Open in the fall of 2014, Ward 426 is the brainchild of Shawn Ward (formerly of Louisville food bastion Jack Fryâ€™s) as well as chef and restaurateur Dean Corbett and Nirmesh Agrawal (formerly general manager of Corbettâ€™s). The goal was to open a restaurant that combined the fresh and unique flavors of Kentuckiana, while paying tribute to the possibilities of American cuisine in general â€“ great ingredients combined with a passion for bringing the best out of them. And so The Voice-Tribune made its journey to the outpost at the end of Baxter Avenue to sample some of the fine fare that has got much of the cityâ€™s food scene excited.
If thereâ€™s one thing to note about this eatery on Baxter Avenue itâ€™s that thereâ€™s an unadulterated cornucopia of meats heavily peppering the menu. Beef, chicken and pork, yes â€“ but think duck, rabbit and an array of seafood selections.
A standout on the appetizer side of the menu is undoubtedly the selection of country hams. Local, with the exception of the famed Bentonâ€™s of Madisonville, Tennessee. Like many items on Wardâ€™s menu their goal is to celebrate the produce on our doorstep, either in Louisville or wider Kentucky. Thereâ€™s Colonel Bill Newsomeâ€™s ham from Princeton, as well as Scottâ€™s from Greenville. And while the meat from Woodlands Pork might hail from West Virginia, itâ€™s cured right here in the heart of the city. Each with their own soft, velvety and smoky flavors, the ham selection is a must, especially as they are served with house-made red eye butter and freshly baked biscuits.
If ham is not to your particular liking though, there is an equally elaborate selection of cheeses that come courtesy of Judy Schad and her goat cheeses from her artisanal dairy farm just across the river in Greenville, Indiana. A particular highlight being the Mont St Francis –Â an earthy and flavor filled cheese, perfect for spreading on bread. Alternatively the Piperâ€™s Pyramid â€“ with a thick vein of paprika running through is equally delicious. The cheese board comes with a homemade jam
In terms of more substantial appetizers itâ€™s hard to go wrong with the gnocchi. The reason? They come lovingly cooked with melt-in-the-mouth slices of duck breast while drizzled with a Worcestershire sauce gastrique, that adds cutting acidity to meat and creamy fluffy gnocchi. For a slightly lighter choice, the hay-smoked beets served with apples with golden raisins is a great choice, with pine nuts adding crunch and a hearty note within.
But itâ€™s with the entrees that Shawn Wardâ€™s kitchen truly takes off. A mustard flavored barley crust atop of a perfectly cooked pork tenderloin was fabulous, especially as freshness was provided with a port wine soaked pear to add sweetness and a base of spaghetti cut squash. The seafood option of Scottish farm raised salmon was an equally good choice â€“ the fish was cooked to a delicate finish with added moisture coming from succulent cabbage, crunch from roasted cauliflower and saltiness in the form of a dollop of caviar courtesy of US farm raised sturgeon.Â Â Another unquestionable highlight was the fillet of beef that came in the guise of a deconstructed beef bourguignon with seasonal vegetables creating a bed for a perfectly cooked piece of fillet.
While the food is at the forefront of Ward 426, it must be noted that the interior goes far in crafting a dining experience. Black and white tiled floors, reclaimed wood, neutral off-white and creams create a calm and subdued ambience with a classic look. A great wine list and extensive bourbon and whiskey menu is also a highlight courtesy of Agrawal.
If dinner is not the time you want to stop by Ward 426 then they have an equally impressive array of lunch options from a burger (topped with caramelized onion, Morbier cheese and cornichons and arugula) to a simple but still decadentÂ ham sandwich with smoked mozzarella, Black Forest and country ham with a cognac mayonnaise). Of course for the health minded there are salads such as the spinach salad (with roasted beets, applewood smoked bacon and roasted tomatoes), grain salad (consisting of farro, kasha, oats, pumpkin and granola) as well as a fresh and zesty dinosaur kale salad (drizzled with a parmesan vinaigrette).
Put simply, if you want to eat well, enjoy the fineries of Louisvilleâ€™s and Kentuckyâ€™s best raised and grown offerings then Ward 426 is the place. Go there for St. Valentineâ€™s Day, or any other time of year and you wonâ€™t be disappointed.
HOURS: Lunch – Monday – Friday 11 a.m. – 2.30 p.m.
Dinner – Monday-Thursday 5 – 10 p.m. â€¢ Friday Saturday 5 – 11 p.m. â€¢ Sunday – Closed.
For more information call 502.365.2505 or visitÂ www.ward426.com.
Photos by Chris Humphreys | The Voice-Tribune