Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Shady Lane Cafe

One of the best things about Louisville is if you are out and about and want a place to eat that isn't a chain you tend to stumble across one pretty easily. Such was the case with Shady Lane Cafe. Leslie and I had gone to an event at Locust Grove; we found the Shady Lane Cafe at the corner of a little strip mall on Brownsboro Road.

The decor was an eclectic mix of flea market finds and original art with mix matched chairs and white tile topped tables. Orders were placed at the counter which was in direct view of the kitchen. You could see them cooking your orders (if there wasn't a line waiting to order which there always was). Our server/cashier/hostess exuded an ebullient blend of good humor and a passionate love of sharing good food.

A good first sign was how crowded it was even for peak lunchtime. Another sign was that they were already out of two menu items. The tour de force was the fact that our hostess seemed to greet and say farewell to a number of patrons by their name. If a restaurant knows their customers so well it clearly demonstrates there is something good going on in the kitchen.

The menu offered a good spread of different sandwiches as well as salads. The special was a wild caught salmon burger which I immediately decided upon, and joy of joys they offered sweet potato fries. I first tried sweet potato fries in Baltimore several years ago, and it remains the only way I will actually willingly eat sweet potatoes. Leslie ordered the grilled chicken sandwich with a side of freshly made chips. Sides are a la carte but not too pricey. The chips were only $1.75 whereas the sweet potato fries were$3.00 (a worthy investment).

Leslie's chicken sandwich was tender, flavorful, smokey from the grill, and flecked with herbs and spices. She remarked that everything she ordered tasted of its primary ingredient including the dessert (we'll get to that later). The chips were hot and crispy with a good crunch. (Leslie loves extra crispy.) Still after tasting my sweet potato fries she vowed to order those next time. Which leads us to my meal.

The sweet potato fries were some of the best I've ever had. I asked for lightly salted and they were just barely sprinkled with a hint of salt. In most places (particularly chains) I end up scraping salt off of the fries, and I still find them extra salty. These were perfectly crisp with just enough of the root vegetable flavor. The salmon burger came with a lovely dill sauce and a few sliced cucumbers on the patty. I normally don't go for cucumbers but this was subtle and it worked for the sandwich. Although the salmon burger skated the line between artisan sandwich and burger, it managed to combine the best of both. The salmon patty was so tender it kept trying to leap out of the bun. The flesh of the patty was simultaneously light and rich. Consequently I was left feeling fully satiated without being stuffed. I was therefore able to sample some of Leslie's dessert.

I usually don't order dessert with lunch, but I am always up for a little taste. I am also obligated to taste it since I am going to be reviewing it and two viewpoints are better than one. Leslie ordered a single slice of banana cake. The cake blended the subtle sweetness of banana bread and the moist chewiness of a cake. If you like banana bread you'll love the banana cake. Leslie especially enjoyed the small slice of banana atop the very thin coating of caramel icing. It's just enough icing to give it a pinch of extra sweetness.

During the only quiet period of our stay the hostess came over and took time to visit each table and check in with her guests. She was truly interested in how everyone's meal was, and she stayed and talked with Leslie a good bit.

Shady Lane Cafe offers a lot of real food prepared by people who love food. Lunch for the two of us ended up costing around $25 which isn't bad for 2 gourmet sandwiches with sides, a fountain drink, and a dessert. Leslie and I definitely plan to eat there again perhaps next time we'll try and get there for breakfast.

Shady Lane Cafe
4806 Brownsboro Rd
Louisville, KY
40207
502-893-5118
www.shadylanecafe.com

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thai Smile 5

When we go to Thai Smile the owners know us on sight. My first experience with this delectable establishment was on New Year's Eve several years ago. Leslie had learned about it from a friend, and a small group of us had a lovely New Year's Eve feast. The food has always been excellent. I've had Thai cuisine in several other establishments (including a very upscale restaurant in L.A.) and hands down Thai Smile 5 is the best. Located on Preston Highway in what was once a Taco Bell the owners have totally redone the space. It is warm and inviting and very clean.

If you're not familiar with Thai food, this is a great place to start. It is an oasis of truly fabulous real food, everything is as fresh as possible. It is easy to select a variety of healthy and succulent tasty dishes. The proprietors are happy to help you craft a dish that is perfect for you. If you don't know what to order and they will ask you questions if you like: steamed meat/crispy meat, spicy hot, mild, sweet, salty, rice or noodle, vegetarian? From this they help you find something you will like and if something is too hot they are very gracious in taking back a dish. The spice system is the five star with 1 stars being mild and 5 stars being very hot. I always say until you are familiar with a particular restaurant always order one star below what you think you can handle. If you need more spice they will gladly bring the pepper pot to the table. If you happen to look out back behind the restaurant you will notice several pots of herbs. They do grow some of their own spices and they have fresh vegetables delivered daily in the morning which they chop making the lunch and dinner service quick. It is fine dining without much of a wait for your entrees.

Appetizers are supposed to give your palate a tasty wake up call before your entree arrives. Some restaurants load you up with such large and heavy appetizers that you barely have room for any of the main course. Here the portion size and savoriness is just right. Our favorite is the sampler appetizer which you can order for two people or four. The sampler comes with spring rolls, satay chicken, curry puffs, and steamed dumplings. It comes with a peanut sauce, peach sauce and a brown sauce. All of them are delicious. I tend to use the peach sauce on everything except the chicken and the dumplings.

This wouldn't be complete without a few words about the soups. Jenny is not usually a fan of soups, but she suggests everyone try the soup here. Her current favorite is the Thai Wonton Soup, whereas mine is the Thai Egg drop Soup. These put every wonton and egg drop soup I've ever had to shame. I like their wonton soup which is saying a lot because generally I don't like wonton soup at all. The soups range in price from $2.95 to $5.95. The wonton and egg drop are each $2.95 for their small serving; the first time I ordered the small egg drop I thought they had mistakenly brought me a large serving size. I suggest that you get the soup or an appetizer, so that you have plenty of room for your entree.

Leslie and I both order the chicken in Thai Basil Sauce which we get "Thai style" meaning the chicken is shredded into small bits. This the owner tells me is more authentic and how it is served in Thailand. It certainly seems to allow the flavor to permeate the dish much better. Leslie and differ on the spice levels I usually go for a 3 star while she takes a half star. It is the same dish with different heat levels. We do have to be very careful to make sure that we have our order in front of us so there are no heated surprises for Leslie. I must we say love this dish and get it almost every time we go to Thai Smile, but I do sometimes make myself try something different. It still reigns as my favorite. Jenny ordered the Noodle Bowl with Crispy Chicken which is one of her favorites now along with the tangerine-pineapple chicken.

About the desserts we can't really comment, because we enjoy the appetizers, soups, and entrees so much that we are completed satiated by the time dessert would be served. Thai Smile 5 has the highest quality of food and the prices are reasonable. Two people can easily eat (and eat well) for around $30. They are worth a trip out to Preston Highway, and they have just recently opened up a sister restaurant called 2B Thai out in Elizabethtown. Jenny has already tried it out and tells us that the quality is just as good. We are so happy to review Thai Smile 5 and hope we have done their excellent cuisine and service justice.

Thai Smile 5
5800 Preston Highway
Louisville, KY 40219
502-961-9018

2B Thai
3040 E. Ring RD. Suite 2
Elizabethtown, KY 42701

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sharom's Fishery Station

There are several places in town where we would consider ourselves regulars. Sharom's is one of these. That should give you a clue since we don't go back if the food isn't good. Sharom's is located in the south end of town at 5637 Outer Loop. This is not a formal dress up establishment, you order at a counter and take a number and your food is brought out to you. Don't let the casual nature of place deceive you this is a great place to go for a tasty meal without spending a fortune.

We discovered the place about 3 years ago when a friend from Baltimore was in town for a visit. We were delighted to find a local eatery in the south end so close to the Retreat Center. It's nice to not have to cross town all the time to escape the chain gang of restaurants there the usual fare on the outlying regions of the city. A good way to describe the food is Mediterranean/Seafood/Southern cuisine. The menu selection is broad with plenty of moderately priced items. There is everything from mako shark, alligator tail, frog legs, and the more local fried green tomatoes.

Although they are an appetizer Leslie likes to order the fried green tomatoes with another appetizer for her dinner. She often has to force herself to wait two minutes to let them cool a bit or risk a very tasty burn in the mouth. They are made piping hot fresh from local tomatoes. Leslie is a good judge of the tomatoes since this is one of her traditional dishes she cooks at home, but she confesses to not preparing them as much since tasting the ones at Sharom's. Along with the fried green tomatoes Leslie ordered the mini crab cakes. Made from real crab, the crunch bite sized morsels are tasty and tender on the inside. Sharom's offers a variety of dipping sauces, but Leslie prefers her crab cakes naked. However I have tried their sauces and they are excellent.

Both Jenny and I ordered the beef gyros. The meat is tender perfectly seasoned, the pita bread fresh and warm, the lettuce, onion and tomato are fresh and crisp, and the cucumber sauce is freshly made and perfectly compliments the gyro. If you are going to order a gyro come hungry, and if you order sides with it you very be very hungry. I don't always order a side as the beef gyro is very filling. However on this particular visit both Jenny and I were famished. We both made the gyro a dinner for an additional $2.60 and got two sides with it. I went for the basmati dill rice and seasoned potato wedges; Jenny ordered the onion rings and hush puppies. I love the simplicity of the rice and the slight tang of dill and my digestive tract and rice seem to have long term romance going on. The seasoned potato wedges wonderfully crisp and have slight heat to the spice, just enough to tickle your taste buds. The onion rings were real fresh rings of onion deliciously crisp without a hint of greasiness or sogginess. As Jenny says, "There's an art to a good onion ring. They are hard to get them right." Sharom's gets them right. The hushpuppies were likewise just as wonderful perfect crispiness on the outside, and on the inside hot tender cornbready goodness.

All told the meal for the three of us with drinks (no just tea and an orange crush we don't do alcohol remember) cost us about $31.31 Slightly over $10 a person, but we got a lot of food for that price and Leslie even got a lunch from her leftovers so technically four meals from our order. We left as always fully satiated. We love Sharom's and love how close it is to us when we get together. If you are out in the south end you have to try them. They also have two other restaurants in the Highlands, Blue Lagoon and Zaytun Mediterranean Grill. We will review those in the upcoming months.

Peace and Blessings,
Thomas Mooneagle

5637 Outer Loop
(502)968-8368
www.sharoms.com


Monday, August 29, 2011

Eiderdown

German Southern Fusion Cuisine is how the food at Eiderdown was first described to me by Leslie. She talked about it for several months before I finally gave it a try. I've been back several times and have always been impressed with the spread. Located in Germantown on the corner of Goss Ave and Krieger St. (983 Goss Ave. to be exact), Eiderdown is housed in a dark red brick building. The interior is rustic chic with reclaimed wood from barns forming the tables. The atmosphere is relaxed. You are just as likely to see t-shirt and jeans as you are business attire. On our visit we observed: a business dinner, several dating couples of various ages, family dinner, gathering of friends, and one very pink emo mohawk.

Appetizers are the place to start the food breakdown. Every time we go I order the Pretzel sticks. Big, soft, and warm they come salted to just the perfect amount and with two of the house mustards. They actually mix there own mustards, Jenny who has never liked mustards actually liked these. We selected the Hefeweizen and the iPA. The Hefeweizen we decided was our favorite of the two with a sweet savory taste with the mustardy tang. The iPA had a slight sharpness to it that took me by surprise and cleared my sinuses without burning my tongue. Save the mustards for dipping and experimentation with your entrees.

Leslie's favorite Eiderdown appetizer is the Duck Fat Popcorn. When she first heard about it she wrinkled her nose in confusion and doubt, until she tried it. Light yet chewy, crisp and rich, Duck Fat Popcorn is savory without being redolent of meat. The cookbook writer Anne Hodgeman says that duck fat is better than butter. In this case that is the truth.

The entrees our merry band of three ordered were the Nachburger (Thomas), the Gnadinger Pork (Jenny), and the Sunday Sitdown (Leslie).

The Nachburger is Eiderdown's challenge to all would be burger joints and chain restaurants. That's right you know who you are the gauntlet has been thrown down at your feet. The patty is made with local grass fed beef (how's that for green) with bacon ground up in it. It is topped with Kenny's Farmhouse White Cheddar on a Challah bun. It also comes with this little tiny cup of diced tomatoes and onions (itty bitty pieces). I selected the french fries as my side because well it is a burger and even a creme de la creme burger goes better with fries. They brought ketchup to the table, but remember that mustard I told you to hold onto from the appetizer hehehe. The iPA was the perfect condiment for the burger. I have to remember to take breaths in between each bite. It is yummylicious (a technical food reviewer's term I am sure). This is a burger so good you want to thank the cow that gave its life for your entree.

The Gnadinger Pork sandwich, consists of shredded pork shoulder, with black currants, and pistachios on pretzel bread. The currants supply a touch of sweetness without being overwhelming, and the pistachios are like little surprises throughout the sandwich, the pretzel bread is pleasantly crusty and chewy. Jenny also elected to have fries with her sandwich, which she believes to be the best she's ever had in a restaurant (I am inclined to agree with her). These are real fries, from real fresh potatoes deep fried to a wonderful crispness.

The Sunday Sitdown includes greens and grits in addition to the quarter chicken, but Leslie substituted the grits for their unique Pan Seared Potato Salad. She claims an addiction to the potato salad confessing to jonesying over the leftovers the next day. (Not that there is usually much leftover). The centerpiece of the meal, the locally raised chicken, features a crispy unbreaded skin and succulent flavorful meat tender enough to almost fall off the bone while maintaining its character. The greens are a good mate for the bird, a banquet of tastes in and of themselves rather than the limp boiled greens you might have feared.

No dinner can of course be complete at Eiderdown without at least hearing about the desserts. There are several, but really if you know us at all you know we went for the chocolate. The Pot-de-Creme to light to be a fudge, too dense to be a mousse, and way too sophisticated to ever be confused with pudding. It comes with whipped cream (which we asked for on the side in honor of Meg Ryan) and two fresh shortbread cookies. The cookies Jenny observed were perfect for scraping the last bit of chocolate out of the bowl. The dark chocolate confection has a smoky dark flavor combined with just the right amount of sweetness and fruitiness. It reminded me of the moist rich center of a really good homemade chocolate brownie (not a brownie mix from a box either we're talking brownies from scratch). All this was served up in a very large coffee type cup. We shared it between the three of us to help stave off gluttony. We each could have eaten more, but going a way with just enough makes us eager to return again.

Now the sordid topic of coin you may be worrying that all this locally raised and prepared food will eat up your budget halfway through dinner. Appetizers range anywhere from $4-9. Entrees range from $9-22. Between the three of us around $43 minus the tip of course. That included an appetizer, dessert, and one coffee. Not bad really considering spilt three ways that is under $15 a person. This is high quality food for extremely reasonable prices. A note about Jenny's coffee, she is particular about her coffee insisting that most restaurants mix it so weak that she always carries some instant coffee to strengthen it. She never had to take it out of her purse. Of course Eiderdown is also known for its bar and micro brews, but none of us drink so we couldn't help you there. However one of the lovely features of their menu is that every dish has a suggested beverage that goes well with flavors of that item. So fear not you can order boldly even without our input into your beverage lexicon.

In closing we must say if you haven't tried their food really what are you waiting for?

Peace and Blessings,
Thomas Mooneagle, Leslie Moise, & Jenny the Bear (grrrrrrr)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Peking City Bistro

I just ate here this week, but I've actually been going to the Peking City Bistro on Shelbyville Road for several months now. I had been very disappointed when Sesame had closed a while back because that had been my goto place for both myself and my family for years. We were one of the first customers when it opened so I was bereft for a quality chinese restaurant for months.

Peking City Bistro is sort of hidden on Shelbyville Road across the street from the Middletown Kroger. It's in the corner of a little strip mall. They have done wonders with the space with a modern asian style with nods towards tradition as well. However you are wondering about the food.

My typical order is General Tao's chicken, I try this in most of the chinese restaurants I have been to and Peking City's is by far the best. It is simpler in many ways with just the chicken and sauce with green onions and hot red peppers. They garnish it with crisp just barely braised broccoli florets with a nice light savory sweet sauce. First off the broccoli is fresh (not that there is a garden outback although or anything), but it certainly isn't part of a mix that has been cooked to death under heat lamps.

As far as appetizers go we tend to go for the steamed dumplings. You can get them pan fried, but I recommend getting them steamed (and if you eat in the restaurant they come to the table in lovely wooden steamer). There are 6 in a single order and they are a fairly good size. They really do whet your appetite and you could almost wish to make a meal out of them alone, but that would just be indulgent. Not that there is anything wrong with that of course.

Besides my favorite chicken order they have the normal gamut of entrees of beef and broccoli, to Hunan chicken (or pork or beef if you like). Entrees come with a choice of fried rice or steamed. If you happen to be there during lunchtime definitely get the special it comes with an egg roll and the egg rolls are quite tasty with a good mix between crunchy and chewy. The only weak point in this reviewer's opinion is on the soups. They tend to be overly salty and seem processed rather than made, however with all the other appetizer choices who needs soup?

Two people could easily eat here for about $30 or slightly less with an appetizer and 2 entrees (unless you're getting all fancy and getting that whole duck dish does anyone ever order that?). This is not cutting edge fusion cooking this is a menu that is fairly common in most Chinese restaurants, but one that is executed very well. (I have heard tell of a separate menu that is in Chinese for the hardcore authentic dining experience, but this may be just a rumor.) This is definitely worth a try if you're out in the east end and you like Chinese food.

As a first review this may be a bit vague tell me more of what you want to know about. I do confess I don't drink so I can't review alcoholic beverages since I don't normally consume them.

Peace and Blessings,
Thomas Mooneagle


Welcome to the new local restaurant blog

Greetings everybody,

I have been talking for a few months now about starting up a local foods blog to review some of the many local restaurants that Louisville has to offer. We are extremely blessed with many culinary options that are locally owned especially for a city the size of Louisville. We have a good many Irish style pubs, Thai restaurants, Barbecue, Asian Fusion, Mediterranean, Indian, Pizzerias, and more. As I and my friends visit new places we'll share our responses on here, and restaurants don't worry we realize that particular tastes vary so if we get a dish we don't like we'll do our best to come back and try something else before reviewing you. That said we will be honest if tactful. My wish is to promote local restaurants not bash them. Food brings people together sharing a meal with people helps us bond, and what can be better than not having to do the dishes afterwards. When we eat from locally owned establishments we enrich our community and help to contribute to a greener future.

Some reviews that will be upcoming are "Thai Smile, Peking City Bistro, Sharom's, The Irish Rover, and Eiderdowns." I hope you are excited and hungry.

Peace and Blessings,
Thomas Mooneagle