Andrew Hyslop

Royals Hot Chicken

NuLu

This January, the fine folks behind Feast BBQ turned up the heat on Louisville’s dining scene with Royals Hot Chicken. The experience: Set your mouth on fire Nashville-style with a heat index that goes from mild to gonzo. Then, cool your tastebuds back down with a creamy milkshake. In 2017, the city can expect a second Royals location and parent company, HiCotton Hospitality, will debut Bar Vetti in the 800 Tower City Apartments. They’re describing it as “a neighborhood Italian bar featuring regional Italian pizza, fresh pasta, and seasonal chef driven dishes.”

Pokehana

Pokehana

Downtown

The poke craze finally grew big enough to break free of its SoCal fish bowl and plop down in our little city in the South. Pokehana is Louisville’s first poke restaurant and they’re offering up a much needed taste of something different for the downtown lunch crowd. For the uninitiated, poke is a Hawaiian dish of raw slices of fish thrown over salad or rice accompanied by a wide variety of toppings and sauces. You could eat lunch at Pokehana for a straight week without running out of options.

Tina Gao

Half-Peach Bakery & Cafe

St. Matthews

Half-Peach Bakery & Cafe has developed a rep as a leader in Louisville’s vegan comfort food scene. Chef Sue Zhao had built up quite the following selling baked goods ad boxed lunches around town. So, when she and her daughter Tina Gao opened their casual, stylish cafe in February it didn’t take long for the masses to find them. We recommend the mushroom drumstick. It blends the best of what you love about southern fried chicken with traditional Chinese flavors and doesn’t harm any animals in the process. In 2017, Tina says they plan on expanding their take-home menu, so their food can be widely shared with friends and family.

Finn's Southern Kitchen

Finn’s Southern Kitchen

Germantown

In a restaurant round of musical chairs, Finn’s Southern Kitchen is operated by Steve Clements, who formerly owned Avalon in the Highlands, and their executive chef Brian Curry came over from Napa River Grill. Finn’s is the affordable Germantown choice for grabbing a plate full of your southern faves: fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, deviled eggs, chicken and dumplings, and their twist on the Hot Brown. They’re also contributing to Louisville’s growing brunch scene with a spacious patio, mimosas, and tasty buttermilk waffles.

The Fat Lamb

The Fat Lamb

The Highlands

Executive chef Dallas McGarity and beverage director Brennon Staples have breathed new life into the space that was formerly Fontleroy’s at the intersection of Bardstown Road and Grinstead Drive. To avoid plate envy, order the seared sea scallops. Sip on the staff’s fave cocktail, the Glowing Temple, while you wait. In 2017, Fat Lamb will debut their version of happy hour with half-priced bottles of wine and small plates from 5pm to 7pm.

Edis Celik

Noosh Nosh

Brownsboro Road

Beloved Louisville chef Anoosh Shariat of Anoosh Bistro debuted his family-friendly Mediterranean concept in late-May. After seeing their beautiful red-tiled stone oven, you’re going to want to order a pizza. Don’t let that stop you from getting a scoop of their handcrafted gelato too. Spots for the new restaurant's “Compassion & Cooking Monthly Breakfast” series have been filling fast. Led by chef Shariat himself and his fitness instructor, Carlos Rivas, Director of health and well-being at Proformance, it’s a morning filled with breakfast, healthy recipes, and tips for living better. Registration for January’s class begins December 19th. Call 502-690-6585 for more information.

Andrew Hyslop

Lola

Butchertown

Butchertown Grocery has received best new restaurant nods from Southern Living and USA Today, so it’s no wonder their new upstairs bar, Lola, already has the city buzzing in the short time it’s been open. Chef-owner Bobby Benjamin’s generous bar fare featuring burgers and sandwiches make the perfect base for a night of tossing back cocktails mixed up by beverage director Nic Christiansen. Lola is the type of spot that starts off as a first stop of the night and stretches into an all-nighter. You’ve been warned.

Nerissa Sparkman

Wiltshire at the Speed

University

When the Speed Art Museum finally reopened after what felt like the longest remodel ever, they blessed us with a new member of the Wiltshire family. The imagination behind the artsy dishes for Wiltshire at the Speed belongs to chef Coby Ming, formerly of Harvest. Every quarter Wiltshire will partner with the new cinema at the Speed to bring the city “Cinecuisine.” The next event is mid-January. A showing of the Japanese Western Tampopo will follow a ramen noodle dinner -- both are sure to be tantalizing.

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1. Royals Hot Chicken 736 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40202

This NuLu restaurant has perfected the Nashville craft of dousing a perfectly crisped piece of chicken in a fiery house-made sauce, as the wait time here rivals that of a few other fine Louisville establishments. But of course, this place takes it up a notch, tailoring each brined order to the customer's spice preference, and complementing its carnivorous offerings with a generous menu of sides and desserts.

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2. PokeHana 436 W Market St, Louisville, KY 40202

Pokehana’s fast-casual poke restaurant provides Louisville with create-your-own Asian bowls. Ingredients of varying colors and textures are nestled into compartments behind a glass divider, encouraging you to go wild with creativity when designing your poke creation. You’ll start with the base and choose fluffy white rice, brown rice, or lettuce, which will eventually cushion your next layer of Asian culinary goodness: crispy veggies, like avocado, cucumber, lettuce, and onion, and proteins, like tuna, salmon, octopus, shrimp, and tofu. The fun really begins when you get to toppings and sauces; on offer are green onion, jalapeno, seaweed salad, pickled ginger, wasabi, masago, and sesame seed toppings as well as house, teriyaki, ponzu, and spicy mayo sauces. The glass divider won’t hold you back for much longer; soon, you’ll be ungracefully diving over it to finally get your hands on your bowl.

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3. Half-Peach Bakery & Cafe 4121 Oechsli Ave, Louisville, KY 40207

This airy little shop full of sweet treats and vegetarian fare lives up to its adorable name with sleek, birch furnishing and small plants abound. Everything here's made from scratch with ingredients they grew themselves, and they stray from animal products -- basically, the only guilt you'll feel when you bite into one of their maple drizzled donuts or veggie burgers is guilt for not stopping by earlier than you did.

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4. Finn's Southern Kitchen 409 S 5th St, Louisville, KY 40202

Much of Finn’s Southern Kitchen is old-fashioned, specifically its location in the historic Fincastle building that once housed offices for the 19th-century cotton mill that operated nearby and its original glass blocking and moldings, but its lunch and dinner offerings are decidedly modern iterations of Southern cuisine. The lunch menu includes sandwiches, like the Fried Bologna with baby Swiss, mustard, and caramelized onions, and salads, including the Layered Salad with romaine, hard-boiled egg, edamame, pickled beets, tomatoes, Cheddar cheese, bacon, turkey, and Hellmann’s dressing. For dinner, explore the extensive menu of snacks, salads, mains, sandwiches, and sides, delighting in fried green tomatoes with chowchow and hot pepper jam, homemade biscuits with sausage gravy, and crispy fried haddock with shredded lettuce and tartar sauce.

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5. The Fat Lamb , Louisville, KY

The Fat Lamb is a neighborhood restaurant that specializes in high quality handcrafted cocktails and modern American cuisine influenced by Mediterranean and Southern flavors. The dinner menu offers starters, salads, and mains, and Fat Lamb gems include Baked Ricotta Eggplant, with balsamic and tomato sauce, and Lemon and Paprika Fried Chicken Thigh, with roasted red pepper mashed potatoes, sweet & sour cabbage, and sumac. The well-priced cocktail program includes refined beverages like the Fade Into You, with dry prosecco, Crème Yvette, Aperol, lemon, sangria ice, and toasted herb, and The Thief in the Night, with mezcal, yellow Chartreuse, habanero honey, grapefruit, and tiki bitters.

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6. Noosh Nosh 4816 Brownsboro Ctr, Louisville, KY 40207

Given the beautiful, red tile-adorned wood-fired oven, and the rainbow of pastel pizza peels decorating one full wall of the restaurant, it's hard to miss the fact that pizza is Noosh Nosh’s specialty. However the menu of veteran Louisville Chef Anoosh Shariat’s newest restaurant doesn’t stop there. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Noosh Nosh offers an eclectic mix of sandwiches, flatbreads (we like the braised brisket with goat cheese), salads, and pasta, all served in a casual environment which is proving to be a perfect addition to the Brownsboro Road area.

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7. Lola @ Butchertown Grocery 1076 E Washington St, Louisville, KY 40206 (Butchertown)

Lola, situated in Butchertown Grocery’s upstairs bar, is a clandestine watering hole dimly lit by candles and dotted with plush velvet couches and booths that rest against red fabric-lined walls. Lola’s food ethos is “what we crave while drinking,” meaning you’ll be offered such comforting bites as spinach artichoke dip with house-made chips, portobello fries with wasabi sambal aioli, and even beignets for pastry-lovers. Cocktails here sport an air of amusement and irreverence, like the Bit of Tongue, mixed with Aperol, grapefruit shrub, sparkling wine, copper, and absinthe, and The Sun Smells Too Loud, with Watershed Bourbon Barrel Gin, Aperol, lemon, Crème de Mûre, and sparkling wine.

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8. Wiltshire At The Speed 2035 S 3rd St, Louisville, KY 40208

There are a lot of things the newly redesigned Speed got right, and enlisting acclaimed Louisville Restaurateur Susan Hershberg to head the food and beverage program is at the top of the list. Susan recruited the incredibly talented Coby Ming (formerly of Harvest) to craft the menu for the lunch café, with local and seasonal ingredients a menu priority, as it is with each Wiltshire restaurant. Make sure you visit the museum on an empty stomach because the mushroom bisque is just as worthy of your attention as the art.