Mesh's Indy location.

Mesh’s Indy location.

Mesh now open — finally: Indianapolis-based Cunningham Restaurant Group opened Mesh on Wednesday, Feb. 25, at 3608 Brownsboro Road, known to many as the site of Azalea Restaurant and Bauer’s 1870’s Tavern.

In the next few days, we’ll have a full story on the restaurant, but until then, just know it’s a beautiful upscale-casual space serving a wide-ranging and eclectic menu drawing on multiple cuisines and culinary discipline. (As a former chef, it makes my head hurt to consider making it all work — which is more proof of my many shortcomings in that role.) Appetizer prices range from $6 to $15, while entrees run from $19 to $35.

The Louisville location’s website is not yet active, but you can get an idea of its menu by clicking here for the Indy lineup. Honestly, I’m most drawn to the bar menu, a small-plate grazer’s delight that’s relaxed, nicely priced and on trend.

Ethan Ray

Ethan Ray

Ray’s Roux’s chef!: Ethan Ray, the man behind Roux Louisville’s (1325 Bardstown Road) fresh-made beignets since its beginning, is now taking over the restaurant’s kitchen. Since Roux opened last year, its sous chef Griffin Paulin has left to create Rumplings Slurp Shop — where Ray made noodles. Now Roux chef-co-owner Dustin Staggers will divide his time between that restaurant while he opens America. The Diner (814 Cherokee Road) by Mother’s Day. Since all three guys are connected by partnership or employment in each operation, doubtless Ray will do something at the diner, too.

I’m not sure whether I’m impressed more with their opening a third restaurant in less than a year or how little sleep these guys need.

Two more restaurants for the Martinez family: And speaking of souls lacking sleep, the Martinez trio of Fernando, Christina and Yaniel have two more restaurants in the works. The first is Aretesano Tapas y Vino, which will occupy the corner spot held by A.P. Crafters in Westport Village. (After a two-year run, it closed in March of 2013.)

Fernando Martinez at the always crowded Mussel & Burger Bar.

Fernando Martinez at the always crowded Mussel & Burger Bar.

For those who may not know it, Fernando Martinez created the fantastic Mojito Tapas Restaurant and ran it until selling his interest in the business several  years ago.

When asked for an estimated opening date at Aretesano, he didn’t have a firm one, but he assured me, “Oh, that’s definitely going to happen.”

What he also assured me will happen is a second Mussel & Burger Bar opening in the Whiskey Row development on Main Street. That’s good news for those who’ve waited in line forever to get a seat at the insanely busy restaurant. That it, among the family’s other concepts, was chosen as their first duplicate operation isn’t surprising. It’s a great place to eat and a money maker.

Karter Louis

Karter Louis to open Billy Box: If you wondered where chef David Scales was headed after he left Lilly’s Bistro last year, now we know. Karter Louis, owner-operator of Hillbilly Tea and Hillbilly Tea Shack, has picked him to open Billy Box, a restaurant crossing Appalachian and Japanese cultures and cuisines using the humble bento box.

Its 423 W. Chestnut location puts it next door to the delightful Meta cocktail bar and just a block or so down the street from 8UP.

If you think this food fusion sounds foolish, have a look at the details in this story. Scales is a smart chef, Louis a solid operator. I bet it works. Hopefully it’ll meet Louis’ pre-Derby unveiling goal.

Copper & Kings isn’t just brandy:  Butchertown’s Copper & Kings American Brandy just finished laying down its first barrels of bourbon this past week. That’s right, bourbon. It’s not all brandy anymore, boys and babes.

Copper & Kings Distillery

Copper & Kings Distillery

Ever the brilliant marketers, Lesley and Joe Heron decided they wanted their distillery on the red-hot Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Trail, which left them one requirement: make C&K bourbon.

We’ll have to wait six years to get a taste of it, but given that C&K’s brandy is dandy, we’re confident its bourbon will be also. That the team at Distilled Spirits Epicenter consulted on the project only bolsters that assumption.

By the way, if you’ve never stopped by C&K for a tour, or you have been but haven’t seen its new visitor’s center, you owe it to yourself to stop by. Not only are all distilleries just cool, this one is incredible, sleek and modern, in an amazingly repurposed old building in a neighborhood deserving of revitalization. The visitor’s center is inside a repurposed shipping container, and it’s full of cool branded stuff, especially the ball caps.

The bonus: It’s a stone’s throw from Butchertown Market (home to Cellar Door Chocolates and Work the Metal) and directly across the street from what will become Bobby Benjamin’s Butchertown Grocery this fall.

The Planet Bar & Bistro now open: The Planet Bar & Bistro (1565 Bardstown Road) opened this week; it’s just cattycorner from Cumberland Brews. According to a news release, it serves “classic cocktails, fresh-made bites, and a relaxed, upscale atmosphere where every customer is treated like a regular.”


Marge VanGilder and Jennifer Gilland own the place, and they created it to be a modern-day Cheers-type bar. Expect live music on some nights, varied happy hour deals and all the usual bar benefits.

Operating hours are 4 p.m. Tuesday thru Saturday, until “festivities end.” It’s closed Sunday and Monday. Reservations aren’t necessary, but can be made by calling 654-7866.

Props to the Bourbon Classic: If you’re a bourbon fan and didn’t go to last week’s Bourbon Classic, you owe it to yourself to go next year. Put it on your calendar and start setting aside just $6 a week to ensure you have all the funds required to purchase a VIP ticket. That’s right, go big if you want the best bourbon and cushy seats in the VIP lounge.

Put on by The Bourbon Review and FSA Group, this year’s Classic even exceeded last year’s in scope and offerings. The Friday evening cocktail and appetizer challenge saw local chefs and bartenders elevate their craft to new levels. I have no doubt that was the best place in town that night for bites and beverages. For the admission price, you could not have found a better dinner anywhere. The lively and good-humored crowd was a bonus.

Bartenders Jeremy Johnson and Hannah Kandle at the Bourbon Classic on Friday night.

Bartenders Jeremy Johnson and Hannah Kandle at the Bourbon Classic on Friday night.

The first half of the Saturday event is seminar-centered, a chance for bourbon fans to learn more about the booze and hear our legendary master distillers serve their interesting opinions straight up. (Sounds corny, I know, but these guys are state treasures whom the Classic properly spotlights.)

The evening events come back to food and endless bourbon tastings. Between sipping in seminars and at the main event, I quit counting at 24 teeny tastes. Maintaining sobriety at the Classic takes conscious pacing. (As I learned from whiskey writer Fred Minnick, “Tell anyone pouring a sample, ‘Just a nip, please.’ And if they pour more, throw it out to keep your wits about you.”)

I also had the pleasure of staying at 21c Museum Hotel that weekend. Long story short, it meets the hype. Outstanding service and cool rooms. When you’ve stayed in as many average hotels as I have, you immediately appreciate attractive and solid fixtures and appointments, not to mention beds so comfy you don’t want to leave them in the morning.