- 983 Goss Ave., Louisville, KY, 40217
- Overall User Rating:
- (3 ratings)
- Official Web Site:
Some restaurants — not too many, these days, thanks to the all-seeing group-sourced scrutiny of online social media — open in obscurity, slowly work out their kinks, and grow in skill and confidence while gradually building a customer base. But not everybody has that luxury.
Eiderdown is a case in point. Its opening in October 2010 was one of the most anticipated culinary events of that year. Gastropub culture was on the rise. The owners, Heather Burks and James Gunnoe, had transformed Germantown’s Nachbar into one of the city’s most popular hipster hangouts. And Eiderdown chef Brian Morgan proposed a whimsical, innovative bill of fare that rode the crest of the burgeoning farm-to-table movement, filling plates with local meats and produce.
In those early months, sad to recall, the kitchen’s inconsistency was at odds with its ambitions.
Nearly two years have passed, though. And nowadays it seems Morgan and his staff are accomplishing exactly what they set out to do.
The current menu, rolled out at the end of July, is as whimsical as ever (yes, the duck fat popcorn is still on offer, $4), and great regional sources like Capriole goat cheese, Broadbent country ham, Sapori d’Italia cheeses and the like dominate the menu.
That kitchen has now reached the point where I’d happily show it off to out-of-town visitors looking for a fun, casual meal. In fact, that’s exactly what we did recently when our friends Dave and Charlie were in from Houston — and by any measure the meal was a grand success.
The space — a dimly lit chamber of bricks and wood furnished with sturdy tables of salvaged wood and a lengthy, inviting bar — has the timeless, rustic charm of a 19th-century saloon.
Service these days is quick, friendly and expert (especially with regard to the beverage program, which includes an outstanding collection of craft draft and bottled beers and an appealing wine list that includes plenty of intriguing offerings at reasonable bottle and glass price — and servers are quick to offer a taste of whatever you’re considering).
If you’re looking for a beer-friendly starter or snack, pretzel sticks (made in house by Nathan Sturdivant, who crafts many of the restaurant’s baked goods) are accompanied by an assortment of outstanding mustards that run the gamut from sweet-hot to thick and earthy, and are flavored with ingredients including Ale-8-One and a big, rich porter ($5).
Or, you might opt for a Blue Dog baguette served with the daily beer cheese selection (on a recent visit it was a silken blend of Swiss cheese and a Belgian pale ale; $5). If you’re starting with a glass of wine, you might prefer crepes (Capriole goat cheese, toasted walnuts, thyme-infused butter and an intricately flavored honey; $8).
This time of year, Morgan offers variations on watermelon — joining it with fennel, red onions and dill yogurt for a pert salad ($9) or, recently, in the form of a lively pink soup, in which floated a frozen lozenge of ginger sorbet ($5).
Speaking of salads, the Counter Offer ($8) is a plate of vibrant colors, captivating textures and lovely flavors: green beans, peaches, pieces of Capriole Sofia (a dense, rich, slightly more mature goat cheese), pistachios and a superb lemon-vanilla vinaigrette that will give you something to talk about for days (that salad would suffice as a meal for many of us).
Morgan plays up Eiderdown’s Germantown roots with dishes like the Viking’s Wurst ($16), a rotating assortment of sausages and accompaniments; and spaetzle ($17, available in a vegetarian configuration, with ratatouille, basil, almonds and goat cheese; or for $3 more with locally produced pork sausage).
Another vegetarian option is the spectacular Napoleon Murphy Brock ($16), a layered stack of ingredients like seared seasonal heirloom tomatoes, summer squash, flavorful cheese, house-made crackers (on one occasion, the crackers weren’t quite crackly enough, the only slight flaw in an otherwise excellent dish), generous smears of pesto and a boldly flavored red pepper coulis.
Sandwich options ($9-$10) include a burger, country ham, mutton, pork and a vegetarian choice. Pork ribs ($18) — favored by a well-defined ancho chili rub, then roasted to a dark, firm finish — were accompanied by tart, juicy slabs of fried green tomato, a hefty cake of macaroni and Kenny’s cheese, and a nicely executed demi-glace (which soaked perfectly into the mac and cheese).
And the rotating seafood option (market-priced) is always worth considering (on a recent visit, the kitchen offered succulent mussels and cherry tomatoes over creamy orzo).
Tangy goat cheese ice cream was the perfect foil for a sweet peach cobbler — and if chocolate is on your mind, the dense, dark pleasures of a chocolate pot de crème are not to be denied.
You can email freelance restaurant critic Marty Rosen at email@example.com.