WITH GUEST BLOGGER KEVIN GIBSON
One of the best things about dining out in the Louisville area in this day and age is that we’ve got choices. We can spend a lot, or a little. We can relax with fare that’s down-home and familiar, or we can challenge our taste buds with exotic dishes that come from around the world — or spring fresh and new from a chef’s imagination.
Today, let’s take a culinary journey to both extremes. First, Eat ’N’ Blog correspondent Kevin Gibson takes us to Steinert’s, an old, comfortable neighborhood favorite that’s been dishing up down-home chow in New Albany since 1883. Then I’ll guide a tour to one of the city’s most offbeat ethnic spots, Chez Seneba, which has just recently moved to new, larger quarters and still offers a truly exotic — and deliciously affordable — selection of authentic dishes from Senegal in West Africa.
Grover Cleveland would have loved Steinert’s
Steinert’s Grill and Pub (aka Steinert’s Tavern) looks like pretty much any other neighborhood restaurant/bar, tucked into a largely residential area at the intersection of Charlestown Road and Silver Street in New Albany.
But Steinert’s has a long and interesting history, having endured tornadoes, floods, the Depression and Prohibition, having been handed down through five generations of the Steinert family. Founded in 1883 (yes, Steinert’s was doing business before Grover Cleveland was elected president) by German immigrant Michael Steinert, it has seen six different locations, finally settling into its current spot in 1938.
The notorious 1917 tornado destroyed one location — a photo reportedly still exists in New Albany’s city directory of Michael Steinert Jr. standing in front of a pile of rubble and glass that only a day before had been his thriving restaurant business — and Prohibition forced the family to turn it into a grocery store/restaurant for several years. Still, it endured.
Today, Steinert’s, with its signature horseshoe bar in a beer-sign-covered atrium area smack in the middle of the place, continues to serve basic grub at great prices, while also doubling as a club, with live music several nights a week, and even a sports bar, as TVs adorn the walls and typically are showing ESPN or Indiana University sports.
On a recent visit to Steinert’s to hear local band the Rumors, my friend Kirk and I decided to feast on the tavern’s concise menu (one laminated page, front and back), which features standard fare like nachos, pizza, fish, burgers, chicken strips and the like. One of my favorite Steinert’s items is the chicken wings, so we started there.
Let me say right up front that these are not your standard wings — they are whole wings, marinated and then grilled, with a peppery hot sauce that isn’t quite buffalo, yet is spicy enough to be worth the effort. For $6.95, we got five wings (which equals 10 of the normal separated “wings” most restaurants serve), a mound of celery and plenty of ranch and chunky bleu cheese.
I can sum up these wings in a single word: messy. Do not wear your Sunday best if you intend to order these things; and do request plenty of extra napkins. On this particular trip, the issue was exaggerated slightly as the wings weren’t grilled quite as crispy as they had been in past visits, making them a bit slippery and hard to handle. (Those grill marks make excellent grips, mind you.)
Kirk, halfway through his second wing, muttered, “It’s like performing surgery.” Well said. Nevertheless, they were delicious as always — just be prepared to do a little extra work for the succulent payoff.
Moving on to dinner, Kirk decided on the signature Steinert’s burger ($5.95), while I ordered a 12-inch pizza pie at the recommendation of our server, adding pepperoni, mushrooms and Vidalia onions for a total of $10.95 ($7.95 plus $1 per topping).
The burger was of fair size and relatively basic, slightly overdone but solid, and dressed with lettuce and a huge tomato slice. He also got a mountain of french fries to help balance out the substantial meal. (Steinert’s doesn’t skimp on its portions; I once had the grilled cheese, and it was nearly an inch thick.) If I ever order a burger, however, I’ll likely ask for medium rare, as the edges on Kirk’s burger were a bit on the crispy side.
My pizza was a pleasant surprise — crispy crust, heavy on the mozzarella, and plenty of toppings (although when my friend Ben joined us later, he balked at the onions). The pizza reminds me of the pies made by a former Louisville and Southern Indiana staple, Pasquale’s Pizza. Light on sauce and cut into squares instead of pie slices, the pizza was also sprinkled with oregano and other Italian spices, a la Impellizzeri’s.
And while it was a relatively thin pie, it provided plenty of substance — once I was full, I took the rest home. My girlfriend had a couple pieces as a snack that night, and I got two small meals for myself out of the leftovers. Not bad for 11 bucks.
I’m not sure exactly when Steinert’s started doing pizza and wings, but I feel certain Grover Cleveland would have been proud. And if you find yourself in New Albany with a hunger for good pub grub, or you’d like to hear some music or watch a game, this could be the place for you.
Steinert’s Grill and Pub
2239 Charlestown Road
New Albany, Ind.
Dr. Livingstone would have loved Chez Seneba
The world has shrunk a great deal since the days when the journalist Henry Stanley found Dr. David Livingstone, we presume, in what was then known as darkest Africa. Curiously enough, that famous meeting occurred only a few short years before Steinert’s was to open its doors in New Albany.
To this day, most Americans remain a bit iffy on African geography, not to mention African cuisine. For the record, then, Chez Seneba represents West Africa in Louisville’s world atlas of eats: The owners hail from Senegal, which is pretty much directly across Africa from Ethiopia on the continent’s eastern side, a nation whose spicy cuisine is represented locally by Queen of Sheba on Bardstown Road. More about that another day.
Louisville reportedly has a community of more than 500 Senegalese immigrants, who seem to form the core clientele for Chez Seneba; but the rest of us are warmly welcome, as long as we bring to the table an interest in experiencing West African cuisine in its spicy, aromatic and often rather unfamiliar style.
After 3½ years in a tiny, out-of-the-way location on Gilmore Lane, Chez Seneba recently graduated into much larger and somewhat more convenient quarters on Bishop Lane, in a one-time Long John Silver’s storefront just off Newburg Road.
The bill of fare offers a rare taste of Africa, with intriguing daily specials and most dinners in huge portions for $10 or less. We enjoyed a plate of neems ($4.99), crisp-fried pastry cylinders stuffed with spicy beef, rice noodles and cilantro, bearing a surprising resemblance to small egg rolls with an African accent. Grilled chicken ($9.99) was done African-style, grilled dark brown, with an exotic, spicy and very garlicky blend of herbs and spices pushed into deep cuts in the meat, with a tart, tangy and very peppery mound of cooked onions on the side. A Tuesday special, thiou and thiebu jeun ($7.99), turned out to be a thick, savory red stew loaded with strongly flavored lamb (perhaps closer to mutton than young spring lamb), tender yucca and carrots, with a generous dish of basmati rice on the side. With a couple of Cokes and a tall glass of an intriguing, spicy-sweet fresh ginger drink ($1.99), a filling lunch and two boxes of leftovers came to $27, plus a $6 tip.
4218 Bishop Lane
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