- 113 S. Seventh St., Louisville, KY
- (502) 618-1917
- Overall User Rating:
- (0 ratings)
- Mon-Sun: 5:00pm-2:00am
- Official Web Site:
Its roots may be in the City of Brotherly Love, but St. Charles Exchange definitely comes out punching.
Newly opened in a splendidly revived Seventh Street building, the restaurant/bar is part of a growing trend that’s seen restaurateurs from major cities carving out interesting and idiosyncratic niches in a Louisville dining scene that’s rich in home-grown talent.
At St. Charles Exchange, the ownership/management team brings together Louisville entrepreneurs Rob Frey and Amy Hoffman Frey and folks who are veterans of Philadelphia’s fine dining scene (Supper and The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company).
Situated in a splendidly revived vintage building, St. Charles Exchange is just about as spacious and gracious as any place in the city, a calm celebration of brick and hardwood, warm light, and varied and comfortable seating (including a long, wide bar).
As for coming out punching, this is the first place in the city where I’ve seen a list of old-school punches — the ancient version of mixed drink that eventually evolved into the modern-day cocktail (in “Punch: the Delights and Dangers of the Flowing Bowl,” liquor historian David Wondrich says the first punch-makers were English sailors stationed in the hot Asian tropics, where their beers spoiled, and necessity was the mother of libation).
These punches are old school in conception, but plenty modern otherwise, featuring house-made bitters and syrups, fresh ingredients and top-notch spirits — and though you can order a single portion ($10), if you’re in good company you can share the flowing bowl in 10-portion units ($75) or four-portion carafes.
And glass for glass, the cocktail program at St. Charles Exchange offers some beautifully conceived and well-wrought drinks (like the St. Charles Exchange Punch, which spins a web of flavors from Smith & Cross Rum, Buffalo Trace, three different strands of bitters and a pleasant note of allspice).
There are plenty of hand-crafted classic and modern cocktails as well, and based on recent visits, the bar and front-of-the-house staff (headed up by general manager Richard Ruth) are adept at helping a drinker sort the selections to find something that suits the palate.
The kitchen (executive chef Mitch Prensky; chef de cuisine Patrick McCandless; sous chef Tyler Powell) offers plenty of small plates that work nicely as sophisticated adjuncts to the beverages. There are whimsical riffs on the classic deviled egg ($5). There’s Elvis on Horseback ($8), a perfectly executed tribute to the King that involves stuffing dates with peanut butter, wrapping them in bacon, and saucing them with a vinaigrette made from smoked bananas. Disclaimer: This dish looks great on the plate, and might be the best-engineered take on this theme that I’ve ever seen, but I’ve never shared Elvis’ predilection for that combination of flavors; if you’re like me, just move on.
In fact, if you’re looking for a Southern twist, grab an order of the Kentucky ham plate ($8), which includes generous, carefully carved and rolled portions of superb Broadbent Country Ham, mellow pickled okra, some honey and a dollop of superb pimento cheese (and a couple of not so interesting biscuits for smearing).
Even better is the spring vegetable crudite plate ($9), a mix of blanched and pickled vegetables (recently the selection included fennel, carrots, green beans and golden beets) all carved to highlight their colors and textures, and bright, crisp and tender as can be.
The menu offers a half-dozen dinner-sized plates, like scallops with collards and black-eyed peas ($26) or game hen with faro, pole beans and spring onions ($22). And it’s on these plates that the kitchen sometimes falls short of its promise.
The centerpieces seem always to be fine. The surface of a gorgeous piece of Scottish salmon ($25) was grilled to a fine bronzed finish, while the inside was pink and juicy. And an airy spinach mousse added a dash of neon green fun to the plate. But the fish was plated with potato pancakes (to be precise, thick patties of fried, shredded potatoes that some might call hash browns) that were admirably crisp and golden on the outside, but unpleasantly gray and fibrous within.
Far better — fantastic, really — was the St. Chuck Burger ($15), an 8-ounce portion of flavorful ground lamb topped with melted cheddar, a dollop of sweet pea mayo and some curry-inflected fried potatoes — all deftly layered on an English muffin — with crisp, addictive lamb-fat- fried potatoes on the side.
Add a bowl of dense, dark, chocolate pudding ($8) if you like. Or maybe, if you dare, you could swing one final punch before heading into the night.
You can email freelance restaurant critic Marty Rosen at email@example.com.
Address: 113 S. Seventh St.
Telephone: (502) 618-1917
Cuisine: American 1900s.
Alcohol: Full bar, specialty cocktails; 30 or so wines (some available by the glass), with bottle prices starting at $30, many options in the $35 range, and a couple that break the century mark; beers include mass market lagers and local craft brews.
Vegetarian: Starters, salads and sides; ask your server.
Price range: Moderate/expensive — affordable small plates; entrees in the mid/upper $20; exclusive of alcohol, two diners will likely spend around $60.
Reservations: Accepted for any size party; a private dining space is available for groups up to 30.
Credit cards: AE, D, MC, V
Children’s menu: Ask your server.
Access: The restaurant appears to be fully accessible for people using wheelchairs.
Hours: Monday-Sunday, 5 p.m.-2 a.m.; full kitchen service until 11 p.m.; late-night menu until closing.