On the Menu: Bourbons Bistro Louisville, Ky.

On the Menu: Bourbons Bistro Louisville, Ky.

Carolyn Walkup 1 | Jul 16, 2007

It’s fitting that Kentucky’s signature libation, bourbon, figures prominently in the menu at Bourbons Bistro, a contemporary Southern restaurant on one of Louisville’s trendiest thoroughfares.

Though the two-year-old establishment boasts a list of 135 bourbons, it is known as much for its food as for its drinks. Housed in a red brick building built in 1877, Bourbons was originally a grocery store and, later, a tavern. The vintage structure is an integral part of Louisville’s heritage, as are the region’s many bourbon distilleries.

Before prohibition, hundreds of distilleries operated in Kentucky Bourbon Country, roughly bounded by the cities of Louisville, Lexington and Bardstown. About a dozen remain today, and most are open to visitors traveling the Bourbon Trail.

By the drink, the bistro’s bourbons are priced from $5 to $50, the latter for aged varieties that retail for about $300 a bottle. Many choices are small-batch and single-barrel brandsthat compare in quality to single-malt Scotch.


Concept: SouthernOpened: 2005Location: 2255 Frankfort Ave.Web address:www.bourbonsbistro.comCapacity: 100Average nightly covers: 100Check average: $30Customer demographics: urban locals and touristsBest-selling item:grilled filet of beef with bourbon demi-glaceMenu-maker: Michael CrouchOwners: John Morrison and Jason Brauner

Several dishes at Bourbons Bistro have bourbon in them, such as grilled filet of beef with a roasted shallot-bourbon demi-glace, bourbon baby back ribs on roasted jalapeño and Cheddar grits, and the house burger stacked with grilled portobello mushroom, onion rings and tomato, and dressed with jalapeño mayonnaise and apricot-bourbon mustard.

Bourbon also is smoothly incorporated into the majority of the desserts. Examples are chocolate-pecan-bourbon bread pudding with dried Bing cherries and crème Anglaise, bourbon carrot cake with caramel sauce, and bourbon chocolate mousse.

A special treat for fans of the potent spirit is a monthly bourbon dinner, featuring a master distiller and five food courses paired with one-ounce pours of bourbons. Guests also may opt for wine, which sells well here, or any other beverage of their choice.

A recent distiller’s menu began with a mixed-green salad tossed with cantaloupe, basil and fresh goat cheese in a creamy buttermilk-bourbon-and-honey vinaigrette. One poultry course was grilled chicken breast topped with Brie and roasted apple wrapped in bacon and topped with bourbon molasses. Another was roasted duck breast topped with a bourbon and fig demi-glace.

The menu focuses on Southern favorites and ingredients from local farmers, who can supply fresh produce from April through November, given the region’s moderate climate. However, some dishes contain influences from distant culinary traditions.

Containing both Southern and international flavors are an appetizer of fried green tomatoes with tomatillo-chive aïoli and entrées including a pan-seared pork chop stuffed with chorizo and fresh mozzarella and a sautéed chicken breast wrapped in prosciutto and topped with wild mushrooms and spring peas in a lemon-ginger beurre blanc.

“Louisville is a good food town,” says partner John Morrison.

His broad-based clientele includes both locals and tourists who want to experience some local color when they dine out.

Morrison and partner Jason Brauner have provided an understated dining room with an exposed brick wall and muted tones of brown, bronze, burnt orange and beige that mimic the colors of bourbon and barrelhouses. The bourbon theme is carried out with the help of oversized vintage black-and-white photographs of distillery scenes. Dinner also is served seasonally on the patio.