When I was heading to Louisville, I knew I had to dive into the food scene after a glowing experience last year. And so, I asked a handful of local friends where I should go and they all suggested I check out the newest kid on the block: La Coop Bistro on East Market Street.
Not only did they say I’d be a happy camper over the food, but they couldn’t stop saying enough glowing things about La Coop Bistro’s chef Bobby Benjamin. After meeting him and sitting behind his bar for just five minutes, I could see why.
Sure, he’s got a charming personality, but it’s also his intoxicating passion for food – sustainable, organic and fresh. Take a look at a piece that he did on Great Day Live where he viewers how to create Lard de Maison.
From salmon and oysters (although I didn’t try any, they offer raw oysters, raw clams and shrimp cocktail on their dinner menu) to homemade pasta, unusually prepared salads and tasty coq au vin.
One of the most incredible things about their menu is that their prices are incredibly low – $20 or less and yet they don’t cut back on presentation.
Presentation is top notch. Taste is top notch. And service is top notch.
I decided to sit at the bar, which I’d recommend since the bar has great ambiance and the bartenders don’t miss a beat. (my water and ice tea glasses were constantly being replenished before I had a chance to think about a refill).
Cheese selections include Bucheron Sevre Belle (Goats cheese from Loire Valley), St. Angel (from Cotes du Rhone), St. Nectaire (Auvergna), P’Tit Basque (sheep’s cheese from Pays Basque) and Bleu D’Auvergne (Bleu Cheese – Auvergna).
The homemade pasta blew me away, a special I couldn’t find on the regular menu the day I was there. The dish is topped with lamb meatballs, which are tender and delicious. Apparently they get their lamb from Border Springs Farm in Virginia, a road trip Bobby has apparently made by car.
I think Bobby wanted me to taste everything on the menu because the dishes didn’t seem to stop. Sometimes admitting that you have French blood means that you get the heaviest of dishes and truth be told, I’m a sucker for a great pasta (despite the carbs), and yes, I do love red meat. They offer a hanger steak as well as vegetarian option: vegetable stuffed eggplant served with gruyere cheese. While I didn’t try the soups, my neighbors at the bar had tried them and couldn’t stop raving: traditional onion soup with bone marrow and tomato soup served in a puff pastry with basil.
Crab Au Four
Moules Frites Steamed Mussels Pernoad and Garlic Butter Fries
Fried Green Tomatoes
There’s a dish I couldn’t NOT try: Coq au Vin…..braised chicken is served with salt pork, glazed carrots and braised pearl onions. It didn’t disappoint. See the yellow flakes on the top of the chicken legs? It’s an orange zest that really works with the thyme, butter, cardiman and tumeric spices. I asked Bobby about the process.
He soaks the chicken in pinot noir for four days. The chicken is then seasoned with flour and braised, coated with various spices including coriander, tumeric, and butter….let’s not forget the to-die-for pearled onions and mushrooms with a l’il oregano and thyme. And oh, that orange zest! YUM! For the record, I couldn’t finish everything so I ended up taking a ‘care bag’ back to my room since it had a fridge. I had a bite of that scrumptious chicken every morning for the next three and the flavors just kept getting better.
And, how’s this for a little creativity? How about a salad with blue cheese ice cream. Yes, really. The greens are red oak lettuce and under the ice cream are bourbon candied pecans, pears, red onions and a pearl-praline vinaigrette.
I’d also encourage you to try any of their fish dishes, their crab cakes served with celery root slaw and the Bouillabaisse served with shrimp, mussels, clams and fish in a tomato saffron broth. If you’re not that hungry, that have some comfort food on the menu too such as steamed mussels with french fries or escargots with garlic butter. Or you could simply order a cheeseburger :-)
Here’s something else I took back to my hotel room fridge with me: chicken liver mousse with thyme and fig jelli, apple chutney and homemade mustard with green tomato. The country pate has pistachios and golden raises and the meats are genoa salami and sassioun salami. It was even better on day 2.
And just when I kept saying no more (but not really meaning it), Bobby hit me with the crepe of the day, a banana chocolate crepe with powdered sugar. They always have a savory crepe of the day as well, which was pear with goat cheese and bacon the day I was there in mid-September.
Bobby asked me if I wanted to check out the kitchen? What would any foodie say? Let me at it please. I caught them in the act of preparing fabulous sauces among other things.
And, more decadence just happened to be ready for the oven.
It’s time to meet Bobby and yes those tattoos are not only real, but of vegetables. And I don’t know if you noticed, but it IS Louisville after all, so you may just see a whole lotta Bourbon choices in the bar as well. Can you imagine so many delicious dishes with top notch presentation all for $20 or less with a wide selection of both bourbon AND wine? There’s no reason not to head to East Market Street next time you’re in Louisville, take a seat at the bar (or a table if there are a few of you) and start ordering. Bobby and his incredible team will take care of you.
Photo credits: Renee Blodgett.