Sometimes restaurateurs just can’t leave well enough alone. Or, if you’re Bobby Benjamin, you look at it another way: You have to finish what you start.
That’s his reason for the Thanksgiving Eve launch of Lola, the newly named space above Butchertown Grocery that, for the past year, patrons have understood to be its cocktail lounge. Simple as that, right?
Not for Benjamin, who sees an opportunity to give the space its own identity as a bar where customers can get unique drinks and great food that’s more relaxed than the first-floor fare. It has live music after all, and it’s cozier and darker than the bustling bistro one flight of stairs below.
“Butchertown Grocery BG has a clean bistro feel, a nice mood to it, and it’s high energy,” said Benjamin, a partner and in the restaurant and its executive chef. “But the space we’re calling Lola is a whole other room that it deserves its own identity with the elevated bar food and great drinks we want to serve up there.”
No, that’s not a pun on its second floor location. “Elevated” is chef-speak for Benjamin taking approachable menu staples and finessing them. For example, the portabella fries will be served with wasabi sambal aioli, a Cuban sandwich with porchetta, glazed ham, dill pickles and mustard, and a Florentine panino (the Italian singular expression of the plural “panini”) with fried eggplant, peppers, goat cheese, pepita pesto and chips. Food prices will range from $8-$15.
“People in Louisville love their fish sandwiches, and we’ve got a lot of good ones around town,” Benjamin said. “I wanted ours made from really good cod and a Belgian ale batter and a spicy buttermilk dressing—something just a little different.”
The 55-seat Lola be will be refined, yet rawer than before, including new lighting that’ll be different and … wait for it … brighter than before. Responding to a gig about the sometime criticized darkness of the lounge, Benjamin laughed and apologized “for not giving that enough thought when we first opened. I was so focused on getting the downstairs going that I neglected that. That’s one thing I mean when I’m saying I’m finishing what I started upstairs.”
Benjamin said beverage director Nic Christiansen has created a new cocktail lineup that’ll include clever shots.
“She came to me and said, ‘I know you’re going to think I’m crazy, but I want to do a shots menu for Lola, a really cool cocktail menu and a shots menu,’” he recalled. A little surprised, he asked what she meant, and Christiansen described a shot of whiskey poured through a halved beef bone. “So we do bone marrow downstairs, but we use the roasted bone as a luge upstairs.”
He even said Jimmy Russell, the 83-year-old master distiller at Wild Turkey, did a bone marrow shot during a recent visit.
“That was awesome to watch,” Benjamin said. “The whiskey picks up the flavor of the bone marrow as it goes down. It so cool.”
Lola will be open for dinner and late-night cocktails Wednesday and Sunday 6 p.m. to midnight, and Thursday through Saturday 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. (On late nights, classic American hamburgers will be sold as well from 12:30-2 a.m.) For more information, visit www.gotolola.com beginning Wednesday, Nov. 16 or follow on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.