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Friends build unbreakable bond dining at 100 restaurants

January 21, 2019

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville has a robust, thriving and constantly changing dining scene. And while many of us can say we’re foodies and have dined at numerous spots around town, can we say we’ve tried 100 local restaurants?

This pair of friends can.

It’s an impressive feat, handwritten as a list over four pages with the names of each of the 100 restaurants where Karen Galligan and Allen Corbin have met for lunch since 2007.

That’s the year Galligan retired from a Louisville brokerage firm where she worked with Corbin. Since that time, the two former work colleagues have met nearly every month to catch up on each other’s lives over a meal.

“We’d already been friends for about 10 years so when Karen was retiring we agreed to stay in touch and she held me to it,” Corbin told the Courier Journal. “At first it was one lunch, then we decided to try to get together for a meal once a month and then the snowball kept rolling and here we are at Science Hill, our 100th restaurant. It’s pretty incredible.”

We’ve probably all intended to stay connected to friends or work colleagues with the promise to get together for lunch, dinner or drinks. But somehow it never seems to come together or maybe we do meet up a few times but then it peters out.

This pair has stitched together a clever set of criteria that allowed them to carry on a lengthy and apparently successful dining routine, which in turn strengthened their friendship.

Here’s how Corbin and Galligan make it work:

“First of all, it helps to enjoy the company of the person you are having lunch with, they should have a sense of humor and be adventurous because you are going to try a lot of different foods,” Galligan said.

Over the years they’ve consumed a wide assortment of cuisine from fried chicken to Vietnamese pancakes, wild game to creme brulee.

The pair is not only adventurous about what they eat but also where they eat. One month Corbin bought box lunches at Dish on Market and the duo munched on their meal while taking a trolley tour of the city.

Nothing is out of the question.

“Well, first of all, I am married and my wife wouldn’t like me going out to dinner once a month with another woman,” Corbin chuckled. “And honestly lunch is cheaper, faster and more convenient for us.”

They choose their dining locations based on suggestions from friends, from Courier Journal restaurant reviews and other dining columns.

“Honestly, we don’t care at all about a review,” Corbin said. “Our lunches are not about the food. We’re not foodie freaks. What we care about is the friendship and the fun of trying a new place every month.”

Thumbing through the pages of their list, Corbin and Galligan have very few complaints. In fact, they only seem to regret their self-made set of rules which state they can’t repeat visits to the same establishment.

“We made the rule for a reason, so we wouldn’t get stuck in a rut,” Corbin said. “However, it doesn’t mean we can’t go back to the same building. For instance, El Camino closed and The Eagle opened in the same spot so we technically ate at the same address twice, that’s allowed.”

Galligan is a big fan of Bistro Le Relais but they can’t repeat the location for their monthly lunch. “That’s too bad, I really enjoy the food and atmosphere,” he said.

They both vote Louis Le Francais (now closed after the owner retired) as their favorite lunch of all.

“It’s really all about the service, that’s what makes a great meal in our minds,” Corbin said. “At Louis Le Francais, the server told us to take a bite of creme brulee and then a sip of Sauternes (sweet French wine) he said it would be like a ‘music box in your mouth,’ and it was. It was so delicious and we consider that our best meal ever.”

Galligan keeps the running list of restaurants where they have eaten and another list for future visits.

“It is a lot easier to stay organized if just one person is in charge but we do go back and forth on who pays every month,” Corbin said. “So this month it’s my turn and next month it will be hers. It’s easier than trying to split the bill and it evens out in the long run.”

Galligan and Corbin usually order different entrees and desserts and split the portions in half so they each get to taste more of the menu.

They have allowed one other person to occasionally join their lunch bunch. Another co-worker, Jim Trimpe, has eaten with the friends about 50 times. He’s expected to pay the bill in its entirety when it’s his turn in the rotation. Other than a few special guests, like Corbin and Galligan’s daughters, they keep it simple, no newcomers allowed.

It’s really a personal preference for these dining partners but it also serves an underlying purpose. They like Bloody Marys, wine or beer with their afternoon meal. If it comes down to a menu that includes alcohol or one that doesn’t — the selection process just got easier.

Cost matters, too.

“We had planned to eat at a new place in Butchertown but when we got there and saw the menu prices we left,” Corbin said. “We went down the street to Big Al’s Beeritaville and had a great time with a $5 burger and beer.”

The experience for Corbin and Galligan is more important than the quality and they intend to keep it that way.

“We never keep notes about any of the food we eat, that’s not why we do this,” Corbin said as he sat down at a table with Galligan and Trimpe, so there’s no food blog or book in their future.

For their 100th restaurant, they chose Science Hill Inn located in Shelbyville.

Why? Well, because it fits the parameters, of course.

It’s an elegant restaurant open for lunch, they’d never eaten there before and yes, the menu includes alcohol.

With a toast to their accomplishment, Corbin and Galligan admit their 100 lunch odyssey has been much more than an exercise in satisfying their appetites. It’s become a routine that has stretched out over a decade, spanned both sides of the Ohio River, outlasted illnesses, vacations and family events, has strengthened a friendship and above all else, has been a lot of fun.

So, are they done? No way.

“Why should we stop? It’s been so much fun and Louisville has so many restaurants we still need to explore,” said Galligan.

So as the group polished off their Bloody Mary and beer they laid out a list with 18 of the next 100 local restaurants they plan to gobble up starting in January 2019.

Bon appetite, you two.

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Information from: Courier Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com

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