Remember the old Bravo Pitino restaurant, back when Coach P was still the up-and-second-coming ruler of all Kentucky? Well, while Rick Pitino has long since left the arena, Victorian Square has seen several incarnations of restaurants and clubs installed within that very spot, like the Pie Bar, Brooklyn Pizza, and others that shall remain nameless (coz I can't remember them).
I walk by that area all the time, and often wonder what's going in there next, and will they be a friendly sort? What kind of food will they serve?
A pleasant surprise came my way when I strolled through there last week, and to my delight, I found a new sports bar named Hef's. The staff are delightful, the owners, Robert Garrison and Chris Heflin are helpful and friendly, and get this: they make their food fresh, from scratch!
Garrison even fixed me up a little salsa on the spot, and the caesar chicken wrap actually had fresh romaine, parmesan cheese, just-made dressing, not overly salted chicken, all tied up in a warm wheat flour tortilla - it was really good food, and I didn't feel guilty when I was through. I asked and was shown the upstairs part of the business, a large and gorgeous dance hall called The Loft, which is only open on Friday and Saturday for now, after 10.
Back downstairs at Hef's, you can try wings, mini-burgers, Reubens, dogs, Gau Gee (tryin' that next time I'm there, which will most likely be very soon), sweet chili, and my very favorite (so far), curry chicken salad with fresh grapes and almonds, served in a warm pita with romaine lettuce and hummus. I tried the curry chicken this past Friday night after the opera and I'm still singing its praises.
The menu is simple and not pretentious but impressively ambitious in that there's an obvious focus on food quality. Also, the prices are nice, $3 to $12 (top price is for 18 buffalo wings), but of course, the menu items are subject to change since they're still finding their dining legs. Heflin and Garrison also own the Chase Tap Room which is situated on the corner of Broadway and Short, in the old Hutchison Drugstore area.
Oh yeah, and there's a great little corner in Hef's that is a perfect 'stage' for trios, duets, ukulele players...heh...and it's not near the door going out to the street as the performance area has been in the past, it's near the door going out to the balcony/patio overlooking Victorian Square. That seems to be a better place for performers, a nice poet's corner of sorts, and more conducive to actually being heard in the restaurant and not at the Opera House, which is just across Short Street.
I recommend that you try Hef's just for shiggles if for no other reason, and if you get frustrated waiting for a table elsewhere at the established downtown hot spots, you really ought to give Hef's a shot. With the NCAA tournament starting, it would seem to be a great place to watch the games, have some beers, eat some pesto chicken salad...and check out The Loft while you're there, it's so cool!
Go Cats! Go Hef's!