Bigger and Better at the Waterloo
By Lisa Truesdale | Photos by Phil Mumford
To celebrate a 10th anniversary, some restaurants might throw a big party for the loyal customers who helped them reach that impressive milestone.
Josh Karp and his wife, Melanie, definitely celebrated with their customers when their Louisville eatery, The Waterloo, turned 10. But instead of a party, they debuted a “bigger and better” version of their restaurant, just two doors down from the original one.
The new two-story Waterloo opened in late July, about a month before the Sept. 1 anniversary. It boasts double the dining space—“or triple in the warmer months, with the two patios,” Karp says. There’s a bar on each floor, and the kitchen is a whopping 1,000 square feet, almost 10 times the size of the cramped little workspace at the old location.
With years of pre-restaurant construction experience, Karp served as his own general contractor, completely gutting the interior of the building. Coincidentally, it was once the home of Señor T’s, where Melanie worked in high school and which was owned by the family of one of Karp’s longest-tenured employees.
To create the “industrial rustic” look, Karp sourced all the materials himself, including traveling to Nebraska with a friend to take apart an old barn, piece by piece, and haul it back to Louisville to use as wainscoting. He found oak flooring in a shade that complements the barn wood, and he also hand-selected the décor, like the muralized ’62 Cadillac section hanging across from the downstairs bar.
It looks a little different than the other place, he says, but his goal is to assure the community that it still has “a neighborhood feel.”
‘The People Have Spoken’
When The Waterloo opened in 2007, it was intended to be mostly a bar and music venue. “We thought Louisville was ready for its own Cheers-type place,” Karp says, “where you could go to just have a drink and listen to some good music.”
But the clientele in Louisville had other ideas, he says. “We gradually became more of a restaurant than a bar, but we really didn’t have the kitchen space to expand the menu.”
Until now. Karp is excited about the possibilities that the larger kitchen offers, and so is his new chef, Timothy Hefty, who relocated to Colorado for the job in November. The size of the old kitchen, with no freezer, meant that all ingredients were always fresh and local, and everything was made from scratch—and that’s one thing that definitely won’t change when the menu gets revised a bit.
“The people have spoken,” Karp laughs, so he and Melanie won’t be removing customer favorites from the menu. These include The Potato ($12), a burger featuring shredded potato mixed in with the beef; the fish sandwich ($11) and fish tacos ($12.50); the “infamous” handmade poppers ($8) with cream cheese and bacon; or the wings ($10) with a choice of chile-lime, barbecue or Asian sauce. The wings, Karp says, will change slightly when he gets the smoker up and running; he plans to add authentic barbecue dishes to the menu in the near future. He also wants the dinner menu to include fresh fish, “and at least one good steak entrée,” changing often according to what’s available locally.
The Waterloo (303-993-2094; www.waterloolouisville.com) is located at 817 Main St., Louisville 80027. It is open every day 11 a.m. to close. Follow the restaurant’s Facebook page to find out about upcoming live-music events and a grand-opening party in the spring.
He’ll be working with Hefty to add more small plates and refined light bites, banking on the success of his Ceviche Mixto ($12), citrus-marinated shrimp, squid and white fish with cucumber, onion, cilantro and jalapeño, served with housemade corn tortilla chips. Adding more shareables, like a charcuterie platter, will be ideal for happy hour and will help highlight something else he’s proud of—the bar.
“We’ve got local craft beers on tap, great wines, a large whiskey selection, lots of local and Texas-made spirits, and unique cocktails,” he says.
One of the most popular cocktails is Cucumber Lemonade ($8.50), made with Hendrick’s Gin, St. Germain, cucumber, lemon and simple syrup, topped off with club soda. It’s a drink that would normally be a seasonal one, he admits, but so many people love it that it’s offered year-round. There’s also the standard old fashioned ($10), made with Bulleit rye, Angostura bitters, raw cane syrup and orange peel. It’s now served with a single “ice ball”—a classic preparation, he says, but something they didn’t have freezer space for at the old place.
Although the address is different, the place is bigger and the menu is getting a refresher, Karp says the two things he’s most proud of will never change—the atmosphere and the customer service.
“Ten years ago, I didn’t have the experience to open a place this big,” he admits. “I wanted to wait and do it right, because if you don’t do it right, what’s the point?
“And if we’re not doing it right, Louisville will let us know.”