Every day at all of El Nopal’s locations, cooks whip up fresh batches of salsa, chips, and beans. The sauces and sides accent chicken or beef chimichangas, handmade tamales, and nachos smothered in cheese. All El Nopal locations offer complimentary chips and salsa with every meal, and some locations have outdoor seating areas. Performances by live bands at select locations serve as a pleasant distraction from meals, unlike a judge with highfalutin ideas about not eating in court.
In the mornings, chef Darnell Ferguson can be found at SuperChef's Breakfast, folding local produce, meats, and baked goods into inventive breakfast sandwiches. But come lunchtime, the gourmet chef heads over to Bloom's Lunch Cafe, where he turns his attention to crisp artisanal salads, smoky bacon burgers, and BLTs with candied bacon. The chef pulls culinary inspiration from years of high-end experience, having captained the kitchens of prestigious restaurants and cooked for US delegates and a former president.
Justin and Kristin Gilbert spent three years in Italy, visiting gelaterie in more than 20 cities to mine artisanal secrets before opening their own shop. In choreographed musical numbers, the duo handcraft dense, flavor-packed gelato in small batches using local milk and fresh fruit. From a repertoire of more than 100 recipes, Justin and Kristin curate 20 flavors at a time. Past and present flavors include poached-pear zinfandel, orange-ginger dairy-free sorbetto, and chocolate orange—one of Justin's favorites, according to a feature in Louisville Magazine. Delicate crêpes conceal Nutella or lemon and sugar. The cozy shop also sends forth its mobile cart to cater office snack breaks, weddings with as many as 2000 guests, and Roman legions on the march.
Shiny golden spheres congregate by a cozy fireplace inside Arata Sushi's dining room. Though they're attached to the wall, they seem to drift across space like tiny suns or undersea bubbles. Perhaps they're an homage to the fish that comprise the restaurant's colorful sushi lineup, which the Courier-Journal has dubbed "highly imaginative." In the kitchen, chefs whorl fresh seafood with rice and veggies to form more than 45 types of maki. Several rolls, such as the Cardinal, showcase fruits such as kiwis and strawberries alongside savory ingredients such as fried shrimp and cream cheese. At the bar, diners can sip wine and sake while watching the chefs slice bright-orange salmon and tuna as red as a comet wearing a clown nose.
Succulent aromas and a symphony of sizzling meat emerge from Cast Iron Steak House's kitchen, where sirloin, rib eyes, and T-bone steaks sear inside of cast-iron skillets. For each of these steakhouse favorites, the staff personally ages, cuts, and rubs slabs of USDA beef in house. Though it's their specialty, the chefs expertise extends beyond just steaks and steak-related mythology.
Burning Bush's menu takes tongues on a trip to Greece without them having to endure endless views of ancient ruins. Vegetarians will salivate over falafel ($4.01) and quinoa lavanini, lavash bread topped with pepper-jack cheese, avocado, and quinoa ($5.42). Meat junkies and professional bodybuilders can choose bison kebabs cooked over an oak charcoal fire, a gyro ($5.66+), or a Balkan burger ($5.89), which blends beef, pork, and lamb into an unholy union of succulence. Youngsters under 10 can order off the kids' menu or nag their parents for one of the restaurant's thin-crust pizzas. Burning Bush also serves sweet, creamy meal endings from Gelato Gilberto, a local gelateria in Norton Commons.