Since 2016, The Manhattan Project (TMP) has been serving up cocktails, beer and flavorful pub fare in Clifton. TMP looked bigger on the inside than the outside, even before their recent expansion into what was Nancy’s Bagel Grounds.
Now, TMP offers two very distinct vibes in what feels like two full-sized establishments. The front is a sleek gastropub, while the back offers 24 TVs for their customer’s sports viewing pleasure.
The expanded space makes using distinct areas for events, a service they offer free of charge, easier than ever. Parties of many sizes can be accommodated. In addition to the two main areas, TMP has an enclosed patio which is heated for the winter, but garage doors on the side open to the fresh air in warmer months.
The new front space is rustic meets urban. There’s a touch of steampunk to the light fixtures. Copper tones give warmth, and many details have a known history. The bar top and the glossy, blond wood tables were once the bowling alleys from Daisy Lanes in New Albany, Indiana. The face of the bar is made from rehabbed barrel staves.
At night, when business is in full swing, these touches lend an intimate feel to the high ceilinged space. Soft lighting brings a rich glow to surfaces, makes pools where coming together to eat and chat feels natural. During summer months, TMP will offer a new spot for sidewalk dining on Frankfort Ave.
Owners, son and father, Erick and Kevin Strnatka, along with Angelica Pizzonia put a lot of thought in the recent expansion. They enlisted the design know how of their real estate partner Fred Pizzonia in sourcing items to complete the new front-of-house.
The construction of the new front bar called for additions to the menu. “It’s more entre-driven,” said Erick. The bar/restaurant owner cut his teeth in Chicago and some of the newer dishes are inspired by what he loved there. “I’ve been going over and over in my head for the last 10 months what would work, what would fit.”
Erick and his kitchen staff did a lot of taste testing. TMP already had a core menu, including build-your-own mac and cheese, burgers and sandwiches. Some of the new items include the Cajun shrimp risotto, New York strip and a lake perch dinner.
The wide selection of snacks, like beer-battered cheese curds or parmesan truffle fries, are bar fare with a little extra something. They might be a great appetizer for an intimate dining experience, or replenishment to share among friends during a longer night out. The space gives a choose-your-own adventure touch to the varied menu.
TMP already has a large selection of bourbons and will expand their wine list. in the future . They utilize local and regional spirits. Their OG Manhattan, the bars namesake, uses Heaven Hill’s Larceny Bourbon. The KY Collins features Louisville’s Rabbit Hole gin.
Erick moved to Louisville about eight years ago to open Baxter’s 942 with family friends. Opportunity brought him here, and it’s kept him here. He and his wife Nicole have put down roots where their two young children were born. His parents built a home two years ago to join the young family in Louisville.
Erick’s father, Kevin, and his mother Barb find themselves spending most of their time at TMP.
“This place is your third kid,” Kevin joked to his son.
It’s not just opportunity that keeps the family here. Erick said what first struck him about the Derby City is Louisvillians, who are easy to talk to, and ready to get to know each other. After many years in Chicago, the change was welcome.
“People are a little more laid back here, which I like,” said Kevin, who enjoys the social aspect of his second career as a bar/restaurant owner. “It’s like a big small city.” People know each other and help each other. “There’s one degree of separation here.”
The owners are proud that the establishment attracts customers from all over Louisville of a wide range of ages and backgrounds, as well as people from the neighborhood. While sports bars proliferate, most are chains and can’t offer the personal touch of a family-owned establishment. TMP treats their customers like friends.
The Manhattan Project is currently open at 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and noon on Saturday. They offer a Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and a dinner menu to close. Regular events like Tuesday Trivia, wine specials on Wednesdays and Happy Hour Thursday offer points of attraction throughout the week.
With the addition of the sleeker dining side, The Manhattan Project can be a date spot, a great place for a family meal out, where you gather with friends for your celebratory office party, or where you meet your crew to cheer on your favorite team. For some Louisvillians, it’s all that and more.