- 400 S. Fourth St., Louisville, KY
- Overall User Rating:
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- Full-service kitchen hours — Sunday-Monday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-midnight. Bar hours run later, and a late-night menu is available.
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From a branding standpoint, the GB Brewery Restaurant group might be undergoing a bit of an identity crisis. But the folks at the newly opened Louisville outpost of the 30-some-unit chain (which has outlets in 18 states and D.C.) seem to know exactly what they want to accomplish.
And based on recent visits, they’ve succeeded in opening a bright and lively brewpub that caters equally well to those who crave the energy of a sports bar, the comfortable appointments of upscale casual dining, and an eclectic contemporary menu that invokes vivid flavors from Asia, Louisiana, Southern Europe and the American Southwest — and does so with polish and confidence.
As for the identity crisis, the GB Brewery Restaurants have long been known as the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurants — named for co-founders Dan Gordon and Dean Biersch. But as Dan Potter, the general manager of the Louisville restaurant, noted in a phone interview, for many diners the name suggests German cuisine.
And trust me, there’s not a schnitzel to be found. The offerings include tacos and flatbreads, potstickers, burgers and Vietnamese sandwiches. And pretty much everything is scratch-made on premises — including the beers.
GB Brewery serves up five signature beers produced on premises under the direction of local head brewer Dave Stacy. It’s a lineup with offerings that will appeal to mainstream tastes (with easy-drinking lagers and a Czech-style Pilsner), but it includes an aromatic wheat beer and a lively Schwarzbier (a generous sample of the five beers runs $6.50). In addition, the lineup of “guest” beers includes plenty of popular options.
And there’s an affordable wine list and a colorful collection of specialty cocktails.
The Borders bookstore that once occupied the corner of Fourth and Liberty has been nicely converted into a capacious bar and dining room with tall windows, hardwood floors, enough televisions (in the bar area) to satisfy sports fans, a nicely arranged dining room (for those who don’t care about the sports), and fine sidewalk seating populated by happy crowds on temperate evenings.
One of the reasons the crowds are happy is that chef Jason Smith (formerly of J. Alexander’s) and his kitchen crew are turning out some very good dishes.
For many diners, the list of starters will be the only menu they need. And an impressive list of starters it is, too. There are handsome, hand-pulled flatbreads served on wooden platters (the California Cobb is covered with grilled chicken, bacon, tomato, avocado and more, $10.95); there are sliders made of “American-style Kobe beef” ($10.95). Chicken wings ($9.95) and calamari ($9.95) are available.
But the best way to get a sense of the kitchen’s range is to order one of the appetizer samplers ($15.95-$17.95). Those sliders are nicely cooked and seasoned, and the wings benefit from a sticky, slightly sweet red glaze. The potstickers, stuffed with shrimp and chicken, might not have the finely nuanced texture you’d like to find, but the drizzle of fresh Chinese mustard will get your attention.
Still, it’s the bao buns and the egg rolls that will likely win you over. The bao buns — warm buns wrapped taco-style around either a seared shrimp cake dressed with sriracha mayonnaise or tender pulled pork with a richly flavored house-made hoisin sauce — are superb.
And the “egg rolls” — which arrive carved into pie-shaped wedges — are a wonderful mix of Asian and Southwestern ideas, the crisp wrapper stuffed with black beans, pulled chicken, corn and roasted red pepper — with a bowl of spicy, creamy jalapeno-ranch dipping sauce.
Light appetites will find plenty of salads, vegetarian options and even vegan options — a classic wedge ($6.50); grilled chicken and artichoke hearts with mixed greens, feta and toasted cashews ($12.50); pasta primavera ($12.95), vegan tacos ($11.95) and vegan stir-fry ($12.95).
For that matter, sandwiches like the CBLT — thick bacon, roasted tomatoes, luxurious avocado mayonnaise and grilled chicken on toasted sourdough bread (served with superb garlic fries) will serve as a perfect summer meal ($10.95).
Main courses sometimes invoke the restaurant’s brewpub roots — a juicy grilled chicken breast is perched on garlicky mashed potatoes, sprinkled with fried onions and sauced with a deep brown Pilsner gravy ($15.50).
If an impressive Cajun pasta dish ($16.50) — fettuccine tossed with andouille sausage, chicken, shrimp and a nice batter of Louisiana spices — didn’t have beer in the recipe, it nevertheless went very well with a beer on the side.
House-made tacos — steak, Cajun-style fish and blackened ahi ($14.50-16.50) — will pair equally well with beer, as will fried fish and chips ($14.50) or a flat-iron steak, cooked medium-rare, sliced into attractive medallions, tilted against a medley of roasted red and sweet potatoes, and topped with a pool of tomato ragout and a drizzle of hoisin sauce.
Although the cheesecake ($6.50) was neither dense enough nor richly flavored enough to be the true New York style, a chocolate brownie ($6.50) with vanilla ice cream and caramel and chocolate sauce was darned good (and all the desserts are thoughtfully made available in mini versions ($2.25).
You can email freelance restaurant critic Marty Rosen at email@example.com.