March is National Women’s History Month, time to reflect on women’s contributions to United States history. To celebrate, we are featuring a wide variety of concepts represented by women restaurateurs: Coffee Bar, Southern, Afro-Caribbean/French, Tea Café, and Soul Food. Show your support for local, women-owned restaurants making a little history of their own!
Like so many local restaurant owners in 2020, Ashley Sayler made the strategic decision to pivot and rebrand her “New American soul food” restaurant SOU! as CASK Southern Kitchen & Bar. SOU! opened in 2019 and was conceived as farm-to-table and at higher price points than the CASK concept. But when the pandemic hit, Ashley and her 50% partner agreed on a buyout giving Ashley sole ownership. In keeping with Louisville diners’ wants and needs at that crucial time, Ashley chose to create a family-friendly environment with more reasonable prices, hoping to produce more volume sales to keep the business afloat. As evidenced by her 10-month-old baby’s daily appearances in the dining room, the ambiance is equally comfortable for families. Ashley is now expecting twins, yet another significant development!
Ashley strives to always lead by example, doing dishes, bussing tables, greeting guests, whatever it takes so her team knows she is “in it with them.” CASK boasts a women-centered leadership team that includes General Manager Chastity Owens and Bar Manager Erin Strong. Erin serves up seasonal cocktails and a fine bourbon selection, and the menu is filled with customer favorites. For starters, try the fried green tomatoes or pulled pork nachos. Ashley recommends the 16-ounce pan-seared ribeye with fried okra and southern greens. Their shrimp + grits are slow-cooked Weisenberger with gulf shrimp and andouille, and the smoked meatloaf is available as an entrée or on a sandwich. Former Cardinal basketball hero Luke Hancock is a big fan of the “best ever key lime pie.”
CASK now serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am -2 pm. On Tuesdays, the CASK burger is only $8! 75-cent smoked wings are available on “Wings-days,” and Thursdays feature “dollar on the half shell” Chesapeake Bay oysters. Ashley looks forward to launching CASK catering this summer. Keep up with @cask502 on Facebook and @cask_louisville on Instagram for the latest updates.
Brew & Sip Coffee Bar, opened in August 2020, began with the catering business Flavorfull Catering Events & More and was “born out of necessity for a diverse coffee shop,” says Owner LaToya Cook-Bradley. She takes pride in her scratch-made dishes and customer service commitment, including customized coffee drinks based on guests’ preferences. That customer service often involves educating the customer on the various preparations and alternative milk selections. LaToya has lived in Louisville for 13 years and has spent all her working life in foodservice, including fast-food management and hospitals. “I want to make people happy and bring their food vision to life on a decent budget.”
Their most popular item is the deceptively simple Smoked Chicken Salad served on a buttery croissant with a side of grapes. LaToya serves up Shrimp and Grits smothered in a flavorful gravy. Her Chicken and Sweet Tea Waffles are famous! The crustless Chicken Pot Pie Soup, hearty Beef Stew, and French Onion Soup will warm your bones as winter finally wraps up. LaToya loves the French Onion - and she is “not into onions.” Other items include bagels, cake, cookies, muffins, and panini sandwiches. Be sure to try specialty coffee drinks like the Carmella, Cinnamon Swirl, and White Turtle.
Brew & Sip Coffee Bar is expanding into the location next door on April 5. The new space will also follow all current COVID protocols and feature drive-through service. Never miss a trick on Brew & Sip Coffee Bar’s very active social media accounts: @brewandsipcoffeebar on Facebook and Instagram.
Christine Gnamba - “Ms. Kissi” - is one of the brave souls who dared to open a restaurant in the year 2020. Her Afro-Caribbean cuisine with a French accent adds new flavor profiles to Louisville’s varied dining scene. Ms. Kissi is originally from Ivory Coast in West Africa and grew up in a family of 19 children. “So cooking with my Mom and Aunties was like cooking for a restaurant every day.” At 17, her father sent her to Paris to study. There Ms. Kissi fell in love, got married, had a family, and catered church events. After 29 years in Paris, Ms. Kissi’s husband accepted a job as a pastor here in Louisville. Ms. Kissi began cooking for various events and festivals around the city. Her food was such a hit that she decided to open a food truck in 2018 before going brick-and-mortar last year.
With dishes so full of flavor, customers constantly asked about Ms. Kissi’s sauces. She finally gave in and started bottling her habanero, green, and jerk chicken sauces. For first-timers, Eden & Kissi recommends their signature Jerk Chicken-Leg with rice and beans or yellow rice, a colorful pico de gallo, and all three sauces on the side. The Fully-Loaded Jerk Chicken Pita layers shredded jerk chicken, fried plantains, mayo, lettuce, and pico. The Curry Chicken Wrap with curry chicken and yellow rice is also dressed with mayo, lettuce, and pico. Eden & Kissi marinates their Peri-Peri Wings for 24 hours before smoking, grilling, and then tossing the tender chicken in a choice of sauces. Red Snapper comes grilled or fried and topped with Christine’s special sauce with onion, garlic, and peppers.
The French influence comes into play with sweet and savory crepes. (Ms. Kissi’s passion for cooking earned her two diplomas in crepes and pies in Paris.) On Taco Tuesdays, try their cross-cultural $1 tacos. Eden & Kissi’s fresh Kentucky Proud® ginger and hibiscus juices are natural, homemade, and provide healthy antioxidant qualities. The restaurant’s small footprint means carryout only for now, but an outdoor seating area will be available in warmer weather. Look for Eden & Kissi for International Women’s Day at Oxmoor Center on March 6 and 7. For the latest specials, follow @edenandkissi on Facebook and Instagram.
Opened eight years ago, February 1, Sweet Peaches is “the only true deli/bakery location in the heart of the West End.” You can feel the love in Owner Pam Haines’s voice as she describes feeding the people - body and soul. Pam has always worked in the food and beverage industry, but a demanding, full-time job left her no time to finish her Ph.D. So Pam started baking. Before she knew it, she had a successful catering business, which led to Sweet Peaches restaurant.
“I know how to talk to people and build relationships to meet their needs. They have embraced me as I have embraced them. With every bite of a cookie or sandwich, they can taste the love I have for them.” Every Wednesday, the 18th Street bus stops once in each direction to allow riders to step off and collect their free soup. Pam gives away at least 400 bowls a week. Because African Americans are disproportionately affected by COVID, Pam’s soup contains eleven ingredients to boost the immune system, including fresh ginger, turmeric, parsley, garlic, and other spices.
With the spices in the fresh-picked collard greens, you would never know they contain no pork. “The smoked oxtail stew with fingerling potatoes, pearl onions, and petite carrots is smothered in brown gravy and poured over my mother's secret dressing,” says Pam. “The cornbread dressing is made with brown gravy, onions, celery, real butter, fresh sage, black pepper, and salt.” For breakfast, over-easy eggs and bacon come with fried potatoes and onions “just like Grandmama did.” Don’t leave without a generous slice of Burnt Butter Cream Cheese Carrot Cake. Sweet Peaches burns the butter in a small saucepan and whips the icing for 45 minutes before spreading on the carrot cake containing raisins and ginger, and tops it all off with fresh shredded carrot and pecans.
Pam expresses the depth of her commitment and that of OneWest to building wealth in the community. Along with Encore Leadership of Louisville, they are building a model for other restaurants and look forward to making a big announcement about taking Sweet Peaches “to the next level.” Follow their progress @sweetpeaches8615 on Facebook.
When the journey of life gets steep, we steep tea.” Fleur de Tea Café and Tea Shop is elegant and serious about tea, but outside her evident ambition, Owner Jasmine Gatti doesn’t take herself too seriously. “I don’t drink coffee - at all.” When she opened in 2019, Jasmine was determined to create a place where she and her friends might meet up, kick back, relax, and drink tea without a more typical stuffy tea shop atmosphere. She imagined “a place where we could hang out and enjoy ourselves, instead of personal, quiet time,” as often found in a coffee shop. Before she came up with the idea of opening Fleur de Tea, Jasmine says, “I never worked in food service, never wanted to, and never had any interest, other than I knew I wanted to open my own business.”
Fleur de Tea offers classic hot tea varieties and iced teas with detailed descriptions, bubble and milk teas, and teas brewed with various coffee-style methods. One of Jasmine’s favorites (and the one she enjoyed as we spoke) is a pecan turtle milk tea with boba. But the ever-evolving food menu adds more excitement to the experience. The continually changing bakery options have included fruit tarts, egg muffins, and the most popular scones: lemon blueberry, strawberry lemon, and banana with a choice of cinnamon buttercream or caramel glaze. Jasmine is currently experimenting with recipes to look forward to, including cheesecakes, a cinnamon apple pie scone, and new savory scone options - Everything bagel seasoned and parmesan garlic.
Fleur de Tea currently offers carryout and dine-in service. Track future developments @fleurdetea on Facebook and @fleurde.tea on Instagram