D.E.A.L. – Dining, Entertainment, Attractions & Lodging in Louisville
by Jeanne Brei
Louisville, Ky., may be on New York time but its rich Southern heritage and gentility put it squarely in the South as a hot spot for bluegrass music fans, bourbon drinkers, horse lovers and Derby Day revelers. Louisville, like most cities, is made up of neighborhoods—but in addition to the usual Downtown, Old Louisville, East End and West Side, there are colorful descriptives such as the Highlands, Germantown, Butchertown, NuLu and Clifton & Crescent Hill. Louisville’s culinary star was on an upward trajectory prior to the lockdowns, and here’s some of the signature restaurants in Louisville that I hope will still be open when this miserable 2020 is finally over.
Of course, as a time-traveling afficionado, I recommend starting at the legendary Brown Hotel’s English Grill (pictured above), one of the finest restaurants in Louisville. They serve contemporary American cuisine with a Kentucky twist, including the famous Hot Brown—an open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon, tomatoes, and a delicate Mornay sauce—a dish they invented back in 1926 which is now a culinary must-have for visitors. “With dark oak paneling, lead glass windows, tracery ceilings, and equestrian paintings, this refined room has the atmosphere of a private club and its exceptional service and extensive wine list have earned the English Grill the coveted AAA Four Diamond Award for many years,” says their website. They also offer the Classic Chef’s Table, a seven-course meal prepared together with wine pairings from the English Grill’s sommelier.
Also downtown is Proof on Main (pictured left), located within the 21c Museum Hotel, which opened in 2006. The museum galleries spill into the dining room where rotating contemporary art exhibitions provide the backdrop to enjoy the amazing dishes created by Chef Levon Wallace.
Another fine-dining Louisville staple is Jack Fry’s (pictured right) in the Highlands neighborhood on Bardstown Road. Opening as a saloon in 1933 converted to an upscale restaurant in the ‘70s, Jack Fry’s still has live jazz and is consistently voted as one of the romantic restaurants in Louisville. They define themselves as American bistro fare with Southern influence and recommend making reservations a week in advance. Their long list of awards means the food is consistently delicious—especially the steaks and pork chops.
Other highly recommended restaurants in the Highlands neighborhood include Seviche (Latin-fusion cuisine), the Holy Grale (a century-old small church converted to an artisanal pub with locally sourced, gourmet pub fare), Dragon King’s Daughter (sushi) and Lilly’s Bistro (Chef Kathy Cary specializes in “locavore-style, farm-fresh, and locally grown food” with an extensive wine list, desserts and dessert drinks). Another pioneer in Louisville’s farm-to-table movement, the Mayan Café, is in the NuLu neighborhood.
Louisville’s signature steakhouse, Pat’s Steakhouse, opened 50 years ago on Brownsboro Road in the Clifton neighborhood, and they’re known for their variety of side dishes served family style, as well as their aged, hand-cut beef, frog legs and pan-fried oysters.
If it’s BBQ you’re craving head to the St. Matthews neighborhood for a visit to the Frankfort Avenue Beer Depot (pictured left). Their two large smokers use the low-and-slow method to grill up some of the very best barbecue in town. They also have corn hole and makeshift mini-golf out back to go with your cold beer or bourbon.
If you’re in the Old Louisville neighborhood, you’ll find 610 Magnolia (pictured right), Louisville’s only restaurant with an exclusive and ever-changing prix fixe-only menu. And next door to Churchill Downs, Wagner’s Pharmacy has been serving simple, homemade and hearty breakfast and lunch since 1922.
Finally, in the Germantown neighborhood is the well-loved, “best dive you’ll ever set foot in,” Hammerheads. Despite its tiny kitchen and frequently selling out of the daily specials before 8 p.m., Hammerheads smokes everything on site and serves up fresh entrees such as lamb ribs, PBLTs (that’s a pork belly, lettuce, and tomato sandwich) and duck breast tacos.
This story originally appeared in the Nov./Dec. 2020 issue of Exhibit City News, p. 48. For original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecn_nov-dec_2020