When you look at the menu for Bridge & Barrel, a newish restaurant on the river in Jeffersonville, it looks like it could be any one of the many Southern-inspired-meets-bourbon-bar places Louisville seems so fond of.
The difference? The views. Nestled between the Big Four Bridge and the two driving bridges, the rooftop deck makes for one fine view of downtown and the Ohio River.
Bridge & Barrel opened for business before Derby, but the restaurant wasn’t complete. As such, it will hold its official grand opening event on Friday, June 22, with food samplings, bourbon and beer tastings and live music.
The menu will be mostly locally sourced, and most dishes will be made from scratch on site, right down to curing pork belly in-house.
Familiar dishes include selections like fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, Southern-fried chicken, fried catfish and, of course, a Kentucky hot brown.
Dishes will feature distinctive flair, from the orange Nehi glaze on the pork to blue cheese in the grits to cilantro in the coleslaw.
But Bridge & Barrel isn’t locally owned — it’s simply trying its best to fit in, if you will. Terri King, director of sales and marketing for Sheraton Louisville Riverside, which owns the restaurant (it’s in the space of the former Bristol Bar & Grille in Jeffersonville), said it’s a goal for the parent Chesapeake Hospitality to create restaurants and amenities that reflect their surroundings.
The menu, which is described as “easy-does-it Southern,” was developed at the corporate level and will be overseen locally by Chef Kevin Gritton. So, it’s one of those concepts that isn’t local, yet it actually is sort of local, with local management and ingredients, something Bridge & Barrel hopes will therefore please local palates.
The space has undergone an extensive remodel that cost nearly $500,000, with a couple of walls removed to open the room, which now can seat up to 145 people inside. Locally reclaimed wood and bourbon accents help give it that desired Kentucky feel.
A full bar focuses on 60-plus bourbons — King said the goal is to become a stop on the Urban Bourbon Trail — plus craft beer and wine, with signature cocktails in development.
The outside deck can seat up to 70, has a separate bar, and will also host live music three nights a week. Full menu service is available inside and out.
Oh, and that view — that’s one of the key attributes the restaurant is promoting, King said, but she has no worries about the tolls or the fact that across-the-street neighbor Rocky’s Sub Pub recently closed. She cites the plentiful parking as an attraction to downtown workers and said the walking bridge makes the Jeffersonville waterfront a bustling place on weekends.
“We see the bridges as just a bridge between us,” King said. “The view and the food will sell themselves.”
I got a tasting of the pork belly and collard greens, the fried green tomatoes and — perhaps the signature dish at Bridge & Barrel — Edgar’s Crab Soup, named for Chesapeake founder Edgar Sims.
The thick pork slab was nicely cooked, but I was surprised it wasn’t more salty. The truth is, the sticky glaze makes it more of a sweet-meets-savory treat, and the maple-infused greens were delicious. The tomatoes were topped with a surprisingly mild and tasty onion jam, and I don’t know when I’ve seen bigger tomatoes.
But the crab soup — which was vaguely reminiscent of a Kentucky burgoo, coincidentally — had an enticing crab aroma, while packing big chunks of skin-on potato, corn, green beans, celery, lima beans and more into a medium, tomato-based broth.
Of course, there’s plenty of crab meat in the tasty soup.
Other signature items King pointed out include a banana pudding dessert, street tacos on the “Shareables” menu, and a bourbon milkshake, which she hopes will help set Bridge & Barrel apart from other restaurants.
The grand opening event on Friday, June 22, runs from 6-9 p.m. and is open to the public. The restaurant is located at 700 W. Riverside Dr., and regular hours are 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily.