Hurry and make those Derby dinner reservations.
Hurry and make those Derby dinner reservations.

Too late to reserve Derby dinners? If you don’t have your Derby week restaurant reservations made, you’re pressing your luck. Wait much longer and you’re angling for a slider-fest at Castillo Blanco.

Well, it used to be that way when I worked at Casa Grisanti in the early 1980s. No kidding, people would come to dine Derby weekend, eat their meal and make their reservation for the next year on their way out. Again, no exaggeration, Friday and Saturday night seating was three-quarters full for the coming year — one year in advance. That’s about 300 people planning that far ahead.

Due to the ongoing restaurant boom, the city’s supply of eatin’ seats isn’t quite as tight as it once was, so such Martha Stewart-esque pre-planning isn’t mandatory. But any fine dining place that attracts high rollers — read “steak joint” — is likely booked by now. Still, it never hurts to call and see if you can slip in on someone else’s cancellation.

The takeaway: Get a reservation as soon as possible. But diner beware, many restaurants will require a seat deposit to ensure your purse gets pinched if you opt out and leave their seat empty.

Zeggz will be opening in June.
ZeggZ Amazing Eggs will open … soon?

ZeggZ Amazing Eggs postpones opening: A new and deliberately alliterative brunch-lunch spot named ZeggZ Amazing Eggs was slated to open April 17 near the corner of Chamberlain Lane and Highway 22. But according to its Facebook page, the staff needed a bit more training, so owners are holding off until a later and unspezzified date.

Also unspezzified are the fast casual restaurant’s exact address and phone number, neither of which are on its Facebook page. There is a link to its website, but when clicked on, it produces an error page, which isn’t amazzing or amuzzzing.

It appears ZeggZ has some eggs on its face for the moment, but here’s to hoping they get it all tidied up. For now, you can view photos of its construction and a few food items on Facebook. Informative, but not amazzing.

“Now Not Grilling” until June: Stout Burgers & Beers (1604 Bardstown Road) will fall short of its ambitious pre-Derby opening goal as detailed in our January story. Owners of the Los Angeles-based premium burger concept hoped to be ready to feed the swarm of tourists and locals strolling the strip during the busiest week of the year, but according to building owner Chad Coulter, the target date has been pushed back to mid-June.

Good news is there’s no shortage of stout or burgers in town.

Jason Brauner, co-owner Bourbon's Bistro, sipping his private bourbon
Jason Brauner, co-owner Bourbon’s Bistro, sipping his private bourbon

Sip bourbon and learn to bet the horses at Bourbon’s Bistro: Veteran handicapper Marty McGee will return to Bourbon’s Bistro on April 27 to host his annual handicapping dinner. Cost for the set menu meal is $65 per person dinner and begins at 6:30 p.m.

I wish we could share some food and drink details or point you to an online lineup, but the media schlubs didn’t get any. So just bank on McGee teaching enough betting tips that you’ll balance your winnings against your $65 tab (plus tax and tip) at Bourbons. To make a reservation, call 894-8838.

Additionally, Bourbon’s is celebrating its 10th year in operation by offering The Decader, a $141 Glencarin glass of bourbon from the restaurant’s own private bottling. Again, I don’t know the details of what whiskey that is, but a press release did mention that the proceeds from Decader sales will benefit the Jockeys’ Guild, which is a great cause.

All who purchase The Decader will get to keep their glass and have their name entered into a drawing for a full bottle of Bourbon’s undetermined house whiskey. The promotion ends April 26.

More package liquor out in the Oh-Cee, please! That’s the request in Oldham County this week as postcards encouraging expanded package liquor sales have landed in the mailboxes of registered voters. I live out here and voted yes, but only half-heartedly. The real liquor problem isn’t a lack of package sales, it’s the lack of good booze at the county’s restaurants.

Much of that can be blamed on the county’s ridiculous 70-30 rule for alcohol sales. Operators who want to sell booze to we who live in Louisville’s Really Far East End (“bedroom community” sounds a tad tawdry, right?) must tally 70 percent of their sales in food, and 30 percent in alcohol. Not only is that nigh impossible to achieve and maintain, it’s even harder to profit on that number. Here’s why:

Restaurant food costs have soared out of sight in the past three years, but customer resistance against price hikes to offset those increases terrifies restaurateurs. So what do they do? They raise drink prices because the margin on any beverage is always pretty good. People know they can cook at home, but they don’t always keep liquor around, so they’re used to paying high prices for a cocktail.

But when alcohol prices at restaurants rise, they then consume a greater portion of the average check, meaning the alcohol-to-food-spend ratio gets out of whack quickly. If that imbalance isn’t corrected, the restaurant could have its liquor license revoked.

If you ever want an earful of how difficult this mark is to meet, visit Michael and Sibohan Reidy at the Irish Rover. Mr. Reidy’s language will peel the wallpaper on this issue, trust me. He and his wife grappled with the onerous rule for several years at the Irish Rover Too before throwing in the bar towel.

How does Louisville do it? Liquor licenses are awarded based on a formula tied to a restaurant’s seat count. No goofy ratios applied. If you get a license, it’s hard to lose unless you serve teens, don’t pay to renew it or try and share it with an upstairs business like they did at the Blind Pig.

The takeaway: Oldham County needs more and better restaurants with appropriate liquor laws, not more package sales. The Prospect Party Center is not only 10 minutes from my Goshen home, and it’s the most affordable liquor store in town. I’m not joking; I check prices everywhere I go. Service is great there, too, so I’ll keep going there for my adult beverages.

Patricia Wells
Patricia Wells

The Annie and Patricia Show comes to Decca: OK, that’s a bit trite for such a cool chef and a cool restaurant, but that’s kind of what will happen when executive chef Annie Pettry of Decca hosts journalist, author and cooking instructor Patricia Wells for a fancy five-course French food and wine dinner.

If you don’t know Wells’ work, just know she’s won 14 James Beard awards with her cookbooks. Win one Beard Award, you’re on the scene. Win two, you’re awesome. Win three and winless peers hate you while fans request you autograph their delicate flesh. Win 14 and you’re a culinary cyborg from another planet. Needless to say, Wells is a big-damn deal. She’s so cool, she long ago moved to Paris and has created her own wine, which will be served at the dinner. (Geez, I just want a cocktail named after me!)

For $100, plus tax and tip, you’ll get a five-course dinner featuring wine pairings. Pettry’s menu for the night will include scallop carpaccio with lemon and vanilla; salad of spring vegetables with blue cheese and buttermilk dressing; pan-roasted duck with olives; and honey-lavender ice cream sandwiches with lemon cookie and cashew. (Somehow I guess this menu wasn’t lifted from the meal plan at Chez Coomes. Just a guess.)

The evening starts at 6 p.m. and ends with a book signing. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 749-8128.

[dc_ad size="9"] [dc_ad size="10"]
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.