Kentucky Travel

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    by Meha Desai, Caroline Hatchett, and Sean Kenniff
    Antoinette Bruno, Meha Desai, and Caroline Hatchett
    February 2014

    Lexington and Louisville share a highway. They also have a common pantry bolstered by rich farmland. And the citizenry drink bourbon with equal fervor. But they don’t share personalities—culinary or otherwise. Laid-back, charmed Lexington has a style all its own and a small community of restaurateurs and chefs who are opening concepts from the casual to the fine-dining that are inextricably tied the land, as well as markets, and even beer gardens, breathing new life into this relatively small market. If there are only a handful of great restaurants in Lexington now, look out for a dozen in the next few years. Big change is coming.  

    It’s hard to pin down exactly what makes Louisville “LOO-ih-vuhl.” Home to Fortune 500 companies and the Kentucky Derby, neighbor to Indiana, and a bourbon producer in its own right—it’s a bit of a mutt. But it’s a mutt that supports a tremendous, diverse restaurant scene that in turns supports the dearth of artisan producers, farmers, and ranchers. Chefs like Dean Corbett, Peng Looi, and Bruce Ucan all made an early mark, and their restaurants set a standard that has paved the way for a new generation of chefs and artisans, many of whom are moving from other parts of the country to make a home and name from themselves in the Derby City. 

    EAT

    610 Magnolia

    610 West Magnolia Avenue
    Old Louisville
    Louisville, KY 40208
    (502) 636-0783
    www.610magnolia.com
    Hours: Thu-Sat 6pm-9pm

    Tennessee native Nick Sullivan is the Chef de Cuisine at Chef Edward Lee’s flagship restaurant 610 Magnolia, where spoons sometimes become shovels. The rustic space was converted from a home in an upscale residential neighborhood in Old Louisville, just off Central Park. From wild game to vegetable cookery and seafood, the menu is in capable hands under Sullivan, who is a more than five-year veteran of Lee’s kitchen. Sullivan strives to push the envelope creatively and to push Louisville diners at this established restaurant. Lee’s “New Southern Kitchen” cooking style remains the overarching theme of every dinner, anchored by the massive smoker outback.

    Recommended:
  • Chestnut-Ricotta Agnoloti, Roasted Chestnuts, Sage Cream, Fried Sage, Pumpkin Seeds, Banana Froth, and Brown Butter-Butternut Squash Purée
  • Espresso-rubbed Cervena Venison, Venison Sausage, Smoked Sweet Potatoes, Charred Brussels Sprouts, Celery Root, New Potatoes, Cherry Purée, and Granola

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    Asiatique

    1767 Bardstown Road
    Louisville, KY 40205
    (502) 451-2749
    www.asiatiquerestaurant.com
    Hours: Mon-Sat 5pm-10:30pm; Sun 10am-3pm, 4:30pm-10pm

    Asiatique has been a Louisville restaurant staple for 18 years. But when Malaysian born Chef Peng Lui first opened the doors, it was difficult for diners to give up their taste for Colonel Sander’s famous blend of 11 herbs and spices for his more potent, interesting, and unfamiliar personal-blend of spices. But Lui was not only feeding Louisville, he was educating. And today the flavors of Southeast Asia are permanently part of the Derby City palette. The sprawling restaurant has a cozy front bar that leads to various intimate dining rooms throughout the Asiatique space. Lui is helping guests make memories and serving his own on every plate as well. He also embraces the culture of his adopted hometown with a deep bourbon list, and you’ll often find University of Louisville sports on the screen at the bar.

    Recommended:
  • Honey-Cumin Glazed Roast Duck, Curried Chickpeas, Pickled Root Vegetables, and Spicy Mustard Sauce
  • Wok-seared Salmon, Spicy Tomato Concassé, Hot Chile Oil, Beets, Sautéed Vegetables, and Fried Vermicelli

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    Basa

    2244 Frankfort Avenue
    Louisville, KY 40206
    (502) 896-1016
    www.basarestaurant.net
    Hours: Mon-Sat 5pm-10pm

    Brothers Michael and Steve Ton are from Texas City, Texas. That’s where Michael started his career in the industry as a dishwasher. He cooked his way through New York, Boston, and North Carolina before joining forces with his brother to bring contemporary American-Vietnamese food to Louisville in Basa—with elegant wine pairings to boot. Modern and moody, the plates at Basa come flying at you: sizzling, spicy with potent aromatic punches of cumin, coconut curry, lemon grass, and plumes of brilliant green cilantro. In contrast to the bright herbs, the dining room lights are low, giving the vibrant food all the attention it deserves and all the ambience for guests to savor every flavor of Vietnam that Michael can pack into his dishes.

    Recommended:
  • Braised Short Rib, Beluga Lentils, Bacon, Beech Mushrooms, Wild Mushroom Cream, Short Rib Demi, and Crispy Brussels Sprouts
  • Yellow Coconut Curry-Lemon Grass Mussels with Toasted Baguette; Riesling Kabinett, Trittenheimer Apotheke, Bollig-Lehnert, Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany, 2011

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    Bourbon Barrel Foods

    1201 Story Avenue, Suite 175
    Louisville, KY 40206
    (502) 333-6103
    www.bourbonbarrelfoods.com
    Hours: Mon-Sat 9am-5pm

    Matt Jamie’s Bourbon Barrel Foods is the only company in the United States that produces artisan soy sauce. He has no competitors. Big-time operators like Kikkoman and Yamasa collectively make a generic 30 million gallons a year in their U.S. factories; Jamie sells about 5,000 gallons each year. Like any small, serious artisanal producer of beer, wine, bread, or charcuterie, Jamie's Bluegrass soy sauce is full of nuance with smoky notes and hints of vanilla and wood, thanks to time spent aging in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels. His production facility is located in Louisville’s Butchertown Market (open for tours by appointment). You also can shop online for Jamie’s soy sauce, along with bourbon barrel-smoked salt, sugar, and spices; barrel-aged bitters; and Kentuckyaki (bourbon and sorghum enhanced teriyaki).

    Recommended:
  • Bluegrass Soy Sauce

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    Corbett's an American Place

    5050 Norton Healthcare Boulevard
    Louisville, KY 40241
    (502) 327-5058
    www.corbettsrestaurant.com
    Hours: Mon-Thu 11am-2pm, 5pm-10pm; Fri 11am-2pm, 5pm-11pm; Sat 5pm-11pm

    Perennial favorite, Corbett's An American Place, is named for the proprietor and Louisville’s adopted native chef-son Dean Corbett—also known as Chef BoyarDean and the Godfather around the Derby City restaurant industry. He’s the city’s biggest advocate and friend to all chefs. Chef Michael Dunbar and Pastry Chef Shelley Yoder helm the savory and pastry kitchen at Corbett’s, respectively. For Dunbar this means managing an extensive charcuterie program. For Yoder it means taking familiar regional flavors and dishes and applying modern pastry techniques. Corbett’s has an elegant yet homey feel, as it was converted from a residence, with intimate dining rooms and a small bar on the main floor and private dining rooms downstairs, where the original stone work from the old home add character and warmth.

    Recommended:
  • Wild Boar, Blue Cheese-Cranberry Bread Pudding, Worcestershire-Brown Sugar Parsnips, Swiss Chard, and Sage Reduction
  • Banana Fritters, Chocolate Sauce, Peanut Granola, and Dulce de Leche Ice Cream

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    The Curehouse

    6705 Preston Highway
    Louisville, KY 40219
    (502) 384-2332
    www.woodlandspork.com

    Rising Star Artisan Jay Denham doesn’t take visitors at his curing facility on the outskirts of Louisville, but it doesn’t mean that his impeccably cured hams don’t have a sense of place. Quite the opposite. Each muscle and vein of salty, sweet fat is imparted with the terroir of the Appalachian Mountains and the mast Denham’s mountain-ranging hogs gorge on each fall. With ham that rivals any imported prosciutto or jamón Iberico, Denham and The Curehouse prove that Old World animal husbandry and time-honored curing techniques translate on this side of the Atlantic. And later this year, he’s taking his ham-making success and turning it into a larger charcuterie operation that will make and sell sausages and a range of cured meats.

    Recommended:
  • Mountan Hams
  • Lardo

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    Decca

    812 East Market Street
    NuLu
    Louisville, KY 40206
    (502) 749-8128
    www.deccarestaurant.com
    Hours: Mon-Thu 4:30pm-11pm; Fri-Sat 4:30pm-midnight

    In Rising Star Chef Annie Pettry’s crudo of scallop, apple, sunchoke, and lime, it’s the precisely placed fennel fronds that bring the dish down to earth. Pettry is the kind of chef that makes you feel both safe and exhilarated, assured that she has thought of everything. She even works with an arborist to procure the exact right wood for Decca’s grill. The restaurant has won over Derby City diners with precision, artful restraint, and strikingly composed dishes. This aesthetic is reflected in Decca’s design with its soft, sophisticated palette and minimalism applied for maximum impact: Art Deco cork floors, hanging antique doors, clay sculpture, and chunky, easy-to-slide-on-to wooden bar stools. The converted three-story residence has a library with a record collection up stairs; renovated event-space below ground-level, complete with jukebox; and plenty inviting outdoor areas for congregating, imbibing, and dining.

    Recommended:
  • Diver Scallop Crudo, Jonathan Apple, Fried Sunchokes, Lime Zest, and Fennel Pollen
  • Grilled Carrots, Carrot Purée, Carrot Top Oil, Buttermilk Ricotta, Kale Furikake, Fried Kale, Brown Butter Egg Yolk, and Pickled Carrots
  • Grilled New York Steak, Celery Root, Charred Bread, Point Reyes Blue Cheese Butter, Shaved Celery, Celery Leaves, Watercress, and Pickled Sour Cherries

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    Eiderdown

    983 Goss Avenue
    Schnitzelburg
    Louisville, KY 40217
    (502) 290-2390
    www.eiderdown-gtown.com
    Hours: Tue-Thu4 pm-10pm; Fri-Sat 11:30am-11 pm; Sun noon-10 pm

    Eiderdown is a t-shirt and jeans kinda place. Whether you’re sitting at a table by the front windows or by the lengthy sidebar, you’re immediately comfortable. The food is also comforting, but it’s a lot more dressed up then t-shirt and jeans. Chef Brian Morgan is taking the sort of dishes your grandma put on the table and filtering them through his brain that’s pumping with creative juice. He also adds some French technique before sliding the plate in front of guests. It’s the perfect combination of new, old, and personal that makes you wish you lived in Germantown, closer to Eiderdown and to Morgan’s creative energy.

    Recommended:
  • Dock Hopper: Braised Frog Leg Stew, Horseradish, Hard Boiled Egg, Fried Frog Leg, and Garlic Crouton
  • Mayor of Milk Street: New York Strip and Brussels Sprouts

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    El Camino

    1314 Bardstown Road
    Louisville, KY 40204
    (502) 454-5417
    elfreakingcamino.com
    Hours: Mon-Sun 5pm-2am

    At new Mexican hotspot El Camino, Rising Star Mixologist Susie Hoyt draws guests in with eye-catching and approachable tiki drinks that conceal the precision behind the mixing. The bar at the center of the bright dining room is massive and staffed with bartenders who’ve been trained by Hoyt to mix it right. Hoyt earns badass points when she steps behind her ice cutting table brandishing a chainsaw. No doubt the cubes will be pristine, adhering to her simple motto: make sure everything is perfect, all the time. Chef Jonathan Schwartzman tacos are also perfect, all the time. He draws his flavors profiles from directly south of the border and makes all his tortillas and sope bases in house. There are brighten-your-day ceviches and charred corn, too, as well as a house sikil pak (spiced pumpkin seed spread) that we’d happily spread on anything.

    Recommended:
  • Sope: Fried Oyster, Sikil Pak, Slaw, and Cilantro
  • Barbacoa Taco with Onion, Cilantro, and Pickled Radish

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    Enoteca

    191 Jefferson Street
    Lexington, KY 40508
    (859) 687-0346
    Hours: Mon-Sun 4pm-midnight

    On Jefferson street in Lexington, Kentucky, Renee Saunier Brewer,the city’s only certified sommelier is serving interesting wines, craft beer, cocktails, and small plates in a chic lounge. Located on Jefferson Street, right across from Wine + Market (Brewer’s other business), Enoteca offers the city wines its never seen before. In the kitchen, Chef Elizabeth Maggi whips up small plates tapas style, showcasing the food of her heritage. If you’ve got time, hop across the street to Wine + Market for a wine class that Brewer teaches regularly. Whether you are particular about your wine or you’re a novice, still discovering how you truly feel about fermented grape juice, chances are Enoteca has definitely got something for you.

    Recommended:
  • French Lentils, Dill, Blue Cheese, Oven-roasted Tomatoes, Chives, and Parsley paired with Corvina/Rondinella/Molinara, Valpolicella, Zenato, Veneto, Italy, 2010

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    Feast BBQ

    116 West Main Street
    New Albany, IN 47140
    (812) 920-0454
    www.feastbbq.com
    Hours: Tue-Thu 11:30pm-2pm, 5pm-9pm; Fri 11:30am-2pm, 5pm-10pm; Sat 5pm-10pm

    Chef Ryan Rodgers runs Feast, his casual New Albany barbecue concept, with the care, efficiency, and attention to detail of a military officer. Meats are brined up to three days, infused in a computerized smoker, and cooked sous vide. He renovated the 100-year-old building that is Feast after it had been vacant for 25 years—the project took just eight DIY months. The floors are concrete, the ceilings are original, and the beautiful bar is made of wood accented with copper. Rodgers, a son of the South, didn’t want to cover up the history of the building, just as he doesn’t cover up the flavor of his pork or beef barbecue with heavy sauces, vinegars, or plumes of thick smoke. The meat is the star of the show at Feast.

    Recommended:
  • Baby Back Ribs
  • Smoked Tofu

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    Garage Bar

    700 East Market Street
    Nulu
    Louisville, KY 40202
    (502) 749-7100
    www.garageonmarket.com
    Hours: Mon-Fri 5pm-10pm; Sat 11am-midnight; Sun 11am-10pm

    At the corner of Market and South Clay, just past Nanny Goat Strut, is Garage Bar—you can’t miss it. Just look for the two cars ever-so-slowly being crushed into one another via a set of tracks attached to their undercarriages. Every time you return to this convivial spot, you’ll notice how the vehicles have become slightly more mangled. Then go on in and eat. The Garage Bar is bar three times over: beer, oyster, and ham. The smashing together of these three concepts is the genius of Louisville chef-hero Michael Paley. There is casual seating with shove-down tables short and long, and a large side bar with cocktails, wine, beer, and over 30 bourbons and ryes. Hams hang tantalizing overhead at their bar and oysters are rolled big and fat and deep fried at their end—don’t forget to douse them in the kicky house hot sauce.

    Recommended:
  • Rolled Oyster, Semolina Batter, Fresno Hot Sauce, and Cayenne
  • Pizza with Sausage, Pepper, and Broccoli

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    Harvest

    624 East Market Street
    Louisville, KY 40202
    (502) 384-9090
    www.harvestlouisville.com
    Hours: Tues-Thu 11:30am-2:30pm, 5pm-10pm; Fri-Sat 11:30am-2:30pm, 5pm-11pm

    Chef Coby Ming and Pastry Chef Patty Knight are savers. And there’s nothing they won’t put up, no haul of berries too big, and nothing that can’t be preserved, whether by brining, pickling, or smoking. At the end of Kentucky Strawberry season in 2013, the chef-duo accepted 400 pounds of strawberries. Harvest’s spacious dining room facing Market Street is where these passionate preservationists showcase the best of all the product they receive. But the real work is done in a massive production space and kitchen behind the tables, chairs, and bar stools. Ming and Knight work tirelessly to process and preserve all the bounty the Blue Grass State offers, season after season. They’re not only saving but also sustaining both Kentucky farmers and Louisville diners, one pickled pepper at a time.

    Recommended:
  • Smoke Meat Board: Smoked Hunter’s Sausage, Three Cheese Bacon Grits, Baby Back Ribs, Peach Bourbon Barbecue Sauce, Herb Dijon Potato Salad, Crispy Chicken Thigh Confit, and Spicy Basil Slaw
  • Roasted Vegetable Turnover: Sweet Potato, Turnip, Rutabaga, Carrot, Beets, Kohlrabi, and Smoke Onions
  • Sorghum-Bacon-Bourbon Cookie

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    Jonathan's at Gratz Park

    120 W Second Street
    Lexington, TN 40507
    (859) 252-4949
    www.jagp.info
    Hours: Mon-Sat 11am-2pm, 5-10pm; Sun 11am-2pm

    Chef Jonathan Lundy’s ode to his heritage, Jonathan’s at Gratz Park, in historic downtown Lexington, is full of surprises. Just when you think you’ve got his food figured out, he’ll throw in popped sorghum in a salad or add some crispy shiitake “bacon” to a seemingly straightforward plate. Sure you’ll also find burgoo if that’s what you’re after. It’ll just be next to the chef’s whim vegetable tasting menu. Lundy’s love for bourbon is evident in his well stocked, award-winning bourbon bar, where Beverage Director TJ Cox unleashes his own wild side and offers up a mean wine and cocktail selection as well. All this bourbon (and more) even finds its way on to Lundy’s plates—bourbon molasses in onion soup anyone? Jonathan’s has been a local favorite for more than a decade and with its polished, stately style and its pleasant food, it’s easy to see why.

    Recommended:
  • Spinach, Popped Sorghum, Roasted Winter Squash, Goat Cheese, and Sorghum Vinaigrette paired with Sauvignon Blanc, Jean-Marc Brocard, 2011
  • Maker’s 46 Roasted Salmon: Charred Oak Stave-roasted Salmon, Maple-Mustard Glaze, Asparagus, Warm Apple-Potato Salad, and Crispy Capers paired with Cabernet Franc, Domaine Laroque, 2012

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    La Coop Bistro a Vins

    732 East Market Street
    Louisville, KY 40202
    (502) 410-2888
    www.coopbistro.com
    Hours: Tue-Thu 5:30pm-10pm; Fri-Sat 5:30pm-11:30pm

    Bobby Benjamin is the corporate chef for the DC Management restaurant group and also executive chef of the group’s Louisville fave La Coop—his labor of love. Sommelier Aaron Wilson pairs the wines with Benjamin’s classic French bistro fare as well as with some of the chef’s more modern-leaning and Southern inflected dishes with ease. La Coop’s bar and dining room come together in a cozy (elegant) corner of Market Street, with some tables getting a view into the open, tiny yet prodigious kitchen. At La Coop you can enjoy escargot followed seamlessly by short ribs with grits, and they’re always paired with the right French varietal that suits the food and the guest.

    Recommended:
  • Escargot, Parmesan, Herb Butter, and Baguette
  • Pork Belly, Banyuls Jus, Sweet Potatoes, Chives, Tarragon, and Butter

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    Mayan Cafe

    813 East Market Street
    Louisville, KY 40206
    (502) 566-0651
    www.themayancafe.com
    Hours: Mon-Thu 11:30am-2:30pm, 5pm-10pm; Fri 11:30am-2:30pm, 5pm-10:30pm; Sat 5pm-10:30pm

    In 1987 Chef Bruce Ucan was working a boring, dusty construction job. By 1996 he was running a popular taco truck called the Mayan Gypsy. Today he’s the heart and soul of the Louisville chef community and his Market Street brick and mortar Mayan Café is an institution, having led the street’s revival. With a deep-seated respect for Yucatanian cuisine, Ucan is cooking from his roots, but also applying technique learned through decades in the business and perspective gained from the life he built for himself and his family in the Derby City. In his café’s modest dining room, the food is the star, and there’s much more than the tacos with which he originally made his name. There’s pibil, toksel lima beans, cactus, and huitlacoche on the menu. Ucan is sharing the food he loves with his adopted city whose food culture he helped change for the better when he traded in construction for tacos.

    Recommended:
  • Tok-sel Lima Beans Lima Beans with Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Green Onions, and Parsley
  • Yucatec Salbute: Pan-fried Masa Tortilla topped with Smoked Salmon

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    Milkwood

    Actor's Theatre 316 W Main Street
    Downtown
    Louisville, KY 40202
    (502) 584-6455
    www.milkwoodrestaurant.com
    Hours: Tue-Sun 5:30pm-10pm

    At Milkwood, Chef Kevin Ashworth along with Celebrichef Edward Lee (also of 610 Magnolia across town) play with the traditions and ingredients of the American South while incorporating Asian flavor-profiles and a little of their own personalities. The two are serving creative yet grounded food to the masses in downtown Louisville. The sleek dining room and bar are a nice contrast to the homey but elegant plates. Oh, and there’s bourbon, and plenty of it. In late 2013 a “chefs collaboration” bourbon was released—a partnership between Lee and Jefferson’s distillers. The small-batch bourbon-rye blend was formulated specifically to Lee’s tastes and to comfortably match any food on Milkwood’s menu.

    Recommended:
  • Fried Chicken, Waffles, Buttermilk Sauce, Radish, Dill, Parsley, Sesame Seeds, Roasted Tomatoes, and Dehydrated Tomatoes
  • Smashed Fingerling Potatoes, Charred Baby Octopus, Smoked Octopus, Bacon, Jalapeno Purée, Chile Threads, Herbs, Sour Cream, Olive Oil, and Pickled Red Onion

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    National Boulangerie

    264 Walton Avenue
    Lexington, KY 40502
    (859) 309.3901
    Hours: Mon-Sat 7am-6pm; Sun 8am-5pm

    What happens when a French man falls in love with a Southern belle, and they up and move to Lexington, Kentucky? You get one helluva boulangerie with a side of sugar and spice and everything nice. Krim Boughalem and Andrea Sims are veteran entrepreneurs on the Lexington circuit. They have owned Wine + Market and currently run Table Three Ten (our other Lexington fave). Now, they have big plans for what is currently National Boulangerie and Patisserie. At the moment, Chef Brian Surbaugh offers a phenomenal selection of breads and pastries, (think tarte citrons with meringues and soft-boiled eggs baked inside corn muffins), with big plans to expand the property into a brasserie, wine shop, beer garden, grocery store, produce market, and oyster bar. Phew! This French-American lovechild is here to stay and promises to become one of Lexington’s serious culinary highlights.

    Recommended:
  • Savory Muffin-Gruyere, Caramelized Onions, and Soft-boiled Egg
  • House-made Weisswurst, Caramelized Onions, Apple, and Demi Baguette

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    Oakroom at the Seelbach Hilton

    500 South 4th Street
    Louisville, KY 40202
    (502) 585-3200
    www.seelbachhilton.com
    Hours: Tue-Sat 6pm-10pm; Sun 10am-2pm

    Cocktails at The Oakroom have a fantastical, historical bent with Mixologist Eron Plevon serving his take on the famous Seelbach Cocktail and The Lady in Blue, named after a deceased guest that’s said to haunt the Seelbach Hotel. And Advanced Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, 2014 Kentucky-Tennessee Rising Star Julie DeFriend helms a super-fine dining wine program with a 10,000-bottle-deep cellar and high expectations, while still making room in her heart and pairing arsenal for a good, dirty Syrah. She isn’t afraid to pair big New World wines with Chef Patrick Roney’s traditional Old World (and Old School Kentucky) dishes and vice versa. This team of three is breathing new life into this treasured Louisville landmark that lives up to its name with dark, Baroque oak walls throughout the large dining room (call ahead if you want to reserve the historic private room where Al Capone used to dine out while hiding out).

    Recommended:
  • Duo of Foie Gras: Foie Gras Torchon, Smoked Pheasant Confit, Pheasant Consommé, Brioche Crouton, Cherry-Bourbon Relish, Pan-roasted Foie Gras, Beluga Lentil-Stuffed Savoy Cabbage, Confit of Pheasant Leg, Smoked Shallots, and Bourbon-Cherry Demi Glace paired with Pinot Noir, La Paulee, Scott Paul, Dundee Hills, Oregon, 2010
  • Burgoo of Kentucky Fried Rabbit, Venison, Wild Board, Salsify, Rutabaga, and Huckleberries paired with Syrah, Lagier Meredith, Mount Veeder, Napa Valley, California, 2003
  • The Seelbach Cocktail: Old Forrester Bourbon, Cointreau, Angostura Bitters, Peychaud’s Bitters, Gerard Bertrand Vermont de Limoux Champagne, and Orange Peel Flag
  • The Lady in Blue: Beefeater Gin, Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup, Orange Blossom Water, House Falernum, Crème de Violet, and Blue Curacao

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    Proof on Main

    702 West Main Street
    Downtown
    Louisville, KY 40202
    (502) 217-6360
    www.proofonmain.com
    Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-10pm; Sat-Sun 5pm-11pm

    Dining at Proof on Main is like taking a bite out of Levon Wallace. The Rising Star Chef and self-proclaimed wannabilly has been smitten with the South ever since he first visited over a decade ago. He rejoices in the magnificence of Kentucky’s Mulefoot hogs—rooter to tooter—and though he’s serious about the huge responsibility of being a chef below the Mason Dixon, his menu remains fun, funky, and personal. At Proof’s kitchen within the uber hip 21C Museum Hotel in downtown Derby City, he brilliantly re-conceives familiar foods like tacos, and deftly uses newfangled Louisville products like bourbon-barrel smoked soy lees—the new umami bomb. Manager and Sommelier Joe Leftin does more than keep up with Wallace’s imagination, he’s a well of wine expertise that never runs dry. The sleek bar, which takes up about one-quarter of the dining space, is convivial and offers the classics as well contemporary concoctions.

    Recommended:
  • Hominy Porridge, Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Hot Pepper Vinegar, Fried Chicken Skin, and Woodland Farm Egg; Vouvray, Domaine des Aubuisiéres, “Cuvee de Silex,” Loire Valley, France, 2012
  • Seared Bison Carpaccio, Horseradish, Oyster Mushrooms, Squash Pickles and Seeds, and Nasturtium with House Ranch; Lambrusco di Sorbara, Fiorini, “Corte Degli Attimi,” Emilia-Romagna, Italy, 2012
  • Masa Harina Gnocchi, Duck Confit, Green Tomato, Lime, Chiles, Buttermilk Curd, and Fortified Duck Stock; Pinot Noir, Cristom, “Mt. Jefferson Cuvee,” Willamette Valley, United States, 2010
  • Providence: Gin, Applejack, Cynar, Lemon Juice, Honey Syrup, Orange Twist
  • Toe the Line: Michter’s Bourbon, Dolin Dry Vermouth, Luxardo Sangue Morlacco, Cinnamon-Chile Tincture, and Grapefruit Peel Garnish

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    Rye on Market

    900 East Market Street
    NuLu
    Louisville, KY 40206
    (502) 749-6200
    www.ryeonmarket.com
    Hours: Mon-Thu, Sun 5pm-11pm; Fri-Sat 5pm-midnight

    Down on East Market Street between Billy Goat Strut Alley and Nanny Goat Strut, is a large, beautifully restored row-house that is Louisville’s Rye restaurant. Chef and owner Tyler Morris (also proprietor of contemporary and casual order-at-the-counter concept Atlantic No5) excels at vegetable cookery and modern, elegant plating. Having worked with April Bloomfield before moving below the Mason Dixon, Morris knows his way around a piece of meat, too. At well-rounded Rye, cocktails at the bar are excellently executed and top shelf as well, from the bourbon to the knowledgeable staff. Above the dining room, open kitchen, and bar, Rye continues to unfold with a prep-kitchen, private dining room, and event space.

    Recommended:
  • Mustard Greens, Savoy Cabbage Kimchi, Pickled Mustard Seeds, Puffed Black Rice, Celery, and Six-minute Egg
  • Speckled Hound Squash Purée, Mascarpone, Celebration Squash, Assorted Kale, Red Quinoa, Watermelon Radish, and Kenny’s Cheese

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    Seviche

    1538 Bardstown Road
    Bardstown Road
    Louisville, KY 40205
    (502) 473-8560
    www.sevicherestaurant.com
    Hours: Mon, Sun 5pm-9pm; Tue-Thu 5pm-10 pm; Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm

    When California boy Anthony Lamas came to the Bluegrass State in the late 1990s, the restaurant scene was in a bit of a rut. Lamas not only spiced things up, he made it a more exciting and sophisticated place to eat. He likes to think of Seviche as a restaurant where you come for dinner and a show—and the show is in his cuisine as much as in Lamas himself. On his nightly menus Lamas reveals his respect for Kentucky farmers, sustainability on a national level, as well as his own Oaxacan and Puerto Rican heritage. The expansive institution of Louisville fine-dining has a massive bar where you can get the house mamajuana spirit and a wide selection of Kentucky’s finest bourbon. And the main dining room gives way to a lounge and private dining room.

    Recommended:
  • Calamares a la Parrilla: Calamari, Aji Amarillo, Black Mojo de Ajo, Parsley, and Aleppo Pepper
  • Churrascos de Argentina: Grilled Skirt Steak, Chimichurri, Country Ham Demi-glace, New Potatoes, and Young Turnips

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    Smithtown Seafood

    501 West 6 Street
    Lexington, KY 40508
    (859) 303-4100
    www.smithtownseafood.com
    Hours: Sun-Wed 11am-9pm; Thu-Sat 11am-10pm

    Smithtown Seafood is Lexington, Kentucky’s most recent pond-to-table restaurant and veteran Chef Ouita Michel’s latest venture. Inside the space they share with West Sixth Brewing, Michel, along with Chef Jonathan Sanning, take international flavors and food (think tacos, pupusas, and Singapore salads), and serve them up with some serious style.

    Recommended:
  • FoodChain Tilapia Rioja Style: Whole Tilapia, Lime, Toasted Cumin, Chipotle, Spicy Salsa Rioja, Lime-scented Cabbage, Pickled Onion, Yogurt Sauce, and Local Corn Tortillas
  • Crispy Fish and Potato Pupusas: Snapper, Flounder, Catfish, and Potato Dumplings with Salsa Rioja

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    Table Three Ten

    310 W Short Street
    Lexington, KY 40507
    (859) 309-3901
    www.table-three-ten.com
    Hours: Mon-Thu 4:30pm-11pm; Fri 4:30pm-1am; Sat 11am-3pm, 4:30pm-1am; Sun 11am-3pm

    The team at Table Three Ten knows what they’re doing—and they’re doing it well: refining classic recipes, cutting down on ingredients, utilizing what’s around them and fresh, tightening, simplifying. Chefs Robert Weickel and Brian Surbaugh, along with owners Krim Boughalem and Andrea Sims are revolutionizing how Lexington, Kentucky does food. The 20-seat oak wood bar offers cocktails and wine, and the farm-driven, seasonal menu is so much more than just small plates. There are weekly specials, charcuterie, and desserts galore. The food is imaginative and playful, but also manages to cater to those who might want to keep it simple. If you’re some extra time, make sure to stop by the National Boulangerie, their more recent project. The inexhaustible people behind Table Three Ten are certainly making Kentucky proud.

    Recommended:
  • Roasted Potatoes, Crispy Berkshire Prosciutto, Pickled Eggs, and Smoked Onion Aïoli
  • Raw and Roasted Beets, Fennel, Dark Chocolate-Aged Beemster Cheese Crumble, and Toasted Rye Vinaigrette
  • Spencer County Grass-fed Beef Tartare, Soft Farm Egg, Parmesan Aïoli, and Baguette

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    Taco Punk

    736 East Market Street
    Nulu
    Louisville, KY 40202
    (502) 584-8226
    www.tacopunk.com
    Hours: Mon-Sat 11am-9pm; Sun 11am-4pm

    Gabe Sowder was the chef de cuisine at Edward Lee’s flagship 610 Magnolia for six years before he finally decided embark on a Louisville restaurant venture of his own. And his sights and heart were set on tacos—made from the best ingredients the Derby City has to offer. The expansive dining room is costumed in eclectic south-of-the-border kitsch and the menu is designed to be healthy and affordable—not deep-fried or precious. All the sides are vegan or vegetarian and most of the meats/fish get braised, brined, and/or smoke for maximum flavor. Taco’s are carefully composed down to the pickled onion. Who’s the taco punk? Sowder is. It’s a name coined by his son for all the tacos he made in his home-kitchen during his fine-dining career.

    Recommended:
  • Marksbury Farms Carne Asada, Salsa Roja, Cotija Cheese, Radishes, Jalapeno, Poblanos, and Black Beans
  • Pineapple Pork: Smoked Pork Shoulder, Braised Pineapples, Pineapple Habanero Salsa, Pickled Onions, and Smashed Sweet Potatoes

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    Wiltshire Bakery & Cafe

    636 East Market Street
    Louisville, KY 40202
    (502) 589-5224
    www.wiltshirepantry.com
    Hours: Mon-Fri 7am-3pm; Sat 8am-3pm; Sun 10am-2pm

    Croissants, pain au chocolat, blue-cheese rye bread, sandwiches, lavender bread. Oh the lavender bread. Pick up a loaf from Wiltshire Pantry these days, and you get a bread that’s fragrant and crusty, with a complexity of flavor and a toothsome chew that can only be achieved through artisan methods. The artisan behind Wiltshire’s bread and pastry program is Deanna Rushing, who has worked in Louisville kitchens for decades. Rushing’s work at Wiltshire is marked by her departure from industrial bread making—natural yeast, long fermentation, and knead-less techniques mark her current (evolved) style. And Louisville patrons get to enjoy the simple pleasure of her world-class breads in a light-filled, casual, neighborhood setting that’s owned and operated by Susan Hershberger, a longtime member of Louisville culinary community and owner of NuLu’s Wiltshire on Market.

    Recommended:
  • Lavender Baguette
  • Humboldt Fog Rye

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    Wiltshire on Market

    636 East Market Street
    NuLu
    Louisville, KY 40202
    (502) 589-5224
    www.wiltshirepantry.com
    Hours: Thu, Sun 5pm-10pm; Fri-Sat 5pm-11pm

    Chef Jonathan Exum has a natural inclination and exceptional ability to make the simple, exquisite. From double smoked country ham dip to Watergate salad and country ribs down to the grape must mustard on the charcuterie board at Wiltshire on Market. The long narrow restaurant with plaster treated walls, big wooden bar, banquet seating, and artist commissioned tables and plate ware is part of the Louisville triumvirate of food businesses helmed by owner Susan Hershberg—one of the pioneers of NuLu. Wiltshire, where everything feels familiar (if slightly more elegant) but the menu is ever-changing.

    Recommended:
  • Watergate Salad: Mache, Saffron-Blood Orange Oil, Pistachios, Sumatra Oranges, and Pineapple Crema
  • Double-smoked Ham Spread and Sunchoke Chips

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    DRINK

    Against the Grain Brewery

    401 East Main St
    Louisville, KY 40202
    (502) 515-0174
    www.atgbrewery.com
    Hours: Sun-Thu 11am-midnight; Fri-Sat 11am-2am

    Against the Grain Brewery & Smokehouse is the main attraction at Louisville Slugger Field—not the city’s beloved AAA team, the Bats. The friendly and informed staff at the bar and soaring dining room (with views of the brew space) are eager to talk about the ever-changing rotation of beers and the classic pub fare that goes with it. Rising Star Brewers Sam Cruz and Jerry Gnagy make the kind of suds that beer nerds lose their shit over, but they never brew the same beer more than once. Instead they make beers in six categories: Session, Hop, Whim, Malt, Dark, and Smoke. Cruz and Gnagy’s process? Come up with a beer, make it, get drunk, and eat. As sexy as this method sounds, it took years of toiling—cleaning tanks, endless travel, beer tastings—to get it. And their beers are as witty as they’re crisp, complex, and numerous—Chamomile Toe, Golden Sower, Banal Bees, and Thundercoot, among them.

    Recommended:
  • All Funked Up Saison
  • MacFannybaw

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    Apocalypse Brew Works

    1612 Mellwood Avenue
    Louisville, KY 40206
    (502) 589-4843
    www.apocalypsebrewworks.com
    Hours: Fri 5pm-11pm; Sat 4:30pm-11pm

    At Apocalypse Brew Works you choose your fate with the roll of a nine-sided die. But every roll reveals your lucky number, each one representing one of the beers on tap at this small, off the beaten path brewery between Beargrass Creek and Clifton Park. You can’t roll wrong. The taproom, the Fallout Shelter, shares the micro-space of the brewery, where most of the brewing equipment has been built DIY-style (including a solar powered water heater) by the three partners and dedicated beer professionals of Apocalypse: Leah Dienes, Bill Krauth, and Paul Grignon. If you can’t make it to the Shelter, Apocalypse brews are on tap at nearly 30 restaurants and bars throughout Louisville, Lexington, and Indiana. But we encourage you to join the trio at their intimate taproom where brewing and drinking craft beer is a matter of survival.

    Recommended:
  • Kentucky Hop Brown
  • O'Danny Pivo

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    Argo Sons Coffee

    3640 South Hurstbourne Parkway
    Louisville, KY 40299
    (502) 491-9396
    www.argosonscoffee.com
    Hours: Mon-Fri 10am-5pm

    Off a parkway on the outskirts of Louisville, in a strip mall, inside a music store is a small roastery where some of the best dang coffee in the country is being made. The roaster at Argo Sons is Rising Star Roaster James Tooill, and he drips coffee from his pores. A Louisville native, he got hooked on joe young (he still uses the French press he got for Christmas at 14). Today, Tooill is not only concerned with the impeccable sourcing, roasting, and brewing of every cup, he’s interested in the people on the other side of the counter—their tastes and their insights—wherever that counter may be. At Tooill’s counter, there are just a few stools where you can sip quality coffee and enjoy an earthy natural process Yirgacheffe or a beautifully acidic Costa Rican brew before the music store opens and while the roasting commences.

    Recommended:
  • Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, Gelana Abaya, Natural Process
  • Costa Rica, Leon Cortez de Tarrazu, Washed

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    Quills Coffee

    137 East Market Street
    New Albany, IN 47150
    (812) 590-3426
    www.quillscoffee.com
    Hours: Mon-Sat 7am-5pm; Sun 8am-4pm

    At Quills Coffee they’ve thought of everything—down to mouth-feel—in order to bring Greater Louisville their best possible cup of Joe. Lead roaster Jesse Myers likes to feel the coffee first, allowing the tactile experience of the brew to guide him in the best direction for the bean when he’s creating a roast. The atmosphere at the third and latest Quills location, just across the Ohio River from Louisville in New Albany, is as crisp, clean, and enlightened as one of Myers espresso shots for which he’s taken care to accentuate the natural acidity of the bean. In January 2014, Myers placed 4th at the Big Eastern Brewers Cup in Durham, North Carolina, making a statement about the quality of coffee in Louisville on a national stage and bringing attention to his roasting philosophy at Quills.

    Recommended:
  • El Eden, Guerrero, Mexico
  • Los Naranjos, St. Agustin, Huila, Columbia

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    Red Hot Roasters

    1403 Lexington Road
    Louisville, KY 40206
    (502) 569-0000
    www.redhotroasters.com
    Hours: Mon-Fri 7am-6pm; Sat 9am-3pm

    Sondra and Jason Powell are the entrepreneurial sister-brother duo behind Red Hot Roasters in the Irish Hill neighborhood of Louisville. The location is the site of their roastery, their wholesale space, and their quaint retail operation—eclectic 1960s vintage décor and all. Coffee is served by the cup through their drive thru window with a smile and a human touch. Knock on the door opposite the drive thru and have a cup and a peak into the roasting process and the style and savoir faire of Sondra, a self taught roaster, businesswomen, and Kentuckian from way back. For Sondra, cups of Red Hot Roasters small-batch coffees are inseparable from good conversation—and she’ll always remember the name of your dog and how you like your cup-a-joe.

    Recommended:
  • Organic Peru and Organic Tanzania Coffees

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    The Silver Dollar

    1761 Frankfort Avenue
    Clifton
    Louisville, KY 40206
    (502) 259-9540
    www.whiskeybythedrink.com
    Hours: Mon-Fri 5pm-2am; Sat-Sun 10am-2am

    Recommended:
  • Navy Grog: Lemon Hart 151 Rum, Appleton Gold Rum, Duquesne Rhum Blanc Agricole, Bacardi Superior Rum, Honey, Lime, and Grapefruit Juice
  • Autumn Leaves: Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon, Ramazzotti Amaro, Antica Formula 1786, Angostura Bitters, Lime Juice, and Lemon Oil
  • Port Light: Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Passion Fruit, Grenadine, and Lemon

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    St. Charles Exchange

    113 South 7th Street
    Lousiville, KY 40202
    (502) 618-1917
    www.stcharlesexchange.com
    Hours: Mon-Fri 11:30am-11pm; Sat-Sun 11:30am-2am

    Located in one of downtown Louisville’s oldest buildings, St. Charles Exchange captures the Prohibition spirit with worn wooden floors, crystal chandeliers, penny tile floors, and masculine, leather banquettes and chairs. And Head Bartender Michael Anderson mixes with a style to match the elegant historicism of the setting, by gently and reverently tweaking a solid foundation of classics. Mixing with other spirits in bourbon country is hard enough—“if you can’t speak bourbon in this city, you’re going nowhere”—but Anderson’s a master of spirits, sharing with the good people of Louisville mezcal, gin, crème de cacao, and applejack, among his well-stocked back bar favorites. The crowds come early for happy hour and linger for dinner in the generous dining room, sipping drinks as the night passes and learning to love all manner of classic cocktails.

    Recommended:
  • La Sangre y la Playa: Herradura Reposado, Punt es Mes, Blood Orange Juice, Luxardo Amaretto, Cherry Heering, and Vida del Maguey Mezcal Spray
  • 20th Century: Tanqueray Malacca Gin, Crème de Cacao, Kina l'Avion d'Or Quinquina, and Lemon Juice

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    Sunergos Coffee

    231 South 5th Street
    Louisville, KY 40202
    (502) 589-3222
    www.sunergoscoffee.com
    Hours: Mon-Fri 6:30am-6pm; Sat 8am-2pm

    After one year logging thousands of hours behind the counters of Louisville coffee shops, living off the tip jar, scrapping together the funds to build their own space, and roasting in their meager spare time, Brain Huested and Brian Miller opened Sunergos Coffee on Preston Street in September 2004. Ten years later they have three locations, serve ten times as many patrons, and have more than twenty employees. And they’re fresh off their America’s Best Espresso win at Coffee Fest 2013 in Chicago. But Sunergos brews don’t just taste good, they look good too. Sunergos baristas have been dominating in latte art competitions as well. Because they not only believe in humane sourcing practices and divine roasts, but also in the whole coffee experience—from bean to that final caffeinated slurp.

    Recommended:
  • Sidama Ardi, Ethiopia, Natural Process
  • Sunergos Espresso Blend

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    STAY

    Galt House

    140 North 4th Street
    Louisville, KY 40202
    (502) 589-5200
    www.galthouse.com


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    Gratz Park

    120 West Second Street
    Lexington, KY 40507
    (859) 231-1777
    www.gratzparkinn.com

    In the heart of horse and bourbon country, is Gratz Park Inn—a small (read cozy), old-school (read historic) boutique hotel. Conveniently located in Lexington’s historic district, within walking distance to all that downtown has to offer (lover’s of vintage beware!), Gratz Park is also home to one of the city oldest and favorite restaurants—Jonathan’s at Gratz Park. The rooms are spacious and elegant and (we’re just going to put it out there) they have the best mattresses that we’ve ever slept on. Though the quaint hotel might come with ghosts of times past—there’s even a drink after the infamous madame: The Belle Brezing—it also comes with a lot of savvy style, charm, and refinement. A stay at the Gratz Park Inn will be adventurous at the least and enchanting if you go along on the adventures they might have in store for you.


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    Seelbach Hilton

    500 South 4th Street
    Louisville, KY 40202
    (502) 585-3200
    www.seelbachhilton.com

    The Seelbach seems to have been lifted straight out of The Great Gatsby and set down in the center of Louisville. In fact, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote part of the classic American tale while staying at the Seelbach and Daisy Buchan’s wedding even takes place in the hotel’s grand ballroom. In addition to being home to The Oakroom—where Al Capone used to dine in a secret private dining room with strategically placed mirrors and an escape hatch—the Seelbach houses an ornate and impressive underground Bavarian rathskeller; the more casual restaurant Gatsby’s on Fourth; the authentically restored, more than 100-year-old Old Seelbach Bar; and, of course, a Starbucks. There’s also in-room dining offered in each of the elegant 154 rooms in this historical Beaux Arts Baroque hotel.


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    Sheraton Louisville Riverside

    700 West Riverside Drive
    Jeffersonville, IN 47130
    (812) 284-6711
    www.sheratonlouisvilleriverside.com

    The Sheraton Louisville Riverside Hotel is the best place to stay if you want a grand view of the Louisville skyline. And that’s because it’s situated just across the majestic Ohio River from the Derby City in Jefferson Indiana. The friendly service extends into the hotel’s resident restaurant the Bristol Bar & Grille. The large bar and dining room are wrapped in windows overlooking the city and the river. Master Sommelier Scott Harper—one of only 135 certified Master Sommeliers with the Court of Master Sommeliers in North America—heads up the wine and beverage program. Be sure to stop by on or shortly before Beaujolais Nouveau Day to enjoy a glass with the wine master.


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