Katie Molck / louisville.com

Over the 9 has been open at 120 S. 10th Street less than a year and has seen a fair amount of changes for a restaurant in its infancy, especially one that’s a bit off the beaten path. A little over a month ago Over the 9 said goodbye to their opening chef, Griffin Paulin, and welcomed new chef Bob Durbin, who stepped in and rolled out a new menu within a week. “The old menu was convoluted. It had a much higher price point. The highest thing I have on the menu is the $18 duck breast and pork belly,” says Durbin, who’s trying to make the pub-style restaurant more attainable and affordable.  
Images: Michelle Eigenheer 
Durbin’s 15-year background in cooking started when he was 16 washing dishes at Denny’s.  “After my shift I would hangout with the cooks. I thought they were the coolest mother*ckers,” he says. After turning 19, he moved around and worked at various restaurants, not seriously pursuing cooking. It wasn’t until the Michigan native spent some time in jail that he realized his calling: “I was sitting in my bunk on a Saturday and they brought around the book cart. I had been thinking to myself ‘You know, you gotta stop this shit. It’s dumb. You’re about to be f*cking 26 years old. You can’t be doing this shit anymore.’ So this book came around. It was Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. I read that book in six hours and then read it again. It was my life except the food wasn’t the same. I was making shit food,” he recalls. Once Durbin was released, he went to culinary school. Since then, he’s managed at two brewpubs and has now landed a position in which he can create and craft on his own. “I’ve never been totally in charge and able to say, ‘this is what we’re doing and this is how we’re doing it,’” he says.
Durbin’s menu is influenced by the idea of fusing Southern and Mexican cuisine. “I grew up in a part of Detroit that was influenced by Mexican food. It was something I was exposed to. Aside from that, I worked in a lot of kitchen with Latinos, so when you did a family meal or took a break you ate their food because there were more of them then the white guys. What are you going to do? Make macaroni and cheese? No, they don’t eat that shit.” The two cuisines Durbin is fusing share similar ingredients: rice, beans, corn, peppers and lots of pork. His menu is attainable in that way; the ingredients are recognizable, easy to read and know, but Durbin says “when the [food] comes out, they see it and eat it, it’s different for them [the customers.]” His menu also obeys the seasons; the current menu features lots of greens and “robust winter stuff.” Durbin is the kind of guy who’s not going to bring in tomatoes from Mexico in the middle of February because they’re not in season and quite frankly “they suck.” In fact, Durbin’s menu is about 45% sourced locally, and as the season changes he plans to increase that percentage.
So, the menu? Here’s a sampling of what to try.
Crispy Pork Fritter
Image: Michelle Eigenheer
This tasty starter consists of braised pork shoulder with house-made pickle and mustard on the inside and a breaded Panko crumb crust on the outside. The fritter is served with a charred scallion aioli. It’s a nice, sharable starter and the sauce is definitely connecting the dots here.
Smoked Tempeh Melt & Brussels Sprouts
Image: Michelle Eigenheer
What’s tempeh? Good question. I had to ask too. It’s a soy cake originating from Indonesia. It’s made by a natural culturing process that binds soybeans together to make a cake. For this sandwich Durbin wanted to “give vegans bacon” so he salted and smoked the tempeh to give it the nuances of the pork favorite. It’s served on toasted rye with cabbage, roasted Crimini mushrooms, Kenny’s chipotle cheddar, goat cheese, and apple butter. The end result is a vegetarian (potentially vegan) friendly smoked sammie with lots of textures and flavors.
Ah, Brussels Sprouts, a winter favorite and probably the best sprouts I’ve ever put in my mouth. These sprouts are covered in Harissa with roasted shallots and served with apple vinegar. “ A lot of people serve their Brussels with vinegar. I wanted to do something like that, but I also like mine with apple, so we take our apple butter and mix it with vinegar,” says Durbin. I’d eat these sprouts day and night.
Short Rib
Image: Michelle Eigenheer
We’ve arrived at the crowd favorite. A mouth-watering heap of beef, Jalapeno grits, queso fresco, and red chili gravy topped with pickled onion and cilantro. This is Durbin’s attempt at a taco-esque dish. “I wanted to put a taco on the menu, but I didn’t want to do tacos. This is my taco. The grits are like the tortilla. Then all the other contra you find in a taco, the meat, the onion, the cheese, and you got your cilantro and instead of using lime we pickle the onion to get that acid,” he says. This dish, oddly enough, translates like a taco. The grits have texture, but are smooth like mashed potatoes with just the right amount of kick and the “inside” is filling, but not heavy.
Fried Chicken Salad
Image: Michelle Eigenheer
This classic can be found on the brunch menu Sundays from 10 – 5 p.m. “It’s the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. Hands down,” says Durbin. The recipe is from his kitchen crew member, Lamar Cornett. Durbin isn’t lying it’s some damn good chicken. My feasting partner, Michelle Eigenheer, can attest to that as well.
Blue Corn Waffles
Image: Michelle Eigenheer
“Are they blue?!,” I asked excitedly as these came out. These waffles are an example of the Southern-Mexican fusion Durbin is trying to cultivate at Over the 9. This brunch dish starts as a standard waffle but some of the flour is replaced with blue cornmeal for texture. The maple syrup is married with tamarind. It’s the best sweet-sour combo there ever was. “Tamarind is my favorite flavor of all time,” says Durbin. The waffles have a denser cake like feel and are topped with orange butter “to lighten them” and toasted pumpkin seeds for a hint of nut and because “pumpkin seeds are awesome,” according to Durbin.
The current menu at Over the 9 will run until around Derby time then will change to follow the season.  The pub also plans to start a free service industry night on Thursdays with a different food theme every week.
120 S. 10th Street
Louisville, KY 40202
502-252-6671
gooverthe9.com
Cover Image: Katie Molck