Mixto ceviche, new to the menu at Artesano Tapas Vino y Mas. | Photo by Steve Coomes

The evolution continues at OLE: For OLE Restaurant Group chefs, March madness began in February. As EDT’s Rick Redding reported, Red Barn Kitchen launched brunch, Mercato Italiano launched a new spring menu and brought back lunch service, and the crew at Artesano Tapas Vino y Mas just rolled out a significant menu overhaul. To summarize, the focus of the food is more broadly Latin American than Spanish, drawing on executive chef Fernando Martinez’s life growing up in Cuba, and travels throughout the Caribbean and Venezuela: home to his bride and business partner, Christina Martinez. Dishes are delivered to the table more as courses than tapas (i.e. at random as they’re finished in the kitchen), yet still shareable.

Ropa vieja arepitas are in the house now at Artesano. | Photo by Steve Coomes
Ropa vieja arepitas are in the house now at Artesano. | Photo by Steve Coomes

There’s some fusion flair as well, such as the Peruvian chaufa rice, which is a riff on the Korean standard bibimbap: delivered to the table sizzling and topped with an egg. The ropa vieja arepitas are a mashup of Cuba’s ropa vieja (meaning old clothes) and the Venezuelan staple of arepas, which are ground corn cakes that can be topped or stuffed. Here, mini-arepas are topped with braised beef short ribs and pickled red cabbage, and stuffed with queso fresco. The mixto ceviche blends calamari, shrimp, bay scallops, aji Amarillo (a pepper sauce) leche de tigre (basically the sweet-tangy runoff from citrus-cured ceviche), sweet potato and Peruvian red corn. It screams Caribbean beach restaurant. At least one nod toward Spain is the pulpo vacafrita, which combines tender octopus, caramelized bell peppers and onions, mojo sauce, lime juice and black olive aioli. Click here to see the entire menu.

If you’ve been a fan of Artesano before, you’ll not be disappointed with the changes. First rate as always.

North Lime Donuts under construction in Old Louisville: Business First reported that the long-discussed duplication and drop-off here of this beloved donut stop in Lexington is finally underway. I do a good bit of business in Lexington, so I’ve heard lots of buzz about how good this place is, so count me excited. Expect a late spring opening. It’ll be a great addition to Old Louisville, and thankfully far enough from my residence to be tempted to visit too often—at least on foot. Click here for more.

Barbara Lee’s Kitchen now closed: For more than 20 years, Barbara Lee’s Kitchen was a great place to get late night post-club grub in Crescent Hill. Operating 24-7 takes a special kind of business owner, and consequently there aren’t that many independent restaurants that do that. So it wasn’t surprising to read in The Courier-Journal that the husband-and-wife team of Barbara Lee and Mark McCullock have closed the restaurant for health reasons. Other than the infamous shooting that happened there some time ago, no one in my social media feeds ever discussed the place. So I was surprised at the Face-Twit-Insta grieving that erupted once the closure was announced. Clearly a special place for some. Click here for more.

Chik’n & Mi noodle shop coming to Clifton: Seems that as soon as one closes, another moves in to open. Next in line at 2319 Brownsboro Road is Chik’n & Mi, a noodle shop with an Asian-American influence. According to Business First, spouses Jason and Aenith McCollum are culinary school grads with extensive restaurant experience. So don’t expect an ordinary noodle shack at what will become an 80-seat restaurant. No word on when the spot will open. Click here for more.

Just sayin’ that I love Down One Bourbon Bar: I love the crew at Down One Bourbon Bar, have for years. I can’t think of any restaurant staff in town that does so well with so few resources. I’ve had multiple good meals there and lots of fab cocktails. Service is always good, attentive and friendly. I led a country ham and Copper & Kings brandy pairing there last week for 34 people, and it went off without a hitch, mostly because the food, service, drinks were all first rate. It just makes me wonder how much better regarded it would be if its parent company would spend some money modernizing the modest space. A first-rate watering hole so well steeped in bourbon selection and cocktails deserves better.

Kaelin’s site to be reopened as restaurant: So the (locally alleged) home of the cheeseburger is going to be reopened as a restaurant? That’s what a report in The Courier-Journal says. It also says owners of the building plan to spend $1 million renovating the location. I’d love to see a restaurant there, partly because the home of my youth was just 100 yards away. We always walked there. It was so convenient. The closest restaurant-bar to the site is Shenanigan’s, less than a mile away; same distance for Asiatique. But the concentration of houses around it is super high, meaning the future restaurant has a great opportunity to turn itself into a neighborhood spot people could frequent on foot and regularly. Click here to read more.

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Steve Coomes is a restaurant veteran turned award-winning food, spirits and travel writer. In his 25-year career, he has edited and written for multiple national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. He is a feature writer for Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass, Whisky Magazine, WhiskeyWash.com and The Bourbon Review. The author of two books, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and the "Home Distiller's Guide to Spirits," he also serves as a ghostwriter for multiple clients.

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