Grind, La Coop, Ollie’s Trolley and the best Louisville food you ate in 2012

A fine example of a Grind burger.
A fine example of a Grind burger with a cheese crisp and mustard.

I love social media.

What started as a Twitter conversation about good food Louisville folks ate in 2012 got a big enough response to be a blog post.

The following post is a round-up of what readers, Facebook fans and Twitter users said was the best Louisville food they ate in 2012, specifically, the best burger, cocktail, fries and overall dish or restaurant. I’ve identified the commenters by first name and last initial or Twitter handle.

A big thank you goes to blogger Michelle Jones of Consuming Louisville/Menu and Hours app, who started the conversation over Twitter, and everyone who responded to our questions.

  • Best Burger

    • My vote: Beer cheese burger from AP Crafters Kitchen and Bar
    • Grind, by a landslide.” Randi S.
    • @LouisvilleGrind veggie burger is my best burger this year. It is outstanding!” @TattooCharlies
    • Louisville Grind, multiple times. Proof on Main, too.” @dloehr
    • “#1 Grind #2 Jack Fry’s #3 Ollie’s Trolly” “@louisvillegrind The While You Wait is the best Burger on the Planet!” @danmen
    • “best burger, hands down, is at Holy Grale. Chef Josh Lehman is some kind of food wizard.” @GoDigaHole
    • “my two best foodie friends say lamb burger @StChrlesXchange, fries #lacoop and burger AND fries @21cLouisville” @hollygolawly
  • Best Fries
    Dueling fries at AP Crafters.
    Dueling fries at AP Crafters.
    • My vote: AP Crafters Dueling Fries
    • ollie’s. fries. drool.” @shilohwalker
    • Zaytun Tribal Fries” @HereIsMySpout
    • “… hard to beat Bank Street Brewery’s #TechnicallyNotLouisvilleButCloseEnough” @DBonifer
    • “Frites at Holy Grail.” @TeslaRuser
    • “Moules Frites at La Coop.” Christine V.
  • Best Cocktail
    • My vote: Anything at Rye on Market
    • “Oh, best cocktail I had was ‘Smoke Monster’ from @meatlouisville. It was seasonal tho. #RIPSmokeMonster” @bradluttrell
    • “Best cocktail: District 13 at Garage Bar.” Randi S.
  • Best Dish/Restaurant
    Grilled cheese and tomato bisque from The Main Eatery.
    Grilled cheese and tomato bisque from The Main Eatery.
    • My vote: Croque Monsieur at Lilly’s — a Kentucky BistroCafé Lou Lou and Wild Eggs
    • “The Kusheri at Ramsis is phenomenal! I’m calling it my favorite for the year.” @TattooCharlies
    • “sea bass w/ choco mole @TheMayanCafe, walleye w/ green chickpeas @21cCincinnati, b’nut squash salad @ryeonmarket!” @hollygolawly
    • “Can’t remember what it was called, but it was a phenomenal masterpiece from @lacoopbistro.” @jenmooreKY
    • Spring Street Cafe!” @TheBarBelle
    • “lobster bisque from bodega at felice (sadly now closed) and tomato bisque from Main Street Eatery!” @ErinEMenard

The Ashlee Eats guide to last-minute Christmas gifts

That’s me and my little tree. Christmas-y, huh?

You waited until now to start Christmas shopping, huh?

It’s OK, you have 120 hours and counting to grab some stuff for friends, family and your office Secret Santa.

Here’s a quick and dirty list of food-centric presents that you can scoop up for the big day. Good luck, and godspeed.

  • For the drinker
    • Bourbon. Duh. (Any decent liquor store)
    • Against the Grain Brewery has glassware to hold plenty of beer. The restaurant and brewery also offers Grainiac memberships come with anytime for discounts on beer all year long. (401 E. Main Street at Louisville Slugger Field)

 

 

  • For the barista in training
    • Quills Coffee has some deals that let you treat yo’ self while buying for the ones you love.
      • 10 percent off Quills diner mug when you buy a bag of coffee
      • Buy a bag of coffee and get 15 percent off your second bag
      • Free drink with a $25 Gift Card purchase
      • Fancy coffee-brewing sets

(quillscoffee.com or one of three locations)

 

 

  • For the out-of-towner
    • Bourbon is the gift that keeps on giving. Why not give the ones you love a little taste of Kentucky by buying products spiked with a nip of bourbon? Bourbon Barrel Foods has an array of sauces, marinades and seasonings worthy of any gift bag. (bourbonbarrelfood.com or various locations)

 

Let the Mexican grill showdown begin: Team Chipotle or Team Qdoba?

Chipotle in Chinatown - Washington, DC.
Chipotle in Chinatown – Washington, DC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It could get downright ugly down on Fourth Street.

Chipotle Mexican Grill will officially open its first Louisville location at 315 S. Fourth Street, a space attached to the Hyatt Regency Louisville, Business First of Louisville reported Wednesday.

This puts the fast-casual restaurant across from Qdoba Mexican Grill, a very similar competitor. My office-mates and I have already had heated debates over the merits of each of these Mexican-ish chain restaurants. The fans on both sides are passionate and decisive.

I’m on Team Qdoba. Here’s why:

  • Qdoba is all I know. I’ve only been to a Chipotle once. I’m not opposed to eating there; I’m just rarely in the same city with a Chipotle franchise. I live across the street from a Qdoba. Convenience is important, people.
  • Qdoba has some pretty sweet rewards. With a Qdoba card, you get a free meal with every 10th meal. On Tuesdays, you can get double points for your meal. And if that’s not enough, you get email coupons out the wazoo.
  • Qdoba has wheat tortillas. A small triumph in my battle against white grains.

 

So where do you stand in the Battle of Mexican-ish Fast-Casual?

Louisville tops a list of American travel destinations. So where should tourists eat?

Photo courtesy The Pug Father via Flickr.
Photo courtesy The Pug Father via Flickr.

The Louisville internets were abuzz yesterday with news that travel publication Lonely Planet named our fair city as the top US travel destination.

Here’s a blurb:

Could it be that the new Portland is in… Kentucky? Louisville has asserted itself as a lively, offbeat cultural mecca on the Ohio River. New Louisville, also known as the East Market District or NuLu, features converted warehouses used as local breweries, antique shops and the city’s coolest restaurants. On Bardstown Rd in the Highlands you’ll find a hipster strip of shops and bars, not to mention many ‘Keep Louisville Weird’ stickers.

The article goes on to praise all things bourbon and, of course, the Kentucky Derby.

Let’s say that readers take Lonely Planet’s advice and flock to Louisville in the coming months. Let’s say you run into one of these tourists, and he or she is looking for a restaurant to have one good meal.

To what Louisville restaurant would you send a hungry tourist?

Take it to the comments!

Six ways to save yourself this Thanksgiving

English: Thanksgiving Dinner, Falmouth, Maine,...
English: Thanksgiving Dinner, Falmouth, Maine, USA 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s the day before Thanksgiving. Do you need some helping getting dinner together tomorrow?

I’m fresh out of miracles. Instead, I have a good dose of keepin’ it real.

We are delusional in the weeks before Thanksgiving. We convince ourselves that we can cook a 20-pound turkey because Alton Brown says it’s easy. We fill our grocery cart with pounds and pounds of potatoes because boxed mashed potatoes will just not do. We buy a rolling pin and a pastry blender because this will be the year we finally make that pie crust from scratch. And we sincerely believe that from our kitchens will emerge a display of culinary prowess that would make Martha Stewart throw her panties at our feet in adoration.

That fantasy is a few turkey trots away from our realities. For 364 days of the year, dinner is something simple enough to fix after an eight-hour workday, be it pasta with a homemade mushroom cream sauce, scrambled eggs or a bowl of cereal. Why do we think we can pull off a full Thanksgiving spread?

We can’t. No one can achieve the high expectation we set for ourselves. And that’s why you made it to the blog today, because the turkey is still frozen, the mountain of potatoes haven’t been peeled and the butter just won’t blend with the flour for that pie crust.

I can’t save your disaster. But I have some tips to save your sanity.

  • Stick with what you know. Do you have a killer chocolate chip cookie recipe? Do your friends rave about your fried corn? That’s what you need to cook for Thanksgiving. Everyone has a recipe that they have mastered over the years and made their own. Now is the time to whip it out of your recipe box (or iPad).
  • Just make a salad. I can’t think of one Thanksgiving meal that included a salad. It’s not that my family is full of salad-haters; everyone’s just too busy with mashed potatoes and the like to put together some fresh greens. Buy a bag of pre-washed lettuce, toss it with sliced apples, dried cranberries, feta cheese, almond slivers, and a raspberry vinaigrette, and veg heads will be grateful.
  • Think outside the casserole dish. There are lots of other items you can bring to the celebration besides food that your family and friends will appreciate. Run to your nearest dollar store and get some paper plates, napkins and cups.
  • Never underestimate the power of a beverage. Be the cool cousin and bring a few bottles of wine. Is your family more conservative? Stop by a gas station and get some two-liters (bonus points if you get Coke Zero).
  • Break it and bake it. Grab a pack of the ready-to-bake Nestlé Tollhouse cookie dough. No mixing and barely any work — you just separate the squares of dough, put on a baking sheet, and let cook in the oven. Dessert in less than an hour. What’s not to love?
  • Be honest about your shortcomings. Just come right out and say you’re frazzled and can’t fulfill your culinary commitment. So what if the crust never came together? Your family and friends will love you anyway. That’s what Thanksgiving is about.

Why I stopped using Groupon and other online coupon services

My last visit to Los Aztecas sent me over the edge.

I bought a Groupon/Living Social/Seize the Deal voucher for this local Mexican restaurant a few weeks before this particular visit. I can’t even remember from which website I purchased this $10 coupon — they all became interchangeable when I craved a good deal — that would be good for $20 worth of food.

I grabbed The Hubs and hopped to Westport Village over for some fajitas the day before the coupon was scheduled to expire. My butt barely landed in the seat before I slid my fingers over my phone’s screen to show the waitress my coupon.

“I’m sorry,” she said after careful inspection. “This is only good at the Prospect location.”

Curse you, Small Print.

That experience was the culmination of several unfortunate interactions with online group coupon deals. I’ll take the blame for some of the problems — I can be a bad consumer. But the sum of these inconveniences was enough to make me stop buying into the bargains, no matter how much I was supposed to save.

  • I bought deals to businesses I had never (and would never) patronize. Highland Morning. Heitzman Traditional Bakery and Deli. Sleep Outfitters. Alpine Ice Arena. All places I thought I would patronize if I bought a Groupon first. All places I still haven’t visited. The deals have all expired, and now the voucher is just good for the amount I paid instead of the advertised discount. It’s not that I never want to visit, mind you, I just didn’t get around to them in time to make my vouchers worthwhile.
  • I spent more money with the coupons than without them. Rob and I had a voucher for O’Shea’s Irish pub. We shelled out $20 on top of what we paid for the coupon. There was something about knowing I had saved a bundle that made me itch to spend a bundle, especially at restaurants. Appetizer? Sure, we already paid for it! Drinks? Diet Coke, please! Dessert? Heck, yeah! All this, plus tipping based on the value of the coupon, quickly emptied an already bare wallet.
  • The small print. I’m a busy lady, so I don’t always read the important stuff like terms and conditions. Too bad this is the place where Groupon/Living Social/Seize the Deal tells you the particulars of their vouchers, such as the locations at which you can redeem the deal (see top of post), whether it is only good for carry-out (you usually have to dine in), or if alcohol is included (never is).
  • I was locked in to eating only at the places for which I had a deal. For a while, I wouldn’t eat at a restaurant unless I had a voucher. Why eat at one location if I had a paid-for meal at another? For a food writer, this is no bueno. 

Are you in the no-online-coupon boat with me? Or do you love Groupon and the like? Take it to the comments!

Late notice: Drink up to help Hurricane Sandy victims

A group of Louisville restaurants and bars will serve up cocktails this week to benefit victim of Hurricane Sandy.

Photo courtesy Farmers & Fishers via Flickr.

A line-up of establishments will serve their version of the Hurricane cocktail during the Hurricanes for the Hurricane fundraiser. Proceeds from the drinks will go toward service industry workers in New York City who were impacted by last week’s hurricane.

Hurricanes for the Hurricane fundraiser begins tonight, Nov. 6, at Decca. Here is the full roster of participants:

 

Visit Hurricanes for the Hurricane’s Facebook page for more information.

Will free food get you to the polls today?

Today is Election Day. Vote because it’s the American way. Vote because you believe in democracy. Vote because you can get free coffee and popcorn.

Businesses will offer freebies and discounts today if you vote and have the little sticker to prove it. They don’t care who you vote for as long as you cast a ballot.

Here are some businesses and the free or discounted item you receive if you tell them you voted. If you know of any other freebies or discounts, list them in the comments.