Manny & Merle: A Toe-tappin’ Tavern

| November 14, 2012
The trio of guacamole, featuring the Poblano, Traditional and Pineapple guacamoles.

The trio of guacamole, featuring the Poblano, Traditional and Pineapple guacamoles.

It may be the new bar on the block of historic Whiskey Row, but it’s only a matter of time before it becomes the most popular.

The modern honky-tonk tavern located near the KFC Yum! Center, Manny & Merle, will open to the public Nov. 16 in the building previously housed by Zena’s Cafe. Developed by Tony Palombino – the man behind award-winning eateries including Tony Boombozz Pizzeria and A.P. Crafters – the pub features a bourbon and tequila concept with Mod Mex street fare prepped by Executive Chef Ryan Pile.

“It’s a modern take on Mexican street fare with an emphasis on house-made, high-quality ingredients,” said Mike Polevchak, Manny & Merle’s general manager, who will help run the restaurant with Assistant GM Emily Tolle. “We don’t even have a freezer here. We (make) everything fresh daily. … And that’s not just food, that’s also a lot of the bar items as well.”

The Merle salad.

The Merle salad.

The name Manny & Merle was chosen to symbolize the connection between the street food served in the old honky-tonks of Bakersfield, Calif., and the musical influences of the “Bakersfield Sound” made famous by Merle Haggard, Buck Owens and Johnny Cash.

Featured menu items at the tavern include the Merle salad consisting of mixed greens, cilantro and honey vinaigrette, among other edibles, and Milanesa tortas made with chicken cutlet, roasted tomatillo salsa, chipotle honey slaw and pickled red onions.

While the savory cuisine will leave attendees full and satisfied, one of the main focuses of the watering hole is the liquor and hand-crafted cocktails. “Our margarita, the Mannyrita, is going to be one of our big drinks,” said Polevchak. “Also, we’re doing a couple different things with bourbon. … And, one of the drinks I’m really excited about (will include) mezcal in specialty cocktails.”

Four tacos, including the Pollo Rojo, Wild Mushroom, Picanha and Fish Tacos.

Four tacos, including the Pollo Rojo, Wild Mushroom, Picanha and Fish Tacos.

Prices will range from $3 to $5 for individual tacos; $3 to $8 for appetizers; and $6 to $9 for salads and tortas, plus signature cocktails will be marked between $6 and $10. With such close proximity to the Yum! Center, game day specials are also likely to be offered, along with $3 daily specials on certain bourbon and tequila products.

The unique food and drink offered certainly gives locals plenty to be excited about, but Manny & Merle also prides itself on its live entertainment hosted inside the swanky venue, which exudes a “rustic” feel as Polevchak described. Touted as a cross between a rural honky-tonk and an urban industrial space, the tavern is furbished with wood paneling, while preserving the original brick from the building built in the 1860s. Semi-open-air vintage doors in the front of the building allow passersby to feel as if they’re a part of the ambience.

The Milanesa tortas.

The Milanesa tortas.

Though the “Bakersfield Sound” is an important component of Manny & Merle, the establishment will play much more than country music. The joint will explore rock and blues, including music from Mumford and Sons, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and My Morning Jacket. Manny & Merle’s goal is to also book upcoming artists of varying genres. “We’re going to feature several acts,” Polevchak assured. “We want to feature upcoming artists and be the (place) who gets bands in before they hit it big.”

Whether you’re coming to enjoy a twist on the typical Mexican restaurant, enjoy the beauty of bourbon and tequila, or dazzle in quality live entertainment, Manny & Merle will fit the bill. “We want this to be a fun, toe-tappin’ kind of place,” Polevchak said. “Come out with your friends and learn about Louisville, (we’re going to) emphasize the history of Louisville, drink some bourbon, drink some tequila, eat some great food and have a good time.”

Manny & Merle is open Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; closed Sunday unless booked for private events.

Third Thursday After-Work Party

Manny & Merle queso.

Manny & Merle queso.

Join in a Voice-Tribune Exclusive at this month’s Third Thursday After-Work Party on Nov. 15, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Grand Opening of Louisville’s newest dining club, Manny & Merle, 122 E. Main St.

The Voice has partnered with award-winning restaurateur Tony Palombino and Heaven Hill Distilleries to provide you with the perfect V.I.P. experience for this month’s event. Be the first to try a sampling of the delicious Mod Mex taco menu; indulge in a bourbon & coffee braised beef brisket taco or a chile rubbed roasted pork taco with grilled pineapple salsa.

The event will also serve as a Louisville launch of Craig and Parker Beam’s newest whiskey, Larceny Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, already being touted by industry critics as one of the best whiskeys on the market. And for the Tequila lover, we’ll have Lunazul 100% Agave Tequila, for both sipping or mixing in a signature cocktail.

Ready Valet will be available. Swag will be given to a lucky 50 attendees. Great give-aways will also be featured.

For more information, visit or call 502.897.8900.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Category: Tastes

About the Author (Author Profile)

Ashley Anderson

Ashley spends half her time writing stories at The Voice-Tribune office and half her time out on the town conducting interviews, while occasionally dressing in wild outfits to fully immerse herself in the experience (aka Princess Leia at Comic Con). Ashley is a huge UofL fan and loves the Yankees and the Boston Celtics (she is fully aware of the irony). She hopes to one day outshine Erin Andrews on ESPN and enjoys running, Bardstown Road/Fourth Street, Breaking Bad and reality TV (she’s not ashamed to admit that).

Comments (1)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Emily Tolle says:

    Thank you to the Voice Tribune for hosting an amazing Third Thursday After Work Party at Manny & Merle! We loved having you and had a wonderful time!

    Emily Tolle
    Asst. GM
    Manny & Merle on Whiskey Row