It’s one of spring’s must sybaritic pleasures: Dining, brunching or lunching al fresco. Here, some outdoor spots where you’ll want to linger.
2235 Frankfort Avenue | 502-777-1505
There are many reasons to like The Hub…fried pickles, hibiscus mini tacos, elotes fritters, dogs and cats. Yep, you read that correctly. Dogs and cats. Talmage Collins and his crew love animals so much they sponsor the Puppies and Pints Patio Party to benefit the Arrow Fund. It’s an event at which you’re free to bring your pooch to schmooze with furry friends while you hang out with your friends at the bright yellow umbrella tables or on the bleacher seats. Felines aren’t forgotten. Last year’s Kittens and Cocktails was such a hit that The Hub will host two this year.
In addition to those pickles and tacos, Chef Jesus Garcia-Rosales’ menu is enlivened with beef taquitos, buffalo cauliflower, lobster salad sandwich, vegan rosa pasta and grilled hanger steak. And that’s just a sampling of his fun, win-you-over-every-time menu.
Strike up a conversation with the person at the next table who’s ordering an Empress and the Pea (butterfly gin, jasmine green tea syrup, lemon and blossom bitters) while you’re ordering a Scarlet Lady (vodka, lemon, blueberry lavender syrup and Cocchi Rosa). Those are two of The Hub’s specialty cocktails that share the drinks menu with classic cocktails and a wow-eliciting list of beer, wine, bourbon, vodka, rye and tequila. The Hub is one of only a few places around town that offers bourbon and brandy flights.
Inside The Hub is an adult recreation center complete with several televisions, music videos, shuffleboard and pool tables.
1327 Bardstown Road | 502-459-7878
When Rocco Cadolini opened ROC one year ago, he put the Louisville dining scene on notice that Italian food in Louisville would never be the same. Bringing with him the cuisine of his native Sorrento and his experience as a New York restaurateur, Cadolini infused ROC with his own effusive personality and a menu that …yes, rocks, not a little but a lot.
ROC’s interior melds coziness with an unmistakable vivaciousness that spills out on an urban cool patio that sports tables (custom-made by Louisville millworkers) and red chairs imported from Italy. New diamond-shaped lights and candles illuminate the space and music energizes the space with a glitzy casualness that is all ROC.
“In winter, Sorrento is dead, but when spring comes, so do the flowers and the guests at outdoor restaurants. When the sun shines, everybody feels good. That’s how it will be outside throughout summer at ROC,” says Cadolini.
When you ask him his menu favorites, sit back and relax with an Aperol Spritz, Prosecco or a glass of rosé because you’re in for a conversation, not a mere mention of a dish or two. There’s nothing on the menu that doesn’t have special meaning to him. Try the beef or salmon carpaccio, bufala mozzarella with tomatoes and basil, or the burrata with vegetables and a balsamic reduction. Best of all, order all three and nibble with your friends. But don’t forget the grilled octopus. One bite and you’ll remember it forever. Wine isn’t mandatory for a memorable meal, but as Cadolini says, “Good wine makes good cheer.”
River House Restaurant & Raw Bar
3015 River Road | 502-897-5000
River House Restaurant & Raw Bar has a killer view of the Ohio River, but its billing as one of Louisville’s most stunning restaurants for riverfront dining is only one of the accolades that have been bestowed on Chef/owner John Varanese’s creation.
Seafood and fish reign supreme with appetizers like seafood stuffed avocado, oysters topped with crab, spinach and artichokes, and sautéed mussels tossed in chipotle-lime broth. Entrées include scallops served over tasso ham, Cheddar grits and southern succotash; grouper cheeks and shrimp over lump crab-chive risotto; and blackened Hawaiian ahi tuna.
While Varanese is a master of seafood, his baby back ribs, steaks and short ribs earn rave reviews. For a minimal and well worth it charge, you may add lump crab, artichoke and spinach; shrimp scampi; a seared scallop or crispy oysters to any entrée. That’s a deal you don’t want to pass up.
Libation indulging is part of the fun of warm weather dining at River House where frozen drinks toast any occasion, or none at all. Behind-the-bar inventiveness concocts yummy iciness in the form of a Strawberry Basil Lemon Drop, Georgia on My Rye and Caramelized Pineapple Piña Colada.
The weather has stopped teasing us with one day of seducing warmth and the next of button-up chill. It’s time to join the convivial crowd who have discovered that Varanese’s menu is even more seductive when taking advantage of the glass wall overlooking the river and the retractable window that makes you feel as if you are only a step or two away from the water.
Nouvelle Bar & Bottle
214 S. Clay Street | 502-631-9428
Nouvelle Bar & Bottle’s secluded garden tucked behind the main drag in NuLu is a shady, breezy tree-canopied oasis. A small brick stage is constructed for live music. Inside, the atmosphere is reminiscent of a European wine bar and café, with a bar, comfy sofa and additional seating.
While there are 45 wines by the glass, available in 3-, 6- or 9-ounce pours, and an intriguing offering of more than 200 wines by the bottle, most available at the on-site retail store. Co-owner Aaron Dawkins’s background as a wine distributor ensures a specially designed list that features many wines not found elsewhere in Louisville.
The wine aficionado that he is, he also has a marked affinity for cocktails, saying, “We don’t want to be a cocktail bar but our versions are classic and excellent.” In addition to the traditional Manhattan and Old Fashioned, he has introduced some spring-inspired cocktails as well as wine-based cocktails like a white Port and tonic.
A small bites menu is highlighted by meat and cheese boards, spreads and desserts.
Dawkins, a certified sommelier, has initiated a Monday night wine educational series, including tastings, that covers a different country or region each week. Other special events are winemaker visits and music-themed evenings. On June 5, Nouvelle Bar & Bottle will partner with Harvest restaurant and Stolpman Vineyards for a progressive dinner beginning on the patio at Nouvelle and ending at Harvest.
150 N. Hurstbourne Parkway | 502-883-3153
photos by Stacy Duncan
Not in our wildest dreams would we turn down a trip to Provence to bask in the sun and feast on the South of France’s cuisine, especially if the invitation were extended by Stacy Duncan and Guy Genoud, owners of Brasserie Provence. Until that invite arrives in the mail, we’ll be perfectly happy with Brasserie Provence’s outdoor dining. If Genoud or Duncan stop by our table to chat and share their hospitality, we’ll consider ourselves to have won the Provence lottery.
Pairing a spring or summer meal with a chilled rosé will make you wonder why you haven’t before given it serious attention. If you’re not familiar with rosé, Genoud will be happy to help you select one from a collection of more than 20.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Start your Brasserie Provence outdoor dining experience with an aperitif such as a Kir du Loup (white wine, crème de violettes and a lemon twist), Sand de Pêche (red wine, peach liqueur and citrus) or the very French and very summery Ricard.
Chef Patrick Gosden’s menu is a sumptuous excursion into Provençal cuisine any time of year. The season’s outdoor dining especially lends itself to his salad Niçoise; tomato and goat cheese tart; fromage platter with southern France cheeses, fig jam and a grilled baguette; grilled ahi tuna; and sea scallops persillade. Of course, the decidedly French and internationally savored steak frites and moules marinières transcend the seasons. Finish your meal with a lemon tart or blood orange, peach or blackberry sorbet.