Karter Louis at Hillbilly Tea. (Photo by Terry Boyd for Insider Louisville. Click to enlarge)

It’s starting to be Karter Louis-ville as the Hillbilly Tea entrepreneur executes a grand expansion plan in the kinetic, Karter Louis style.

Louis is one of Louisville’s men on the go, and Hillbilly Tea has generated incredible buzz  (verbal and caffeine-based) in a brief time.

Louis opened Hillbilly Tea last summer at 120 S. First St. and it’s the hot new flavor for Louisville foodies. The Louisville Youth Performing Arts graduate is a former actor, singer and dancer turned restaurateur.

What began as a joke – the name born from the absurdity of Louis and his Hungarian-born partner Arpad Lengyel opening a Hillbilly-themed restaurant – now plays to packed houses most days and nights, garnering rave reviews for its simple but imaginative menu.

Louis has three more projects on the board aimed at carving out a food empire for himself:

● Next to come will be Galettes, a French patisserie next to the KFC Yum! Center arena.

● Then, at an as-yet-to-be-determined location, will be a fine-dining concept called Method.

● Also, says Louis, work already is under way on the second-floor of Hillbilly Tea’s current location, for more seating and alcohol service.

● Finally, he says, is the expansion of the Hillbilly Tea concept across what he calls “the Appalachian Ridge” – Durham, N.C., Pittsburgh, Nashville, Lexington and maybe Cincinnati.

His business partner in all this is Lengyel, whom Louis calls “Chef Arpi.”

Louis, a prodigal son returned to Louisville, is clearly pleased by the sophisticated dining scene he has come back to.

“Louisville is a city of foodies, an eater’s paradise,” he says. “You can throw almost anything new at them and they’ll give it a try. If it’s good, they’ll keep coming back. But, of course, they’re always looking for the next big new thing. So you can never relax.”

Relax? Not this guy!

Like any hyper-kinetic, Louis can prioritize all the challenges in front of him, blurring out the longer-term ventures and concentrating on the next one.

That would be Galettes, under the Clark Memorial Bridge at Second and Main streets.

Louis may sometimes come off as a bit of a dreamer, but he’s a savvy, jaundiced-eyed realist.

Why under the bridge?

Because his research indicates 75 percent of all Yum Center attendees enter the building through that doorway on that street, coming from the parking garages.

“Galette” means a crusty, freeform, rustic crepe in French. And Louis’ new place will be all that, pies and crepes of all kinds, fruit and cheese and meat, with lots of European atmosphere and big windows to watch the chefs and bakers work.

He’s committed to downtown.

“I once spent an hour in downtown Cincinnati looking for someplace to have a decent lunch,” he recalls. “There wasn’t any place!

“Our downtown has so much potential, but it needs to be nurtured.”

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Steve Kaufman
Steve Kaufman has been writing professionally since the Johnson administration (Lyndon, not Andrew) on all manner of subjects, from sports to city hall to sales and marketing to running a medical practice to designing stores. His journey has taken him from Chicago to Buffalo to New York to Atlanta to Cincinnati, before landing, finally, in Louisville.

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