The brunch experience at Proof on Main
Story and photos by J.C. Phelps
I have one word for you – and it’s an important one.
There, I said it. As a millennial gastronome, a strong correlation between my generation and the art of brunching is assumed. While I am not a fan of hasty generalizations, I must say the assumption is true.
The Louisville food scene executes a lot with style and elegance, and I would argue that brunch is one of the things our local chefs do best. There are few that do it better than Proof on Main. A gem of our city and a popular dinner destination, it would be a travesty for diners to miss their small but mighty brunch menu.
One of my favorite parts about dining at Proof on Main is that it is not just a culinary experience; it is an artistic and cultural experience, too. Attached to 21c Museum Hotel, a downtown icon, Proof’s eclectic, thought-provoking, contemporary art spills over into the restaurant – from funky photographs, wallpaper and color combinations to an appreciation for animals, cultural commentary and stunning furniture.
For brunch, patrons are immediately faced with a heavily-divided menu: Starters, Eggs, Not Eggs, Sandwiches and Sides. There are six side items on the menu, though the other categories have only two to four options. My philosophy on food is that you need not do a lot; well-executed plates often consist of merely a handful of modest, high-quality ingredients.
My brunch started with the orange carrot bread ($7), a flavorful offering that I could not overlook. Highlights included a dual-faceted glaze (orange and ginger), candied pistachios and Chantilly cream. The lightness of the Chantilly balanced the denseness of the bread in a beautiful way.
Next was the “hot” fried chicken ($12), a Nashville staple that Louisville has welcomed with open arms. The batter was perfect: sufficient yet not aggressively overdone. The heat was mild yet provided a complex flavor profile. Highlights included hot pepper, bourbon barrel relish and bread and butter pickles. Served on top of white bread, as is tradition, I suggest adding a side of the creamy parmesan for an extra bit of both flavor and moistness. It is divine.
As a Southern boy, I couldn’t resist also trying the shrimp ‘n’ grits ($16). This was one of the more unique takes that I have had on the dish, and I finished it in pure bliss. Highlights included charred onion, chicken jus, blue gouda, chicharrones (cracklings/pork rinds) and a farm egg that released a delicious yolk over the dish. The chicken jus naturally enhanced the boldness of the dish, while the chicharrones added the texture that a soft dish like this needs.
It would be erroneous if I failed to mention the beautifully-crafted cocktails that one can find at Proof. Other accompaniments that are not to be missed are both the strawberry jam and orange marmalade, both of which are great additions to many menu offerings. The composition is reminiscent of home for me since I grew up on a farm. While the texture and consistency is rustic, I found the flavors to be sophisticated and pure.
Proof on Main’s take on Southern food is artistic and imaginative – a perspective that stands out in the Louisville scene. The menu boasts classics like frittatas, brisket and eggs benedict to name a few. However, Chef Mike Wajda and his team aim to take all of the expectations and preconceived notions that you have about dishes and surpass them in style.
Breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, cocktails – they have it all. By dining at this downtown powerhouse, you are embarking on a culinary journey that is something to write home about. Be sure to visit the hotel’s larger art galleries either before or after your visit. It is the perfect way to end a beautiful meal.
As always, happy eating, happy traveling, happy living. V
In addition to his role as The Voice’s new Tastes writer, J.C. Phelps is a Kentucky-based food, travel and lifestyle blogger. You can connect with him by following @JCPeats on Twitter and Instagram or visit JCPeats.com.