so we can all get drunk and naked,” the guy says, blushing a little at his own joke.

    — DJ

     

    FLAVOUR
    1767 Bardstown Road

    “Beef patties” are far tastier than they sound. The savory pastry, a popular island street snack, is filled with Caribbean-spiced beef or chicken, then baked to a golden brown. During a weeklong trip to Jamaica last year, my husband feasted almost daily on the dish (he was partial to the Tastee Patties brand), and he says Flavour’s version is a close match. I look forward to returning to the patio (in what was previously Asiatique, in the Highlands) for a little island escape — complete with jerk chicken and Red Stripe — just a few minutes from home.

    — SK

     

    FARM TO FORK
    2425 Portland Ave.

    Farm to Fork, the catering business-turned-cafe in Portland, is part meeting place. On a Wednesday afternoon, five women celebrate a birthday over roast beef sandwiches with fresh pickled veggies and creamy-but-not-goopy potato salad. Notes from a recent Portland neighborhood meeting are piled in the back next to a gallery of works by Portland artists. Already a staple in the neighborhood, owner Sherry Hurley-Magnuson says hello to a man in line, handing him a poster-sized neighborhood map that he left after a recent meeting. “It was divine intervention,” he says. “Now I get to eat lunch here.”

    — JK

     


    The rib-eye at the Pine Room. // by Jessica Ebelhar

    THE PINE ROOM
    6325 River Road

    The Pine Room feels like what I imagine vacation in the ’50s was like for the boat-club crowd. A little like the Dirty Dancing camp setting, the Pine Room pops with sea-foam green paneling against an otherwise white, clean space. The Prospect building, a few doors down from the original Pine Room that burned down in the ’70s, is ingeniously situated so that the setting sun pours light into the dining room, making you feel like you’re in an Instagram filter. Even on a Sunday, the starched shirts and luxury rides roll up one after another to liven up the place, which nonetheless feels relaxed and unpretentious. Our server surprises us with an amuse-bouche, three little puffs of what taste like gourmet Cheez-Its, and the whole experience goes up from there, to breaded and fried artichokes that miraculously happen to be gluten-free, and an artfully garnished rib-eye that somehow disappears in front of me.

    — MCN

    More on the Pine Room.

     

    This originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of Louisville Magazine under the headline "24 New Restaurants to Crave." To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

    To read our 2018 feature on new restaurants, click here.

    Cover photo: The Hall on Washington // by William DeShazer

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