- 3939 Shelbyville Road, Louisville, KY, 40207
- (502) 719-9717
- Overall User Rating:
- (6 ratings)
- Monday - Thursday 4pm -midnight; Friday and Saturday 4pm -2am
- Official Web Site:
For a martini fundamentalist — like me, for instance — the cocktail menu at 60 West Bistro & Martini Bar reads like a weird manifesto from the barbarian fringe of the beverage world. Where I come from, there are only a scant few martini recipes. And all of them start with gin.
At 60 West, there are at least 60 martinis on the list. They’re divided into five categories: vodka martinis, bourbon martinis, rum martinis, after-dinner martinis and “other favorites.” And yes, to my chagrin, the handful of named drinks that include gin are included in that “other” category. I long since gave up my futile struggle against the so-called “vodka martini,” but I was still chagrined to find that the iconic combination of gin and dry vermouth (here called “The Original”) has now become just an “other favorite.”
If Marshall McLuhan had been a bartender, perhaps his most famous aphorism would have gone: “The martini glass is the medium, and the medium is the message, and anything you serve in a martini glass is, by definition, a martini.”
At any rate, the owners of 60 West, Emilie and Charles Knieriem, seem to have tapped into modern thirsts. By all accounts, there are plenty of folks who drop in at 60 West and sip “martinis” made with ingredients like Blue Island Pucker, Guava Rum, Grape Vodka and Buttershots Liqueur (some no doubt lured by a number of discount specials that feature $5 martinis and half-priced bottles of wine).
As for me, I asked for something that isn’t even on the list: a dirty martini made with gin. And the bar had no trouble shaking up a fine example: a crisp, nicely balanced liquid barely fogged by a generous dollop of salty, aromatic olive juice, and garnished with a skewer of big green olives.
60 West (once known as Café Emilie) would be a good place to sit around and debate with your pals about martinis. It’s divided into a few good-sized spaces. There’s a fine patio and a handsome, wood-paneled bar area that offers a variety of comfortable seating options. The dining room, set off by a looming glass panel, is perhaps the least inviting space. It’s nicely furnished, but owing to a lot of hard surfaces and an oversized, undecorated window that looks out over Shelbyville Road, it has a slightly cold, unfinished feel that’s only partially warmed up by the bluesy soundtrack that plays in the background.
60 West took on its bistro-martini bar identity three or four years ago. Chef Dustin Staggers recently took over kitchen responsibilities, and he unveiled a new menu that feels comfortingly bistro-like but cultivates a few interesting idiosyncrasies. He offers seared scallops as an appetizer flavored with coriander and pink peppercorns ($12), or dishes them up as an entree with a habanero-blackberry coulis ($20). He uses locally sourced ingredients (local Foxhollow beef and mini-buns from Nord’s Bakery) to build elaborate sliders topped with bacon, cheese, veggies and a roasted garlic-jalapeño aioli ($10).
His Iceberg wedge ($7) is brightly scattered with Roma tomatoes, pickled red onions and the like, and finished with a fine house-made blue cheese dressing, but the crowning touch is the addition of a perfect soft-boiled egg — a rare pleasure indeed. And Staggers has a nice touch with soups, as well; one night he served a hearty, brown-flecked onion-mushroom bisque as a special, and a diner looking for a pleasant riff on an old standard will enjoy his thick, richly seasoned Mediterranean tomato soup — topped with slivers of crunchy fried shallots, and served with a little grilled cheese made of Vermont cheddar sandwiched between slices of Italian-style bread.
Entrees are promising, but on recent visits the kitchen still seemed to be grappling with the new menu, and occasionally missed the mark.
An order of spaghetti and meatballs, for instance, offered a superb marinara and nicely judged pasta. And the meatballs, made from Foxhollow ground beef, had a rustic texture and robust flavors, but they were served rare — with cool, red centers — a treatment that was either intentional or inadvertent; if the former, nearly all diners would rather be given a choice; if the latter, it was a pretty significant kitchen misstep (Note: As someone who is comfortable with rare, locally sourced meat, I thought those meatballs were pretty darned good).
An 8-ounce filet mignon ($23) was, indeed, cooked exactly as ordered (medium rare), but here the promised flavors of chipotle and cilantro were swept away under the sweet tide of a simple port wine reduction, and a side of macaroni and cheese seemed more dutiful than enthusiastic.
But there was nothing dutiful about a finishing course of dense cheesecake, served with chilled forks and topped with crunchy bits of candied lemon zest. And who knows, perhaps a cheesecake martini is even now on the drawing board.