- 426 Baxter Ave., Louisville, KY, 40204
- Overall User Rating:
- (1 rating)
- Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday, 1-10 p.m. Bar is open until midnight during week, 2 a.m. on weekends.
- Official Web Site:
It used to be that every few years a wave of nostalgia would sweep across American culture. Suddenly, for a few weeks or months, there’d be a revival of interest in Lawrence Welk or the Andrews Sisters, and then it would pass away. The next year people would get obsessed with 1956 Chevys and ducktail haircuts.
Those sweet little interludes would find younger folks listening eagerly while older folks reminisced about World War II ration stamps and drinking chocolate sodas at drugstore counters.
Nowadays, nostalgia is dead. Why? Because you can’t revive arts and fashions that have never gone away. And whereas earlier generations graciously made way for their descendants, the baby boomers have maintained their cultural hegemony for a half-century.
Heck, 2012 is the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Rolling Stones — and they’re still among the top-grossing touring acts in the world.
Anyway, we baby boomers don’t like to let go of anything. So, it’s nice to see The Brewery reopening on Baxter Avenue. Back in the ’80s and ’90s, music fans might grab a sandwich at The Brewery while waiting for Jimmy Vaughan or They Might Be Giants to ascend the stage next door at The Thunderdome.
Happily, things don’t seem to have changed much. The ownership/management group (Kevin Daley, Mike Riley, Dan Evans, Dave McNamara and chef Charles Woods) is a tight-knit bunch that’s worked together for years (collectively, their histories include places like Vincenzo’s, Abruzzi, Bravo Pitino and, of course, the original iteration of The Brewery).
There’s abundant seating — a brick-bordered, carpeted dining room is pleasantly finished in pine green accents. Big windows light an airy bistro area that leads to a spacious wooden deck. And a gleaming wooden bar — circa 1890 — looms over the dining area, conveying a certain majestic authority. And for sports fans, there are TVs pretty much everywhere you look.
The beer program includes a useful mix of mass market and craft options (including local choices, like NABC Hoptimus). All the usual spirits are on offer, and a delightfully zippy Bloody Mary suggests that the bar folks know how to use them.
The menu is a moderately priced mix of standard pub fare with a few ambitious offerings and some surprising little twists that merit attention.
For instance, a dinner of fried grouper ($12.95; it can be had grilled as well) was fresh and tasty (especially when I sprinkled a dash of vinegar on the crunchy batter), but the big surprise was a perfectly crisp-tender side of bright green broccoli florets and asparagus spears (the roasted red-jacketed new potatoes weren’t bad, either).
Likewise, although the menu includes items like wings ($7.95), fried calamari ($8.95), fried cheese bites ($4.95) and the like, a colorful, crisp Asian salad ($8.95) offered a nice alternative: a nice mix of greens and veggies, a grilled chicken breast, a few tender steamed shrimp, some crumbled blue cheese and a ginger-laced sesame dressing. And if the garnish of crispy Asian noodles (the sort you might expect to find atop an old-school order of chow mein) were a bit of a cliche, at least it’s a cliche that’s familiar to any baby boomer.
And then there are elaborate pasta dishes, like tortellini Baxter ($11.95), a colorful conglomeration of pasta, cappicola and asparagus in a tomato-basil cream sauce.
House-made soups and sandwiches make up a big part of chef Woods’ menu. His chili is more about satisfying depth of flavor than about heat, and his creamy tomato basil soup is light and fresh ($3.95/$2.95; add a grilled cheese sandwich for $3.95 and you have a classic lunch).
Other sandwiches include a classic hand-patted burger ($5.95), house-smoked pulled pork ($6.95), fried bologna ($4.95), tuna or chicken salad ($6.95), and a pot roast sub ($8.95) that’s made the old-fashioned way, by slow-cooking a piece of meat until it creates its own gravy, then scooping it into a long roll and letting some provolone melt right in. Good in itself, it’s one of those rich, comforting sandwiches that would benefit from lively contrasting flavors and textures — sport peppers come to mind; raw onions; or even a dab of horseradish. But still, it’s hard to complain about real pot roast (and the pot roast is also available as an entree, $10.95).
It’s also hard to complain about the rotating list of desserts, some made in-house, some supplied by local partners. I don’t know who made the New York-style cheesecake, but it was dense enough to be the real thing, and though a couple of oversized California-type strawberries didn’t add much by way of taste, they sure looked like the ones we used to eat when the Rolling Stones were young.
You can email freelance restaurant critic Marty Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org.