Restaurant: Sidebar at Whiskey Row, Louisville, Kentucky
I love eating out with friends. I really, really do. Especially when it’s a fellow co-worker who is as much a foodie as my roommate and I. I mean, how can you say “NO” to trying out new spots right in your own backyard? I can’t. I love trying out new restaurants. But, with my food allergies, this sometimes means an extra level of difficulty, or sometimes…me bringing my own food to eat while they order and dine from the establishment itself. And…yes…I am okay with that. It has never bothered me at all. It bothers the people I dine with at times, but I’m perfectly fine eating one of my protein bars and then grabbing something that is safe for me to eat at home.
It’s my body…so it’s my choice, right? Right!
Anyway, one of our IT guys at work had gone to this local burger spot in Louisville, Kentucky that he was over the moon for their food. He’d gone there a couple of times and said that they never gave him something he didn’t like. Not only was their bourbon amazing, but their burgers were to die for.
It sounded like something Cathy needed to try out…because that girl loves her burgers. I did note that they made a vegetarian burger as well, so took it upon myself to post on their Facebook page as to what, if any, gluten-free options Sidebar at Whiskey Row had to offer. What happened next was one of the most amazing and wonderful things any restaurant establishment can do for someone who wishes to dine with them, but has certain dietary needs. I had a quick response from Jason Pierce, Sidebar’s Assistant General Manager and the Culinary Director providing his e-mail address so that I could contact him about my visit on Friday evening. I immediately sent him an e-mail to which he said that all salads are prepared in a manner that would be safe for me to eat, being that they are properly handled, washed, and plated so that there would be no cross-contamination. He also said that if I wanted to, I could bring in my own salad dressing that he could dress the salad with as well. I appreciated that suggestion immensely. And, finally, he said that they could prepare the Mushroom Edamame Burger (the vegetarian option) without the gluten ingredients. I told him I was fine with a salad, and that I really appreciated the burger option, but with it needing to be cooked on a separate, and clean, surface…the salad would probably be easiest.
A few back and forth messages via e-mail and Jason ensured me that he would make sure I had a fantastic dining experience on Friday.
Fast forward to Friday. The three of us left work and headed down to Sidebar at Whiskey Row immediately, not really knowing what the traffic situation in Louisville would be like. It wasn’t too bad and we were parked and heading into Sidebar by 5 p.m. We were greeted warmly and shown to a table in the corner. The three of us settled in and all ordered waters (I was sticking with water as I had a 12 mile run the next morning). Justin already knew he was getting an Old Fashioned ($10.00), which is sugar and bitters topped with whiskey and then touched off with a twist of citrus rind. He told Cathy that it was one of his favorite drinks there, especially since Sidebar is known for their barrel-aged cocktails. You see, Sidebar at Whiskey Row mixes all the shelf-stable components of a cocktail and ages the mixture in a charred barrel. How’s that for unique. And you won’t find these cocktails on any other menu in the area. Anyway…that was all Cathy had to hear, apparently…
My two carnivorous friends put in their orders after our drinks arrived. Justin decided to go for the Ambulance Chaser ($12.00), which is a Certified Angus Beef burger topped with smoky BBQ sauce, cheddar cheese, smoked bacon, tomato jam and tobacco onions. He opted for the Truffle-Parm fries ($2.00) with his burger. Cathy decided on the Court Reporter ($12.00), which is a Certified Angus Beef burger topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado, honey-chipotle aioli, and roasted red pepper relish. She opted for the sweet potato fries with her burger($2.00). And…she went ahead and decided to try an Old Fashioned without sampling Justin’s…so that was put in as well.
I mentioned to our waitress before ordering that I had been talking to Jason Pierce about my meal. She said she would go to the kitchen and talk to him, so when she returned she said that Jason recommended the Kale Salad ($8.00), without the Parmesan cheese and without the toasted almonds. I said that sounded great. After all…I love, love, LOVE kale. I was super excited.
With the orders in, Cathy and Justin decided to enjoy their cocktails while we sat around, took in the ambiance of the restaurant itself, and had good conversation. First of all, you might notice a courtroom theme for Sidebar. You are very observant. That was entirely the point. Not to mention, the restaurant itself is located in a grand 19th-Century building next to the Second Street Bridge, and boasts lofty ceilings, towering windows, a beautiful bar, and comfortable seating. It’s simply a stunning place to dine. Another thing that Sidebar is quite proud of is that they created their own unique hamburger blend, which is a mix of certified Angus beef, chuck, brisket, and short rib, creating a burger that uses no trimmings, added fats, fillers, or binders. So, for you carnivores or people with friends who love a good burger…this might be a great place to take them.
It wasn’t too long before our food arrived at the table. Everything looked amazing. My salad was a work of art. Honestly. A bed of finely shredded kale, piled high with carrots, greens, carrots, and served with a citrus vinaigrette. Rimming the edge of it was gorgeous heirloom tomatoes and fresh cucumber. It was not the described kale salad from the menu, but something that Jason did up special for me. No sooner had the waitress left but Jason comes to the table to introduce himself and tell me a little bit about what he put together for me. I shook his hand and thanked him for his help and for everything. This salad was going to be epic…I could already tell. Jason returned to the kitchen and I dug in.
HOLY COW! This is definitely one of the best salads I have ever had the honor of eating. And I’m not just saying that. First of all, it’s not your typical green salad that most restaurants would give you. I loved the way the kale was shredded, making it the bed of the salad, and not difficult to eat, nor clunky. The green onion, carrots, and cucumber made fantastic green vegetables to serve with it. And those heirloom tomatoes…they were juicy, fresh, and just melted in my mouth. The citrus vinaigrette was out-of-this-world and made for the perfect pairing with every component of this salad. It was a nice hit of sweetness that matched the earthy flavors of the vegetables to perfection. I almost didn’t want to dive into it, because it just looked gorgeous, but I was hungry and I definitely wanted to see what Jason’s salad creation tasted like. If heaven was a salad bar, then this would be the salad it would serve every day. I would never get tired of eating this. It worked. It worked well. And I couldn’t stop eating it even if I tried.
Cathy and Justin devoured their burgers and fries and polished off their cocktails. Everyone was satisfied and happy with their meals. Cathy and I already decided this is definitely a place we need to take our friend Greg, who LOVES a good burger. I think he would love what this place served up.
I really wanted to once again express my appreciation to Sidebar and to Jason Pierce, specifically, for not only addressing my dietary needs, but for exceeding all expectations when it came to my dinner choice that evening. I was blown away and can’t wait to return again for another round of that amazing Kale Salad. I have been bragging to everyone, my running group included (because we ran by the restaurant on Saturday morning) about the food, the service, and the attention that is given to every aspect of customer service and customer satisfaction at Sidebar. I was beyond impressed.
Louisville is certainly lucky to have such a great gourmet burger establishment. Not just because of the value of the food produced, but also the attention to detail and the personal touches that are given…without even being asked. I will forever recommend Sidebar to people, simply because they took good care of me, someone with special dietary needs, and they did it very well. Going above and beyond…that’s what they do.
Congratulations, Sidebar…you definitely passed the bar!! In fact, you just set the bar higher for every other local restaurant!