Aftertastes (01-25-2006)

Quality of Meal: 3 = Good; 4 = Very good; 5 = Extraordinary. Price Range: $ = $10 or less; $$ = $20 or less; $$$ = $30 or less; $$$$ = more than $30. (Per person for a meal without tip or tax.) HA = Wheelchair accessible. Descriptions are summaries of previously published dining reviews by Marty Rosen (MR), Kevin Gibson (KG) and Paul Kopasz (PK).

211 Clover Lane
Rating: 5 $$$ HA
211 Clover Ln. 896-9570.
From appetizers to salads and desserts, the meals at 211 are well thought out and beautifully presented. They clearly have one of the best kitchens in the city, with a focus on seasonal ingredients and perfect techniques. As for atmosphere, if you’re looking for a calming, romantic environment, you won’t find better. The atmosphere is enhanced by flawless, thoughtful and generous service. 9/21/05 MR

Eclectic/Casual Dining
Rating: 3 $$
316 Ormsby 637-9899.
Vintage b/w photos and charcoal renderings of Central Park and St. James Court adorn the walls and firmly place this new establishment within its Old Louisville neighborhood. Apps are pub-typical, but it’s obvious the ambitious kitchen is capable of much more (the owners previously worked at Napa River Grill). Dinner entrees such as sesame seared tuna and beef tournedos are on a level that should lure nighttime diners back to Old Louisville. 3/23/05 MR
Middle Eastern
Rating: 4 $ HA
3713 Klondike Ln. 454-4406.
When it comes to the ratio between dollars spent and quality delivered, Al Watan significantly outperforms expectations. The menu is full of classic Arab dishes such as tabouli, kebabs and falafel, and sports two versions of baba ganoush. Salad options focus on cucumbers, tomatoes and greens, and can be dressed variously with lemon, mint and olive oil or lemon and tahini. The shawarma is excellent, and the entrees, which focus on chicken, beef and lamb, are very generous. Lunch at Al Watan is also a treat. 8/24/05 MR

Contemporary American
Rating: 3 $$$ HA
620 E. Market St. 583-4177.
Artemisia certainly has a lot going for it; but for a restaurant aspiring to fine dining status, there are just too many inconsistencies. The dining room itself is alluring with deep colors, romantic lighting and attractive artwork, and the heated patio allows for al fresco dining well into autumn. The salads are classic and good, but the roasted chicken was cloaked in the kind of flaccid, pale skin you’d expect to find on a chicken fished out of a stock pot. Proving you can’t go wrong with dessert, however, the bittersweet chocolate Cointreau mousse cake is rich and redemptive. 10/5/05 MR

Big Ben’s
Rating: 4 $
1331 E. Eighth St., Jeffersonville, 282-9201.
At Big Ben’s Hickory Smoked Barbecue, a small house shelters a varied menu that highlights flavor. Offerings include ribs, pork or beef tips, whiting fish, chicken, turkey legs and chicken wings. Peach cobbler is sometimes available for $1.75. Lunch specials are offered — $3.99 for a shredded pork sandwich and one side, or salad and a sandwich for $4.99 — and are carefully packed to avoid spills on the way back to work. Here, the slogan, “Where the Ribs Are Ready, and the Sauce is Boss,” certainly hits the mark. 6/29/05 KG

Bluegrass Brewing Company
Rating: N/A $$ HA
Fourth Street at Theater Square 568-2224.
The BBC is a wise merger of Third Avenue Café’s kitchen acumen and BBC’s micro-brewery prowess, offering outdoor dining on the Square that is an attractive option on spring and summer nights. The menu includes selections that should satisfy even those with a taste for veggies: pastas, beer-battered fish, pizza, a number of sandwiches and daily soups. Even some of the desserts have a hint of brew in them — the raspberry-mead cheesecake is made with BBC Mead. 5/18/05 MR

Bourbons Bistro
Rating: 4 $$$ HA
2255 Frankfort Ave. 894-8838.
At Bourbons Bistro, the bourbon list is long and the room is a classy renovated space with exposed brick, black ceilings and tan walls. Appetizers include fried green tomatoes, shrimp cocktail, diver scallops, chicken and country ham dumplings and more. Entrees of salmon, bass, chicken, duck, pork, other meats, pastas and a daily vegetarian dish are available. There’s even a handmade burger with house-made pickles and sweet potato fries. 6/01/05 MR

Butterfly Garden
Rating: 4 $
1327 Bardstown Rd. 456-4500.
Walking into Butterfly Garden, it’s hard not to feel as if you’ve stepped into a China shop universe where lady-like grace and a fanciful tea party atmosphere will insulate you from the harsh realities of the outside world. The menu offers a simple selection of soups, sandwiches, salads and desserts. The salads are colorful and crisp. The sandwiches, served on immaculately fresh bread, are superbly designed and executed — namely the Reuben. And if a bowl of mixed berry cobbler was any indication, Butterfly Garden would be worth visiting just for the desserts. 8/31/05 MR

Café 360
Rating: 2 $ HA
1582 Bardstown Rd. 473-8694.
Café 360 has an eclectic Bohemian mood that fits well in the stretch of the Highlands. A large, full bar dominates one side of the room, and casually strewn tables give the place a coffeehouse informality that lends itself to long, late-night liaisons. The menu offers a global assortment that draws heavily from Asia and the Mediterranean but also caters to that late-night crowd with a full slate of breakfast dishes, from massive omelets to waffles. And the food, when it’s good, is quite nice: very well prepared and inexpensive. There are issues with inconsistent food and service, which will need to be worked out if Café 360 hopes to catch on beyond its core clientele. 9/7/05 MR
Rating: 4 $$
3939 Shelbyville Rd. 719-9717.
Three years ago, Emilie Morris was working on a college project about opening a restaurant. That turned into Cafe Emilie, which recently transformed from a French-themed lunch and coffee spot to an upscale-meets-casual dining spot with full bar. The lunch menu is based around sandwiches and pizza, and the night menu is French-based but accessible. 3/30/05 KG

Rating: N/A $$ HA
280 W. Jefferson St. 671-4246.
Champions is casual American dining in a trendy atmosphere with a sports theme. The menu, like the atmosphere, is exactly what you want from a sports bar: appetizers like wings, chicken tenders, spinach artichoke dip and an interesting option of bacon-wrapped shrimp. There are several salads, including a house and a Cobb loaded with ingredients. The menu includes sandwiches ($7-$10) and things like hot browns, fish and chips, ribs and steaks. 6/8/05 KG

Come Back Inn
Rating: 4 $ HA
909 Swan St. 627-1777.
Located in a charmingly crusty old neighborhood on Swan Street, Come Back Inn offers old-fashioned Italian-American food at its finest with a pub-style comfort. A fully stocked bar, equipped with moderately priced wines, shares the room with a non-smoking dining area where patrons can enjoy massive portions of anything from pizza, hoagies, a bang-up perfect caponata, linguine dishes topped with finely ground meatballs and fancy salads. 9/14/05 MR

Cravings A la Carte
Rating: N/A $ HA
Inside the National City Tower downton, 589-4230.
The Cravings Cafeteria, owned and operated by the same folks who run the Colonnade Cafeteria in the Starks Building, is spic-and-span and efficient. Multiple serving lines offer traditional blue plate fare, sandwiches, salads and made-to-order dishes. Prices are very reasonable, a “mini-meal” (small portion of protein, two veggies and bread) runs $4.69. Pimento cheese sandwiches, BLTs, nicely seasoned green beans, cobblers and the like are everywhere you look at Cravings. 5/25/05 MR

Crawdaddy’s Café
Rating: 4 $ HA
1207 E. Market St. 282-6561.
The “all-you-can-eat crawfish” Tuesday special at Crawdaddy’s Café in Jeffersonville is worth writing home about. For $12.99, the meal started with a dozen or so plump crawfish, boiled and seasoned, garnished with slow-cooked green beans and thick-cut seasoned potatoes. The crawfish were cooked perfectly — tender, juicy and not at all shriveled. You can ask for more crawfish as often as you like, and they typically come out piping hot in baskets of 15 or so. There’s also an ample menu featuring numerous sandwiches and wraps, salads, appetizers, desserts and dinner entrees. 12/14/05 KG
Creekside Outpost
Native American
Rating: 4 $ HA
614 Hausfeldt Ln., New Albany, 948-9118.
This atmosphere is something you won’t see every day — or week, month or year, for that matter. The Creekside Outpost warps customers back into the days of general stores and maintains every bit of old fashioned charm. The Ladyhawk Café serves up lean buffalo, elk and surprisingly good burgers. The Apache soup, combining corn and hominy with herbs and more sundries, steals the show. The menu is great for weight-conscious diners, and all lunch plates are under $10. “Coyote” fries are spiced according to your wants, though the “howling hot” could use a little kick. Exotic foods including Shinnecock ice fish, black bear, ostrich and kangaroo (when available) round out an excellent, traveled menu. 1/18/06 KG

Casual Dining
Rating: 3 $$
301 W. Market St. 584-8337.
Along with pub standards like chicken wings, quesadillas and onion rings, you’ll find unexpected starters such as pimento cheese and chilled beet-fennel soup. Deke’s offers a half-dozen salads, including one of mixed greens, sun-dried cherries, Granny Smith apples, candied pecans and melted brie, with a caramelized chicken breast and a balsamic reduction sauce. The sandwich menu includes crab cakes, portabellas and more. Pasta, pork chops and fish dishes round out the entrees. 8/17/05 MR
EL Mundo
Rating: 4 $$ HA
2345 Frankfort Ave., 899-9930.
El Mundo blazes inside with festive artwork, sounds and colors, but hot food is not the order of the day. Pan-fried fish tacos impress, while roasted lamb carnitas were a bit pricey. El Mundo strives to serve fresh ingredients with a culinary edge not found in other Mexican dining spots. Patrons can order food at a counter downstairs, or opt for traditional waited dining on the second floor, where more than 40 tequilas are offered. Less can be more; steamed mussels in a chipotle sauce delights. 1/11/06 MR

Fine Dining
Rating: 4 $$$
122 Sears Ave. 897-9721.
The service, atmosphere and quality of fare will make you feel like a star. One highlight is lobster bisque; on the surface it’s unobtrusive, but a spoonful seems to contain the very essence of the sea, a focused cascade of lobster flavor with just the barest hint of Tabasco-inspired heat. And the pork tenderloin is decadently encrusted in strips of pancetta, then pan seared and touched up with a suitably rustic Pinot Noir veal glace. Chess cake makes for a wonderful finish. 4/20/05 MR

Famous Dave’s
Rating: 4 $$
1360 Veterans Pkwy., Clarksville, 282-3283.
Famous Dave’s offers the usuals — barbecue sandwiches, ribs, brisket and lots of combos — but has an expansive menu otherwise, complete with appetizers like catfish fingers and smoked salmon spread, numerous soups and salads as well as fish dinners, burgers and desserts. Essentially, it’s like Applebee’s gone barbecue. Five different sauces are on the tables — Rich and Sassy, Sweet and Zesty, Texas Pit, Georgia Mustard and Devil’s Spit. The service is impeccable and geared toward the dining experience. 6/29/05 KG

Casual Dining
Rating: 3 $$ HA
302 Bullitt Ln. 394-7620.
Sure, it sounds like an English pub. But then again, O’Charley’s sort of sounds Irish, now doesn’t it? Kidding aside, Louisville’s Fox and Hound is clean and bright, housed in a nondescript but friendly looking building. The menu is extensive with starters ranging from cheese sticks to Asian chicken lettuce cups. The fish and chips is a gargantuan serving, and the pizza is especially good. Also, the extremely friendly service lends itself to family dining. 10/19/05 KG

Rating: 4 $$ HA
4812 Brownsboro Rd. 899-7177.
Gasthaus German Restaurant is like the perfect male fantasy: good beer, plenty of beef and pork on the menu, and a waitress who looks like Daryl Hannah in a dirndl who is ready to bring you anything you need. The chef, influenced by a mix of French and German, creates a formidable alliance of continental cuisine that translates into brilliantly engineered dishes, meticulous techniques, lovely sauces and a focus on house-made dishes prepared from hand-selected ingredients. Excellent potato-based dishes include kartoffelknodel and bratkartoffeln, while pork, beef, chicken and veal dominate the menu. 7/13/05 MR

Rating: N/A $ HA
222 S. Seventh St. 583-8183.
Gavi’s is humble and self-effacing, nearly everything is done just as it should be. Lunches and breakfasts are bargain-priced, and the staff is friendly. You’ll hear the lilt of Russia in the voices of the staff, and find specials like beef stroganoff, Russian baked fish in carrot sauce, Russian vegetable soup or borscht. The menu describes the food as “home-style Russian and American cooking,” and the description is borne out, quite well, in dishes like meatloaf, baked chicken, cabbage rolls, soups made of lentil or split peas, and a list of sandwiches. 5/25/05 MR

Rating: 4 $ HA
2109 Frankfort Ave. 896-4046.
There’s no need to miss New Orleans with Gumbo A Go-Go in town. This quaint restaurant’s simple décor mirrors the exquisite simplicity of the menu — everything is $5. Appetizers like crawfish cheese dip and spinach and artichoke dip are available. Entrees include red beans and rice, crawfish etoufee and the spiced-up drunken chicken. Be sure to wash it all down with an Abita — Amber or Turbodog — or with a $1 Bud Light draft on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 8/10/05 MR

Irish Rover Too
Rating: 4 $$ HA
117 E. Main St., La Grange, 222-2286.
Irish Rover Too’s a sprawling spot with an airy bar, a large, divided dining room, mustard walls, ancient hardwood floors and the burnished glow of an ancient tavern. Except for afternoon tea, with tea sandwiches, scones and quality loose-leaf teas (2-5 p.m.), the menu here looks like the menu at the Frankfort Avenue location, but the overall the execution and service at the La Grange location was actually a notch better. The menu includes Irish standards like Guinness beef stew, fish and chips, leek and potato soup, Shanagarry fish cakes, a mix of cod and salmon, Scotch eggs and more. Then there’s the cinnamon-infused bread and butter pudding, with its hefty dose of plump raisins and a sauce that’s mostly caramel, with a nearly undetectable hint of whiskey. 6/22/05 MR

Jay’s Cafeteria
Rating: 3 $ HA
1812 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd. 583-2534.
In an area dominated by fast food outlets and rib shacks, Jay’s is one of the few restaurants west of the downtown area that offers a truly comfortable dining atmosphere. The menu includes standard cafeteria fare: fried and baked chicken, meatloaf, barbecued ribs and chicken, fried cod and catfish, side dishes like greens, macaroni and cheese, yams, spinach and tossed salads, soups and the like. As for desserts, the peach cobbler ($2) is more savory than sweet, and alone is well worth a visit. 11/09/05 MR

Rating: 3 $ HA
1801 Newburg Road 451-1801.
The brand new patio at Kaelin’s, the supposed birthplace of the cheeseburger, is a lovely place to enjoy both a plate of comfort food and a leisurely, guilt-free cigarette. The quality level is consistent, which explains why the place has been around so long. The menu is short on exotics and long on heartiness and quantity. There are plenty of meat-free options, but who are we kidding? Kaelin’s is mainly about the cheeseburgers, the ribs and the steaks. There is also a modest offering of desserts, including homemade pies. 9/28/05 PK

Kashmir Indian Restaurant
Rating: 3 $ HA
1285 Bardstown Rd. 473-8765.
Nestled in an old house across from Mid-City Mall, Kashmir dishes up spicy, brightly colored food served in hearty portions at moderate prices. The prevailing culture seems to emphasize the hot and serious, and the service is more business-like than personal, but it’s worth a visit. Plenty of vegetarian options are available. The dessert menu can end a meal wonderfully. Kulfi ($2) is an excellent ice cream with the grainy texture of ground pistachios, almonds and cashews, and lassi, the Indian yogurt shake, is available in sweet and sour variations for $2.50. 12/7/05 MR

La Rosita
Rating: 3 $ HA
2535 Charlestown Rd. 948-0401.
La Rosita is a nifty postage stamp-sized place nestled against a produce stand, serving tacos, burritos, huaraches (those little sandal-shaped sandwiches), tortas and the like, filled with the usual assortment of sausage, beans, beef, chicken, tongue and ribeye. But even the usual assortment seems special at La Rosita, where fresh cilantro is sprinkled all over the place, and where curds of soft white Chihuahua cheese melt into the warm ingredients, lending everything a delightfully creamy texture. Urns of freshly made red and green salsa and bowls of pickled jalapenos are available for those who want to kick up this fresh, flavorful food with extra flavor. 10/12/05 MR

Lee’s Korean Restaurant
Rating: N/A $$ HA
1941 Bishop Ln., 456-9714.
Lee’s, a calmly lighted sanctuary for Korean food, has been around for 25 years and continues to impress. The menu includes lunch options, and the dinner menu includes a mix of rice and noodle-based dishes and soups that will serve vegetarians or carnivores with a taste for seafood, chicken, pork or, the menu’s most prominent meat, beef. There are hot and cool dishes to meet your temperature needs, and a Chinese menu if you’re not up on Korean cuisine. 7/06/05 MR

Monkey Wrench
Rating: N/A $$
1025 Barret Ave. 582-2433.
Artful walls and lighting fixtures, and a curtain that can be drawn around the bar area to reduce secondhand smoke in the dining area, give this restaurant a nice look. One starter, the breaded asparagus spears, was crisp, tender and flavorful. White bean soup, salads, pierogies, fried fish and roast beef au jus are just some of the choices offered; the latter two being served with crisp homemade potato chips. One oustanding dessert option was a fried banana encrusted with brown sugar and drizzled with honey and chocolate. 5/18/05 MR

Rating: N/A $
2100 S. Preston St., 635-6747.
Nord’s lies in the 2100 block of Preston Street in Germantown, in a neighborhood that’s just about perfectly self-sufficient, next to Sunergos Micro-Roastery and Espresso Bar and Uncle Pleasant’s, where you can hear live music. The steam table is the draw for the lunch crowd, but you can also order standard fare off the menu, including a superb blackened chicken sandwich. Desserts come from Nord’s Bakery, a few doors down. 4/27/05 MR

Rating: 3 $
6301 Upper River Rd. 228-3625.
Pearly’s offers better-than-average riverside dining, complete with a menu including oysters on the half-shell, stuffed grouper with crab meat and Dijon hollandaise, lobster bisque and shrimp Creole. On a warm day, the restaurant has a festive island feel, and there’s plenty of outdoor seating available. 4/13/05 MR

Rating: 2 $
4918 Poplar Level Rd. 962-7077.
Also located on Preston Highway, this is the restaurant’s second location, which offers sit-down seating in an unassuming, old KFC building. The menu is a straightforward affair focused on barbecue, burgers, chili, wings, catfish, hot dogs and sausages. Prices are modest. Although the entree results were mixed, the side dishes indicated a kitchen capable of better things, especially the green beans, which were the very essence of soul food. 2/16/05 MR

Rating: 5 $$$ HA
445 E. Market St. 583-1808.
Bim Deitrich’s newest venture instantly leaps into the elite ranks of Louisville restaurants as he pulls together the best themes and variations from his long experience as a restaurateur. Although the focus is on fine dining, it is fine dining with a populist edge. The seafood salad is flawless while the salmon is simple and perfect. The rack of lamb looks like a Flemish masterpiece; it seems almost a shame to slice into it. Also, wine connoisseurs will be intrigued by a wine list that spans the Italian landscape. 10/26/05 MR

Rating: 5 $ HA
131 W. Market St. 584-7800.
The service at Saffron’s is impeccable, the atmosphere invariably warm, business-like and well-informed, and the inside an oasis of calm. The room’s warm, earthen colors, attractive fixtures and romantic lighting are calculated to settle one’s pulse. And the food is as fine as the service. Why? Maybe it’s the fresh herbs infused into nearly every dish. Maybe it’s the plate of sabzi — a tart, refreshing mixture of mint, parsley, watercress, radishes and feta, accompanied by warm pita bread — that’s served as soon as one sits down to dinner. Maybe it’s the sour, refreshing tang of the relishes that accompany so many dishes. Maybe it’s the impeccably grilled kabobs or the basmati rice, one of the culinary marvels of the city. 11/30/05 MR

Rating: 3 $
641 S. Fourth St. 585-1125.
Safier’s pan-Arab menu features an assortment of foods that in the Middle East would be prepared and purchased in street stands and consumed on the spot. It’s not a street stand, but it’s the next best thing: a humble little storefront with friendly counter service, a scattering of simple tables, and some folks who know how to whip up a meal. Most distinctive item on the menu is a sandwich called shawarma — a distant — and vastly superior — cousin to the ubiquitous gyros. 4/06/05 MR

Sala Thai
Rating: 4, $$, HA
9114 Taylorsville Rd. 493-3944.
Sala Thai looks like any other restaurant from the outside; however, the inside décor is modern and clean with plenty of Thai accents, and service was impeccable. The breadth of the selection at Sala is incredible — there are appetizers, salads, soups, noodle dishes, curries and a number of traditional Pad Thai dishes, not to mention a separate vegetarian menu and a full lunch menu. 11/23/05 KG

Latin American
Rating: 5 $$ HA
1538 Bardstown Rd. 473-8560.
It’s almost impossible to drive past Seviche without thinking about one of chef Anthony Lamas’ signature ceviches — a cool, colorful concoction of pristine fish and seafood marinated in combinations of citrus and spice. The menu abounds with Nuevo Latino choices in the way of seafood and meat, and offers them sauced in many variations of mojo and chimichurri themes. The green chile Caesar salad is no slouch in the flavor department, and the grilled salmon is wonderfully crisp and moist. 7/27/05 MR

Sol Aztecas
Rating: 3 $ HA
2427 Bardstown Rd. 459-7776.
Sol Aztecas, a sister restaurant of Los Aztecas, has a bit of an upscale feel versus the informal, relaxed environment of most Mexican restaurants. All in all, Sol Aztecas is a worthy stop, with extensive lunch and dinner menus of varying ingredients, including traditional Mexican staples like fajitas, rellenas and enchiladas plus a special seafood menu and various house specialties. 11/16/05 KG

Rating: 4 $ HA
3904 Bardstown Rd. 458-7172.
Teranga! is a delight for discovery diners. Main dishes focus on lamb, chicken and beef, some grilled, some served as stews in peanut or tomato sauces, some served with rice, others with couscous. The lunch menu is uniformly priced at $7 and features tbiebu jeune, a stewed fish considered a Senegalese signature. Dinner options include chawarma, skewers of stuffed, roasted lamb shank or a splendidly grilled roasted chicken. The couscous are heavenly. 8/3/05 MR

Tony Boombozz Pizza-Vino
Rating: 3 $$ HA
2813 Hurstbourne Ln., 394-0000.
A new dine-in Tony Boombozz Pizza-Vino pizzeria (as well as the take-outs on Frankfort Avenue and Bardstown Road) offer not only “regular” pizza assortments, but gourmet, including toppings like roasted potatoes, feta, prosciutto, ginger chicken and fresh spinach. Their pies are reliable and handsome: light brown bubbles encircled the rim, with nary a pool of oil to be found. Pizza-Vino offers a full-fledged, attractive dining room and a serviceable list of beers and wines. 1/4/06 MR

Tran Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi
Rating: 3 $$
4317 Charlestown Rd., New Albany, (812) 941-0200.
This Japanese Steakhouse boasts eight hibachi grills, a sushi bar, a separate dining room and a special private party room with four additional grills. The casual dining atmosphere is accentuated by Japanese décor. Lunch menu is affordable and varied, including grill items ranging from $5.95-$15.95 for sushi specials. Dinners include steak, chicken, lobster and shrimp entrees. 12/21/05 KG

Uptown Café
Casual Dining
Rating: 3 $$ HA
1624 Bardstown Rd. 458-4212.
On the outside there’s pleasant sidewalk seating; on the inside the atmosphere has credible leanings toward bistro romance, but either way at the Uptown Café you’ll find friendly and efficient service. Appetizers include Cajun cornmeal encrusted oysters, scallop puffs, smoked Gouda and tomatillo queso with chips, as well as half portions of pasta dishes that can also be ordered as entrees. Other options include filet of grouper, salmon croquettes, pork loin chops and burgers. Desserts are made across the street at the Uptown’s sibling restaurant, Café Metro, and they don’t disappoint. 5/11/05 MR

Casual Dining
Rating: 4 $$ HA
7008 Highway 524 in Westport 222-4626.
The Westport focus is upscale vittles served in an atmosphere of cozy rusticity. The menu includes a range of sandwiches, salads, soups and entrees, from pulled pork sandwiches to tournedos of beef with sautéed wild mushrooms to eggplant Napoleon. Local and regional ingredients also make up excellent sides, like the Weisenberger Mill grits. Various wines are available, but take advantage of the nightly specials. To get the most out of your trip to Oldham County, homemade carrot cake or walnut pie are a must. 11/02/05 MR