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Restaurant adds a new flavor to La Grange

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By Tracy Harris

On a scale of one to 100, the owner of La Grange's newest restaurant hopes customers will give it a 119.

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One Nineteen West Main opened the day before Thanksgiving and already has some regulars, said owner Jason Kinser.

The menu is "American and new Southern," Kinser said, with items like a Kentucky "Haute" Brown, a catfish reuben sandwich, fried pickled okra and a black-and-bleu burger.

"I don't want to serve anything that's not great," Kinser said. "I don't even want to serve things that are just OK."

The Train Wreck sandwich is becoming a popular item, Kinser said — chicken breast covered in creamy Boursin cheese with avocado, bacon and Monterey Jack cheese. 

Not familiar with Boursin? Kinser will bring out a sample. It's a French cheese that is creamy and crumbly — and on a lot of One Nineteen West Main dishes.

But don't think One Nineteen is a formal dining restaurant.

Butcher paper on the tables and board games on the walls give the restaurant a trendy feel, and the open space and large windows make it bright.

Kinser said he wants to serve good food at affordable prices but doesn't want people to have to get dressed up.

Appetizers are less than $6, sandwiches and burgers $6 to $9 and entrees $12 to $15. A children's menu is available for less than $5.

For $14, One Nineteen offers a large piece of blackened salmon, drizzled with melted Boursin cheese, served with rice and asparagus and topped with a raspberry-pinot noir reduction. 

Kinser started working in the food industry at age 15 at a fast food restaurant. But, the 1992 Oldham County High graduate later found himself working at Louisville's The Brown Hotel and as a catering and banquet manager for Horseshoe Casino. 

Over the years, Kinser has worked both in the kitchen and in management. Now, he can serve a menu he created but still have the interaction with customers that he enjoys.

"Most of the time I'm making laps," he said, as he checks in with customers, wait staff and kitchen staff.

Kinser is committed to using high-quality and specialty ingredients, like Boursin cheese and whole turkey breasts. Kinser is developing relationships with local farmers to purchase produce, like asparagus and rhubarb.

"I had to pull some connections to get the rhubarb," Kinser said, which is used in the peach rhubarb cobbler.

Executive Chef Francis Schmitz heads up the One Nineteen kitchen, bringing his European formal training to La Grange.

KInser is happy to have Schmitz leading the kitchen. When other places make Kentucky hot brown sandwiches, most don't do it the way One Nineteen does.

"People try to make it with cheese sauce," Kinser said. "I've got a four-star chef back there knocking out Mornay sauce from scratch."

One Nineteen West Main is located across from the courthouse lawn and is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 9:30 Friday and Saturday.