If you want to announce yourself as part of the Louisville restaurant scene, serving a piece of fried chicken between waffles, slathering on some maple mayonnaise, and calling it â€œa sandwichâ€ seems as workable a gimmick as any.
And if you want to eat something really good, as part of a menu of truly inventive takes on elevated pub grub, head to Four Pegs Beer Lounge in Germantown and get yourself a chicken and waffle sandwich.
This is no gimmick!
Chef Eric Turner is shaking and stirring the notion of bar food with some clever combinations of ingredients and preparations and in the process, heâ€™s bringing real food to the foodies, who are beginning to frequent that stretch of Goss Avenue in Germantown, that for years has been a shot-and-a-beer oasis.
Four Pegs was opened three years ago by four friends, on the corner of Goss and Spratt Street, as an upgraded version of the neighborhood beer lounge, specializing in craft beer from around the country. Princeton Hurst, a local real estate broker and entrepreneur who bought the property a year ago, saw the potential to make this more than just a bar. He hired Turner, who had been the chef at Amici CafÃ©, and who saw this as an opportunity to really flex his creative muscles.
â€œWeâ€™re trying to legitimize ourselves as much for being a restaurant as for having great beers,â€ Turner says. â€œWe want to give people something they canâ€™t get at other bars.â€
The bar had the usual assortment of finger foods, which every bar requires. And so Turner has tampered only slightly with the â€œstartersâ€ menu of pretzel and beer cheese, fried ravioli, chili cheese fries, and fried green tomatoes.
But he has really got creative on the other side of the menu. Other than a chicken and hummus wrap, most of the main dishes seem conventional: burgers, fish and chips, a Philly cheese steak, and chili. But Turner is stirring the pot â€“ literally. And one of his primary cooking ingredients, sensibly, comes from the vast array of craft beers that come and go on a constantly rotating basis.
So thereâ€™s a craft beer sauce on the beer burger. Thereâ€™s aged ale and mustard cheddar with dill crÃ©me on the red dragon burger. Most interestingly, perhaps, is the beer batter on the fish and chips.
I told them I was not particularly fond of fish, even as the plate arrived â€“ a huge slab of basa (a Vietnamese fish akin to catfish) atop a plateful of long-cut, moist and tender fries. The fish was tender and flaky, with just a faint hint of fishiness. And the batter was light, but redolent of the pale lager that was used to make it.
As my fork kept going back to this tempting creation, Turner reminded me I was not â€œa fish person.â€
Donâ€™t become married to the tastes of the beer-infused dishes, though. Restaurant manager Greg Torre, himself a veteran of Amici, told me the offering is constantly changing, as old kegs are emptied and new ones hooked up. That happens as often as a couple of times a week. So the taste of the fish I had so surprisingly fallen in love with might vary slightly the next time I order it.
Torre said the craft kegs come from all over the country, but he intends to concentrate more on Kentuckyâ€™s impressive local fare going forward. This time of year, youâ€™re likely to find a heavy assortment of stouts, porters and dark ales, but even those can be ephemeral. A recent beer list on the restaurantâ€™s web site had such intriguing items as a Bells Cherry Stout, a Stone Double Bastard American strong ale, a Stone Smoked Vanilla Porter, a Bosteelâ€™s Belgian Tripel Karmeliet, a Virtue Lapinette cider â€“ all inviting on a cold February evening.
But, said Torre, gone, gone, gone, gone and gone. He said heâ€™s trying to keep the web site more up-to-date, but at a turnover of two or three times a week, thatâ€™s clearly difficult.
The good news is, youâ€™ll probably find a beer you like every time youâ€™re in and there will be more frequent opportunites for that as Turner is adding lunch six times a week, and a Sunday brunch that will soon become a weekend brunch.
So we sampled from that menu a Philly cheesesteak hash with Provolone cheese, onions and peppers and house-cut home fries. A lightly fried egg sat atop finely cut, but tender and tasteful beef. The Provolone was a welcome, sharp and smokey but not-too-intrusive, element. The onions and peppers did what onions and peppers are supposed to do with hash.
His chicken, fried in a three-stage breading process that includes Japanese-style Panko bread crumbs, recently put Four Pegs on a list of â€œLouisvilleâ€™s 8 Best Fried Chicken Spots,â€ according to Thrillist.com.
â€œThereâ€™s something special about their version that grabs you and kisses you all over. The homey pub atmosphere probably helps, but it still canâ€™t explain the chemistry of why Four Pegs does this so… right.â€
Turner loves the attention to his chicken-and-waffle specialty, but he insists thereâ€™s a full panoply of warm-you-up comfort food. Or, as the menu says, â€œEverything on our menu will feed your soul as much as it will feed your appetite.â€ VT
Four Pegs Beer Lounge is at 1053 Goss Ave. in Germantown. Hours are 11 a.m.-11 p.m. during the week, 3-11 p.m. on weekends. Call 502.634.1447 or visit fourpegsbeerlounge.com.
Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune