The $10 Challenge: AP Crafters Kitchen and Bar

Proximity drew me to AP Crafters Kitchen & Bar, a gastropub in the Westport Village shopping complex — I live right across the street. The imaginative versions of traditional comfort and bar food, generous happy hour specials and slick atmosphere have made me a regular, that elite status I’ve been searching for since my South-Central Louisville days.

AP Crafters is a place where you can watch a game and cheer loudly or take a date for a cozy evening; trust me, I’ve done both. The bar occupies the right side of the restaurant and the traditional dining area of booths and tables is on the left. Each of these areas, along with an enclosed patio complete with a fire pit, are separate enough to provide an enjoyable evening no matter your intentions.

Rob and I usually hunker down in the generous-sized, dimly lit bar area during AP Social Hour. From 3 to 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. to close each day, AP Crafters offers the following specials:

  • AP Crafters beer: $3
  • Wells and wines: $4
  • AP Crafters specialty cocktails: $5
  • Soft pretzels, bruschetta, dueling fries, steak-fried mushrooms, cheddar cheese curds and mini nachos (more on some of these later): $5
Pretzels and beer cheese from AP Crafters.
Pretzels and beer cheese from AP Crafters.

These happy hour specials have saved many a boring evening when we want to get out of the house without spending a lot of cash.

AP Crafters’ house cocktails are inventive, refreshing and seasonal. During the warmer months, I was a fan of the AP Crafters Refresher (Absolut Mandarin, St. Germaine Liquer, fresh basil and orange; $7) and Crafters Mojito (Ten Cane Rum, fresh mint, limes and craft sugar; $8). This winter I’m leaning toward richer drinks like the Smashing Pumpkin (Maker’s Mark bourbon, pumpkin liqueur, Grand Marnier and cream; $8) or the Nuts for Bourbon (Maker’s Mark, macadamia nut liqueur, Godiva Dark Chocolate and cream; $8).

Nuts for Bourbon cocktail at AP Crafters.
Nuts for Bourbon cocktail at AP Crafters.

If I’m at AP Crafters during happy hour, I will usually make a meal by pairing an appetizer with the filling BLT Wedge (iceberg wedge with blue cheese dressing, bacon, tomatoes, chopped boiled egg and blue cheese crumbles; $8). The soft pretzels ($5.50) are closer to breadsticks in appearance, but have the familiar salty, crisp exterior and soft insides that we’re used to with the twisted variety. The pretzels come with a delicious house-made AP Dark beer cheese that is thick and slightly smoky. The special I usually turn to is the quart-sized Dueling Fries ($5), a combination of sweet potato fries and regular French fries. Each type of fry is heavenly on its own, but together they create the sweet-salty combo of which foodies only dream.

Dueling fries at AP Crafters.
Dueling fries at AP Crafters.

The rest of the menu is just as tasty as the appetizers. The group of entrees is a mixed bag that veers from chorizo and pulled pork tacos or fish tacos ($10) to grilled Atlantic salmon ($17). The prices of the entrees are in the high teens and 20s, so I save those dishes for a night of treating myself. Instead, I usually stick with the sandwiches and burgers section of the AP Crafters menu.

God bless the AP Crafters sandwiches and burgers. Seriously. There’s nothing that I don’t love about this selection. AP Crafters takes classic sandwiches and transforms them into something new. For example, the grilled chicken BLT ($11) uses house-smoked pork belly and a fried green tomato in place of the normal bacon and tomato. The roast pork sammy ($10) is a stack of roasted pork, Swiss cheese, red onions, fried pickle chips and bacon jam. BACON JAM. Stop for a second and let that sink in.

A typical night at AP Crafters means I’m ordering the AP Beer Cheese Burger ($11). This burger is make of Kentucky Proud beef, the AP Dark beer cheese, smoked bacon and caramelized onions on a pretzel roll. I usually avoid speaking in absolutes, but this is one of the best cheeseburgers in Louisville. All of the ingredients just roll together in a savory dance that makes my taste buds tingle. The pretzel bun is the best thing to happen to bread since, well, sliced bread – it’s a little toasty on the outside and moist on the inside. The smokiness of the bacon and beer cheese remind me of something you’d get at a summer barbecue, especially with caramelized onions on board. I usually get my hamburger cooked medium to medium well, so some of the juices slide out and mingle with drips of beer cheese. It’s messy, but fantastic.

The sandwiches and burgers come with a choice of French fries, slaw or fresh fruit. I treat myself a bit and opt for an order of the Dueling Fries. It’s an extra $1.50, but when you’re sopping up beer cheese with a pretzel bun and wiping onion bits from your mouth, you need a side order of equal culinary caliber.

Dishes at AP Crafters ring in a little above the $10 Challenge benchmark. But the consistently delicious food makes each visit as good — or better — than the last.

AP Crafters Kitchen & Bar, 1321 Herr Lane, Suite 130, Louisville, Ky.

AP Beer Cheese Burger: $11

Dueling fries (instead of regular fries): $1.50 upcharge

Total (with tax): $13.25

Mission: Failed

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