Photo by Ron Jasin

July 11, 2012

Farm-to-table dining hiding in plain sight at Anchorage Café

“Farm-to-table,” the buzz term for restaurants that seek out and celebrate the health and humane stewardship of local produce, meat and poultry, is one of the hottest trends on the local culinary scene. From Mozz on down to Toast, Harvest, Wiltshire, Garage Bar, La Coop, Taco Punk, Decca, Mayan Cafe and Rye, you needn’t walk any farther than you can throw a Weisenberger Mill grits cake to find farm-to-table cuisine in trendy NuLu.

But one of the best of the genre, surprisingly, is almost hidden out in the leafy environs of suburban Anchorage, where Anchorage Café assembles an impressive collection of locavore small plates. It’s well worth the trip, but it’s surprisingly easy to miss: The little café is overshadowed by the bustling Village Anchor Pub and Grill, and when you enter the smallish, two-story venue (a new building made to look like an old one) from the upper (Park Road) side, you’re likely to look around and think you’ve entered a quaint little neighborhood espresso-and-pastry takeout shop.

And that’s pretty much all it was, at first, until last autumn, when Chef Andy Meyers (and sidekick Ryan Rogers, who came from Zanzabar and has moved on to New Albany’s new Feast BBQ) worked with owners Bruce and Courtney Lake to kick up the menu and feature the region’s agricultural resources, taking advantage of the downstairs section as a small dining room.

Anchorage Café is open for lunch daily but for dinner only Thursdays through Saturdays. It’s worth scheduling your visit for one of those evenings when Myers and his sous chef, Paul Skulas, bring the farm to the table full-bore. The menu changes frequently, reflecting what’s ripe and good as the seasons change, but it typically features about 10 small (but not tiny) plates attractively priced at $10 or less.

They’re into locavore dining but not obsessive about it. For example, sweet corn bisque ($5) brought in South Carolina corn before the drought-slowed Kentucky crop was thriving. At the top of the menu, carbonara risotto ($10) featured house-cured bacon, a locavore duck egg, and Sapori d’Italia Tuscan-style cheese made in the bluegrass. No local claim is made for the Arborio rice.

The Southern plate ($7) features cornbread made with Kenny’s Kentucky Farmhouse aged cheddar. Local eggs, house-made sausage and locally grown greens comprise the Scotch egg ($7), and I expect the smoked local rabbit in the tostada ($9) comes from Duncan Farm, although the menu doesn’t say. Even the sautéed blue prawns ($9) are Kentucky-bred, as is the beef in the Marksbury Farm burger sliders ($9) and the Benton’s Kentucky ham in the fried green tomato sliders ($8).

The wine list is short — just eight items — but they’re well-chosen and affordable at $8 or $9 for a glass, $28 to $35 for a bottle. Nine bottled beers are split between industrial and craft-style, the locals currently represented by BBC Bourbon Barrel Stout ($6).

The lunch menu is appealing, too, more focused on traditional midday lunch-and-brunch fare, but still playing the locavore card with Kenny’s and Sapori d’Italia Kentucky cheeses and Indiana goat cheese from Capriole; Benton’s ham, Marksbury beef, and Garey Farm’s bacon and chicken. Lunch prices match dinner in the $7 to $9 range. There’s also a blackboard breakfast menu with treats under $6.

We stopped in with friends for a leisurely Sunday brunch and were more than satisfied. The Kentucky Caesar salad ($9) started with the usual suspects — romaine and a creamy Caesar dressing — but took it down a road less traveled with a tangy pickled egg and delicious, crunchy pretzel-bread croutons.

The ham biscuit ($5.75) was a hefty, flaky chive biscuit piled high with Garey Farm ham, Kenny’s aged cheddar and a dab of house-made bourbon mustard.

A turkey sandwich ($9) came with no genealogy for the juicy bird, but scored with Benton’s bacon jam and Kenny’s swiss cheese on a Claus’ pretzel roll.

The smoked pimento sandwich ($8), built on house-made light wheat bread, added a seductive note from smoked peppers; I wasn’t as excited by its condiment use of spinach leaves and sweet brown bacon jam, but the cheese was outstanding. Next time I’ll take mine straight.

Our share of an ample breakfast was $25.71, plus tip.

Anchorage Café
11505 Park Road • 708-1880
theanchoragecafe.com
Rating: 86

Taco Punk un-punk’d
A brief social media hurricane surrounded Taco Punk recently after the unofficial campus newspaper, The Louisville Cardinal, ran a sharply critical review that, among other things, found the hip NuLu hangout guilty of such high crimes as allowing a pricey Porsche to park out front, fostering gentrification and, it seemed, being imperialist 1-percenter piglets. In my Feb. 22 review, I had found it guilty of only misdemeanors: slacker service and fragile tortillas.

In the aftermath of the imperfect media storm, I decided to give them another shot, and I’m pleased to report that both issues are now well under control. Service was quick, competent and smiling, and my fresh corn tortilla was solid enough to bear its load of black beans, cheese and salsa with savoir faire. Let’s raise that rating to a thumbs-up 88. (Taco Punk, 736 E. Market St., 584-8226, tacopunk.com.)

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