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Garr Grumps About 'Today's Fancy Dining' at Proof; Rosen Finds Downhome Cafeteria 'True to the Tradition'

Robin Garr says he "was never quite persuaded" by Proof on Main's "odd mix of yupped-up 'Southern' fare" with Tuscan touches under Michael Paley's direction, but has persuaded himself that with Levon Wallace at the helm "that odd blend of accents seems muted." After noting that "main dish prices top out at $29" and "Proof's bar is a destination in itself," Garr gets down to describing his meal, starting with two Tuscan appetizers that have been around since Paley-olithic times:

Our party of eight started with a couple "for the table" apps, portioned for sharing. Charred octopus ... proved a great intro to those in our group who'd never met the tasty cephalopod on their plate before. Marinated in oil and lemon and charred until toothsome, not rubbery, it tasted subtly of the sea. Another app, warm ricotta, sounds about as intriguing as "milk toast" but tasted great: rich white cheese warmed to gently loft the sensuous aromatics of truffle oil.
Leaving Italy for some local, Levon Wallace-style pork, Garr decides it's time to set these darn kids today straight about selecting flavors:
An oversize "hog chop" ... perched on a bed of tender, aromatic house-made rye-flour spaetzle ... garnished with crisp Granny Smith apple matchsticks, cooked cabbage, smoked onion and a pool of seeded mustard — a flavor symphony that unfortunately resounded more of Spike Jones than Toscanini. I'm not singling Wallace out for calumny here; this over-the-top approach is all too common in today's fancy dining, flavor piled on flavor until nothing stands out and it all mashes into a clanging culinary chord. The rest of the pork, brought home in a box, washed off and reheated the next day, was a far better thing au naturel.

Moving on from century-old musical references and the image of Robin Garr washing off a piece of partially eaten pork, we find our critic humble-grumbling about more of his meal:

Acorn squash risotto ($19) was well-made if almost too rich, with the natural creamy nature of Arborio rice enhanced by distinctly funky Taleggio cheese and, unless I miss my guess, a good dollop of dairy cream ... and I thought I detected a whiff of anise liquor that didn't really play in tune.
Garr ends by giving Wallace's Proof on Main 90 Robin Garr points, the same number he bestowed on Paley's Proof in 2006. [LEO Weekly]

Marty Rosen begins his review of Downhome Cafeteria by recalling "the golden age of cafeteria dining," a time before all-you-can-eat buffets when

[c]ustomers slid their trays past iceberg lettuce, sliced tomatoes, coleslaw and creamed peas; past fogged-up glass panes behind which steam tables held seemingly unending quantities of stewed, braised and fried meats, past greens and macaroni and pies. And at the end of the line, customers picked up a glass of iced tea and paid a pittance.
Rosen welcomes Downhome to the pantheon of Louisville's remaining "old-line" cafeterias around town, finding partners Larry Dowlat, Jacque Dowlat, Melissa Stewart and Nathan Carrol "an experienced group" who know how to run a cafeteria line complete with "those paragons of Southern temptation, deviled eggs and plenty of "freshly made and old school" steam table stuff:
Smothered pork chops in a rich brown gravy; saucy beef liver and onions; thick slabs of meatloaf swimming in a brown sauce; fried chicken crisp enough that I think you can hear the crunch from across the room; and barbecued chicken in a sweet-tangy sauce, cooked to the point where it fell apart at the touch of a fork. Sides were well seasoned — but lightly salted (and a portion of sweet potatoes tasted as if it might have come from my mother-in-law's kitchen)."
Rosen also notes that on Saturday and Sunday, Downhome "switches over to table service and serves a full breakfast menu that includes choices like biscuits and gravy ($3.50) or a Western omelet ($7.95)." [Courier-Journal]
· Proof on Main's new chef perfects the art of fancy farm dining [LEO Weekly]
· Proof on Main [Official Site]
· Downhome Cafeteria offers pleasing comfort food and welcoming service[Courier-Journal]
· Downhome Cafeteria [Facebook]
· All Eater Week In Reviews [~ELOU~]

Proof on Main

702 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202 502-217-6360 Visit Website