Friday, April 18, 2008

Eating, drinking, and downtown New Albany's emerging new lineup of establishments.

Each year when baseball season commences, fans must survey ever-changing major league rosters to account for the winter’s trades and free agent signings.

In like fashion, the assemblage of downtown New Albany eateries and watering holes has undergone a near complete overhaul in recent months. Here are a few of the changes, bearing in mind that as usual, my primary emphasis is on those businesses aiming to have good beer as part of their presentation, and consequently are of greater interest to me personally. I know that some are being omitted, and welcome their inclusion via subsequent comments.

First, a quick shout-out to Speakeasy Jazz on State Street, which has survived both the Bistro New Albany and Connor’s Place, and should benefit from the unexpected closing of the Jazz Factory in Louisville. In some form, NABC beers usually are on tap at the Speakeasy.

Many readers have asked about the abrupt departure of Connor’s Place, formerly located at 207 East Main Street, and now in storage and on hiatus. It is a circuitous story that begins with owner Dave Himmel’s inability to reach a lease agreement with his landlords, continues through his oft-stated desire to open a fish and seafood restaurant downtown, and now has cleared its first hurdle with the opening of the aquatic project earlier this week. It is called the Market Street Fish House, and is located at 133 East Market, former home of the now defunct Treet’s Bakery Café.

Just across Market Street from the soon-to-open Fish House is an unused commercial building that will be remodeled to spec for Dave by its new owner, and in this space a revamped Connor’s Place hopefully will reopen by mid-summer. The remodeling is scheduled to begin during the week of April 21.

Got all that? Might as well rename that stretch of Market as "Himmel Way" and get it over with. When Connor's Place returns, NABC will have beer there. There will be bottled or canned beer only at the Market Street Fish House, necessarily precluding NABC's draft-only product.

You may be wondering what is to become of the Main Street quarters formerly occupied by Connor’s, and the answer comes from an NAC informant:

A new restaurant will be opening where Connor’s Place was, and they are planning on having ongoing artist showcases. It is going to be called “Studios” and the owner’s name is Trish Meyer.

There is no further information on the sort of eatery Studios will be, although early indications are something in the range of Bristol Bar & Grill. Trish, if you're reading ... let us know what's up. NABC hopes to be present when the time comes, and this may be early May.

Back around the corner in the building that most natives still call the New Albany Inn, The Windsor Restaurant & Garden is open for business at 148 East Market, which in Louisville-area parlance is “where the late, lamented Bistro New Albany used to be.” Business First recently offered a preview of the establishment, which is observing lunchtime hours at present and will expand into evening dining when it’s warm enough to use the famous courtyard. NABC has been contacted about beer for the Windsor, and we’re cautiously optimistic that there’ll be a good beer program there, though perhaps not to the scale of bNA’s great list.

Meanwhile … in the historic Baer building at 321 Pearl Street, work continues on the River City Winery. A couple hundred yards northeast as the crow flies is the spot at 415 Bank Street where NABC is continuing to plan its production brewery and taproom ... and don't ask me "when" this is going to happen unless you have a wheelbarrow full of money to invest.

Elsewhere, the Orchid Asian Cafe is located at 400 West Main, and is an intriguing addition to the downtown dining scene primarily because the menu includes Thai and Vietnamese offerings beyond the usual Chinese fare, and the décor is bright, modern and absent the kitsch generally associated with “Chinese” restaurants. It’s almost impossible to fathom that the venerable Kerstien’s tavern used to occupy the new home of the Orchid. No alcohol, but we’ve been impressed so far with the food.

What am I forgetting? Make a comment and let me know. By late summer or early fall, the downtown New Albany scene might be quite interesting, indeed.

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