Jack Fry’s was established in 1933 by Jack Fry and his wife, Flossie in Louisville Kentucky. Fry was known as a rambling, gambling kind of guy who loved amateur boxing and the ponies. As a result, Jack Fry’s became a sportsman’s hangout, as evidenced by the numerous historic photographs that fill the walls of the current Jack Fry’s in now, a trendy neighborhood along Bardstown Road.
He was also known to conduct his bookmaking and bootlegging affairs discreetly from “the back room”. Jack closed his business in 1972. After ten years of renting this space as “Por Que No”, a Mexican restaurant, it was re-established as Jack Fry’s by new owner Susan Seiller who bought the restaurant in January 1987, the same year that saw the death of Jack Fry.
In February of 2008, Susan passed ownership and sold the restaurant to longtime employee, Stephanie J. Meeks who had been with Jack Fry’s since 1996, starting as a host and quickly moving her way up in management.
When I started asking around — locals in several different neighborhoods, there were 3 consistent must tries and Jack Fry’s was one of them. (not to be missed, they all said). And so I didn’t miss it. And, let’s say we sampled a lot to ensure we got a healthy representation of the kinds of dishes Jack Fry’s had to offer.
For example, more traditional southern dishes included shrimp and grits and sauteed shrimp in a red eye gravy with shiitake mushrooms, tomatoes and country ham served over creamy grits. The former is a signature dish apparently and one description of the grits is that they are fluffy like a “pillow.” Then, there’s the bacon wrapped medjool dates stuffed with chorizo sausage and capriole farm goat cheese with a smoky tomato sauce and the lobster, shrimp and salmon with mascarpone in a local tomato broth and aged balsamic, garnished with shiitakes.
I had to have the pan-seared Hudson Valley foie gras and while it wasn’t as good as what I’ve more recently tasted in Paris, Montreal, Budapest and Prague (in that order), they did a decent job with its preparation and I’d order it again. It was served with carmelized local apples, onions and aged calvados syrup.
I didn’t try the spicy fried oysters but my colleague who has been to Jack Fry’s on a number of occasions has and its a sure winner, she said. We also didn’t op for the heavier Kentucky Country Ham with green onions and creamy grits or the escargots, which they broil in a garlic butter and croutons.
We tried the diver scallops, which were pan seared and served with a Kentucky bibb lettuce and brown butter sauce, topped with a white truffle oil. And since the evening was long, we also ordered the duck prepared over bourbon and bacon (can you imagine?) with braised collard greens, roasted fingerling potatoes, and finished with an orange gastrique and pan-seared foie gras.
The salmon was pan-seared encrusted with almonds and pistachios, served on a sauteed spinach with a tomato, pearl onion and chive beurre blanc sauce. My second choice would have been the lamb chops (apparently a well known favorite), which they grilled and served with a rosemary natural jus and a gratin of potatoes, shiitakes and thyme.
They also had a halibut and a filet on offer, the latter served with a parma prosciutto, asparagus, sage beurre blac and crispy potato cake. (if any of you reading this have tried it, add your comments below).
While the place is a tad noisy, the service is top notch and so is the server’s knowledge. When I brought up 2007 wines in Napa, we had a nice long chat about the Valley’s struggling year. We tasted the Orin Swift Zin Blend from Napa (Zinfandel 2009), the Crios Malbec 09 from Mendoza and the Tuscan Italian blend (Santa Martina Sangiovese/Merlot/Cab/Syrah (2008). We ended up going with the Cabernet Faust 2008 from Napa as our primary even though there was a lobster campanelle in the order. (lobster tails tossed wtih campanelle paste, Nichoise olives, bacon, sun-dried tomatoes, jalapenos, broccoli rabe and tomato concasse in a rosemary shallot olive oil).
For dessert, so many choices. We had to go for chocolate of course…
We Blog the World gives Jack Fry’s a thumbs up, a must try if you are passing through Louisville. Caution – they get busy and there’s not much space to hang out and wait for a table. Be sure to call ahead and make a reservation if you can, depending on the season and local events that are happening in the area (they have a huge arts festival and of course the Kentucky Derby in the late Spring).