I’m one lucky writer. Not only have I been fortunate to enough to become a regular contributor to Louisville Magazine over the past year, but I’ve been tasked with tackling their monthly dining features three months in a row. This means I get to combine two of my favorite things: storytelling and eating.
Below are snippets of three restaurant features that highlight fascinating people and places — along with my take on the food and ambiance they serve up. (Spoiler: I have not yet been disappointed.)
Kristina Addington was raised on hearty Southern staples like chicken and dumplings, biscuits and gravy, meatloaf and mashed potatoes. “And there was always bacon in the green beans,” says Addington, who grew up in Shelby County but spent summers visiting relatives in the tiny Appalachian town of Whitesburg. “There would be family reunions every year, and they always centered around food,” Addington says. “That’s one reason I love feeding people so much. It’s not just about delicious food. It’s about community. You can take care of people with a good meal. It makes them feel loved.”
Now, though, Addington is a self-described “vegan girl raised in the South.” The moniker reflects a style of cooking — vegan Southern comfort food — that landed Addington on the Food Network and that inspired the name of her food truck, V-Grits. In October, the 36-year-old chef opened a restaurant in collaboration with False Idol Independent Brewers, an operation launched by Shawn Steele, former brewer at Akasha Brewing Co. in NuLu. “You don’t have to have meat and dairy to get a good meal,” Addington says. Read more…
The Pine Room
Phyllis Ward and her college friends were regulars at the old Pine Room, a well-known watering hole situated on a quaint stretch of River Road in historic Harrods Creek. The neighborhood bar and restaurant served cheap libations, country cooking and seafood, but Ward says the main attraction was Mabel — a charismatic pianist who played jazz and familiar ballads on a baby grand bathed in candlelight.
“Mabel was quite a colorful character,” says Ward, who met her husband John at the Pine Room on a Saturday night in 1971. “I was actually on a date with a friend of my husband’s the night we met. The friend introduced us, and John called and asked me out a few weeks later.” Over the next several years, the couple spent countless evenings at the Pine Room.
But the good times ended at the beloved saloon on March 9, 1977, when a fire broke out in the kitchen, causing smoke and water damage in the dining room and gutting the bar. Any hopes of restoration were dashed two weeks later, when a second two-alarm fire destroyed what was left of the building where the Pine Room had operated for 35 years. “Only a chimney and a pine tree remained standing to remind passersby of the once-popular restaurant,” the Courier-Journal reported at the time.
Now, four decades later, a new Pine Room has opened, just a few doors down from where the original once stood. The restaurant is the vision of Augusta Brown Holland, who grew up spending time with her grandparents — Sally and W.L Lyons Brown, of the Brown-Forman Corp. — at their Harrods Creek estate. Read more…
Adam Burress traces his culinary lineage to an unlikely beginning. “On my 16th birthday, I got hired on at Taco Bell, and it was the best job I’ve ever had,” he says. It didn’t take long for Burress to begin tinkering with recipes the taco chain had likely designed to appeal to the widest swath of tame American palates. “I was like, ‘Dude, this tastes like shit,’” he says. If a formula called for one bag of rice and one bag of seasoning, he’d add twice as much of the latter. “I started over-seasoning all their products,” Burress says. “There was this one couple that came in all the time, and they said, ‘Dude, there’s something about this Taco Bell. It’s the best.’”
Fast-forward 16 years, and now the former rogue Taco Bell cook is an accomplished chef and co-owner of the Louisville restaurants Hammerheads, Game, Migo and Ostra, his latest, which opened on Frankfort Avenue last summer in the building that was once Maido and, more recently, Barcode 1758. The menu features Pacific-inspired seafood, hearty South American-style dishes, locally sourced vegetarian options and desserts using ingredients like bee pollen and crickets. “Being in this industry illuminates certain aspects of how food is created,” Burress says. “It moved me to open this place with a code to be as small-footprint as possible.” Read more…