After LouVino opened in the Highlands in 2014, it quickly became a favorite of the neighborhood for upscale, yet affordable, small plate meals with a signature wine list. The concept went over so well that last year, LouVino opened a new location in Middletown. More of the same is sometimes a good thing.
LouVino in Douglass Hills offers a similar modern look and feel, but with much more dining capacity, including a separate bar section. The menu, meanwhile, is virtually identical, and the wine still flows like, well, wine.
My girlfriend Cynthia and I went for an early dinner recently and found the place open and warm, with plenty of natural light, not to mention a gorgeous outdoor deck we would have taken advantage of if the weather had been above 40 degrees.
The restaurant had only opened 30 minutes before (we skipped lunch, so waiting until a more appropriate dinner hour was not an option), so we were seated immediately and soon greeted by our cheerful server, Kevin.
As we perused the menu, I recognized many of the dishes from the original location, and as LouVino features Southern-inspired fare, we decided to go with that theme.
We first ordered loaded baked potato tots from the “snacks” portion of the menu and began perusing the impressive wine list. Of course, a signature at LouVino are the fun wine flights named after a variety of Kentucky-connected personalities, from Muhammad Ali to Rick Pitino to Louis XVI.
A Johnny Depp, for instance, will get you 2-ounce pours of three “dark and sexy French wines” for $14. It was early in the day, however, so we decided not to pop the corks just yet. (But a future happy hour awaits.)
The tots came out quickly, just as our server had warned; he noted that dishes come out as soon as they are ready, so meals might be staggered if you order more than one item. Hey, it beats them sitting around getting tepid, right?
The tots were a nice kick-off, crispy outside and surprisingly creamy inside with a blend of shredded potatoes, cheddar, chunks of bacon and green onion. The house ranch that came with the tots for dipping was subtle but quite appropriate, and the serving was generous.
About halfway through the tots, we decided to order two more plates: fried chicken tacos and beef sliders. We weren’t surprised when, only moments after we’d finished off the tots, the tacos arrived.
The tacos are simple but inviting, with a chicken strip inside a lightly grilled flour tortilla, atop a bed of garlic mashed potatoes, and topped with shredded white cheddar and brown gravy. Lots of brown gravy.
The chicken itself was all-white meat and fresh, with a peppery batter that would make any Kentuckian smile. The gravy added its own spicy depth, and luckily it soaked into the potatoes rather than dripped down my arms. We had one apiece, and it was like a miniature comfort food meal in taco form.
The sliders arrived just as we began to eat the tacos, and they weren’t what I expected. I anticipated some sort of sliced steak or brisket, but instead they were thick patties of lean ground beef, cooked medium rare, and topped with a mix of caramelized onions and peppers, with port cheese spread inside the toasted egg-wash bun, and a couple of pickles tucked inside.
If the small burgers were impressive to behold, they were even more impressive to devour. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a juicier burger, in fact, and it was cooked exactly the way I prefer my burgers. Cynthia is more of a medium-well person, but she enjoyed her slider as well.
The great thing about LouVino is that you can eat well-prepared, quality food in an impressive atmosphere and not mortgage your house to do so. We spent under $30 and didn’t want for more food. In fact, if we’d eaten more, we probably would have been too full. But if you’re going bigger, there’s plenty to choose from, including favorites like crispy rock shrimp and grits, a petite filet mignon with pot roast veggies, and duck breast with broccoli risotto.
LouVino in Middletown is located at 11400 Main St. Hours are Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4-10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4-11 p.m.; Saturday, 4:30-11 p.m., and Sunday for brunch, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.