JQ Public House evokes comfort food at Waterfront
“JQ’s idea is Americana. I traveled a lot with my dad growing up and we always stopped at roadside diners. There would always be a case of homemade desserts, fried chicken and meatloaf, all made from scratch in house,” said Brett Davis, partner in the Falls City Hospitality Group. “You will see things from all across the country that you used to find in those great American diners.”
Falls City is also developing Doc’s Cantina, the Tex Mex-inspired restaurant opening by December in the former Tumbleweed downriver at Waterfront Park.
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There is nothing better to sip with elevated diner food than beer, Davis said, adding JQ Public House customers will be able to choose from 120 taps, including import brands, Louisville-brewed craft beer and Bud Lite.
Liver and onions might be a Friday Blue Plate special, while signature fried chicken and burgers will be regulars on the lunch and dinner menus. Expect milk shakes, coconut cream pie and other diner dessert hallmarks, he added. Another throwback to mid-century will be plastic Melamine plates and coffee cups, Davis said.
Where most new restaurant concepts aim for niche cuisine, Davis is aiming for broad appeal in the family dining style of the recently-shuttered Cunningham’s in downtown Louisville and Austin’s in the East End. An existing restaurant that resonates with the feel Davis looks to create is Cottage Inn on Eastern Parkway.
JQ Public House aims to feed the masses in a large space — 12,500 square feet on River Road, with 275 seats inside, outside seating in warmer months and a private dining room. Up to 75 workers will be employed there, he added.
“We are applying fine dining to everyman food,” Davis said, adding average customer checks are expected to cost $25 for dinner and $15 for lunch. “We want you to feel like you are outdoors even in the winter, so every seat has a view of the river.”
Local farmers might be tapped to source the restaurant, but JQ Public House will “not be a farm-to-table restaurant,” Davis said. Instead, a diner concept Davis admires isBuckhead Diner in an affluent suburb of Atlanta. That high end diner offers root beer floats alongside $17 veal meatballs and pasta. In Louisville, JQ Public House will not offer grass-fed burgers, either, he said.
Grass-fed beef doesn’t “have enough fat,” Davis said, adding a burger with 25 to 30 percent fat “makes the best burger.”
Like Doc Crow’s, the bourbon bar on Main Street being spun off into a sister eatery under construction in Cincinnati, Davis said he expects to mold JQ Public House into a concept that can be replicated elsewhere.
“I’m not trying to build a one-off. You always hope it is successful enough that you can take it on the road.”
The mid-century modern feel of exposed concrete, glass, wood and some tile will make anyone at home, he added, even that quintessential diner customer, the trucker.
“Anyone is welcome as long as they can find a place to park,” he said.
Brett Davis, Partner in the Fall City Hospitality Group, talks the idea behind the JQPublic House Restaurant construction at Riverpark Place.
Jere Downs can be reached at (502) 582-4669, Courier Journal July 29, 2015