Dining Guide 2018: The Food Triangles of Louisville

Jun 20, 2018 at 12:56 pm
Dining Guide 2018: The Food Triangles of Louisville

They are not like the Bermuda Triangle, or even those pesky isosceles triangles from geometry class, but The Food Triangles of Louisville offer a chance to view our rich culinary choices in a whimsical, if not elucidating way.

Here is one odd triangle: Flora Kitchenette on Barret Avenue is the place to go for vegan bakery treats, avocado toast and a breakfast or lunch made without animals. Being built just several doors down, in the former Lynn’s Paradise Cafe, is Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, which promises “West Tennessee whole hog bar-b-que.” One of the most effective advertisements for barbecue is wafting, sweet, meaty smoke, so you know the smell of seared pig will permeate the entire block on a still day, vexing those vegans. But help is on the way: Just about directly across the street, at the former Monkey Wrench, V-Grits and a local brewer are opening a vegan restaurant and brewery. So to recap: a vegan bakery next to a barbecue across from a vegan restaurant and brewery.

Sounds yummy...

Below is our collection of food triangles that LEO writers found, some ironic, some concentrated trios of tasty and others just stories of odd coincidence.

Healthy And Not Triangle 

I was enjoying my yellow curry bowl one day at Heart & Soy, contemplating whether I could eat an order of spring rolls with peanut sauce. Heart & Soy, and its companion sit-down restaurant, Roots, makes some of the best vegetarian and vegan food in Louisville. Its tofu is house-made (with the state’s only tofu-making machine) and is firm and fluffy, if that is even possible — perfect little sponges for the fragrant curry or other sauces, such as the BBQ tofu and rice, another favorite of mine.

Feeling pretty full and full of myself for eating healthy food for once, I looked across the street at La Bamba — “Burritos as Big As Your Head.” Depending on the perspective, a La Bamba burrito could be as big as one’s head. Certainly, the Super Burrito with carne asada or chorizo is as big as my stomach. La Bamba, a small chain, claims it is authentic Mexican. On the FAQ page of the company’s web page it answers the (idiotic) question: “I like your food but all your employees speak Spanish? A: While our ‘hiring’ door is open to all qualified persons, we truly are an Authentic Mexican Restaurant and we hire Authentic Mexican Chefs. We do encourage our employees to improve their English so they can communicate with our customers. We make every attempt to have at least one employee fluent in English on duty at all times.” La Bamba says its beans are vegetarian, although “depending on how serious of a vegetarian you are, we cannot guarantee no livestock has crossed a pinto bean field where our pinto beans are grown. We can, however, assure you, once the dried beans are delivered to our store, they are soaked and cook to perfection using only salt and water. There are no oils, fats, or lard added to our beans.”

My gaze drifted from La Bamba next door to McDonald’s.

We all know what McDs is about. Food that has been engineered and tested to taste good, but maybe not so good for you... The Big Mac is 540 calories, nearly half of them from fat (the Denali Big Mac is 850 calories). Add a side of “World Famous Fries” for 230 calories and a medium Coke for 220 calories. Supersize yourself, if you will.

Then it struck me: These three restaurants made the perfect triangle for food as measured from healthy to not so healthy. The no-guilt goodness of Heart & Soy, which you could eat every day. The authentic, fairly healthy Mexican from La Bamba that you want to eat every day and probably could... and... McDonalds, where, you know... As I finished my curry, I noted that, while the restaurant was busy, the drive-through line at McD’s was around the building. What does that say about us? —Keith Stone

Heart & Soy / Roots 1216 Bardstown Road 452-6688  |  452-6678

La Bamba 1237 Bardstown Road 451-1418

McDonald’s 1245 Bardstown Road 459-3475

Havana Rumba
Havana Rumba

The Carnivore’s Triangle

Where’s the beef? You can find it abundantly in the little strip center on Oechsli Avenue, the street that only Louisville natives can pronounce (“Ex-ley,” rooted in our German ancestors), just behind the place that old-timers know as “where the old Sears store used to be.” Indeed, you could call this meat-heavy trio the carnivore’s triangle, where your protein comes up in three distinct national flavors.

Let’s begin with Del Frisco’s, for more than 35 years one of Louisville’s favorite steakhouse destinations. It is strictly old-school in cuisine and decor: Its several rooms project the image of a classy, if rather conservative, club; its menu features a wide variety of steaks in many cuts and sizes: rib-eyes, sirloin strips, filet mignon, prime rib and more, priced in small and large sizes and combinations. You’ve got to have a steak. We recommend the rib-eye. Ours was delivered rare as ordered, seared brown on the exterior and unimpeachable in texture and flavor. Steaks as they ought to be.

Havana Rumba, just next door, has been around for a while too. It arrived in 2004 as Louisville’s first Cuban restaurant and it’s been packing them in ever since. Despite the lasting effects of a long-term U.S. trade embargo that limits its economic options, Cubans find ways to incorporate plenty of meat into their diets and the culinary tricks needed to make old, stringy cows and pigs into deliciousness results in such goodies as ropa vieja and lechon asada. Ropa vieja is a traditional Cuban dish, literally translated as “old clothes” because of a fancied resemblance between these strands of shredded beef and old cloth rags. It doesn’t taste like rags, though. It’s much better, strips of savory “skirt” steak simmered in a savory blend of tomatoes, wine and Creole spices with bell peppers, onions and black olives.

Charim Korean Restaurant, a couple of doors down from Havana Rumba, offers a worthy example of the hearty, spicy cuisine of South Korea, our longtime ally. This mountainous nation with its cold winters offers a meat-heavy cuisine that includes such favorites as kalbi, beef short ribs and bulgogi, sizzling grilled beef. Next time try Charim’s kalbi tang, a warming soup served steaming in a heavy iron pot. It is built on a fine beefy, black-pepper-scented broth filled with tender chunks of long-simmered beef short rib, sliced boiled radish and green onion. How do you say “YUM” in Korean?

The carnivore’s triangle. Come for the beef. Stay for the beef. —Robin Garr

Del Frisco’s 4107 Oechsli Ave. 897-7077

Havana Rumba 4115 Oechsli Ave. 897-1959

Charim Korean Restaurant 4123 Oechsli Ave. 290-8900

The Baked Goods and Barbecue Triangle

Let’s say you find yourself at Rubbies, a blue-collar independent bar and restaurant on Southside Drive in Louisville’s South End. If you sit in the right spot — while partaking of some fabulous house-smoked meats, a cold domestic beer and hand-cut steak fries — you’ll be able to see not one, but two bakeries, right smack dab next to one another, across the parking lot. 

DaLat’s Gateaux and Cafe, a Vietnamese bakery, is on the left. It sports a cheery interior, appointed with Asian dragons and accented with bright reds. The menu is largely made up of desserts, although they do offer Banh Mi, Vietnamese iced coffee and boba milk and tea, and Vietnamese house canned pickled vegetables sold in jars. A durian (the thorny-rinded, smelly Southeast Asian “king of fruits”) cake is on offer, but I wasn’t brave enough to try it the day I ventured inside. I settled for some unusual peanut brittle, a shiny deep brown in color, which I’m pretty sure involved soy sauce and sesame oil somewhere in the recipe. I scored a couple of really good chocolate chip cookies, and I took home a foil-twisted packet about the size of a cigar, which the counter attendant called “meat loaf” (but also said the words “seafood and pork” as I pointed to it.) For $1.50, I couldn’t resist buying one, but alas it’s still in the fridge at home, looking at me accusingly for not having cooked it yet. There are tons of Vietnamese and French-style pastries and breads to choose from, as well, artfully displayed in lighted pastry cases.

I walked next door to Euro Caffe & Bakery. It was late in the afternoon, and literally every piece of bread and pastry was absent without leave. “We’ve sold out,” said one of the Bosnian owners. I asked him if this was pretty common at this stage of the day and he admitted that it doesn’t happen all the time, but that today had been pretty busy. They supply bread and rolls for several restaurants in the neighborhood. But I checked out what did remain — sausages, and various unusual liquors such as loza (a grappa or colorless brandy), gazdina (plum brandy) and others I’d never encountered. There was a rack of tinned chicken spread near the entrance to their softly lit red and black dining room, which looked to seat a couple dozen. I asked if they got along with the bakery next door. “Oh, yes. Good people,” said the owner. “We help each other out.”

So when you’re in the mood for barbecue, burgers, beer, Banh Mi, boba milk, bread and brandy, make a beeline to Southside Drive, home of the barbecue and baked goods triangle. Iroquois neighborhood represent! —Marsha Lynch

Rubbies Southside Grill & Bar 6905 Southside Drive 367-0007

DaLat’s Gateaux & Cafe 6915 Southside Drive 368-9280

Euro Caffe & Bakery 6917 Southside Drive 632-2309

The Fish Triangle, clockwise, starting from the top of the plate: A dish by The Fishery, followed by the Asahi Japanese Restaurant and finally a taco from MexA Steak Tacos.
The Fish Triangle, clockwise, starting from the top of the plate: A dish by The Fishery, followed by the Asahi Japanese Restaurant and finally a taco from MexA Steak Tacos.

The Fish Triangle

This St. Matthews triangle is a true triangle of fish options. The Fishery sits alone at the corner of Lexington Road and Bauer Avenue, directly opposite of Asahi Japanese Restaurant and MexA Steak Tacos.

Starting with MexA Steak Tacos, as the proprietor explains on the website, “Where I’m from in Mexico, a city called Monterrey, tacos mainly are made with steak (carne asada), that is how I always ate and enjoyed tacos.”

Now, I don’t want to sound like President Trump and insult our allies, but please don’t be distracted by the “Steak” — this establishment could be called MexA Delicious Tacos, because they do all tacos, and they do them very well.

So it goes for the fish taco. Grilled tilapia, cabbage, cilantro, topped with a tomatillo crema in a crisped, corn tortilla is prepared fresh and in front of you, on the open kitchen griddle. I recommend requesting “The Crunchy Cheese.” Basically, this another shell for the taco, made of  melted, crispy cheese, along with a slice of avocado and pickled red onions. The extra layer of “shell” helps keep the fully-loaded taco together as you gently raise the delicate hand-food to your tilted head for consumption. But let’s be honest: It’s a layer of melted, crispy cheese!

Point of personal privilege: This is about fish and the grilled tilapia is excellent, but the shrimp taco is excellent, as is the chips and guacamole. Like I said, everything is delicious, not just the steak.

The next door over — exit the front, it’s on your right and to your left if you exit the back to a shared parking lot — is a completely different fish cuisine. Asahi Japanese Restaurant is the quintessential strip mall sushi restaurant. It is that casual, neighborhood dining option, convenient for families and friends in St. Matthews.

Asahi offers the staple assortment of fish and seafood nigiri — where it’s just the fish on rice (or no rice if you opt for sashimi). They also offer an array of traditional and special sushi rolls. In my experiences at Asahi, they are at their best with their specialty rolls, particularly the featured (or “special”) rolls, which are handwritten on blackboards behind the sushi bar.

Asahi also provides the alternative options to the raw, uncooked fish menu, as well as soup, salad and other appetizers. Again, an accommodating, family-friendly neighborhood dining option.

Diagonally across busy Lexington Road is The Fishery. (You don’t have to play Frogger and risk your life dodging traffic running across from the MexA-Asahi parking lot… The Fishery has parking on both the Lexington Road and Bauer Avenue sides of the building.) The Fishery is a delicious, traditional American fish house.

They are probably most recognized for their fish sandwich, but I always opt for the Icelandic Cod platter — 10 ounces of fresh, baked cod with good seasoning and two lemon wedges, plus some spicy cocktail sauce. It is the healthier option versus fried or on a sandwich. That’s not because I opt for the healthy option, but because it makes me feel less bad about getting the Hushpuppies (which are amazing) and made-from-scratch Macaroni & Cheese. I also add a side of green beans, because theirs are excellent.

It’s an unassuming, small building that stands alone. But stop in anytime after 5 p.m. and it’s liable to be packed with diners and those carrying-out.

Sure, this is the fish triangle. It could also be the family-friendly, dine-in or carryout triangle, because each of these establishments are easy, accommodating, dining options — that do fish three totally different ways. —Aaron Yarmuth

The Fishery  3624 Lexington Road 895-1188

MexA Steak Tacos 3701 Lexington Road, Suite 1 290-1334

Asahi Japanese Restaurant 3701 Lexington Road 895-1130

The Irish Triangle

I’ve always referred it loosely as “The Irish Corner,” this hopping place in the Highlands. You can’t get near it on St. Patrick’s Day without a special pass or a big stick, and the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which starts just blocks away, helps drive home the theme.

While each one of these places looks the part of a classic Irish pub, inside and out, they are distinctly different. For years, O’Shea’s Irish Pub has operated a bit more like a classic bar, with live bands and hordes of tipsy 20-somethings packing the place on weekends. These days, Bluegrass music happens on Sundays. The menu focuses mostly on basics like burgers, sliders, fried appetizers and other pub grub.

At the same time, there’s Irish décor at every turn, beer steins hanging from the ceiling (more German, but whatever), a robust beer selection and a solid fish and chips, an Irish pub staple, not to mention a sandwich called The Limerick. Game efforts there with the menu items and the beer — Harp and Guinness, Irish staples can always be had, and Irish whiskey is the norm — but it’s still a bit of a stretch overall. Verdict? Pub, with Irish accents. 

Flanagan’s Ale House is just a few paces north, and it too passes the quick eye test but is, in some ways, a tad deceiving. It’s a gorgeous space, with the mini-booths, antique bar, dark wood, tin ceilings and vintage décor. But like O’Shea’s, the menu screams pub grub — wings, nachos, burgers, and even a po boy (extremely un-Irish). Philly cheesesteak? It’s there, too. 

But the ubiquitous Irish pub standard, the fish and chips dinner, is pretty tasty. I do love the extensive beer selection with the option to try them all over time and get your own mug, which would thrill any self-respecting Irishman or woman. Still, despite the cool environs, I couldn’t tell a friend it’s a classic Irish pub. Verdict: Beer bar/pub, again with Irish accents.

Molly Malone’s Pub is easily the most Irish of the three. Having been to a few pubs in Ireland in my day, I can say that walking into that place feels like you’ve wandered in off the streets of Temple Bar. (Granted, that’s sort of the Fourth Street Live of Dublin, but humor me here.) Seriously, those little-sectioned seating areas along the walls of the place, the rectangular bar, the lettering on the front of the unique-looking building all scream Irish pub. Then, you look at the menu and — hmmm. Calamari, pork tacos, hot wings, lots of burgers and wraps. Seems all too familiar. 

Except: Scotch eggs. Bangers and mash. Shepherd’s pie. Irish lamb stew. And, yes, the fish and chips, and even a dish called “The Full Irish Breakfast.” 

One, final factor tips the scales for me: It shows European football on the regular, and draws jersey-clad supporters. Verdict: Irish pub. —Kevin Gibson

O’Shea’s Irish Pub 956 Baxter Ave. 589-7373

Flanagan’s Ale House 934 Baxter Ave. 585-3700

Molly Malone’s Pub 933 Baxter Ave. 473-1222

Muth's Candy
Muth's Candy

The Triangle of Sweeteries

There is a triangle of sweeteries in NuLu on East Market Street that illustrates Louisville’s diversity and history of sweets: Muth’s Candies, Macaron Bar and Louisville Cream. Muth’s and Louisville Cream are true Louisville-original small businesses. And while Macaron Bar has stores in Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh it, too, has the feel and quality of a Louisville original.

The most historic is Muth’s Candies — a truly classic American candy shop... like something from the ‘50s. That’s because the same family has been selling homemade candies there for nearly 70 years. One candy, in particular — the Modjeska — goes back in further, to around the turn of the century. The Modjeska (Mo-jess-kuh) is a caramel-covered marshmallow named after a Polish immigrant and actress, Madam Helena Modrzejewska, who performed in several Louisville plays. All you need to know is that, around Christmas season, people lineup before the store opens to buy boxes of these candies as presents. They also do chocolate-covered Modjeskas, bourbon balls, other chocolates and caramels, as well as an array of flavored taffies… all handmade by third- and fourth generations of the same candy-making family.

Exit Muth’s, trek one door down, and you’ll be at Louisville Cream, a boutique ice creamery that produces some of the most fascinating and toppings, such as: Avocado Mole, Salted Chocolate Brie, Toasted Rye with Espresso Banana Jam, Sweet Beer Cheese and Pretzel. 

I’ve been twice, once going with a Lavender Vanilla with rainbow sprinkles. Not even the sprinkles are what you’d expect — centimeter-sized lines of crunchy colors. No, these sprinkles better resemble a wedding cake, or the intricate details of a colorful ballgown. It’s more art than ice cream. 

Walk out, take a right, cross Clay and Market streets and the third door on your left is Macaron Bar. It is totally modern — almost like a sweet-smelling Apple Store. This treat dates to the 8th century Venetian monasteries. It’s essentially two small meringues sandwiching a jam. Macaron Bar offers seasonal flavors, such as Madagascar Vanilla, Salted Caramel, Earl Grey Tea, Dark Chocolate, Birthday Cake and Black Raspberry Chocolate. Others include Chocolate Strawberry, Coffee, Pistachio, Red Velvet, Lemon Lavender, Mimosa and Key Lime Pie. It’s a great place for a small, sweet treat or gift. It’s also a perfect point in NuLu’s sweet triangle. —Aaron Yarmuth

Muth’s Candy 630 E. Market St. 585-2952

Macaron Bar 707 E. Market St. 513-4303

Louisville Cream 632 E. Market St., Suite 101 882-1516

The Latin Triangle

Living in the Clifton/Crescent Hill area means having plenty of restaurants from which to choose. We’ve got noodles, we’ve got sandwiches, we’ve got Italian fare and Irish fare, and we’ve got upscale options. Classic breakfast? That’s North End Café. We even have a cool steakhouse (Pat’s Steak House).

But it has in recent years struck me as interesting that in one small section of Frankfort Avenue, three Mexican restaurants exist within steps of each other. How does this work? Well, studying these three spots makes that answer clear, and I decided to group it into a full day’s worth of Latin-inspired fare, from morning ’til night. And, hey, I could eat Mexican food around the clock.

For breakfast, the obvious choice is Con Huevos! – I mean, it has the Spanish word for “eggs” in the name, and the breakfast/brunch menu is robust, with dishes like biscuits with chorizo, eggs and chipotle gravy, and enchiladas topped with eggs. Yes, there’s lunch as well, but the fact this place closes at 2 p.m. means it is a natural for the breakfast column.

Of course, the other two don’t even serve breakfast. Both serve lunch and dinner, but I’m going with El Mundo as the lunch option here, in part because for several years while working at LEO full-time back in the early 2000s, I had El Mundo chicken enchiladas for lunch every Tuesday. For, like, two years. To me, it is a natural lunch destination.

These days, Tuesdays at El Mundo means $2.50 street tacos, while Mondays feature $6 burritos, or you can check out the weekly specials menu, which recently included items like tomato gazpacho with diced cucumbers and a chorizo and egg tostada appetizer. Nice prices for lunch and delicious food, to boot.

That leaves dinner for Ramiro’s Cantina, and I chose it because it’s a cool place to hang on the deck with pals and sip margaritas on any sunny evening. It’s also a very entrée-based restaurant, with filling options like tequila pork carnitas, spicy shrimp diablo, and classics like fajitas. Get the charro beans as a side. Oh, and don’t sleep on the brisket bites and pork bites appetizer – it’s hard to walk into that place and not get an order of one or the other. Ask for extra sauce, and thank me later. —Kevin Gibson

Con Huevos! 2339 Frankfort Ave. 384-3027

El Mundo 2345 Frankfort Ave. 899-9930

Ramiro’s Cantina 2350 Frankfort Ave. 895-3333

Doc Crow's
Doc Crow's

The Bourbon Cocktail Triangle 

If you want to find a Bourbon Cocktail Triangle, there is certainly no better place than Main Street’s Whiskey Row. With the revitalization of the 100 block of West Main, including the opening of the Old Forester Distillery (which will house George’s Bar later this summer in honor of company founder George Garvin Brown) you might even construct a Bourbon Cocktail Octagon. I’ll stick to a triangle for now and sample a trio of takes on Louisville’s Official Cocktail, the Old Fashioned. My triangle can be drawn on a map of the block, since the three places aren’t in actual sight of one another.

At Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse and Raw Bar you can indulge in your hunt for oyster varieties (my list stands at 105 and counting), enjoy some meltingly-tender beef brisket or chow down on a spicy shrimp po boy served with thick-cut house-made potato chips. An extensive whiskey selection includes Scotch, Irish, Japanese and Tennessee pours, as well as bourbon. Among the house cocktails is the well-balanced Perfect Old Fashioned. It uses 107 proof Weller Antique, Demerara sugar syrup and a special house bitters recipe. Essential oils released from the orange peel garnish furnish a pleasantly dominant citrus note.

Turn right out of Doc Crow’s, walk to the corner and make a right onto Second Street. About halfway down the block is Sidebar at Whiskey Row. The handsome black and white décor feels like a throwback to the 1940s. The menu is anchored by a selection of big, juicy burgers which incorporate several cuts of certified Angus beef and have names taken from courtroom lingo. The excellent Mutual Agreement, in case the beef isn’t enough meat, is topped with smoked pork.

Sidebar’s Old Fashioned is from the list of “barrel aged” cocktails. The spirits used are given a second aging in another oak barrel. The house Old Fashioned is crafted with extra-aged Old Forester Signature (100 proof), Demerara sugar and Angostura bitters. The garnish consists of thick peels of lemon and orange and the ratio of bitter to citrus to sweet, mingled with bourbon is just right.

The third point of this Bourbon Cocktail Triangle is also not visible from the other two, which is appropriate, given that it’s a speakeasy. The entrance to Hell or High Water is on Washington Street, right behind (and underneath) Whiskey Row. Having made a reservation online, present yourself to the person stationed by the door over which glows a white glass globe. You will not see a bar name. (It’s a speakeasy, remember?) Your name is checked against a list, a knock is made on an interior door and you ascend stairs where another person escorts you down a hall and through a red velvet curtain and into a bar straight out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald story. The strains of a 1920s jazz band or the Billie Holiday’s voice emanate from a vintage tabletop radio.

The Old Fashioned here is classic and made without fuss. Old Forester, sugar, bitters orange peel. Done. The ice cubes are large and clear. The signature bourbon cocktail is a wonderfully bittersweet concoction dubbed The Calling Card made with Braulio Amaro, sweet vermouth, dry Curacao and Demerara. —Susan Reigler

Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse & Raw Bar 127 W. Main St. 587-1626

Sidebar at Whiskey Row 129 N. Second St. 384-1600

Hell or High Water 112 W. Washington St. 587-3057

Taco Triangle

Who doesn’t love tacos? I surely do, and we’ve found an enticing taco triangle in the heart of St. Matthews’ nightlife zone. Each brings its own twist to the tasty taco.

El Tarasco is one of the many real-Mexican-with-English-menu chains that have popped up all over town, all seem with the same huge menu, including the iconic Speedy Gonzalez lunch special. Oddly, the taco options are surprisingly weak. There’s only one taco dinner, and only with pork carnitas. In an a la carte box near the end of the menu is the option for single tacos or a trio. Fillings aren’t mentioned, but are either chicken or beef. No barbacoa? No lengua? No carne asada? “No, Señor,” the server said mournfully. On Preston or Dixie, sure, but people here, they don’t want it.” This seemed dubious, but we went with the flow and got one of each. The chicken was good, steeped in green chile flavor; the ground beef was as boring as Taco Bell’s. They were served in hardshell tacos with lettuce and cheese. The carnitas smelled funky but tasted OK, in a soft wheat taco with lettuce and cheese. Cilantro, onions? Not an option.

Heading south, El Taco Luchador, the St. Matthews branch of the OLE restaurant group’s taqueria concept, offers a colorful take on Mexican street food — tacos, tortas and such — in good-size portions. A veggie taco featured a mouth-watering flavor mix of corn, roasted poblano pepper strips (“rajas”), grilled onions, black beans and fried plantain rounds topped with guacamole, pico de gallo and cilantro, striped with crema. Delicioso!

The Ville Taqueria may be only four years old, but that gives it primacy as the first Mexican joint to challenge pizza’s domination of the St. Matthews nightlife zone. It’s good, too, capturing the style of Mexico City street food. Street-style tacos are built on sturdy white corn tortillas that look homemade. Mahi mahi was flaky and flavorful, crisp-edged from the grill, topped with cilantro and onions. Veggie tacos are loaded with a smoky, gently spicy mix of pinto and black beans, corn, mushrooms and grilled poblano peppers. Beef arrachera skirt steak and tender, intensely flavored shredded pork carnitas are also fine.

Want Mexican? Head for St. Matthews. One way or another, in this Mexican triangle you can’t miss. —Robin Garr

El Tarasco 110 Fairfax Ave. 895-8010

El Taco Luchador 112 Meridian Ave. 709-5154

The Ville Taqueria 3922 Westport Road 721-8226

Caffe Classico
Caffe Classico

The Multicultural Carbs Triangle

I don’t know when or why the name of the Atkins diet changed to the keto diet, but by any name I think it’s stupid, and the Mayo Clinic agrees, sort of, recently saying, “the high-fat content — and especially the high level of unhealthy saturated fat — combined with limits on nutrient-rich fruits, veggies and grains is a concern for long-term heart health.”

No, they’ll have to pry my pasta, bread, rice and potatoes out of my cold, dead hands, and I’ll revel in the probability that it wasn’t my diet that killed me. Although these three favorite eateries near the corner of Frankfort and Clifton avenues don’t exactly specialize in carbohydrates, you can eat your fill at each. We’ve assembled a progressive dinner of carbs in this multicultural triangle of carbs in Clifton.

Caffe Classico has been a favorite since it started out as a simple coffee shop with a hint of Buenos Aires and it has grown into a delightful full-service bistro and coffee shop where you can enjoy an international menu with an Argentine accent, often accompanied by live flamenco guitar. You can get your carb fix from a variety of panini, bocadillos and some of the city’s best pizza. Or an impressive paella often available on special. Or the best pommes frites this side of Belgium! My favorite carb source here, though, is the signature, saffron asiago risotto cakes, three tender pan-seared aromatic rice balls on a bed of lima bean succotash and wilted spinach.

Diagonally across Frankfort, The Grape Leaf offers the culinary delights of the Eastern Mediterranean from Greece to the Levant. Rice is the carb of choice in this region, but don’t discount the joys of regional bread from pita to lavash. Pitas? Why not go for a gyros? Grape Leaf offers a fine model with your choice among three fillings, all good: The traditional beef-lamb mix shaved from a grilled cone; ground roast leg-of-lamb, or chicken breast. I have to flip a coin to decide between the cone or the lamb leg. Hey! We could have both!

Back across Frankfort to complete the triangle, Time 4 Thai is coming up on its second birthday. East Asian means rice, of course and rice dishes abound on the menu. Spicy Panang curry with a serving of tender, perfectly prepared long-grain rice always hits the spot for me, but then, so does the rice-noodle option in Thailand’s comfort food, pad Thai.

Rice, bread or potatoes: Take your choice in this Clifton carbs triangle. —Robin Garr

Caffe Classico 2144 Frankfort Ave. 895-0076

The Grape Leaf 2217 Frankfort Ave. 897-1774

Time 4 Thai 2206 Frankfort Ave. 996-7899