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    Eat & Swig

    The Louisville Fantasy Restaurant Draft [Food & Dining]
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    37 Caffe Classico 

    When Caffe Classico first opened, it was for lunch only. I would meet my friend Alan there usually twice per week. We loved the clean, well-lighted Scandy quality of the place. On alternating days, each of us would order a favorite salad while the other got a sandwich, and we would split them. We never got tired of that wasabi tuna, not once. Then Alan moved far away, and I was bereft. Until…owner Tommie Mudd expanded both the size of the restaurant and the scope of its menu, which now includes, among many other bistro selections, gourmet pizzas and, hands-down, the best French fries in town. So now I’m back again every week, this time with my teenage son, who would seriously elect to eat at Classico three times per day if allowed. (2144 Frankfort Ave.)

    — MW

    38 The English Grill

    Not that I had reservations about the talent of my picks, but my young team needed veteran leadership, as the restaurant business can be brutal and tedious. The 90-year-old Brown Hotel’s fine-dining establishment can be called on for a locker-room pep talk should my young guns suffer from poor morale because of, say, a deepening recession. Restaurants aren’t like humans; they have to excel and not just exist to make it into their 80s. (335 W. Broadway)


    39 Jasmine

    Amateurs eat fried rice; serious people go for Szechuan-style beef maw and tendon. Jasmine brings out the big guns (intestines, ears, thousand-year eggs) while still doing the timid right. Whether you crave the numbness of Szechuan pepper in Mala radish or the safety of sweet-and-sour chicken, Jasmine will make you happy you took the trip to Middletown. (13825 English Villa Drive)


    40 Volare

    I spent my formative years in New Jersey. Now I live here, which means I haven’t had a good cannoli in years. Hadn’t, that is, until Volare. And it is not just the cannolis that take me back to my Jersey roots. Granted, I like my Italian with Godfather music playing in the background and heavy linens. But if you’re not into all the formalities of sitting at a table, the bar is the spot to eat. The pizzas are extraordinary and the pastas would make Vito Corleone smile. My advice is to take the cannoli and get around to trying the rest of the menu, too. (2300 Frankfort Ave.)


    41 Sari Sari

    A hybrid player of sorts, this tiny storefront restaurant is decorated with splashes of tropical color with a laid-back feel to match. Grab a seat at one of the half-dozen or so tables and get ready for perspiration-inducing native dishes from the Philippines, with influences from India, Spain and China. Chef Lourdes Fronteras is an ace at global, home-style cooking. If she is running the fish taco as a special, get it. (2339 Frankfort Ave.)


    42 Doc Crow’s

    Doc Crow’s seems designed for the tourist trade, a please-’em-all palace strongly supported by our city’s urban boosters. Despite its air of artificiality, the restaurant does manage to turn out a pretty good barbecue sandwich and ably shows off its former distillery space. (127 W. Main St.)


    43 Oishii Sushi

    Late in a draft, the strategy shifts from just choosing the best available to filling roster holes. In this instance: 1. I have two kids younger than three and none of my earlier picks specialize in takeout, and 2. Marco Polo didn’t hit the road for 24 years for Italian to be my easternmost cuisine. My inaugural meal from Oishii Sushi also marked the first time this veteran chopsticks user had to break out a knife for the rolls. All six types of Kentucky-sized pieces and rolls I sampled were as fresh and flavorful as any sushi I’ve had. Roger Sterling would rethink his position on the Japanese if he ate here. (2810 Taylorsville Road)


    44 Taco Punk 

    Louisville foodies will know that Taco Punk was recently savaged in the semi-alternative media, aka the Louisville Cardinal. The scurrilous screed had valid points to make about the gentrification of NuLu, but yo, people! Taco Punk is not the enemy. Yes, you can find better tortillas at, say, Trader Joe’s, and yes, you really need to douse your entrée in one of the dozen salsas at hand (but at least they have those salsas!). Two major things Taco Punk has going for it: 1. It’s considerably cheaper than anywhere else on East Market, which means 2. At any given hour, you will find patrons of varying age, class and color inside and out. The hipster vibe here is not, for once, only young, rich and white. Plus, it’s kind of fun to belly up to the cafeteria line and say, “Gimme a punk platter.” Bonus: There’s barely any markup on the wine and beer prices. (736 E. Market St.)

    — MW

    45 Toast 

    I started at this magazine in January 2007 and have basically wanted to write about Toast’s bacon-and-egg sandwich ever since. But each time we do a food-related package, some jerk editor shoots me down. Oh, how I’ve waited for this. Here goes: They meet between airy ciabatta halves, that handsome over-medium egg and the stunning Dijon vinaigrette. The rich Gorgonzola excites things. Long slices of bacon. Some biting. The yolk explodes. (620 E. Market St., 141 E. Market St. in New Albany)


    46 Papalinos

    Geez, how about that dude freaking out about his pick of Garage Bar at 33? And that other guy choosing Coals one slot earlier? Both places do fine pies. The problem is their kitchens ration toppings. Not at Papalinos. Worker behind the counter convinced me to go with the house-cured bacon, and I folded the slice in half to create a fat calzone. (947 Baxter Ave., 337 W. Cardinal Blvd.)


    47 Simply Thai 

    The last thing Simply Thai needs is any more publicity. Try (go on, just try) to get a reservation any night of the week between 6:30 and 8. Well, maybe if you booked half a year in advance. The place is huge compared to the space it once occupied across the street on Wallace Avenue, begging the question: How the heck much carryout service did it provide back then? But never mind. Let’s focus on now. Simply Thai is the perfect spot for a family-friendly Southeast Asian dining experience. Lots of big, roomy booths and large tables surrounded by a dozen tables for two. You might imagine this would make for a loud outing, yet it’s easier to hear your tablemates here than it is in many allegedly more intimate interiors. Maybe my favorite thing about ordering at Simply Thai is that you can convey to the waiters that when you say, “Hotter than five — I want it Thai hot,” you mean it. And when your kid says, “Me, I want zero heat,” they get that, too. Don’t even think of placing an order that does not include the edamame dumpling appetizer. (323 Wallace Ave.)

    — MW

    48 Wagner's Pharmacy

    European comfort food, French, Latin American, new American, Argentinean, Spanish, pizza, traditional American, Japanese: The flavor my squad needed most with my last pick was local. Sure, there’s not a chain in the bunch, but you could plop any of my restaurants in a major U.S. city and they wouldn’t be out of place. What’s more Louisville than a good affordable hot meal, Derby memorabilia and Vicodin? (3113 S. Fourth St.)


    49 Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse

    The Jeff Ruby’s experience is much like an NFL offensive lineman in an expensive suit. Beefy, bling-y and most likely stuffed with steroids, Ruby’s is the place your Axe-spraying, chain-wearing, lounge-lizard uncle spends his racetrack winnings on expensive feedlot steak “crowned” (translation: flavor-boosted) with stuffed asparagus, crabmeat and béarnaise sauce. Spend the extra money for the bone-in, “better aged” beef, and live it up like you’re in Vegas. Jeff Ruby’s: Classy with a capital “K.” (325 W. Main St.)


    50 The Silver Dollar

    My pick for a scrappy running back. Housed in an old firehouse (added bonus: on cool days, the restaurant raises the old garage doors), its highlights include a big 42-foot wooden bar, a bourbon-and-Mexican-tequila-dominated drink menu and anyone from the likes of Merle Haggard to Johnny Cash playing on vinyl. The Mexican/Southern-style food is perfect for soaking up copious amounts of aforementioned spirits. But it is the honky-tonk atmosphere that keeps my friends and I sidling up to this bar — just don’t crack a beer bottle over anybody’s head. (1761 Frankfort Ave.)


    Photo: Nicholas Karem and Ted Tarquinio


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    Didn't I tell you? I run this place! Not much goes on here without me knowing...I'm always watching.

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