The owners of North End Café don't just purchase local produce: they also grow vegetables and herbs in their own garden in Simpsonville. Since April, 2003, their chefs have championed this focus on local, seasonal ingredients with a healthy approach to cooking. North End Café's menu features traditional meals from around the world, ranging from grass-fed beef burgers and flatiron steaks to grilled fish and scallops to vegetarian lasagnas, stir-fry, and cakes. For sharing, chefs build eclectic small plates such as crab cakes, fried goat-cheese ravioli, and almond-crusted brie. They also prepare a range of vegan and gluten-free dishes, taking care to avoid the pyrotechnics that result when steak and tofu touch.
To accompany these meals, bartenders pour American and international wines, and blend cocktails from fruit and old-fashioned ingredients. At the Highlands location, a brand-new tap system spouts 23 craft beers, including imperial IPAs and peppery black porters. In warmer months, the aromas of cooking and laughter of clientele also fill the Highlands location's new outdoor patio, an expansive wooden deck surrounded by leafy plants and tall, wispy trees.
At Zen Garden, many of the Asian dishes sound familiar, with adjectives like "orange," "sweet ‘n’ sour," and "kung pao." However, rather than tossing chicken or beef in with these classic flavors, the kitchen has adopted a meat-free credo. Chefs mix masterfully seasoned bites of tofu and other meat alternatives with fresh veggies, creating entrees such as green beans stir-fried with mock duck and the barbecued-soy sandwich. Noodles tangle around shiitake mushrooms in both the udon-noodle soup and the shiitake mushroom lo mein, and curry sauce imbues eggplant and shredded tofu with a spicy kick. Guests can pair their meal with a cup of green tea, prepped hot, iced, or in its purest form: emeralds that have not yet been juiced.
The menu at Life Bar is designed to keep bodies humming at optimal levels—whether increasing energy, shedding a few pounds, or looking for a vitamin boost. Starting with 100% plant-based super-food smoothies, staffers blend a healthful mix of coconut milk, raw honey, and all organic produce such as ginger and organic pineapple. Add on individual boosters for an extra kick of antioxidants, proteins, or vitamins; bee pollen to promote longevity; and hemp-seed protein to promote healthy cholesterol levels. Customers on the go may use the online app to pre-order drinks.
Dancing Sushi Japanese Steakhouse knows the secret to a great sushi roll is freshness. That’s why it uses only the freshest ingredients and USDA Choice beef. Specialty rolls include the Kentucky Derby, made with deep-fried shrimp, cucumber, and avocado, all topped with spicy crab, tempura flakes, and unagi sauce. The Mango Tango roll pairs spicy crabmeat with tempura shrimp, topped with sweet mango and eel sauce. For a more dramatic meal, expert chefs with a flair for showmanship flip and sizzle meats at the fiery hibachi grill.
A host of savory Mediterranean dishes fill plates at Eat a Pita, where cooks whip up dishes such as the Jerusalem, a fresh-sliced eggplant skillfully fried and surrounded by warm pita. Meaty gyros arrive in regular or Hercules sizes, as do Philly cheese steaks that sneak onto the international menu. Other entrees include grilled chicken kabobs with mushrooms and green peppers.
Louisville’s own Courier-Journal likens the coziness of J. Harrod’s Restaurant to that of an “old-school suburban sanctuary”—an apt description, though the upscale eatery sidesteps clichéd décor for an elegant dining room that refuses to pander to nostalgia. Like the green plaid wallpaper and other subtle touches of décor, chef Jenny Ballard’s menu reflects a refined simplicity with its comforting dishes of boneless fried chicken, center-cut pork chops, and veal marsala. The kitchen’s five house-made dressings spruce up salads with recipes that represent America’s diverse culinary traditions, from a zesty peppercorn ranch to a dressing that boasts ingredients from each of our country’s 1,000 island territories. Waiters whisk dishes from the kitchen to large tables, whose polished surfaces are illuminated by the glow that emanates from a wood-paneled fireplace.