For this edition of the Louisville Perspectives podcast, we spoke with Isaac Fox, the founder and owner of La Chasse, a rustic, wood-fired, French-influence restaurant at 1359 Bardstown Road in the Highlands. Forget all those stereotypes of the white linens and stuffy waiters in suit jackets. La Chasse is a comfortable environment where you’ll find Provence authentic French comfort food.
Think fresh herbs, roasted vegetables, and mouth-watering sauces. Some Spanish and Italian ingredients find their way on the menu from time to time, but most dishes are French-inspired. Braised rabbit is one of their signature dishes, but their rotating seasonal games may include boar, elk, venison, duck, or pheasant. This is all very apt, considering “La Chasse” translates to “the hunt.”
There’s a cocktail for everyone at La Chasse
- Fox has a background in mixology and bar management, so you’ll find 40 high-quality craft cocktails on the menu.
- Each drink is made with European liqueurs, fresh herbs, and homemade juices.
- The craft cocktails rotate seasonally, with ingredients specifically paired to the dinner menu offerings.
- The wine menu offers 80-90 carefully chosen bottles, including Southern French and obscure selections for the discerning.
- Fox hopes to develop a house blend of wine, produced by a small winery in France, within the next year.
The Highlands is the perfect home for La Chasse.
Bardstown Road was a great fit for Fox. “I love the vibe… I love the diversity… I love the fact that I can walk anywhere,” he explains. Prior to opening La Chasse, Fox lived in Indiana, where he attended music school and worked at fast, casual restaurants to pay the bills. He found the love of his life, a culinary arts school graduate, and his passion for finer food while working at a more high-end, chef-driven establishment.
Of all the cookbooks he has at home, he kept gravitating back to the French dishes, Fox says. The idea to put wood-fired dishes at the heart of the menu only popped up after finding their current location on Bardstown Road – which had been the former Palermo Viejo steakhouse. The Executive Chef, Alex Dulaney, transformed the custom charcoal grill the previous tenants had left behind into a wood-fired grill – and the rest is history!
Reservations are accepted through Open Table or by calling 502-822-3963. More information can be found at www.lachasselouisville.com. Walk-ins are accepted at the 18-seat bar for those in need of a quick bite and a drink.
La Chasse Restaurant Podcast Transcript:
Welcome to this edition of Perspectives, our look at the fabric of our city and what makes Louisville so interesting and full of possibilities. It’s our take on the trends and events in town, what’s happening and when, and why it’s important to you. I’m Greg Fleischaker, your host, reminding you to like and share your favorite episodes on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. And if you really want to help us spread the word, please subscribe and leave us a review on iTunes or Stitcher, it really does help.
In this week’s episode of Perspectives brought to you by Louisville’s luxury real estate brokerage, Lenihan Sotheby’s International Realty, I’m speaking with Isaac Fox, the founder and owner of La Chasse, a rustic, wood fired, European influence restaurant located in the Highlands right on Bardstown Road. Isaac, thanks for letting me visit your restaurant today. Nice to meet you, how are you?
Isaac: I’m great. Great to have you and thanks for having me on this.
Isaac: Absolutely. We definitely have French influence as you would guess from the name. We have a little bit of a broader European influence and our big focus is the 100% wood fire grill we have.
Greg: Okay, wow. All right, lot of places to start there. You want to start with your wood fired grill or do you want to start with why you wanted to open a restaurant?
Isaac: Let’s start with the grill.
Greg: Okay, let’s go for it.
Isaac: The executive chef and myself, we had this idea a couple of years ago to open this place. We were working on concepts. We knew we wanted to have French influence, but one of the big things we wanted to avoid was that kind of stereotype of French Haute Cuisine, the white tablecloths, the dinner jackets, sometimes unfortunately rather snobbish attitude, we wanted to go something closer to Provence, more of a rustic style approach to French food, more French comfort food.
Greg: Right, because not everyone in France can eat at the fancy places, someone has to eat rustic…
Isaac: Absolutely. When I think French food I think that more authentic rustic style. I think of game, I think of braised foods, of fresh herbs, roasted vegetables, great sauces. We’d kind of roughly chosen that concept. We found the place and then we were really excited when we came in here to find that there was this amazing grill left from the previous restaurant. The former restaurant here was Palermo Viejo, it was an Argentinian steakhouse. They had had a custom made, Argentinian style grill built for them on the premises, which was designed to be used completely with charcoal.
Greg: They left it here?
Isaac: They left it here. It’s a beast, I’ll tell you that, if you go back and take a look at it. We were very excited about that and it’s interesting because I always believe that location or neighborhood can help influence the concept of a restaurant. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a piece of equipment influence the concept but that really became our centerpiece. It helped re-define what we were going to do here. Our chef transformed the grill to be 100% wood fired which is very unusual for a more fine dining restaurant. We use about a 50-50 blend of white oak and cherry, get it delivered every week. I actually, it’s very fun for me, I get to go out and chop wood every morning.
Greg: You work up an appetite.
Isaac: Yeah. It adds just a wonderful flavor to the food. Of course, you get a little bit of that aroma outside the restaurant and inside. I think it’s very home-like, very appealing.
Greg: Before you even had the location you had an idea of what kind of food to serve but you weren’t yet focused on the wood fired grill aspect?
Isaac: Exactly. That was a real treat, that we didn’t know we were going to find anything like that. It really helped define a lot of items on the menu.
Greg: Did it seal the deal with looking at this space?
Isaac: It was a big bonus.
Greg: But you’d already decided on the Highlands, right? You were already looking in this area. Why the Highlands?
Isaac: Several reasons. This area of the Highlands we think of as Restaurant Row. There’s so many great restaurants….
Greg: I haven’t even asked you where you are yet. Obviously, I’m here, I know where you are but the people listening, reading… Where on Bardstown Road are you?
Isaac: The physical address is 1359. A couple of landmarks … We’re roughly directly between the Bristol and Eastern Parkway. Absolutely love Bardstown Road, I love the Highlands. It’s a great place for restaurants, so much variety in restaurants. From ethnic cuisines, from fast casual to very fine dining places like Seviche, Jack Fry’s, Lilly’s… I think people view this area as Restaurant Row. There’s also a lot of foot traffic. No restaurant on Bardstown Road is a destination. People aren’t driving 15, 20 miles for one special dinner. You get a lot more foot traffic, a lot more regular clientele.
I also just happen to love the Highlands. I live in the South End, personally, I’m originally from Indiana but I’ve lived in Louisville for a number of years now. The Highlands have always been my favorite place. I love the vibe, it’s very cool. There’s a lot of diversity, people are very friendly. I love the diversity in the shops and restaurants and I really love the fact that I can walk anywhere.
Greg: Years ago when you were developing into your future restaurant owning self, did you consciously pick Louisville for your restaurant training? Would this restaurant do as well somewhere else or is there something about Louisville and the Highlands that’s a really good fit?
Isaac: I think it’s a little bit of both. I think this is a very good fit for us and I love Louisville. I think this concept could roughly work somewhere else but I think that sort of warm, friendly environment and the rustic French and European food we do here is a fairly natural fit in the Highlands. I wouldn’t want to take it somewhere else, it feels like home to me here.
Greg: All right, so we get to keep you for awhile.
Greg: Okay, great. Is this your first restaurant?
Isaac: First one to own, yes.
Greg: You’ve worked in several others. Is that how you came up with the idea?
Isaac: Yes. I’ve been in restaurants on and off for quite a few years. My background was in music. I was a … I’m from Indiana, I was a double music major at IUS in college. I guess I had a little bit of that stereotypical artistic temperament and I wound up dropping out of school my second year so, officially I was a music school dropout. I don’t know if that’s a great thing to have on a resume.
Of course, during college I had worked at restaurants a little bit to make money, but that was a typical college student job. I never saw it as a career at the time. I was still interested in pursuing something in the way of music or the performing arts which I’d always loved.
I wound up teaching ballroom dance professionally for several years, out of college which was a lot of fun, very interesting job to have. I think a lot of people don’t get that opportunity. I wound up coming back into restaurants and still working in Indiana at a few chef driven restaurants that were not the fast casual I had done before. That was where I really began to develop a passion for food and wine, craft cocktails… I really began to enjoy the restaurant scene and began to see it as possibly a long term career for me.
Greg: Okay. Before I start asking about individual dishes or cocktails or what someone can expect to find here, how did you … Okay, you must have been taking ballroom dancing lessons much earlier than when you became a teacher, right? How long did you dance? I’m really curious.
Isaac: I would say that I danced as a very serious hobby over the course of about six years, and I taught for two of those professionally.
Greg: Wow, okay. Quickly, what’s your favorite ballroom dance?
Isaac: Well, I trained in ballroom, Latin, and Swing. I love all of them. I think I did about 18 different styles of dance when I was teaching. Once you move outside of the ballroom setting into more of a social setting a lot of those don’t really work anymore. It’s very hard to go to a bar and find music that’s appropriate for waltz, for example. My favorite became the West Coast style of Swing dancing. You can dance it in so many situations to so many different kinds of music, so many different rhythms. It’s a very cool dance. That was definitely my favorite over the years.
Greg: You don’t take up a lot of floor space, right, so you can squeeze in …
Isaac: Exactly, exactly. You’re not spinning around the floor in ball gowns.
Greg: Right, right. Okay, one more question before we get to food. As a restaurant owner, what is your … I’m not sure how to ask this. This might be two-part. I’m assuming you don’t mind if people are waiting at your door because that means you’re busy and business is good. When you go to a restaurant, personally, do you have a comfort zone, like how long.. ?
Isaac: Absolutely. That I think is a very challenging balance to find. If people are waiting at your door, yes, it does mean you’re busy. That can also, in certain neighborhoods and with certain restaurants, give out this impression of being very exclusive which can make people want to go there almost more.
However, we’re also looking for comfort. For me personally, having waited tables and bartended for so many years and just being a hospitality person in general, I hate for people to have to wait more than a second for anything. I want to be able to get you your table immediately, your drinks, your food, almost instantaneously.
I’m really happy to see those occasional weekend nights where we have a wait, that means we’re very busy, but I would prefer for people to be able to get their tables quickly. For myself, if I am really, really excited about the place I’m going I don’t mind waiting awhile as long as I understand the reason for the wait. If I didn’t have a reservation, I’m just putting my name on a wait list, I’ll wait 30 minutes for a good table, no problems. Longer than that I’m probably going to be too hungry. I’m not upset but I’m probably going to find someplace else to eat.
Greg: Which is one of the beautiful things about where you’re located on Bardstown Road. If one restaurant is too busy then there’s something down the street.
Isaac: Absolutely. That actually worked out really well for us. We had a bit of an unfortunate catastrophe a few months ago here where a sewage line under the street out front had broken. It caused a backup in the middle of a Saturday night and we had to shut down. We had a full house. We had about 100 reservations on that night. It was very unfortunate for us but we wanted to do our best to take care of our guests. We were able to make some phone calls to some neighboring restaurants and get people tables, that they were able then not have to go more than another five or ten minutes away and get a table at another restaurant.
Greg: Well, that’s very nice of you, very … Not sure of the right word. Very hospitable.
Isaac: We’re really hospitality focused. Our clientele is lovely. We have so many regular guests and we want to be able to give back to them as much as we can.
Greg: Okay, so how about we get a couple descriptions of what someone might expect. Maybe a little bit more specific than what we started off with. If someone came, maybe a cocktail or two or a dish or two. Then maybe you’ll let me put some pictures here on the show notes when we publish your episode?
Isaac: Absolutely. All right, well let me give a brief overview of what I would call the three sections we have. We have the dinner menu, we have the wine list, and we have the cocktail program. Each one of those has a special feature or theme to them but they are all kind of designed to work together. I come from a long background as a bartender, a mixologist. I wanted to really kind of push the envelope on the cocktail program here. We have the largest cocktail program in the region.
We do about 40 craft cocktails that change about four times a year seasonally. It’s a very intensive list. We’re not going just for size, we’re really trying to keep extremely high quality in each of those. Lots of fresh herbs, fresh juices, interesting French and European liqueurs being found in those, and the list is laid out stylistically so there is your aperitif drinks, there’s your champagne based drinks, there’s your stronger drinks and so forth. There’s really something for everyone.
The flavors and ingredients that I’m using seasonally on the cocktails are meant to relate to the ingredients we’re using on the dinner menu. We kind of want this to be an overall experience. I want your cocktails to go with your food, not to be kind of an after thought.
Same approach with the wine list. We have a medium sized wine list, probably about 80-90 bottles on there. Some of it’s a little bit obscure. There’s a heavy focus on Southern French wines. I think that’s okay and I actually really enjoy it here, because we’re such a small restaurant I’m able to get out to every table on the floor if they have wine questions. While some of those wines are obscure I’m usually around and able to help people through that list.
Those wines are very carefully hand chosen to pair with our food and the style of food we do. As far as the dinner menu goes, definitely plenty of French influence but there’s other European influences. You’ll find some Spanish ingredients from time-to-time, you’ll find some Italian. Definitely an influence on the rustic side and the name La Chasse means” the hunt” so that had several meanings for the chef and myself. One of them is, you’re always going to find some game items on the menu. Our signature dish is probably our braised rabbit. Then as we go through the year there’s some items we rotate between elk, venison, wild boar, other game items like that. We have some duck on the menu, we’ve done pheasant as well.
Greg: Where did you develop your curiosity or your interest in rustic French Cuisine? Do you travel there frequently? Did you travel? Did it just strike a fancy for some reason?
Isaac: I haven’t traveled there, unfortunately.
Isaac: Yet. There’s a possibility in the near future to go and visit a small winery that I’m very excited about, to hopefully get a house blend for us. I’m hoping I can make that happen this year. To answer your question, I’ve got to give a lot of the credit there to my wife. Going back to when I was in Indiana working in restaurants, I met this pretty cool chick. Her name was Tenille, she was working in a restaurant right down the road from me. About a month after we met I wound up getting a job as a bar manager at that restaurant. We started dating and actually got married about six months later, whirlwind romance.
Isaac: She was finishing getting her degree in Culinary Arts from Sullivan at the time. That was when both of us really got to that level of passion of feeling that somewhere in our future this was going to be a long term career and hopefully we would own a restaurant of our own. Now we have a very large and growing family. She’s now a full-time stay at home mom and wasn’t able to be involved in the business here. Over the years we have had so much passion for food, whether it be going out to eat, we’re both good home cooks. We have a library of restaurant books, cookbooks, wine books, cocktail books. It was through that, that the interest in French food really developed with me.
Greg: Wonderful. Well, Isaac, thank you so much for inviting me over today or actually allowing me to come over today. If someone wants to reach you or maybe look at your menu, where’s the best way to find you? Online, Facebook, what’s the best way?
Isaac: We are. We’re in a couple different places. We are on Facebook, that’s a nice, easy way to find us. If you follow us we post upcoming events regularly. We do a lot of wine dinners and cocktail dinners throughout the year. We also have a website which is www.lachasselouisville.com, it’s all one word. Both those list our menus and some of our upcoming events.
We are also on Open Table so we do accept online reservations from Open Table. You can find our menu on the Open Table site as well. You can also call for reservations. The number here is 502-822-3963.
I’d like to just mention that we have a lovely 18 seat bar with a very, very affordable bar menu. This isn’t just a reservation only or special occasion kind of place, you can feel free to walk in or stop by the bar for a bite to eat and a drink at any time.
Greg: Wonderful. Well, thanks for allowing me to stop by today. I really look forward to trying it out, making a reservation.
Isaac: It was great having you in, Greg, and thanks for having me on.
Thank you for joining Perspectives this week. Presented by Lenihan Sotheby’s International Realty. If you have an idea for a future episode or think you might like to participate please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Please, if you like this series make sure to subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher. Then leave us a review and share and like on all your favorite social media channels. You can find more episodes like this one as well as all available homes for sale in the Louisville market at our website, lsir.com.