Have you ever taken a wrong turn and found a fantastic place that you likely never would have discovered if you hadn’t gotten lost? Well, as it is nestled back in the Bluegrass Industrial Park, a person without a preconceived plan to visit the restaurant would basically have to lose his or her way in order to simply happen upon Charr’d Bourbon Kitchen & Lounge in the Marriott Louisville East. However, its hidden location is no reason to miss the fantastic seasonal and bourbon-inspired menu offered here by Executive Chef Ryan Montgomery, formerly of Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse in Belterra Casino and Masa’s in San Francisco. It’s right off of 64 by Hurstbourne Lane, and it is most definitely worth a visit or two. Or five.
Said Chef Montgomery, “Charr’d offers a true taste of Kentucky. Bourbon is America’s native spirit, which is why we’re excited to provide both visitors and locals a taste of Kentucky’s culture straight from the heart of bourbon country.” This casually sophisticated place is very new, but it has started off in all the right ways.
To begin our meal, we received warm, fluffy cheddar rolls with smoked bourbon butter. Yes – smoked bourbon butter. It was gloriously delicious, tasting exactly as one might imagine from the name, and I would like very much to feverishly make out with the person who thought of it. Just sayin’. We were also given some “grand dad’s hot water cornbread”, which was incredibly moist with a subtle kick of spice.
The appetizer selection has something for everyone with choices that range from solid bar food to upscale and exciting delights. My date and I both had trouble deciding which ones sounded best, so we ordered almost all of them!
The “Eggs N Hell”, deviled eggs topped with candied bacon, BBQ sauce, and red pepper, were perfectly creamy and just spectacular. I generally despise deviled eggs, but these were wonderful. Smooth and well-cooked with crispy bacon perched on top, the presentation was lovely and each bite was the quintessential breakfast combination of bacon and eggs. I would eat these every morning if I could.
The “Johnny Cake Quesadillas” were surprising and quite tasty, served with fresh guacamole and salsa. Inside the crisped tortillas was a thin Johnny cake, tender smoked chicken, seasonal chutney, and a nice bite of Barren County cheddar. A note at the bottom of the description indicated that one could replace the chicken with shrimp or steak.
The “Falls City Smoked Chicken Dip” and the “Barrel Wings” were both great bar snacks. The dip, a thick concoction made with Falls City beer, was warm and satisfying, surrounded by toasted pieces of soft pretzel. It was far too heavy to be eaten with a large meal, but would be great to nibble while on a bar stool, drinking bourbon and swaying to “Don’t Stop Believin’” as you chat with a friend. Served with raw vegetables and a selection of sauces, the wings had a flavorful crust and the meat inside was tender.
Before we decided to order most of the appetizers, my choice was going to be the “Holy Ravioli”, which are made with an assortment of local mushrooms, oven-dried tomatoes, and Barren County cheddar. The pasta was handmade and the filling was earthy with a spectacular tang from the cheddar. Stunningly delicious. These should be an entrée.
The “Shrimp Tacos” were… EXCITING. Perfectly cooked jumbo shrimp, tempura battered and fried, were snuggled inside of soft tortillas and topped with an exotic assortment of cilantro, lime, pineapple, orange, and (of all things) blueberries! Never in my life would I have paired those tart little orbs with tempura shrimp, but it was really great. The tacos had a perfect balance of sweet, sour, bitter, and salty, with a slowly-spreading punch of spice. Bringing together some of the best flavors of Florida, Hawaii, and Japan, this dish was one of the most visually appealing plates of the evening. And, as if they didn’t already sound amazing, I’d like to add that the tacos were resting on slices of orange and pineapple that sat amidst a richly-colored pool of thick chili butter sauce for dipping. The presentation was stunning. Also, a cocktail Made of Maker’s Mark 46 bourbon, a splash of sweet Vermouth, and a chocolate cherry, the "‘Maker’s 46 Manhattan", went perfectly with these tacos.
After gorging ourselves with appetizers, we ordered the “Spinach Salad” and the “Eastern Salad”, which were two of the best choices we made all night. The Spinach Salad, a lovely combination of greens with grilled asparagus, plump raspberries, golden raisins, red onions, feta cheese, barrel-planked salmon, and a toasted almond citronette, was both visually appealing and delicious. It was also garnished with crispy, crunchy fried potato straws. I enjoyed every bite, but I have to admit that it was upstaged by my date’s choice, the Eastern Salad, which is in the main photograph of this article because it was the most beautiful dish of the evening. However, as gorgeous as it was, its looks were nothing compared to how incredible it tasted. Asian style greens with carrots, red onion, cilantro, spicy peanuts, sesame, and ginger dressing were combined and laced with tender chilled bourbon chicken, then topped with crispy wonton ribbons. It may sound simple and I do personally have an affinity for Asian cuisine, but it truly was spectacular, and I would return just to order this salad.
For her entrée, my friend chose the “Charr’d Chicken”, which was served with cherry wood-smoked bacon, maple, truffle, charr’d asparagus, mashed potatoes, and natural gravy. As soon as the waitress sat the plate on the table, my senses were enveloped by the distinct and luscious smell of truffles. The chicken was tender, smoky, and spicy. We were told that this is the most popular entrée on the menu, and I can certainly see why.
I ordered the “Bootlegger Rib Eye”, an 18 oz. premium aged steak smoked over bourbon barrel wood, garnished with garlic steak butter and resting on a pillow made of crunchy fried onions. As the new Executive Chef spent 10 years working at Jeff Ruby’s, I expected a great steak. And that’s exactly what I received! It was tender, juicy, thick, smoky, and downright fantastic. Put some hair on my chest.
For dessert, we sampled 4 items: chocolate cake with a drizzle of chocolate, key lime pie, cheesecake with cherry-bourbon sauce, and Kern’s pecan pie drizzled with bourbon-caramel. In the center was a cloud of whipped cream with some bourbon-macerated berries. All were a lovely end to the meal, but our mutual favorite was the pecan pie.
The menu makes references to pre- and post-prohibition with its section titles, including “Before 1920” for appetizers, “Prohibition” for salads, “After 1933” for entrées, and “Bootlegger Burger Bar” for some scrumptious sounding burgers. Labeled “Side Cars”, the side dishes listed on the menu were a collection of homestyle comfort foods, such as hash browns, fries, country greens, mac and cheese, cole slaw, and baked potatoes. I love the references to the time of prohibition, but I wish they would add some fun information about the historical period to the menu to explain the titles and offer guests something interesting to read while making their selections!
The bar boasts a collection of more than 80 different bourbons, as well as several fine wines, an assortment of beers by the pint or by the bottle, and a list of specialty cocktails, including the Chocolate Mint Julep.
The food here, made with locally and regionally-sourced ingredients, is exciting and delicious, and the prices, especially for the entrées, are definitely fair. Almost every dish is infused with the sweet and complex flavor of bourbon. And the best part? If you happen to enjoy lots of Kentucky’s favorite spirit with your meal and you need a place to sleep, you’re already inside of a beautiful hotel!
What a fantastic discovery. I hope to return soon so I can try the Bourbon Barrel Planked Salmon with Hidden Hallow Apples, Asian Style Greens, and Sesame-Ginger Vinaigrette.
Charr’d Bourbon Kitchen & Lounge – Marriott Louisville East
1903 Embassy Square Blvd.
Louisville, KY 40299
Open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
Breakfast: 6 to Noon, Lunch: Noon to 2, Dinner: 5 to 10, Lounge open until 11 PM
Monday – Thursday
Breakfast: 6 to 11 AM, Lunch: 11 to 2, Dinner: 5 to 10, Lounge open until 11 PM
Friday – Saturday
Breakfast: 6 to 11 AM, Lunch: 11 to 2, Dinner: 5 to 11, Lounge open until Midnight