Can we possibly still be adding restaurants to this city? You bet. From a micro-restaurant serving up homemade Italian to massive, multi-year reno projects at a brewery, 2015 saw a slew of new concepts join the already full roster of fabulous places to eat in Louisville. Let’s not desert our old favorites – they need us more than ever – but you know you want to check out what’s new. Here are some of our top picks for new restaurants this year.
Best Supper Club:
At the Italian Table
2359 Frankfort Ave.
If a ticket to Tuscany isn’t in the cards anytime soon, but you’re dying to pull up a seat at a table bearing homemade Italian goodness, get yourself to At The Italian Table. Gina Stipo, who launched this supper club style micro-restaurant, is the real deal. Luckily for us the chef and instructor decided to call Louisville home after years of cooking, teaching, and eating in Tuscany. And she comes bearing gifts; on her regular trips to Italy Gina loves to bring home bags chock full of culinary treats.
Dinner at her snug little place on Frankfort Ave. feels like dining with the Italian family you’ve always wanted. Dreamy homemade pasta is just the start. Book the whole table or make new friends – you’ll share one of the two antique tables with just a few other Italiophiles – and dig in to platters of whatever Gina feels like cooking that night.
1076 E. Washington St.
The “chef, lawyer, and rock star walking into a bar” jokes began immediately once word got out who was behind Bobby Benjamin’s latest endeavor. My Morning Jacket drummer Patrick Hallahan and attorney Jon Salomon teamed up with Bobby – known and loved for his work at La Coop and the Oakroom – to give the chef the kitchen of his dreams, and this city of insatiable foodies a restaurant they couldn’t stop talking about well before the doors opened in November. A made-for-Instagram renovation of the historic (once-upon-a-time grocery) building that most recently housed the Blind Pig took place all year behind papered-over windows that teased with messages like “Butchertown is about to smell a lot better — at least from lunch.” The menu reads like a Best of Bobby’s career, so you can’t go wrong, but don’t miss his oh-so-lovely gnocchi.
Most Fan Fervor:
Grind Burger Kitchen
829 E. Market St.
When people will follow a food truck all over the city and shell out 13 bucks for a burger on Preston Highway, you can imagine the response to the restaurant opening in NuLu. Fans of Grind thronged the burger kitchen when they opened in December, thrilled to satisfy their craving for the B&B without the trek to Prestonia. Obviously you’re there for the custom-blended, freshly-ground burgers, but don’t miss the insanely addictive Brussels sprouts.
The little burger truck that could, as you might hear co-owner Liz Huot describe the endeavor, didn’t end up in NuLu through sheer good luck; more work and hard-learned lessons
go into opening a restaurant than many of us might know.
Most Designer Handbags Sacrificed:
2300 Lexington Ave.
Got Louis? You may have heard the rumors, and yes, they’re true. The “Louis booth” at Le Moo is handmade with vintage Louis Vuitton bag material (17 of them, but who’s counting?). Hand painted LV logoed walls, a period French bronze chandelier, and velvet drapes complete the picture. Kevin Grangier, the man behind the Village Anchor (and marketer famed for Got Milk?) knows how to create buzz, and he’s responsible for the demise of those bags – or the birth of the most spendy table in town, depending on how you look at it. To slide your seat into a booth made of Louis will set you back 500 bucks; that’s the minimum tab after 6 p.m. A dry aged steak for everyone at the table will give you a good head start! (And if you miss the old K.T.s, the spinach queso should soothe.)
Most Prolonged but Worth It Wait:
1036 Burnett Ave.
Three years, one name change, and countless delays in the making, Monnik Beer at last opened their doors in the old Zeppelin in November. This outpost of Danville’s Beer Engine was under construction for so long, fans of the brew and neighbors jonesing for their promised sustainable-meets-budget friendly menu thought it may never open. They’ve packed it out since Brian Holton and Ian Luijk finally wrapped up the floor-to-rafter’s renovation of the 10,000-square-foot space.
Don’t miss the donder fries (think poutine, but with beef stew as the topping over the addictively crunchy fries) and anything on tap (refreshingly for anyone who’s over over-hopped beers; it’s saisons and Belgian styles in the limelight here).
Most Down-Low Opening
Royals Hot Chicken
736 E. Market St.
Hot chicken is having a hot minute
, in case you hadn’t noticed. But Feast BBQ founder – and now the force behind brand new Royals Hot Chicken – Ryan Rogers isn’t one to ride a wave of publicity. While some restaurateurs are so excited about their next concept they will shout from the rooftops the moment they break ground – or dream up an idea – Ryan keeps a lid on it. He teased local foodies with the occasional mouthwatering Instagram shot of his menu development, but kept mum all year ’till it was time to open the doors to the bright, cantina-feeling space in the old Taco Punk location. Fans of the golden classic fried chicken and hot, hotter, and Gonzo chicken are making up for lost time, shouting their love from their own rooftops. We can’t wait for the champagne and chicken program to start!
Most Feel Good
1800 Portland Ave.
Pay-what-you-can comes to Louisville at this Portland lunch cafe. Don’t worry, suggested menu prices prevent any awkward “what do I pay?” moments. The concept is pretty simple. Pay with money, pay with time, and/or give additional of either to pay to forward. The Table opened in November, immediately drawing locavores, locals and downtowners west. Enjoy your pulled chicken sandwich with a side of feel good by paying a little extra forward.