Like our parents told us about making friends, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.”
That logic applies to the new LouVino in Middletown (11400 Main St., in Douglass Hills), where completion of the lot outside the restaurant building is well behind the interior. Had I not been invited to the soft opening, I’d have assumed a ribbon cutting was on the August calendar.
But once you enter the restaurant, it’s obvious owners Chad and Lauren Coulter knew waiting for landscaping was unnecessary. The business is fully operational, decorated beautifully in a contemporary blue-gray motif contrasted with wood floors and modern lighting fixtures. Diners relax at a mix of booths, private and communal tables. The luckiest get tables with super-comfortable, high-backed Queen Anne chairs.
Down the main room’s middle is a dividing wall and wine rack resembling a broken honeycomb. In its pockets is a wide range of full wine bottles, an effect that’s both colorful and thematic.
For those not familiar with the concept launched and hammered out at the original Highlands location, LouVino is a restaurant specializing in wine by the glass and small plates. Wine sold by the bottle and entrée-like portions are available here, but by and large, customers come here for an array of sips and bites.
Having enjoyed dinner at its original location, I opted to visit the new site for Sunday brunch. The restaurant’s executive chef is Sarah Rockwell, wife of Tavis Rockwell, who captains the Highlands kitchen.
Servers offer a generous $10 mimosa (replenished up to three times), bloody Marys and coffee, and for those certain it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, they’ll bring a beer and wine list.
The brunch menu is mercifully modest at eight items, all of which can serve as individual portions or shared bites. Prices range from $8 to $16 for things like Biscuit ‘n’ Gravy with house-made goetta (a German sausage that’s beloved in Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati) gravy and a sunny-side-up egg ($8); Maple Eggs Benedict (soft-poached eggs, grits cakes, country ham and spiced maple hollandaise, $10); and Filet and Eggs (petite filet mignon, hash browns, sunny-side-up egg with gruyere mornay, $16).
My wife and I shared a delicious Crispy Potato Hash Browns with smoked salmon, dill sauce, roasted tomato caper relish and with sunny-side-up egg ($10.50), and the savory Chicken Biscuit Sliders with bacon, poblano aioli and pepper jack cheese ($11). As a sort-of dessert course, we split the Stuffed French Toast with vanilla mascarpone, cinnamon, berry jam and bourbon maple and whipped cream. Three dishes for two (plus a pair of good draught beers) was more than an enough for a nap-inducing midday meal. We didn’t bother preparing dinner until almost five hours later.
According to Chad Coulter, LouVino’s Highlands spot has done exceptionally well and better than forecasted. (A third LouVino is even scheduled to open in Fishers, Ind., in the coming months.) That first restaurant was fashioned from an overhaul of the space that held De la Torre’s for 26 years, but this newest restaurant is purpose built with a much larger kitchen and a private dining area. Given its location near some well-to-do neighborhoods, the lack of any similar competitor nearby and the quality experience it’s already delivering, I predict this new location will enjoy sales numbers that far exceed the original.