The Silver Dollar, Louisville’s only east-end honkytonk, will make an already good thing even better this Saturday when it launches a weekend brunch.
Don’t expect your standard sticky-sweet, custom-omelet, waffles-while-you-wait breakfast here. This is a whole different animal centered on authentic Mexican dishes and offshoots that, by drawing ingredients from Sliver Dollar’s dinner menu, lean the cuisine definitively toward the savory side.
Prices range from $6 to $14, with lots of bargains in between. Service times are from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Managing partner Larry Rice said executive chef Jonathan Schwartz spent months planning the menu, and Schwartz credited his wife, a native of Mexico, with helping him keep it real items from her homeland.
“There were times when I said, ‘What about this ingredient? What about adding cheese here?’ and she’d look at me and shake her head no,” said the soft-spoken Schwartz, who Rice says is a painstaking perfectionist. Adding with a grin, he said, “I think she’s trustworthy.”
Though I and some friends didn’t taste the whole menu—couldn’t taste even a quarter of it without endangering our innards—what we got was fantastic foods I told Rice I even preferred to Silver Dollar’s dinner menu. In fact, nearly all those dishes would go nicely in the PM slot.
One tasty bit was a smoked trout salad—not the leathery dry stuff we all choked down in the ‘80s—laced with caper vinaigrette, frisée, spinach, barely kissed with smoke and topped with a julienne of crisp trout skin. Served chilled, not cold, it was perfect in my estimation, though a pair of cohorts thought a little warmth was in order.
An easy target of praise was the huevos rancheros, a dish I’ve liked for years even in its unauthentic form with fried eggs piled atop black beans. Sliver Dollar’s version had those elements but with the addition of a delicate and sneakily spicy salsa roja that elevated the dish well beyond any I’ve had or made.
The smoked chicken enfrijoladas was another stunner. A blend fresh corn tortillas, queso fresco, black beans, onions and cilantro and perfectly smoked, shredded chicken, the dish is a knockout I’d have at any time of the day.
Depending on which moment you ask me, my favorite might have been the fish nopales ceviche, a display of Schwartz’s delicate touch with tricky ingredients. The ceviche (made from raw, diced corvina) was perfectly tender, not rubbery, citrusy without being acidic, and bearing a slow, soft burn from serrano peppers. I could eat that all day.
But enough of my prattling. Just read the menu for yourself (click on the image above), and forgive me for the stain or two on the scanned copy. Had I not been in a blissful, post-meal torpor, I’d have asked for a clean one.
Recommendation: Seize the opportunity to enjoy this now before the real crowds crunch in and before the weather gets hot. Yesterday, Silver Dollar’s retractable front doors were open and the spring warmth flowed clear through the restaurant to the newly opened patio out back. To me, at least, it’s a remarkably different place lit by sunlight and open to the world than on cold winter nights when all shut it.
Sound accomplishments: To any who have enjoyed Silver Dollar but hated the noise level, know that Rice et al continue to work on it. Doubtless the crowds still frequenting the place will always deliver big decibels, but Rice said customers have complained that the country music blaring from the sound system “has been too much for a lot of people. They’ve told us they won’t come back until that’s fixed.”
Part of the problem is Silver Dollar’s austere décor is correct to its honkytonk theme, but that means every surface is hard and reflective.
“Mom’s Music has really worked to fix the problem, but we’ve got a ways to go,” said Rice. Changes include the ability to reduce music volume blaring from speakers directly over dining tables, and additional consideration given the playlist, which Rice plans weeks in advance. “We’re getting a lot of good ideas, but the problem is some fixes can be really expensive. And when we do make changes, we want to make sure it doesn’t change the look noticeably.”