Mesh DR 2
Inside Mesh Indianapolis

March opening for Mesh: Bryan Norman, the general manager of the still-under-construction Mesh (3612 Brownsboro Road) told me Monday that the restaurant’s hoped-for February opening is unlikely and that March is the newest and optimistic goal. Progress has been slow on the 7,600-square-foot, 240-seat upscale casual restaurant, which is being built from the ground up on the old Azalea site.

“We want it open as much as anybody,” said Norman, who lives in Prospect. Mesh is one of the Cunningham Restaurant Group’s 13 locations. “March looks pretty doable at this point.”

According to a news release, Mesh’s executive chef will be Tim McIntosh.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 3.21.22 PMCommonwealth Tap gets cocktail program: If you’ve not been to this terrific wine bar in Norton Commons, go check it out and prepare to wait for a seat. Commonwealth Tap has been a smash success since it opened in the fall of 2013, and according to Neil Morgan, one of several partners, it “did restaurant numbers” in 2014. Awfully good for a place that doesn’t serve food.

This month it began serving craft cocktails, which it hadn’t been allowed to do because it was located within 700 feet of Karem’s Grill & Pub down the street.

Thankfully, that restriction was lifted and they’ve hired Adam Sabin, a veteran bartender from Cincinnati. So in addition to high-end bottled wines, an array of cask draft wines (trust me, they’re great), 120 whiskeys and craft beer, you can now get a Sazerac, a real daiquiri (no blender), a Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (think Scotch wash with gin), a Hummingbird and much more for anywhere from $9 to $12.

Tamales at Mayan Café. | Photo by Steve Coomes.
Tamales at Mayan Café. | Photo by Steve Coomes.

Don’t miss Tamale + Tequila Mondays at Mayan Café: I’ve written it before and I’ll write it ad nauseum: The Mayan Café is one the city’s best yet least-heralded restaurants. If you haven’t been there and want to taste what you’re missing, check out the restaurant’s Tamale + Tequila Mondays, which run through March 30.

Of the 13 unique tamales created by chef and co-owner Bruce Ucan, one is featured each Monday and paired with a pour of premium tequila. (Trust me, sip it neat. Good tequila is amazing that way, especially with food.) The tamale menu rotates weekly between a vegetarian and meat (beef, rabbit, chicken, etc.) tamale, so check the schedule to see when your desired dish pops up.

These events have made the 50-seat restaurant a busy place on Mondays, so make sure to get a reservation by calling 566-0651.

Levon and Kook going, Benjamin staying: Someone asked me if the recent departure of chefs from prime Louisville restaurants is a sign of trouble brewing in the local market. He wondered if Louisville’s mid-size wasn’t significant enough to keep the likes of Levon Wallace (who’s leaving Proof on Main in March and moving to Nashville) and Russell Kook (who’s leaving 8UP in mid-February to return to Chicago). It was a fair question.

Talented chefs come and go in every good restaurant market, so such changeover shouldn’t be surprising since Louisville is one of those markets. We should expect that our city’s great chefs are in demand elsewhere and will be recruited. That’s just business, and in that sphere, you win some and lose some.

Levon Wallace of Proof on Main
Levon Wallace of Proof on Main … for now

You can’t fault Wallace for going to work for Donald Link, one of New Orleans’ most famous chefs, and Kook is departing because he got an opportunity in Chicago he couldn’t pass up.

“I know the timing worked out weird, but the opportunity to be a chef in Chicago — it’s been my dream city ever since I left — was too much to pass up,” said Kook, who’s worked for Concentrics, 8UP’s ownership group, for about five years. “I hoped I could wait and stay here six months before leaving, but that opportunity would have been gone.”

But back to win some: It’s a big win that Bobby Benjamin is staying here to open a restaurant. Benjamin, who hails from Providence, R.I., got hooked on Louisville after moving here several years ago to attend culinary school at Sullivan University. He later worked in Nashville, which he loved, but then moved here: the city where he wants to stay put … just like out-of-towners Anthony Lamas (Seviche), Peng Looi (Asiatique), Tavis Rockwell (LouVino), Annie Pettry (Decca), Bruce Ucan (Mayan Café), Tyler Morris (Rye, Atlantic No. 5), Edward Lee (610 Magnolia, MilkWood) … need I go on? Heaven knows I’ve left this list short.

So before anyone becomes concerned that Louisville is leaking talent — for whatever reason — just look at how deep the pool has become with outsiders.

Barrel House Social will open in March. | Photo by Steve Coomes.
Barrel House Social will open in March. | Photo by Steve Coomes.

Parking won’t be an issue, says Barrel House Social owner: When I interviewed Barrel House Social co-owner Bruce Rosenblatt a few weeks back about that restaurant’s March opening, he mentioned the restaurant would use golf carts to shuttle customers to and from a secondary parking lot. Most days that would have prompted a series of follow-up questions from me such as, well, “Why golf carts?”

Blame it on Friday evening fatigue, that frigid day, or just missing the obvious.

Thankfully, a regular reader of Insider Louisville didn’t miss that and messaged me saying parking was an ongoing problem suffered by past restaurant concepts occupying that space, and that the issue wasn’t going away with this latest tenant.

On Tuesday, co-owner Bruce Rosenblatt said the issue was an obvious one, and it was worked out before he and partner Tony Palombino signed the lease.

“We have 100 parking spots on premises and another 50 to 75 in a lot by Kaden Tower,” Rosenblatt said, referring to the lot from which guests will be shuttled when necessary. “I know that scared some away when they looked at the location, but we believe we’ve got it worked out.”

The red rooster to crow again: For those of you saddened by Le Gallo Rosso’s closure last year, take heart. It’s reopening on Friday, Jan. 30, in the Mellwood Arts Center.

Annette Sacco, who operated the restaurant on Bardstown Road (where Roux now is located), will be running the place, so expect lots of her delicious Southern Italian fare.

Click here for more info.

Darrell Griffith
Darrell Griffith

From hoops to hospitality: Any U of L basketball fan loves Darrell Griffith. He was one of the school’s greatest basketball players, the key to the Cards’ first national championship in 1980, and an NBA dandy.

This week he’s opening his first restaurant, Griff’s (323 W. Cardinal Blvd.), in the Cardinal Towne complex the school’s main campus. (Click here for the Business First story.) I can’t say I’m as thrilled by the idea since I’ve seen so many athletic greats get into this business and fail. That said, I have nothing but good wishes for Griff, an all-around great guy. If his fellow alum and Cardinal hoopster Junior Bridgeman, a true restaurant mogul, advised him on the deal, it should be in good hands.

Seviche ‘Dinner and a Movie’ night returns Feb. 9: Skip the maddening masses going out on Valentine’s night and take your sweetheart to Seviche’s “Dinner and a Movie” event. Started almost three years ago, the fine food and flick night is the classiest way to take in a movie in cushy seats not littered with popcorn.

Fittingly, this month’s movie is “Chef,” starring Jon Favreau and Sofia Vergara. The five-course dinner and drink-paired menu is $65. Click here to see the menu or call 473-8560 to make a reservation.

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.