Over the 9 is now open. | Photo by Steve Coomes
Over the 9 is now open. | Photo by Steve Coomes

Over the 9 is more than fine: Went to last weekend’s sneak peak at Over the 9 and was summarily impressed. The new small plates restaurant held a soft opening July 3 in the location that’s still home to the production facilities for Old 502 Winery and Falls City Beer at 120 S. 10th. St.

Owner John Neace wasted no time hiring chef Griffin Paulin (most recently of Rumplings Slurp Shop) to create dishes for pairing with his local wine and beer. The food and drink offered is nicely limited but ample enough to please a wide range of palates.

The Over the 9 dining room | Photo by Steve Coomes
The Over the 9 dining room | Photo by Steve Coomes

My wife and I shared superb plates of spicy Scotch eggs ($12), creamy-cheesy lamb nachos ($10) and sesame-spiked teres major tartare ($12) that were easily on par with any gastropub-quality food I’ve had in the city. All truly crave-worthy stuff. Add in a house “Reese Ling” for me (nicely dry, not treacly) and a Bourbon Barrel Sangria for her, and our appetites were more than sated.

The rustic-industrial look of the room is super-casual and perfect for the neighborhood and the facility, which remains a wine-making and brewing operation, as well as a special events spot. Other than coming down to Caufield’s (a short stroll away) for Halloween costumes, the South 10th Street neighborhood isn’t all that familiar to locals living east of I-65. But with the addition of Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. a block down the same street, more traffic will come to the area. Located only a block off I-64’s Ninth Street exit, it’s super easy to get there and so close to other great downtown restaurants and bars. A visit is highly recommended.

No ‘originals’ left at 8UP: Count Sean Thibodeaux among opening managers who’ve departed 8UP Elevated Drinkery & Kitchen. On June 26, he posted on Facebook, “Looking for a gig. Hit me up if you need some help behind the stick.”

Sean Thibodeaux
Sean Thibodeaux

He later confirmed his departure as beverage manager at the chic restaurant and bar but declined to provide details for public consumption. Eyes on the future, Thibodeaux said he’s going to finish his business degree while searching for new opportunities.

Since its dazzling opening last year, 8UP has lost general manager Len Stevens (replaced by Julie DeFriend) and executive chef Russell Kook (replaced by Jacob Coronado).

No word yet on Thibodeaux’s replacement, but it’s likely there are applicants aplenty looking to shake cocktails at one of the city’s hottest bars.

Still, with such significant turnover so early on at the three highest positions in the restaurant, one wonders what challenges lie under surface there. Owner Concentrics Restaurant Group is a buttoned-up operation with more than 30 one-off upscale casual restaurants. Surely they’ll find a solution for better managing their 14,000-square-foot property here.

Cordish wants locals for new Fourth Street Live! restaurants: It’s not news that Cordish Co.’s restaurant tenant numbers are well below expectations. Long abandoned spots like Ri-Ra and The Pub are now joined by Maker’s Mark Bourbon House and, come this fall, Sully’s Restaurant and Saloon. That’s a massive amount of square footage lying idle while ringing up city taxes.

Open spots for locals at Fourth Street Live?
Open spots for locals at Fourth Street Live?

Over the past several months, I’ve discussed Cordish’s challenges with Fourth Street Live! general manager Brad Pernaw, and despite the obvious dislike nearly every Louisvillian has for his employer, I like the guy. When he came to Louisville to take the job more than a year ago, he knew he was taking on a sizeable challenge. Little has changed since, other than how he’s working to solve the problem: By seeking local restaurant operators first to fill those slots.

While FSL’s chain businesses do well, they’re highly dependent on traffic from business visitors. Locals aren’t filling those tables when business clients are gone, and Pernaw knows that’s crucial to FSL’s overall success.

Local restaurateurs are interested and listening to his pitches, partly because many want to grow, and partly because there are significant incentives (such as generous tenant improvement investments offered by Cordish) on the table. But as of this writing, no local operator I know of has accepted Cordish’s offers.

Why not? There are lots of reasons, but one chef I talked to summed it up well: “I like what they want to do, but I don’t want to be the first guy down there to take a shot,” said the source, who requested anonymity. “Cordish doesn’t have the best reputation in the city, and I wonder if it might make me look like a sell-out if I go work with them. If that’s the case, then they’re still stuck with the same problem of no one wanting to come down there.”

His concerns are valid and shared by others I’ve talked to, operators who’ve been courted by Cordish but have yet to warm to its offers. But I also can see some tremendous potential for a downtown location there for the right operator who can manage the business well (meaning someone who really knows their numbers) and who has the name recognition to draw guests.

We’ll watch this developing story closely.

New drinks bubbling up at Copper & Kings: Copper & Kings American Brandy recently introduced Butchertown Soda in three varieties: Tonic Water, Cola Superior and Ginger Beer.

Butchertown SodaAccording to cofounder Joe Heron, who got his start in beverages with the creation of Nutrisoda (later purchased by Pepsi), “We did it because we knew how to do it, because it’s fun and because we wanted to.”

Well, what other reasons do you need when you’re an entrepreneur?

For now, you can purchase all three at the C&K gift shop in Butchertown, but it surely won’t be long before it’s available at local retailers.

Corbett and Coomes back on the radio: Shameless self-promotion warning … Restaurant chef-owner Dean Corbett (Equus & Jack’s Lounge and Corbett’s: An American Place) and I will return to the airwaves Friday on WHAS 840 AM when we get an hour-long slice of the “Mandy Connell Show.” For now, the gig will happen every other Friday from 7-8 p.m.

For about a year (2012-2013), Corbett and I discussed local restaurants, bars, stars, etc., on “The ChefBoyarDean Show” on WKJK (1080 AM). That station shares the same building as WHAS, where Corbett and I met Connell, who became a huge fan of Louisville restaurants during her run here as a morning talk show host on the 50,000-watt station.

Dean Corbett and Steve Coomes hosting Capriole Goat Cheese founder Judy Schad in 2012.
Dean Corbett and Steve Coomes hosting Capriole Goat Cheese founder Judy Schad in 2012.

She’s invited us to join her for the closing hour of the Friday show to talk about “one of my favorite things about Louisville.” Connell wrote in an email that of the many things she misses about Louisville (she does this show and another from Denver) is the food, drink and hospitality found here.

Smart lady that she is, she also knows Louisvillians love to talk about restaurants, hence our invitation to be her local sources. So tune in for some fun banter about the biz on Friday!

Feed your belly, help Healing Place: Need a great reason to dine out? Here you go. The Healing Place has partnered with the Kentucky Restaurant Association for an evening of summer dining called “86 Addiction: Cook Up Some Hope.”

On Wednesday, July 22, restaurants in Louisville will donate a portion of their receipts to The Healing Place’s work of helping people struggling with drug and alcohol addictions. Click here to see the growing list of great restaurants signed on to help out.

And speaking of great fundraisers, don’t forget APRON’s Taste of Independents set for this Sunday, July 12, from 1-4 p.m. at The Olmsted. No need to worry about making Sunday dinner when that’s going on.

ComfyCowMore Cow cream: Most of us remember when The Comfy Cow ice cream was but a calf of a concept when it opened a few years back in Westport Village. Now the six-unit chain is hosting a July 21 ribbon cutting on its new production facility at 2710 Holloway Road in the Bluegrass Industrial Park.

That’s impressive growth for a home-grown chain whose sweet treats are widely available through the South via Whole Foods and Kroger supermarkets. Couldn’t happen to nicer, more hardworking guys than Tim and Roy Koons-McGee.

Big companies can build Bubba’s with ease: If you ever wonder why your favorite independent restaurants close so quickly, take a gander at the power that lies in the hands of chain competitors.

With more than 400 restaurants racking up sales of about $5 million per year each, Texas Roadhouse Inc. wants to grow a seven-location chain called Bubba’s 33 by building one — No. 8 — in Clarksville. The pizza and burger concept has restaurants scattered all across the U.S., but the next one comes closer to TRH’s home base.

BubbaAccording to a recent story in Business First, TRH spent $920,000 just for the land at 1525 Veterans Pkwy., where it will build a Bubba’s, and it’ll spend $4.8 million more building the 8,799-square-foot facility.

That’s gorilla skrilla that most in this business will never see. Just ask the young guns spending in the low-five figures to open some of the smaller shops we’ve seen lately (Rumplings, Roux, Epic Sammich Co., etc.). Thank goodness a healthy restaurant scene like ours can support niche businesses like theirs.

The scary thing about it for restaurateurs is companies like TRH can do this all day long if they want.

Guns and grub: The Original Makers Club is hosting a Southern Supper & Shoot on July 19 at Ashbourne Farms (situated just off Hwy. 42 between Goshen and LaGrange at 3800 Old Westport Road). The evening begins at 6:30 with clay pigeon shooting over the farm’s pond. Doubtless, access to cocktails will be denied to guests playing with weaponry.

But once you’ve worked up an appetite shattering all those orange discs, a farm to table dinner catered by Wiltshire Pantry will be served along with cocktails, cigars and Bluegrass music. Price for the dinner is $75, and other bits are a la carte. To make your reservation, email OMC at [email protected].

Steve Coomes
Steve Coomes is a restaurant veteran turned award-winning food, spirits and travel writer. In his 24-year career, he has edited and written for multiple national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. He is a feature writer for Louisville magazine, Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass and Food & Dining Magazine. The author of two books, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and the "Home Distiller's Guide to Spirits," he also serves as a ghostwriter for multiple clients.