Louisville’s Newest Cafe Gralehaus Might Be Perfect

Gralehaus Modbar

Cafe Perfection

It’s hard to imagine a more idyllic morning than sleeping in, meandering downstairs, and being handed a well crafted cappuccino. Throw in a beer and breakfast menu that would even make Anthony Bourdain swoon, and you have Gralehaus, the new cafe/bed & breakfast from Lori Beck and Tyler Trotter. Lori and Tyler are best known as the team behind the internationally-acclaimed beer bar The Holy Grale, situated in a repurposed Unitarian church conveniently located immediately behind the turn-of-the-century building which houses Gralehaus. The two restaurants share a German-style biergarten, so theoretically there’s no reason for a visiting foodie to ever leave the premises.

Gralehaus exterior

The Windy City comes to Derby City

We’ve been anticipating Gralehaus’s opening for several months now, so a few snow flurries were not going to keep us from grabbing two of our favorite photographers, Ben and Ashely Willis, and checking it out. Louisville has long had a strong microroaster scene, but Gralehaus represents one of the first times a local cafe has started a serious coffee program with a nationally known company like Intelligentsia. When we visited, Gralehouse’s K30 Twin was filled with Intelli’s Honeybadger Espresso blend and Colombia Tres Santos- two delicious coffees that we thoroughly enjoyed.


Modbar Gralehaus

Kentucky’s First Modbar

Most exciting for Louisville coffee geeks is the hardware. Gralehaus boasts Kentucky’s first Modbar, a modular espresso machine that took the specialty coffee world by storm in 2013. With the modular system, most of the hardware sits below the counter, removing a barrier between customer/barista interaction.  A hot water attachment is perfect for brewing pour overs, which Gralehaus pairs with Kalita Waves. Perhaps most importantly, the group heads look like beer taps and fit in perfectly with Gralehaus’s aesthetic.



Brunch Your Heart Out

Breakfast has long been a black hole in Louisville’s otherwise exceptional food scene, but Gralehaus might change that. Most of their dishes are riffs on Southern classics, such as sausage and grits, but with an eclectic twist. The biscuits and gravy, topped with an egg, was a big hit with our crew. The artisanal sodas, made in-house and on tap, are another stand out option. The shrub soda pairs particularly well with an espresso.

Seating is both scarce and in high demand, so don’t expect to make Gralehaus your remote office. But if you want good coffee and exceptional food in a gorgeous space, look no further.





All photos by the ineffable Firm Anchor.

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*An earlier version of this article erroneously stated Gralehaus was the first Louisville cafe to serve Intelligentsia. We regret the error.

25 thoughts on “Louisville’s Newest Cafe Gralehaus Might Be Perfect

  1. Not sure what makes a roastery considered “nationally known.” I think it was Vint that once brewed Delano’s before being bought by Heine Bros., Quill’s brewed PT’s before they started roasting their own, and Anchorage Cafe started out with Counter Culture before they went local with Argo Sons. It might be the first time Intelligencia has been sold by a cafe in Louisville, but it’s not the first well-known company to be brewed at one of our coffee shops.

    I’m interested to give Intelligentsia a try, and I am excited about Gralehaus, but I imagine Gralehaus likely chose Intelligentsia because of their relationship with the microbrewery world. Ultimately, I am disappointed Gralehaus didn’t choose a local roastery, especially since we have an award-winner right here in town. But I’m a Sunergos snob.

    1. Good points all Shannon. I almost deleted that sentence from my draft for all of the reasons you mentioned (I work at Quills and used to work at Vint in the JBC days). I kept it in because although Delano’s and PT’s are both big and influential, they are not the household name Intelli is [I’ll retract that statement once Gwyneth Paltrow puts them in her Goop app 😉 ]. Counter Culture has a similar brand recognition/purchasing power as Intelli, but as I was writing this I thought of Anchorage and Louisville as separate communities (which probably isn’t fair.)

      Anyway, I’ve very impressed by your knowledge of Louisville coffee history!

          1. Just read it. Not sure how I didn’t know about this blog.

            Do you have any recommendations for a solid coffee review site? My husband is a huge RateBeer.com fan, and we’d love to see something that rivaled it for coffee.

    2. Gralehaus is totes awesome and the pictures look great. Thanks Michael for writing this. Shannon, I’m impressed by your knowledge of local coffee history. And I agree that Sunergos has great coffee, but I would like to add that we have several other award-winners in Louisville. The author of this article, in fact, has recently done well to represent Quills at the Big Eastern Barista Championships.

          1. Point being: Why would you not go local if you had award-winning espresso roasted right in town? I don’t know how contracts for wholesale work, though.

            I know we have some well-known barristas, but I’m unaware of any award-winning roasts in Louisville outside of Sunergos.

          2. Great point Shannon. I obviously can’t speak for Gralehaus, but I do understand wanting to set yourself apart from the pack. There’s certainly no shortage of places to get Sunergos (Atlantic #5, 21C, 3 locations), Quills (4 Sisters, Milkwood, 3 locations), or Argo (Please & Thank You, Anchorage Cafe). That being said, Gralehaus does have an Argo Sons cold brew and I think they intend to rotate roasters in the future.

          3. Hey Shannon, after reflecting on your original comment (and hearing from other readers), I updated the article to have more careful wording. Thank you for your input.

    3. I went this morning and was thoroughly impressed with aesthetic and individuality this place has! I’ve been to a place in Arkansas using the Modbar system and I really enjoyed my experience there. I tend to agree with Shannon a bit, but I also understand the choice of Intelligentsia over say Quills or Sunergos. I love all of these roasters, as well as more nationally syndicated brands like Sight Glass, Stumptown, Blue Bottle, Herkimer, etc – but I think that Inteli is incredible product that isn’t currently offered in Louisville. Although you can purchase it at Fresh Market and Whole Foods, there are zero place pulling Black Cat or any of their other incredible single origin coffees. I can go a mile west and get Sunergos and a block north for Quills, therefore I don’t think it’s crucial they offer our local brands. I am hopeful that the options start to expand at this place, as I enjoy the melting pot approach that Barista Parlor has enamored its customers with. Am I the only one bummed that Louisville has some of the best local coffee, yet none of them are interested in diversifying their espresso selection? I guess it’s counter-productive… but I sure would love to have the option! Great job Gralehaus!

  2. >Breakfast has long been a black hole in Louisville’s otherwise exceptional food scene,

    Where exactly did you get that from? I can name of 6-10 Breakfast joints off the top of my head that are mind blowing. Did you mean more weekday breakfast? Even then Toast, Hillbillytea, Wild Eggs, North End Cafe, Highland Morning, Superchefs, Chedderbox All serve day to day.

    We’re hardly a ‘black hole’.

    1. Hey Travis. Thanks for sharing your opinion. I’ve enjoyed eating at several of the places you mentioned, but have been repeatedly disappointed by others. I do think the caliber of the breakfast at Gralehaus sets a new bar for Louisville’s food scene. Of course, taste and aesthetics are highly subjective and there is room for different opinions.

  3. A lot of back slapping going on here. Let’s not let this “award winning” thing go to our heads and eclipse what got great coffee here in the first place…our customers! If they hadn’t decided to try the coffee being roasted locally, none of us would be here. The Louisville area has some really fine coffee roasters that care about their product. That’s what I think is great about it…not the awards. Who cares what someone in NY or out on the West coast thinks. I hope Gralehaus does well with its’ business model. If it’s different, Louisville will support it. My $.02. Nothing I haven’t said before.

  4. Something that was mildly overlooked in the listing of non-Louisville coffee roasters whose coffees have been served in lieu of a local roaster’s offerings is the fact that after Topeka’s PT’s, San Antonio’s Brown Coffee Company’s coffees were found in Quills until late 2011. October 2011, in fact. Another little-known fact was that a good bit of the inspiration that went into forming Blacksmith Espresso was Brown’s own Cottonwood Espresso.

    I say this not to toss around overlooked or little-known tidbits of Louisville coffee history, but to give a nod toward a bigger, more important point: The coffee community is like a family. And, just like any family, you can live in different cities, but still keep in touch and be a part of what everyone else is doing.

    Michael wasn’t writing propaganda; he was writing from the perspective of a coffee professional who was excited about the prospects of sharing a delicious cup of coffee with colleagues and customers alike. He works at Quills where he is a wonderful barista I would hire any day of the week — and twice on Sundays — and runs this blog in his spare time with other Louisville coffee nerds. One of those nerds used to work at Sunergos and is married to a former Quills barista. Point being, there’s a lot of enthusiasm for Gralehaus by local coffee pros with no current ties to Intelli… other than the fact that they love Intelli’s product and have come to know a lot of their employees over the years… which is, in no small way, very much like meeting family… the Coffee Family.

    1. Yeah, so it’s a family once you know the siblings. Otherwise it starts to feel like a big-name brand moving in. (Stay with me, here…)

      Two seconds of introduction, since reading the comments you all may already know each other – I’m a Lexington native, lived in Houston for fifteen years, don’t work professionally in coffee but make and drink way too much of it, and apparently really need to stop in Louisville for coffee on my next trip home.

      I love seeing guest coffees come through at Blacksmith, Southside, and other great coffee shops we have in town. But that’s just it – they’re guest coffees for my benefit, not the foundation of the shop. I had the same reaction Shannon did when I saw that our newest shop is opening centered on a big siphon machine and Intelligentsia coffee. From the outside looking in, that reads like a snub.

      One of the things I really appreciated when Blacksmith first opened was that when people bemoaned the early 5 PM closing time, they were enthusiastically pointed down the street to Southside. (For those of you not in Houston – walking around is definitely an afterthought, and the two shops are about 0.1 miles apart. That’s practically the same building here.) The support was surprising from a fledgling business, but highlights the strong community around quality coffee here.

      It was once described to me as a very friendly competition among that tier of shops here, that there’s a recognition that y’all sink or swim together – and strengthening the community here is a way to not get “overrun” by the major specialty brands once they show up.

      I have nothing against Intelligentsia, Counter Culture, Blue Bottle, Stumptown, et cetera. I’m sure they’re wonderful people. But if you’re not part of the “Coffee Family”, it’s hard sometimes to remember the far-away members are just as invested as the locals.

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