- 127 W. Main St., Louisville, KY, 40202
- (502) 257-7132
- Overall User Rating:
- (3 ratings)
- Mon - Thurs: 11:00 am - 10:00 pm Fri: 11:00 am - 11:00 pm Sat: 5:00 pm - 11:00 pm
- Official Web Site:
As The Courier-Journal reported a week or so ago, the University of Louisville basketball season has been very good to bars and restaurants close to the new downtown arena. Looking ahead, big draws like Rush, Reba and the Ringling Bros. will certainly draw people downtown.
But some of the downtown spots are good enough that they ought to be destinations in their own right. A case in point is Doc Crow's Smokehouse & Raw Bar, which ought to be a restaurant for all seasons.
Owned by brothers Steven and Michael Ton (Basa Restaurant) and Master Sommelier Brett Davis, and designed by New York-based Lynh Nguyen, Doc Crow's is a brilliant example of how to create a gorgeous modern space while simultaneously respecting the integrity of an historic property — in this case, a 140-year-old building that's seen service as a distillery and a warehouse.
Walk the length of Doc Crow's — which runs all the way from Main to Washington Street, and you'll be amazed at the care that's gone into the place: a comfortable, buzzing bar; a compact, brightly lit section that looks directly into the bustling kitchen; a dimly lit array of booths that feel like the dining car on an elegant 19th-century train; and finally a spacious dining area surrounded by the quiet glow of burnished wood.
You might be tempted to say that it looks like something you'd find in New Orleans. But Louisville has its own legacy of casual elegance, and Doc Crow's has a timeless feel that expresses it as well as anyplace in the city.
The menu offers a sprawling assortment of goodies that caters perfectly to the pan-Southern belly, whether it craves oysters on the half-shell, fried green tomatoes, pork rinds, shrimp and grits, barbecue, hush puppies or fried pork chops. And on a couple of recent visits, the kitchen performed at a very high level.
Oysters on the half-shell (recent choices came from New England, the Pacific Northwest and the Gulf Coast, and have been priced in the $2-$2.50 range per oyster) are accompanied by dish of cocktail sauce and a classic mignonette with an elusive hint of bourbon that furnishes a ravishing complement to the briny shellfish.
If you prefer your oysters fried, you'll love that Doc Crow's version is garbed in tender batter, cooked just enough that the flesh stays moist and succulent, and dished up with a judiciously spiced remoulade ($8).
And if your taste runs to crab cakes, you won't go wrong with Doc's meaty, pan-seared, lump-meat version ($12). Other opening seafood sallies include shrimp cocktail ($12), the sensuous pleasure of peel-and-eat shrimp (half-pound, $9; full pound, $17), pan-roasted mussels and steamed clams (with bacon, white wine and garlic).
Land-based bar snacks include wings ($9 for a pound), juicy, handsomely plated pulled pork tacos ($6) and freshly cooked pork rinds covered in a hot, spicy dust ($4). Soup choices include a nicely spiced seafood gumbo in a light brown roux ($6) and Texas-style chili ($5). And in a city where the iceberg wedge has made a strong resurgence in recent years, Doc Crow's can definitely hold its own ($4).
An indecisive person could dwell for a long time over the list of entrees. In fact, our friends David and Mary are people who pretty much know their own mind, and it still took us a while to decide not to order everything in sight. Happily, our server was not only quick, witty and knowledgeable, but she was also patient. In the end, we covered most of the bases.
A rack of meaty baby back ribs ($12 for a half-rack; $22 for the glorious full treatment) was flawless: rich, lightly smoky, pink flesh covered in dark, chewy bark required no saucy help to satisfy our taste. A shrimp po' boy ($11), served on bread imported from the Crescent City was heavily heaped with little fried shrimp, but here a heavier hand with the sauce would have given the dish a dash of much needed panache (from the sandwich menu), and the beef brisket ($9), a luxuriously fat-laden hunk of meat on a brioche bun was a carnivore's delight.
The seafood side of the menu also sets a high standard. Seared salmon ($14) comes with dirty rice infused with the earthy, mysterious flavor of chicken liver; a dash of vinegar sprinkled over the cornmeal-battered fried catfish is heavenly ($9).
And I'm pretty sure that two frugal diners could eat like Southern royalty by ordering a handful of side dishes (each priced at $3), and chowing down on generous portions of braised greens, pit-baked beans, macaroni and cheese, hush puppies, slaw and the like.
But even a frugal diner will want to splurge for the Wilber's Sundae. Most pork-based desserts leave me wondering, “Why bother?” But this one is just about perfect: brown butter praline ice cream (from Comfy Cow) is drizzled with bourbon caramel, sprinkled with candied bacon, topped with a bourbon soaked cherry, and perched on a base of cinnamon-sprinkled pork rinds. And yes, it is sublime (so are the freshly baked, melt-in-your mouth chocolate chip cookies).
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