By Mary Chellis Austin
Photos by Chris Witzke
“You’ll have to excuse me; I haven’t had coffee yet,” Eric Morris says after emerging from the kitchen at Loop 22, located in Douglass Loop off Bardstown Road. The space used to house the Pink Door, a noodle-and-tea-place-turned-nightclub, and then briefly housed the Corner Door, a pub-fare joint with live music. Morris and I are sitting at the bar of a dark, empty restaurant at noon on a gloomy January day. Caffeinated or not, he is used to restaurant schedules. “I’ve always kind of been in kitchens,” the 32-year-old says. “I grew up washing dishes. Just kind of worked my way up. I never went to school or anything.” The Louisville native cooked with chefs Adam Burress and Chase Mucerino at Seviche and stayed with them through their openings of Hammerheads and Game.
While he was at Game, the carnivore’s paradise on Lexington Road, Morris had an idea for another restaurant. “I came up with this concept and was looking around for investors,” he says. “I approached Adam and Chase. I already had the building in mind, already had this place all lined up, and they backed me. It’s huge what they did for me. All I could really offer up was my concept and my time.” He says the Southern-style rotisserie concept at Loop 22 derives from his love for Louisville’s Southern cuisine. “With Hammerheads, we did the smokehouse deal. I think we wanted to take that one step further and still take the idea of slow cooking, but bring another equation into that. So we thought, rotisserie: the other side of barbecue,” he says.
The menu includes dishes such as rotisserie ducks and chickens by the half or whole, chicken and dumplings, and lobster-chorizo queso. Though these guys are known for their meat, they also serve vegetarian fare, such as wild-mushroom polenta with charred radicchio and a nutmeg reduction, and a veggie roulade with grilled asparagus and sage beurre blanc.
In the three years since Hammerheads opened, all three restaurants seem to have gained a cult following. “I think the key to the success with all these restaurants is being consistent. We all have a fine-dining background; we know how to cook those really bold flavors and make pretty presentations, but it’s keeping everything fresh and bold,” Morris says. “A lot of people like to play it safe, but what’s helped us is that we give as much flavor as we can.”
Burress and Mucerino are partners in the restaurant for now (and you might catch them cooking in the back), but Morris says they’re mainly investors. Mucerino says that he and Burress plan to take the next year to perfect all three restaurants — including adding a Sunday brunch at Loop 22 — before jumping into any other projects. “We’ve kicked around a lot of ideas,” Mucerino says, adding that he’d rather not mention specifics because nothing is set in stone. “They have two restaurants to run; they’re very busy,” Morris says. “These guys are very ambitious. Adam can tell you, he’s got other things in mind that he wants to do. I’m holding the fort down here.”
Loop 22 is located on 2222 Dundee Road, call 882-3279, and is open Monday through Saturday 5-10 p.m.