Ted’s Happy Place
When Ted has a tender, juicy steak in front of him, everything and everyone else around ceases to exist. We can be in the middle of a lively conversation he’s fully invested in, but once he experiences that first bite, I know I’ve lost him. Steak transports him to another dimension — his happy place. And the thing he enjoys most with a steak is a good bourbon: “Every night is bourbon night,” Ted says. That’s why Ted and I just had to try Steak and Bourbon. Located in Westport Village, Steak and Bourbon is one of the many masterpieces created by the Ole Hospitality Group. It’s said that everything the group touches turns to gold, and, having experienced many of their restaurants, we certainly agree.
A Dinner & Movie Experience
The first thing that stood out to us during our exceptional dining experience was how the staff seemed as perfectly placed as the beautiful decor. Unique to today’s hospitality climate, there was a plethora of staff filling the room — all smiling and laughing, leaving the allure of genuine happiness in the air. It was infectious. Watching their interactions gave us the perfect “Dinner and a Movie” experience. Most noticeable was the energy of Steak and Bourbon’s assistant manager, Sherman Lewis, who has a magical way with people. We just had to know more about him, and what exactly makes this place so different from all the other restaurants in town.
Sherman sat down with us and shared a little of his personal story. He grew up bouncing around overseas and then back to the States as an Air Force brat with his twin brother Herman. They were both very shy growing up and it wasn’t until graduating high school that they came out of their shells. They learned that if you want to make lifelong friends, you have to put yourself out there and meet as many people as you can — something Sherman certainly does at Steak at Bourbon.
Sherman was poised and professional throughout our interview. I sensed that we were speaking with someone extraordinarily genuine and kind. He describes himself as a highly motivated individual who does not compromise his ethics. “I have a moral compass,” he said. “I will not lie, cheat, steal, or step on someone’s back to get ahead.” He attributes this sense of moral direction to his time at Wesleyan University, a Christian institution where Sherman earned both his bachelors and masters degrees, as well as life experiences like his first job at age 15 as a service assistant at the Officer’s Club at Patterson Airforce Base in Dayton, OH.
It was general manager Brandon Thompson who reached out to Sherman to join the Ole Hospitality Group, and he came on board in 2019 just before Derby. Ole is a unique company that really cares about their staff. Sherman has worked in other corporate restaurants, but he said this one “is family.”
Sherman avoided management for years, but his personality and morality were just what the Ole Company was looking for in their management team. He said they have a continuous stream of applicants and never struggle for staff — people just come to them. “You want to know the secret behind the Ole Group? They allow their employees’ personalities to shine through,” he told us. “We have high standards, but we’re not scripted.” Ole managers will roll up their sleeves and do whatever needs to be done. They have several long-term employees, many of whom have been with Ole for over ten years.
Sherman talks about his staff with such kindness and admiration. “We have a wonderful team here — like Jessica, a single mother with a special needs son trying to get citizenship. I am helping her with her English and she is working with me to learn Spanish. Jessica is one of the all-stars on our team. She believes in the American dream. She is so optimistic and has a great attitude.”
Sherman told us that Ole is the best company that he has ever worked for, and this culture is just one of the things that makes owners Fernando, Yani, and Christina Martinez, so successful. They are the architects behind Guaca Mole, Taco Luchador, La Bodeguita De Mima, Senora Arapa, and are also former owners of Mussel and Burger Bar, Mercato Italiano, Artesano Tapas, Red Barn Kitchen, Havana Rumba Cuban Restaurant, and Mojito Tapas. If you live in Louisville, chances are you’ve visited — and are a fan of — many of these amazing spots.
The Martinezes are from Venezuela and Cuba, and they trained at the Cordon Bleu. Their journey came with many hardships and obstacles, but they turned those hardships into a success story and now enjoy giving back. We hope to interview them for a future blog about one of their many fabulous restaurants, so stay tuned!
Chef Zach Wolf from Indiana has been with the group for eight years. Zach works with the owners on the Steak and Bourbon menu, and much of it is his own creation. He also takes the role of touching base with all of the restaurants in concept, and he works to ensure the quality is the best of the best and standards are being met and exceeded.
Our friendly and professional waiter, Wesley, took our drink orders: an S&B Old Fashioned (made with the warmth of Old Forester Signature, lightly sweetened with simple syrup, angostura bitters that round out the flavor, and amarena cherry) for Ted and Dirty Tanqueray Martini for me, which was extra salty with the added olive juice. Sherman told us that there is currently a shortage of bourbon, but luckily, their most recent search recovered some hard-to-find Antique Weller, Weller 12. Their signature cocktails include a Bourbon Peach punch and a Bourbon Smash.
For appetizers, Ted went with the Jumbo Shrimp Scampi, which was sautéed with garlic and olive oil and finished with lemon sauce on toasted baguette. I went with a bowl of the French Onion Soup, served traditionally with croutons and Gruyère cheese. It was the most delicious french onion soup I’ve ever tasted, with the perfect amount of onions, cheese, and bread.
For dinner, Ted got the 10oz center cut filet, which was cooked to perfection. Their steaks are certified angus beef aged for 21 days and seasoned with a house blend. His steak was accompanied by loaded whipped potatoes topped with melted butter, sour cream, chives, shredded cheddar, and bacon. We also shared a side of caramelized brussel sprouts made with brown butter, hand-cut bacon, and candied pecans with aged balsamic vinegar.
I enjoyed the Cheese Curd Burger, made with fried cheese curds, candied maple bacon, lettuce, tomato, onions, and pickles. This delicious burger was 9 ounces of certified angus beef on a toasted brioche bun served with crispy homemade french fries. The meat was juicy and flavorful and the fried cheese curds added a nice chewy element that paired well with the burger.
As you all know by now, ice cream is my weakness, so that’s what we shared for dessert. It was a waffle cone with two scoops of rich and creamy vanilla ice cream, drizzled in a delicious bourbon caramel and chocolate sauce. It did not disappoint.
As we enjoyed our meal and wonderful conversation, we took in all of the gorgeous decor — from the lighting, to the wall hangings, to the customers themselves. The decor is upscale and creative yet comfortable. The vibrant red curtains and seating against the backdrop of rich brown tones of the walls and flooring makes the restaurant both on-trend yet unique to the Ole Group’s flare for fun, color, and design. It is also nicely lit, clean and crisp, with music to fit the mood.
I asked Sherman if they are looking to expand, and he shared that there is a second location opening soon downtown at the old Z’s Oyster Bar, across from the Convention Center. It will be a bit more upscale with a few more elegant items on the menu. We can’t wait to check it out.
If, like Ted, steak and bourbon transport you to your happy place, this is the spot for you. At Steak and Bourbon, you’ll enjoy a delicious dinner with a golden touch, and the staff will make you feel like family. When you go, be sure to say hi to Sherman and tell him that the Bluegrass Travelers sent you.