TGIF Local Lunch Post – Dining Guest Jeff Noble Reflects and Recommends

Vietnam Kitchen - fresh, independent variety!

My friend Jeff Noble steps up to the plate this week to offer some dining suggestions as well as taking us on a nostalgic tour of Louisville establishments gone by.

While still buoyant with the spirit of Independence Day, I thought it would be fitting to invite someone who is passionate about the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the city of Louisville. Jeff is known as a tireless volunteer and serves his community and local government with both traditional and progressive values.

He works as a legislative aide to Metro Councilman Brent Ackerson (D-26) and serves as a political advisor to many local Democratic campaigns, most recently Fischer for Mayor and, since 2006, Yarmuth for Congress. His blog, “Ohio River, Left Bank, MP 606” is  subtitled  “Musings of a political, social, cultural, religious and/or historical nature…” and is worth a visit. Jeff lives in Butchertown and is known for taking a fine cigar out for a long walk.

I asked him to recall some of his culinary memories of Louisville as well as current  favorite hangs for the midday meal. Enjoy this stroll! I’m sure many readers will find they have a lot in common with our guest.

“As someone who doesn’t cook at all – except an occasional pot of chili – I do a lot of eating out.  Growing up in the 60s and 70s, I learned the pleasures of bar food from my grandfather, Dan Hockensmith.  He believed the best food in any town could be had at the local VFW or American Legion.  We often ate chili at the Okolona or Frankfort VFW halls.  Today, my favorite bowl of chili comes from The Rush Inn, a little tavern at the corner of Brownsboro Road and Mellwood Avenue.  The bar is locally owned and operated by Jeff, although I do not know his last name.  The chili is a little peppery with the distinction of being made with pasta instead of noodles.  I don’t like noodles in my chili, but I do love the peppery pasta-chili at The Rush Inn, usually with a grilled cheese sandwich and a can of sarsaparilla.

Another thing we did was visit the few ethnic restaurants that dotted the landscape.  There weren’t many that I remember.  Codispoti’s was an Italian eatery on Preston Highway, just south of Fern Valley Road, back when both roads were two lanes wide.  The Lotus, an Oriental place, was on Dixie Highway around Nobel Place north of Shively.  The building is still there, a concrete block structure on the west side of the road.  Today’s map is covered with the tastes of the world.  While I am partial to Middle Eastern and Indian foods, my newest favorite non-American cuisine is found at the Vietnam Kitchen on S. 3rd Street, in what could be described as Louisville’s Vietnamese neighborhood.  I’m partial to curries of any kind and they have one, #F9 on the menu, a chicken curry with potatoes, onions, green beans, and broccoli that is out of this world.

Typically when out with friends, my menu choices turn to seafood.  Back in the old days, good seafood was to be had at the now defunct Cape Codder on St. Rita Drive in Okolona, or maybe Kingfish, downtown on 4th or out Upper River Road in a location which I have lost in my memory.  Both locations have been gone for decades, the downtown one moving from 4th over to 6th only to be torn down again to make way for the Ali Center.  The Upper River Road location has moved across the street and closer to town next to the Water Tower.  My favorite fish sandwich until recently was at Third Avenue Café.  This neat little place, with Elvis at the door, closed last year without notice.  I’m still looking for Louisville’s best fish sandwich.

Finally, sweets.  My other grandfather, U. G. Noble, operated bakeries in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, one on Colorado Avenue and the other on Poplar Level Road.  The last Noble’s Bakery closed in 1972.  Back then there were lots of family ran bakeries with old-fashioned doughnuts.  Patterson’s in Highview, Okolona, Plehn’s in St. Matthews, Heitzman’s in Schnitzelburg, Kraus’ downtown on 4th, and others including Klein’s on Preston at Lynn Street.  Old Mrs. Klein died in 2004 and the bakery is now called Nord’s, and features all the same old-fashioned baked goods I knew growing up.  It is my favorite local bakery and with a Sunergos Coffee shop immediately next door, the duo make for a ‘fine dining’ experience.”

Thanks for joining us on this Noble  journey and kudos to you all for feeding the local economy! Visit TGIF Local Lunch Post on Facebook to share restaurant news or recipes. Take care, stay cool, and have a great weekend!