Bardstown’s Harrison-Smith House goes on hiatus: Say you’ve never heard of Harrison-Smith House? Heard of it but didn’t make it Bardstown yet to eat there? Either way, you’re out of luck for at least a few months. This remarkable restaurant, one of Kentucky’s best (IMHO), is taking a break from nightly dinner operations for what some may find a surprising reason: its chef de cuisine (CDC) has left for another job.
Big deal? Yeah, it is to chef and co-owner Newman Miller. CDC Josh Smouse is his best friend and by all accounts a top talent in the state’s culinary community. (Don’t believe me? Ask chefs Ryan Rogers, Andy McCabe and Paul Skulas.) And here’s why: Smouse was the only person in the kitchen besides Miller—who also tends bar … in the kitchen!
Miller is an incredible talent with a deep resume and a stamped-to-death passport. Serious chef. World traveler. Unbridled passion for feeding customers real Kentucky food. The only thing not made from scratch in his restaurant are crackers and pretzels, and I’m not sure what those are used for. Smouse has cooked with him at multiple restaurants for better than a decade, and when he told Miller he was going elsewhere, Miller knew he couldn’t find a sidekick to replace him fast enough to carry on at the level HSH operates.
“You don’t find his kind of talent—not to mention his level of commitment—on the street looking for a job,” Miller said. “He’s my best friend. We work perfectly together. But even though I’ve got to start over, I won’t rush it. No way we’re going to lower our standards here.”
In almost three years in business, HSH has become a bourbon industry hot spot for private events. Its proximity to Maker’s Mark, Willett, Beam and Heaven Hill has helped. Those events will continue, as will Miller’s work (alongside his wife and business partner, Rachel) on creating an elevated dining experience at Maker’s Mark’s distillery’s Star Hill Provisions restaurant.
“We’ve got plenty to do for now, so we’ll shift our focus for a bit to just those things,” Miller said. “When will dinner come back? We don’t know for sure, but it will for sure. We just have to find the right people.”
And where is Smouse headed?
“Don’t know, he hasn’t told me,” Miller said. “He’s my friend. He’ll tell me when he wants to.”
La Chasse hoping to reopen after sewer line backup: Coming home from our meal at Harrison-Smith House Saturday night, we drove past La Chasse to see the lights were turned off—at only 9 p.m.! I learned the next day that a sewer line back up—in the middle of a super-busy service—caused them to shut down the operation, which hadn’t reopened as of Tuesday.
Owner Isaac Fox said it’s been determined that a Metropolitan Sewer District line is to blame, yet to no one’s surprise, MSD is acting slowly to rectify it.
“A shutdown like this is tremendously hard for a small business like ours—it’s three days lost so far,” Fox told me. “It’s especially hard given how busy we’ve been lately. We’ve really gotten some good momentum going, and then this happens. I’m incredibly frustrated to say the least.”
Here’s how you can help: Check La Chasse’s Facebook page regularly and see when it’s reopened. Share that page with friends to spread the word, and then go patronize this terrific restaurant. (I had one of my favorite meals of the year there just two weeks ago. Read about it here.)
***UPDATE La Chasee reopened late Tuesday after we went to press!
Shelton Bros. Beer event at Copper & Kings this weekend: The Shelton Bros. Beer Festival, set for Friday evening and Saturday in Butchertown, was much ballyhooed when announced last year. But that’s the last I heard of it since. No media blitz that I’ve seen. Against the Grain Brewery’s Facebook page features several posts, including a link to The Festival’s Facebook page. Click here if you want tickets:
Want to see the beer list? Click here. It’s impressive.
SCENE to be new restaurant for Center for Arts: Did the operators of the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts recite, “If at first we don’t succeed, try, try again,” before they announced a new restaurant will open there? Multiple media outlets have reported that a small plates restaurant named SCENE will open inside the center by early December.
When the Bristol Bar & Grille operated a Bristol there many years ago, it didn’t do well due to a lack of consistent traffic. Parking wasn’t (and still isn’t) great, and it was inconvenient to scale a bunch of stairs to get to the restaurant on the spur of the moment. Owner Doug Gossman told me that to be profitable, it needed much more than customers coming to see shows, it needed customers visiting regularly for lunch and dinner. That’s why he moved that Bristol a block or so down Main St., where it’s operated for many years.
Jarfi’s tried it there also and struggled similarly.
No word yet on who’ll operate SCENE, but I can’t see how things will be better for them. Despite more than 400,000 people visiting the center in 2015, it’s doubtful they’ll get the traffic to sustain the operation in this hypercompetitive restaurant environment. And who wants to go to dinner before a show at a restaurant that’ll be surely be slammed during a two-hour rush? Not me. I’ll eat elsewhere beforehand.
Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint opening Nov. 15: Speaking of the city’s hypercompetitive restaurant scene, Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint will fire up its smoker next month in the former Indian Springs Golf Course clubhouse.
And that’s all we know about it. Seriously. So far, anyway. I had an interview set up with its GM before the corporate cats in Nashville put the kybosh on outside chatter. Friends in Nashville, however, say it’s the real deal.
Angel’s Envy Distillery opening mid-November: This one’s been a long time coming. When Angel’s Envy opens in November (press event on Nov. 16, then a cocktail challenge on Nov. 17, but still no official grand opening to the public), it’ll mark the end of an arduous, multi-year process of overhauling a near derelict but historic Main St. building and making it into a state-of-the-art distillery. Heaven knows what parent company Bacardi spent on this project.
According to a blog on the distillery’s website, the stills began running in early October, so Angels’s Envy whiskey is finally being made and barreled in its own house. That’s good for the Henderson family, good for Louisville and good for whiskey tourism.
***UPDATE: The official public unveiling happens Nov. 19. Click here for more info.
Slice closes after 3 months in Old Louisville: Ask any veteran restaurateur how much reserve operating capital is needed before launching a restaurant, and you’ll hear many say at least six months. Ideally more if you have it. And by his own admission in a Facebook post, underfunding was just one of many problems that led Matt Davis to close his sandwich shop, Slice, just three months after opening it in Old Louisville.
According to the post, which you can click here to read, “We were plagued with so many issues from the start. We went in entirely underfunded which made me have to start taking catering jobs elsewhere to try and make ends meet. … (W)ithout those catering jobs we would have been closed after the first month.”
Davis wrote that the building was not fit for operating a restaurant, and getting it to that standard was more than he or the landlord could afford. Working seven days a week for 16 hours each day also became a drag on family obligations.
But here is perhaps the most troubling part of his post: “Drug addicts and homeless people constantly accosted us. Stole our tip jar. Begged for free food. Shot up in our bathroom. And banged on our windows when we told them to leave.”
That’s tough, and that’s a constant problem in Old Louisville, an architectural gem in the city, but also an historic neighborhood with extreme societal challenges. Very sad.