Count me among those who thought—incorrectly—that the tipping point had arrived early this year, i.e. that loosely determined time in the lifecycle of the Greater Louisville restaurant scene when restaurants would begin closing due to excessive supply. Why? Because eight are scheduled to open in July alone. Here’s a brief rundown:
Kevin’s Picnic: This Anchorage restaurant owned by Kevin Grangier (The Village Anchor and Le Moo) just had its soft opening this weekend. No menu yet, but its Facebook page says it’ll serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. In conversations I’ve had with Grangier about the operation, he said food will center on lighter items and made-to-order dishes. I suppose that means not as indulgent as Le Moo and Village Anchor, yet high quality all the same. Expect to hear from Grangier in an upcoming podcast.
SuperChefs/Dinner: Remember when SuperChefs’ St. Matthews location burned in January? It returns July 9, but in the Highlands (1702 Bardstown Road in the former Strati Wild Italian location) with a new two-part concept. The comic-book themed SuperChefs will return with breakfast and brunch served until 3 p.m., when the restaurant closes and resets for DINNER starting at 5 p.m. According to a Courier-Journal story, expect bargains on indulgent items. Read more by clicking here.
The 502 Bar & Bistro: This entry into the surging Norton Commons scene will host private soft openings beginning July 19, and likely followed by a public unveiling before month’s end. Chef Peng Looi (of Asiatique) is a consultant on the project, and his former protege Ming Hsuan Pu is driving the culinary effort here, but don’t assume the fare will be Asian. What it will be, I don’t know, but I’ll know by the 19th.
HopCat opening July 30: This oversized beer and sandwich concept at the corner of Grinstead Dr. and Bardstown Road has a Louisville-centered website, but it lists no food or beer yet. To get an idea of what’s served in Lexington, one of a total 12 HopCats spread throughout the upper-Midwest, you can assume it’ll be pretty close to a mirror image.
I walk by the space frequently and am amazed at its size. I’m also wondering where customers will park, or where the business will find enough help to staff the operation.
SET at Theatre Square: No details yet on this restaurant, where Geoffrey Heyde, the longtime chef at The Village Anchor, will serve “fine American dining,” says its website. Private soft openings start July 12, so I’d expect an opening to the public to follow within a week.
Red Barn Kitchen: One the most anticipated openings this year is this latest in the long line of OLE Restaurant Group businesses (as in little brother to Mussel & Burger Bar, Guaca Mole, Artesano Vino y Tapas, El Taco Luchador and Mercado Italiano). According to partner and executive chef Fernando Martinez, this will be the last restaurant opening by OLE for quite a
while because he, like me, believes the restaurant industry here is saturated. As he discussed in our recent podcast interview, the restaurant labor shortage is beyond serious, and without the ability to hire and retain staff, every new restaurant will struggle. Heck, long-time restaurants are struggling to keep good help, and doubtless the situation will not change for a long time.
Anyway, the good news is RBK will bring barbecue and Southern food done Martinez-style to Lyndon, where Joe’s Older Than Dirt operated for many decades. And who doesn’t look forward to that?
Bubba’s 33: And lastly we have Texas Roadhouse founder Kent Taylor’s latest restaurant concept, Bubba’s 33, set to open July 25 at 4631 Medical Plaza Way in Clarksville. Serving pizza, burgers and beer in a casual sports bar setting isn’t clever or creative, but no one’s ever accused Taylor’s businesses of being either. They just acknowledge his restaurants are amazingly successful.
According to an Insider Louisville story, it serves dinner only, and each Bubba’s unit (this one will be the chain’s 12th) costs $4.7 million to build. Company executives say it has the potential to exceed sister chain Texas Roadhouse’s store count of 485.
LouVino will pop the cork on No. 2 on July 20 at 11400 Main St. in Middletown’s Douglass Hills ‘hood. Here’s another sign of weirdness in this labor market. Co-owner Chad Coulter tells me he had an overabundance of cooks apply to work there, but that servers were scarce. Completely the opposite of the way it was when I worked in the biz in the Dark Ages, and mostly counter to what’s happening elsewhere in the city.
Perhaps it also says something about local cooks’ willingness to work for a place that advertised great benefits.