Good Ole Times at Manny & Merle

Maple bourbon bacon picks.

Maple bourbon bacon picks.

Nothing makes a UofL game night complete quite like stopping by Manny & Merle before tip-off, and grabbing a few drinks and tacos, all with the express aim of building up good cheer before the big game. But while Manny & Merle has always been a great spot to stop by for live music as well as to eat before a Cardinals game at the KFC Yum! Center across the street, it’s a little small to accommodate its many fans. As a result, management has decided to not only expand the space by taking over the space next door, but they are also bringing in a tasty new menu to mark the occasion.

“We’re bringing in an additional 70-80 seats and we will have a built in stage for all of our live music on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays,” explains Bruce Rosenblatt, managing partner at Manny & Merle. “We’re known for our live music already so we will have a much larger stage and we now have extra space in the restaurant.”

Nashville style hot chicken.

Nashville style hot chicken.

And so it was obviously our duty to check out what the Market Street hot spot had new up its sleeves. First up from the new menu was Nashville style hot chicken, which according to Rosenblatt, consists of chicken that has been brined for 24 hours, then seasoned in homemade chicken batter and then dipped in hot seasoned oil. The result was spicy and delicious. While the heat was far from overwhelming, the slice of pickle on top proved to be a bonus, while the simple creation of placing two large pieces of chicken on some humble bread and relying on the flavors to carry through proved a winning combination.

The rustic home cooking continued when we tried the all new mac ‘n’ cheese, which consisted of five artisanal cheeses, the types of which Rosenblatt is keeping closely guarded. Gooey, chewy and more than filling by itself the mac ‘n’ cheese is a real treat – especially as the cheeses selected complement each other perfectly into a tasty and fun mess, which is made even better because of the topping of panko bread crumbs, as well as dry herbs.

But if mac ‘n’ cheese is not your thing, Rosenblatt and team have come up with something equally traditional, but also rich and sinful. The loaded Merle’s fries which consist of thin seasoned fries and ladled with queso dip, as well as bacon bits, green onions, Romano cheese and fresh jalapenos. The best thing about this choice is that if you want fries alone, go for it, but every time you want some rich, creamy queso dip you only have to dig a little further to find the real treasure. A great side that’s more than filling on its own, or works as a perfect complement to the Nashville style chicken.

Loaded Merle’s fries.

Loaded Merle’s fries.

As refreshing sides go, the new Southern vinegar slaw with homemade dressing that’s drizzled lovingly over cabbage, carrots, and onions is just right. Elsewhere, there’s also a fresh kale salad with a dressing and fresh roasted almonds, currants and Romano cheese. Each of these makes for a great healthier choice if fries and mac ‘n’ cheese are not your desire.

While we did not try it that day, there is also a Dixie chicken sandwich on the menu which we’ll be returning to try for sure, as a roasted chicken breast topped with a special Bama sauce sounds enticing enough, and it’s served with a side of coleslaw.

“We just wanted to branch out and expand,” explains Rosenblatt. “We realized we needed to do something new with the menu. Our homemade tacos are still our best-seller but we also wanted to try and bring Southern fried and Nashville hot chicken to Louisville as it’s such a craze in the national market.”

The last thing we tried before collapsing due to food trauma were the bacon picks, which come six to an order, and consist of exceedingly thick slices of grilled bacon served with different types of dipping sauces. On the day we visited, we tried the maple bourbon sauce made with Old Forester. It’s sticky, it’s awesome. VT

Manny & Merle is situated at 122 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202. For more information call 502.290.8888.