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

[Bits and pieces] Norwegian butter crisis, Mountain Dew, and other food news from the web, 12.19.11

A butter sculpture of a cow jumping over the moon. This is enough to make a Norwegian weep. Photo courtesy of Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr.
  •  Because of a perfect storm of poor dairy production, the popularity of the high-fat Atkins diet, and the dire need for Christmas cookies, the people of Norway are in the midst of a butter shortage. Will they have to turn to margarine next? Oh, the humanity. (NPR)



  • A Chick-fil-A employee identified two Asian customers as “Ching” and “Chong” on their receipts. Is diversity and fairness too hard to grasp? (Eater National)


  • Pssst … Mountain Dew contains flame retardant. So do 10 percent of soft drinks sold in the U.S. Pass it on. (Gizmodo)


  • Here are some tips to tell if your olive oil is the real deal. (NPR)


  • Despite offering lower prices, big restaurant chains have suffered this year because of the economy. My tip: more free rolls. (The Street)

Which local spot will have ice cream, pie and a wide range of liquor?

This was a big week for ice cream in Louisville.

Relative-newcomer The Comfy Cow opened its third location on Frankfort Avenue at the location of the old Genny’s Diner Wednesday. And late Thursday night, this tidbit popped up on my Facebook timeline from Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen:

According to comments from the folks who operate Pie Kitchen’s Facebook page, this cafe will also be on Frankfort Avenue. I have a feeling the dessert scene is about to get HOT.

Visit The Root Cellar for some great fresh, local groceries

Don't let the garage-like appearance deceive you. There's awesomeness inside.

I’ve only been out of Old Louisville for a couple of weeks, but there’s a lot I miss already.

Pizza night with my roommates. Burger Boy right down the street. The beautiful scenery that made my walks with Roscoe pleasant.

But a relatively new local produce market will keep me coming back to my old neighborhood.

The Root Cellar opened this May at the corner of Third and Hill streets in what appears to be a former garage or gas station. The business’ aim is simple – provide only locally raised food to a section of Louisville missing a retail outlet for fresh, local produce.

Here’s a blurb from The Root Cellar’s website:

The idea for The Root Cellar was born out of a desire to be part of the local food chain in an environmentally positive and socially conscientious way … The neighborhood of Old Louisville has been in need of a small, Mom and Pop retail store for many years.  The people have longed for just such an new idea in retailing that The Root Cellar provides.  We also are anxious to reach out to the other surrounding neighborhoods like California, Park Hill, Algonquin, Smoketown, Shelby Park, Limerick and Germantown, as well as, serve the University of Louisville and its unique blend of faculty, staff and students.

The Root Cellar provides a generous variety of local food that extends beyond fruits and vegetables. On a couple of recent visits, the shelves and refrigerators have been stocked with items such as milk, honey, bison meat and yogurt. I am a big fan of the eggs that The Root Cellar offers.

It’s wonderful to have this market in this part of town. I hope that kids and adults without regular exposure to the joys of local eating will benefit from The Root Cellar’s presence. Find out more about The Root Cellar on Facebook and Twitter.

Here are some Louisville food trucks worth following

The food truck scene in Louisville has exploded recently.

Yes, we’re a bit behind bigger cities like LA and New York, but better late than never, amirite?

These food trucks seem to understand what it takes to really promote a mobile food movement in the city. The businesses maintain active social networking pages to keep customers informed of their whereabouts, and all welcome inquiries regarding catering for events.

The trucks also work together. I just saw on Facebook that there will be a “Food Truckus Ruckus” on June 18 at Fresh Start Growers Supply at Baxter and Jefferson streets.

Here’s a list of some Louisville food trucks and their websites. Bookmark these links to better follow each food truck’s location around the greater Louisville area. Know of one missing from the list? As usual, take it to the comments.

  • Busta Grill: This is a sausage cart rather than a truck, but it’s mobile, and that’s what counts. The cart is stationed at First and Washington streets. Visit Busta Grill’s Facebook page to learn about “Joe Pesci Fridays.”
  • Holy Molé: This lime-green truck dishes out gourmet, street-style tacos on handmade tortillas. Keep track of them on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Lil Cheezers: *Spoiler alert* This “gourmet grilled cheesemobile” will be the subject of Friday’s $10 Challenge. In the meantime, here is their Facebook and Twitter page.
  • MozzaPi: This eatery, which serves up traditional wood-fired pizza, has a mobile oven and a storefront that will open soon at 1015 Bardstown Road. Keep up with the progress on Facebook and Twitter.
  • San Diego Sandwich Works: This California mobile sandwich café, located in a turquoise bus, promises to “bring a taste of sunshine to your day.” That’s a delightful promise worth testing. Follow SDS Works on Facebook and Twitter.

The $10 Challenge: Chop Shop Salads

(Blogger’s note: Buying a car is a witch. I’ve spent the past two weeks scouring the internet, visiting used car lots and haggling like hell after the family mechanic told me that my beloved Mercury Tracer, Judy, was close to death. Today, I emerged from Bob Montgomery Honda [shout out] victorious. I said good bye to Judy and hell0 to Yoda the Toy0ta Corolla.

Not only do I have a new[er] ride, but I will return to my normal blogging schedule that has been severely interrupted during the car-buying process.

Now, on with the food, dear friends.)

The Crunch salad from Chop Shop Salads. Kudos to reader greendrv for guessing the correct dish.

I might not have ever known of Chop Shop Salads if the restaurant hadn’t built a respectable social-media presence.

I’ve seen Chop Shop’s West Market Street location whenever I’m in the downtown Louisville area, but there’s only so much I can learn about a restaurant when I’m passing it at 25 miles per hour.

It wasn’t until I began to follow Chop Shop on Twitter that I became interested in this fast-food salad concept.

I can’t remember how I found Chop Shop on the social networking site (or if they found me), but it was a great discovery nonetheless. Chop Shop harnesses the sheer magnitude of the social media machine and uses it to drum up business (just look at this post — I’m several paragraphs in and I’m too busy talkin’ ’bout Twitter to even mention the food).

The restaurant effectively engages its readers on Twitter by offering discounts on its menu of salads and wraps. During basketball season, for example, they would routinely ask fans to tweet in what team they wanted to win an upcoming game, and winning fans would receive $1 off their order. They also send out tweets encouraging Facebook and Twitter followers to come into Chop Shop, pull up the restaurant’s Facebook or Twitter page, and get a $1 discount on their order.

The former promotion is what brought me to Chop Shop for the first time.

With my iPhone pulled up to display Chop Shop’s Twitter page, I visited the Market Street location during my lunch break.

Chop Shop takes the idea of a salad bar and amps it up to an 11. The menu offers a selection of restaurant-created salad creations that start at $5.49 and increase depending on ingredients. Chop Shop has some interesting combinations, such as the Tijuana Pool Boy with shrimp, feta, corn and black beans ($8.99); the Cowboy Club with grilled steak, bacon, goat cheese and sunflower seeds ($9.29); and the Handsome Rob with steak, chicken, four types of peppers and fried onions ($9.29). There are also more classic salad options such as cobb ($8.99), Greek ($7.99) and Ceasar (begins at $5.49). If you don’t like what the restaurant has put together, you can build your own salad starting at $5.49 with a wide variety of greens, meats, cheeses, protein, fruits and veggies. Need a more portable meal? Any salad can be made into a wrap, which cost less than the salads.

For my lunch, I selected The Crunch salad that includes iceberg lettuce, tequila lime chicken, cheddar, corn, black beans, red onions, tomatoes and tortilla strips ($7.69). Per the recommendation of the menu and the nice guy building my salad, I selected the Green Goddess dressing.

Watching the Chop Shop employee assemble my salad took me back to the first time I ever visited Subway as a kid. I remember the joy of standing on my toes and looking over the glass partition to watch firsthand how my order was made. The same thing happens at Chop Shop, only with more theatrics. Salad Guy (my name, not theirs) dumps the ingredients into a bowl, gives it a toss and gets to chopping with some kind of knife instrument that I’ve only seen in my nightmares. It’s dizzying and more fun than salad building probably should be.

After paying for my food (including my $1 discount), I took my salad back to work to enjoy at my desk. The Crunch was a tasty version of a southwest salad that a lot of restaurants offer. But the Green Goddess dressing really set the whole thing off. It was creamy with a hint of avocado, a good flavor to match with the tang of the tequila lime chicken. The chicken was well flavored, and there was a good portion of pieces spread throughout the dish. I loved the crunchy corn and beans, as well. Next time, I might ask for the dressing on the side when I order to-go, because my lettuce starting getting sogging on the ride from Chop Shop to my office. Salads also come with a sliced tortilla, which was kind of bland, but suitable if you want some carbs with your salad.

Nobody told me that a salad could be that filling. It might seem silly to pay almost $10 for a salad, but Chop Shop loaded mine with lots of toppings. I started got bleary-eyed as I inched toward the bottom of the plastic bowl. So much produce, so little time.

I’m eager to try Chop Shop again, especially with the variety of salads and willingness to offer deals through social media. Take note, restaurants — engage your audience, and more business could come your way.

Notes about Chop Shop Salads:

  • I’ve been reading that Chop Shop is going to bottle and sell some of their dressings. Heck yeah.
  • If you visit the Market Street location, park on Jefferson Street and walk. Don’t expect to park close, especially not during lunch hour.

The Stats:

Chop Shop Salads, 436 West Market Street and 126-D Breckenridge Lane, Louisville, Ky.

  • The Crunch salad: $7.69
  • Total (with tax): $8.15
  • Total (with $1 promotional discount): $7.15

Mission: Accomplished

Building the food writing empire, one blog post and column at a time

The past couple of weeks have been packed full of change.

I just ended my year as an AmeriCorps VISTA (which I will blog about in the next few days).

I was hired full-time at the non-profit organization where I spent my VISTA term.

And I’ve just been hired to write a column for Food and Dining Magazine.

I will adapt the $10 Challenge for the magazine’s next issue, which will come out around Derby time. This won’t be a rehashing of Challenges I’ve already completed. My column will feature a new restaurant, but I’ll still have $10 and a hearty appetite.

I’d love to hear your suggestions for places to conduct $10 Challenges for the magazine and blog. Visit Food and Dining Magazine’s Facebook page and write your suggestion on the wall. Leave a comment below. Or send me a direct message or reply on Twitter.

Thank you for reading this blog and giving me the support to go after more food writing gigs. If I could, I’d buy everyone a jar of Nutella and some pretzels so you could celebrate with me. But really, a sincere and heartfelt thanks, ladies and gentlemen.