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December 26, 2012

Industry Standard: Insider info for those who dine out

Happy New Year, foodies!

Nearly two years ago in this column I made a “Louisville food industry wish” for the new year, calling for relaxed rules and clarity in food-truck regulations for Metro Louisville. And while we’re not 100 percent where we need to be, I commend Mayor Greg Fischer and his crew for enabling our local food-truck explosion. Well done. We now have a Louisville Food Truck Association, headed up by the ever-entrepreneurial Leah Stewart of Louisville Dessert Truck and Louisville Candy Buffet.

Currently in the roster of LFTA are: The Traveling Kitchen (can’t say enough about this rig, an aesthetically beautiful truck, with house-made kimchee, Korean taco trios), Bar.B.Lou, Moe-Licious BBQ, Gyros Express, Holy Mole, One Hot Tamale, Red’s Comfort Foods, San Diego Sandwich Works (in a renovated old short school bus painted in psychedelic color-blocks), Get It on a Bun at Booty’s Diner, and Leah’s own Louisville Dessert Truck.

And there are many others: Louisville Street Food boasts a whole other list of trucks: Grind (gourmet burgers), Busta Grill, and Bluegrass Brick Oven Pizza Co., which brings to the party a mobile wood-fired brick pizza oven. Lil’ Cheezers (gourmet grilled cheese), whose owner Matt Davis was instrumental in getting the local food truck scene going — he spent a lot of time at City Hall doing the heavy lifting in the early days — now has a brick-and-mortar store in the Highlands, as well.

Well done indeed, Louisville. May many more food trucks come and play; we need you.

Last New Year, I wrote a column about making your own top-10 list of restaurants to have on hand when the inevitable question comes up: Where to dine out? Shockingly (not really), nobody asked for my own picks, so I’m offering them now. Here we go:

No. 10: Let’s call this one the “fantasy night out” choice: We spent a birthday dinner at Rivue. It was good (and expensive) but perhaps not as good as we might have expected. Tables are very close together, unlike the bathroom, which is very far away.

No. 9: Your favorite restaurant/bar combo. Café Lou Lou St. Matthews — a slight edge over Café Lou Lou Highlands only because the St. Matthews location has a full bar. Don’t miss the blue cheese polenta with mushrooms and asparagus. Also: local art for sale on the walls!

No. 8: Your choice for a meal with the whole family. Red Robin, the ubiquitous burger joint at Mall St. Matthews. Yes, it’s a chain — which means they are ready for a family group of all ages. The onion ring tower delights the kids, too. And I do love a burger with a fried egg on top.

No. 7: Best place for a business lunch. How about Winston’s at Sullivan University? Contrary to popular belief, it’s not entirely staffed by students, although some do intern there. Dining room service is provided by a professional staff, and Chef John Castro and Sous Chef Tyson Long do amazing things with food there on a weekly basis.

No. 6: Top restaurant with ethnic cuisine. Roots/Heart and Soy. Forbidden Rice risotto. Enough said.

No. 5: Quick, cheap and satisfying. SuperChefs breakfast, any location — but we like the one on Brownsboro Road. Eggs Benedict with grits cakes. You’ll thank me.

No. 4: Pre-show dining. Marketplace Restaurant at Theater Square. Today, tomorrow and forever, Dallas McGarity knows what he’s doing. Pork belly, oh boy.

No. 3: Comfort food. The Silver Dollar on Frankfort. The vegetable empanadas with mole sauce are a revelation.

No. 2: Healthful food. Oh, Vietnam Kitchen, with your fresh salads and pancake wraps, I guess you’re not the restaurant that serves the most healthful food in Louisville, but you’re probably the closest thing for me. Note: Turnip Cake on the menu. Yes, please.

No. 1: Your personal favorite. For my (long-suffering) boyfriend John and me, it’s Seviche in the Highlands. Anthony Lamas is blowing up as an internationally acclaimed “Nuevo Latino” chef; he’s been on TV in “Extreme Chef,” he’s a rock star in the sustainable seafood movement, his restaurant’s been renovated and spruced up to within an inch of its life, his food is the best food within walking distance of my apartment, and nobody makes skirt steak like this guy. I want to live in his pantry. If you haven’t been there, get thee hence.

Marsha Lynch has worked at many Louisville independent restaurants including Limestone, Jack Fry’s, Jarfi’s, L&N Wine Bar and Bistro and Café Lou Lou. She now works for her alma mater, Sullivan University, as sous chef of Juleps Catering.

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