Mesh brought upscale-meets-casual dining to the former site of Azalea four years ago and hasn’t looked back. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

Long the site of an empty eyesore, the corner lot on Brownsboro Road just west of Chenoweth Lane nearly four years ago became home to Mesh, an upscale-meets-casual-dining restaurant and bar featuring (mostly) American fare with an upscale approach.

Of course, Mesh is located on the former site of La Paloma and Azalea, the latter of which closed in the late 2000s; the original building was razed to make way for the modern design Mesh brought into the space. The new restaurant proved a major upgrade, to say the least.

It since has become a favorite, hosting diners in an underserved area of town. If a recent visit is any indication, it hasn’t lost any of its original mojo.

The modern, unique exterior is an unmistakable landmark these days along that Brownsboro Road corridor, and while the interior has a hint of a corporate feel — Mesh is part of the Cunningham Restaurant Group and has a sister restaurant in Indianapolis, so while it isn’t necessarily a chain, it also isn’t a stand-alone — it is quietly elegant and unpretentious.

Smoked salmon dip | Photo by Kevin Gibson

Trimmed in cut stone and featuring mood lighting, the space is divided between a fireplace-focused dining room and a slightly more casual bar.

My girlfriend, Cynthia, and I stopped in for a late lunch during the Louisville versus Kentucky men’s basketball game back in December, all but assuring we would mostly have the place to ourselves, and we were seated immediately in the bar area.

We had arrived just at the end of brunch service, expecting the lunch menu to be in play as well (it wasn’t), so we ordered an appetizer and waited a few minutes for brunch to end, our attentive server checking with the kitchen to make sure the dinner menu was ready to go.

Our appetizer, a smoked salmon dip served with crostini, arguably could get a vote for our best call of the meal. Loaded with chunks of salmon and bursting with flavor, the firm spread came with a spicy whole grain mustard, pickled onions and cornichon pickles, along with half of a seared lemon.

The joy of this dish, apart from the bounty of flavors, were the many combinations these flavors offered. I found myself using nearly as much mustard as salmon dip, topping each loaded crostini with a few drops of lemon.

Cynthia, meanwhile, enjoyed the sweetness of the mini-pickles along with the smoky, savory salmon and small portions of the mustard. Meanwhile, the pickles added an interesting and unexpected sweetness to the fold. Kudos to the chef.

Shrimp and grits with broccolini | Photo by Kevin Gibson

The dinner options at Mesh are many and tempting, from a variety of salads to seafood options like grilled salmon or scallops and an 8-ounce filet mignon with mashed potatoes and asparagus. But the jumbo shrimp and grits struck Cynthia’s fancy, while I opted for steak frites.

We had barely finished with our appetizer when our dinners came to our table (impeccable timing). Cynthia’s meal featured five big shrimp, lightly grilled, with a healthy portion of broccolini, and white cheddar grits drizzled with a tomato-based gastrique.

The thin, crisped slice of country ham played as a garnish of prosciutto to fine effect. The shrimp were plump, perfectly cooked and delicious. I got only a small bite of the tender grits, but I noted that Cynthia took care of every last morsel.

My 10-ounce steak had been cut into medium slices and was cooked a perfect medium rare, to order. A cylinder of nicely seasoned garlic fries came accompanied by sides of ketchup and a flavorful garlic aioli, the latter of which was as tasty with the steak as with the potatoes. (In other words, you won’t need the ketchup.)

Steak frites | Photo by Kevin Gibson

The tender steak was topped not only with a house Worcestershire sauce, but a dollop of herbed butter that melted its way into a final, delicious finish for the flavorful steak.

It wasn’t the best steak dinner I’ve ever had, but it was well worth the $25 price tag. I’d order it again.

We both were too full to look into dessert, but my guess is the double chocolate stout terrine is probably a big-time way to finish a meal.

All in all, we spent about $70, well worth it for the dining experience we enjoyed. We’re already making plans to return in the spring to enjoy the Mesh patio and more of that smoked salmon dip.

Mesh, located at 3608 Brownsboro Road, is open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-midnight, and Sunday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. (Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday until 3 p.m.)

Kevin Gibson

Kevin Gibson

Kevin Gibson tackles the 3Rs — retail, restaurants, real estate — plus, economic development. He loves bacon, loathes cucumbers and once interviewed Yoko Ono. Check out his books, “Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft” and “100 Things to do in Louisville Before You Die.” He has won numerous awards for his work but doesn’t know where most of them are now. In his spare time, he plays in a band called the Uncommon Houseflies.Email Kevin at [email protected]