For over a hundred years, the building housing The Louisville Rex has provided Main Street with entertainment of one kind or another.
Established as a billiard hall, it became a theater, and eventually another restaurant prior to its current iteration. Nowadays, one of the main attractions of this spot is the spacious rooftop deck, which has the amiable feel of a venue in a far-away, warm-weather resort town. In other words, it’s a perfect spot for a staycation or just knocking back a few with friends after work.
In that spirit, pal Andrew and I arrived on the deck just in time to catch the tail end of happy hour, which ends at 6 p.m. We were disappointed when our friendly server informed us the kitchen had run out of hot potato chips and nachos. But there were still many options to choose from, including fries, mini corn dogs and personal pepperoni pizzas. We decided to address our bar food cravings with a $4 order of a half dozen chicken wings and a $5 helping of three fried pickles.
Each of these did their intended job. The fried pickles were whole dills, encased in a subtly spiced batter.
Definitely falling into guilty pleasure territory, these were the kind of snack that one doesn’t want to admit liking too loudly, lest one lose his foodie credentials. The wings had loads of poultry on them, and we didn’t regret our choice of traditional Buffalo sauce, as the Rex’s version wasn’t overly vinegary.
We wanted more than just snacks, though, and consequently we decided to check out the dinner menu. To the Rex’s credit, there weren’t many surprises on the menu, with burgers, salads (such as a Greek), pizzas and hot appetizers like potato skins taking center stage.
For some reason, Andrew decided to do the stereotypical Brit thing (he was also driving his vintage Morgan sports car that day, so maybe that had something to do with it), and order a $14 entree of fish and chips. The chips were thin-cut fries, hot and loaded with crunch. While a lighter batter might have won this dish higher marks, the white fish tasted as it should and had a light, flaky texture.
My $15 lobster mac and cheese main course was a mixed bag, its main virtue being that the portion was generous, rendering the accompanying side of garlic bread superfluous. Bits of lobster were scattered throughout the thickly sauced pasta, but I wished for more seafood flavor, which was masked by the cheese. In retrospect, I suspect I might have been better off with a burger or entree salad like a Cobb.
But this shouldn’t be taken as a sweeping knock against the Rex. The wings and pickles were perfectly fine, and the open-air setting makes for a uniquely pleasant warm-weather experience. To paraphrase Lieutenant Briggs, the antagonist of the Dirty Harry film Magnum Force, “A diner’s got to know a restaurant’s limitations.” If I had followed my initial instincts and ordered a sandwich or a mess of happy hour small plates, I would have had a different experience.
Nevertheless, I would return to the deck and stick to the bar food classics, because that’s what the Rex experience is all about.
The Louisville Rex 817 Main St., Louisville 303-666-6224