After reading the title, do you picture white tablecloths on a candlelit table? Maybe you feel like you need a better suit and tie to eat at Ward 426, or that you’ll be forced to take out a home equity line of credit just so you can afford to eat there. I have to admit that I was in that camp for a while. I kept putting off my first visit to Ward 426 because I felt like I needed to make a huge plan for an elaborate date night with my wife just to include the Highlands restaurant into my rotation. I was wrong. In fact, on my first visit I realized just how wrong I was. Don’t mistake what I’m saying, it will absolutely make for an awesome date night, the white tablecloths do exist, and the servers wear button down shirts, ties, and vests, but these facts don’t define the restaurant, and they shouldn’t mold your view of it either. After all, you want delicious food, and there is no denying Shawn Ward or Dean Corbett when it comes to flavor and quality. In fact, just typing those two names next to each other is almost surreal. It’s like Michael Jordan and Larry Bird on the same team. It’s Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras playing doubles together. I could go on, but you get my point. It may surprise you that my first visit to Ward 426 was actually for lunch, or that this restaurant would even be open for lunch. It has quickly become one of my goto lunch spots. Here’s why.
If you’re like me, lunch is kind of a big deal. I have lunch with clients and business partners two to three times each week. I like variety and I feel that Louisville’s restaurant scene allows me to change things up pretty frequently, but sometimes I get stuck. When I get stuck, I rely on my goto restaurants: restaurants that never fail, and always impress. I can always use more goto spots.
I walked in and sat at the bar as I usually do. The place is much brighter and classier than it used to be (as you might suspect), however the OG charm of this 142 year old building remains intact. The old school, original beer coolers still garnish the walls on each side of the bar with their amazing handcrafted woodwork. That woodwork is everywhere, from the soaring open ceilings to the floor boards, and all over the bar in between. The upper dining room feels larger and more open than it ever has, and the patio space has been tremendously updated. It feels good in there. It’s not stiff or stuffy, it’s pleasant. I took some time to look over the lunch menu, noticing immediately that I would eat pretty much everything on it. On this maiden voyage, though, I had already decided that I would try the burger. With Shawn Ward being the former executive chef at Jack Fry’s, I just knew that he was the man behind that mouth-watering burger. I could already tell you that every non-burger dish he created that I had eaten before Ward 426 existed was delicious. I know that. I am already aware and inspired by Dean Corbett’s culinary wizardry. I will continue to try the rest of the menu, but on this day I was on the hunt for a burger.
I ordered a Moody Tongue Sliced Nectarine IPA and the burger with fries. Turns out, that was a wise decision on so many levels. It was a Monday, and not only is hard enough to find an open restaurant serving lunch in the Highlands on the first day of the work week, a restaurant of this caliber is almost extinct when it comes to Monday lunch. Here’s where it gets even better… Monday Special – Burger, fries, and a craft beer all for $10. This could qualify as one of the best kept secrets in Louisville. The regular menu price for this burger is $13, which is well worth it. You do the math on the rest of it. This special cannot be beaten.
When the burger came out on a stout, yet soft brioche bun, I could already taste it. Caramelized onion, bacon, lettuce, Kenny’s white cheddar, and quite possibly the greatest surprise… crunchy, zesty pickles from Pop’s Pepper Patch. Holy Toledo! They also included a side of some glorious dijon mustard of which I was happy to partake. The fries are real. I mean potatoes that are cut and dropped into peanut oil. The temperature was spot on Medium, with plenty of pink, and that thing was juicy. This combination is what you need. The execution is what you want. The end result is total food satisfaction. Since then, I have decided that you also need to try the pot roast sliders, the fish sandwich, and the lobster tacos.
Look, as I said at the beginning, this entire menu, lunch and dinner, is complete. It’s thorough, and you can’t overlook the intentionality of the beer and wine menu, which complements the whole operation. I’m pretty sure that you can thank Nirm for that. Nirmesh Agrawal is the third partner in this endeavor, and his strengths shine throughout the entire restaurant as proof that this is a great partnership all the way around. Ward 426, whether for lunch or dinner, is an important part to the Louisville dining scene. It’s an all-encompassing force that shows pride, flare, and an understanding of what it takes to succeed in this incredibly diverse and ever-changing industry.
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