Louisville's restaurant scene may be exploding, but sometimes it's nice to take a moment and just look at the debris... which in the case of this metaphor, is the top tier of dining spots from virtually every category. So whether you find yourself craving a plate of pasta or a bowl pho, here's where to go...
Volare has long answered the call for Louisvillians when that nagging need for pasta strikes. Nestled in the heart of Crescent Hill, it offers a menu packed with Italian faves, including salsiccia, an antipasto of grilled Italian rope sausage with peppers, white wine, and oregano. With a Chef serving up ingredients grown at his very own farm and half-price bottles of wine on offer every Wednesday, Volare is our vote for Louisville’s best Italian.
French: Bistro Le Relais
Louisville’s very best French fare just happens to be served up in a historic airplane terminal. Located on the grounds of Bowman Field, you can sip Champagne and nibble on escargot while watching small private planes land on the adjacent runway. With a menu boasting all of the French classics, we love anything served with pomme frites, the steak au poivre, especially.
Mexican: El Mundo
With margaritas served straight up -- tequila, cointreau, and lime only -- and locally raised Kentucky bison available as an addition to pretty much every dish on the menu, El Mundo hits a high mark when it comes to Mexican cuisine in Louisville.
Vietnamese: Vietnam Kitchen
Everyone has their favorite number, their go-to order. For us it’s the K8, a pipping-hot bowl of rice noodles with spicy saté sauce, bean sprouts, broccoli, lemongrass, and your choice of meat.
Indian: Bombay Grill
The title of "best Indian food in Louisville" has long been hotly debated, as we as Louisvillians are especially opinionated when it comes to our favorite place to indulge our craving for chili-laden cuisine. Bombay Grill takes the cake in our book, with a menu offering traditional dishes of both the North and South, the deft use of spice is especially delicious across the board. The Chicken 65 is a great way to kick off any meal, with slices of chicken cooked until crispy with fried curry leaves, yogurt, and spices.
Chinese: Oriental House
It’s nearly impossible to miss the colorful home of Oriental House when driving down Shelbyville Road. A St. Matthews mainstay since the ’60s, Oriental House has all of the beloved Americanized favorites, like sesame chicken and General Tso’s, while also offering an extensive menu of authentic Chinese creations such as the tofu hot pot with seafood and a lengthy dim sum list. Don’t miss the opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone with an order of the chicken feet with black bean or the tofu-skin roll with pork. Your taste buds will thank you.
Downtown & Westport Village
Upscale, modern accents and an ample menu of hand-rolled sushi, noodle bowls, and traditional bento boxes make hiko-A-mon the ‘Ville’s go-to for Japanese cuisine.
American: Jack Fry’s
You don’t get more classic Louisville than Jack Fry’s. Serving up the ‘Ville’s version of American cuisine -- Southern touch not overlooked -- it’s impossible to resist the cozy, almost-too-noisy dining room at Jack Fry’s, where old race forms and horse-racing paraphernalia paper the walls. We’re particularly fond of the lamb chops, always cooked to a perfect med-rare and served with a decadent shiitake mushroom potato au gratin.
Ethiopian: Queen of Sheba
Talk about a hands-on dining experience. Louisvillians have been crowding the cozy dining room of Queen of Sheba for years, anxious to fill up on injera and the various vegetarian and meat wots on offer. We suggest ordering a platter for two and snagging one of the mesobs, basket tables, in the back; it makes for a truly authentic and intimate date night.
Korean: Charim Korean Restaurant
Charim is one of those restaurants that seems to hide in plain site. But there it is, tucked amongst a small strip of stores, sitting just off of Shelbyville Road. Anyone who has already discovered this gem knows full well that it is one of Louisville’s best-kept secrets, and it's serving up steaming hot-stone bowls with crispy rice, veggies, and egg on a daily basis. All entrees are offered with a variety of banchan, traditional side dishes, including kimchi, cubed radish, and mung bean sprouts.
Food Truck: Holy Molé
Holy Molé was an early favorite when the Louisville taco truck scene began to take off, thanks to its freshly made tacos highlighted by the use of locally sourced ingredients. It changes up its offerings regularly with certain longtime favorites making an appearance from time to time. Keep your eye out for the deliciously spicy chorizo taco, made with locally raised grass-fed beef. And don’t forget to top things off with the house (truck?)-made salsas!
Mediterranean: Zäd Modern Mediterranean
This casual Highlands eatery is a relatively new addition to the Louisville dining scene and has delighted vegetarians, vegans, and meat-eaters alike. Classic favorites like the Greek salad (we recommend adding avocado), baba ghanoush, and gyros are in ample supply along with Mediterranean tacos and our favorite, the avocado wrap.
The veggie game is so strong at Roots that it is easy to forget meat of any kind is left off the menu. Even better yet, the menu is constructed of small plates, perfect for sharing and sampling. We’re particularly fond of the forbidden rice risotto, cooked slowly with baby spinach, black cherries, goat cheese, and candied walnuts. An impressive tea menu is available as well, featuring loose-leaf teas from around the world. In a rush? The neighboring Heart & Soy is Root’s answer to quick, healthy, and delicious take-away, seven days a week.
Burger joint: Grind Burger Kitchen
There’s a reason Grind keeps making all of the "best of" burger-related lists. It's just that good.
Seafood: Seviche, A Latin Restaurant
Anthony Lamas has made a name for himself as one of Louisville’s top chefs and his star is quickly on the rise nationally, with several James Beard nominations under his belt. You simply will not find fresher seafood than what is on offer at Seviche, with the menu changing regularly, local ingredients incorporated to highlight the delicate fish, and the Latin flair of Lamas’ roots. His passion for Kentucky is evident throughout the menu as well, with selections like Kentucky bison empanadas and his classic tuna "old fashioned" seviche.
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1. Volare2300 Frankfort Ave, Louisville
2. Bistro Le Relais2817 Taylorsville Rd, Louisville
3. El Mundo2345 Frankfort Ave, Louisville
4. Vietnam Kitchen5339 Mitscher Ave, Louisville
5. Bombay Grill216 N Hurstbourne Pkwy, Louisville
6. Oriental House4302 Shelbyville Rd, Louisville
7. Jack Fry's1007 Bardstown Rd, Louisville
8. Queen of Sheba2804 Taylorsville Rd, Louisville
9. Charim Korean Restaurant4123 Oechsli Ave, Louisville
10. ZÄD1616 Grinstead Dr, Louisville
11. Roots1216 Bardstown Rd, Louisville
12. Seviche Restaurant1538 Bardstown Rd, Louisville
This modern Italian spots is one of the best in Louisville, complete with weekly wine nights, plenty of farm-to-table fare, and a side of Southern hospitality.
Once a fancier French, high-ticket spot with a view, the current Le Relais maintains steak even at a more affordable, oh-so-bistro level: you can get steak tartare as a starter, or spend three times as much on some prime beef. It’s a date spot, the food’s tasty, and the view is unique.
Known for the strength of their margaritas and their addictive Mexican cuisine, this Crescent Hill resto features a quirky ambience and a back patio for dining in pleasant weather.
Tucked in between a laundromat and a dive bar in Louisville's Iroquois neighborhood lies Vietnam Kitchen, a true hidden gem. Within its four bright, baby-blue walls, you'll find ample seating that's constantly full of diners looking to try authentic Vietnamese cuisine like the ever-popular Hủ tiếu Saté, a spicy rice noodle with sate sauce, bean sprouts, broccoli, peanuts, and lemon grass, with your choice of beef, chicken, or pork.
The colossal size of this Indian eatery in far east Louisville is only matched by the size of the tower you'll have on your plate by the time you reach the end of the buffet, which is ripe for the picking with tandoori vegetables and meats like chicken and lamb that you can top to your heart's desire with yogurts, chutney, papadums, and pickles. You'll have to come at lunch time, though, otherwise you'll be left to pick from a full menu of other dishes like chicken tikka or lamb kebabs (ok, so that's not so bad, either).
Since the '60s, Oriental House has been the go-to for Chinese in Louisville, with everything from American favorites like sesame chicken and General Tso’s, to authentic dim sum.
Established in 1933, Jack Fry's has been a long-standing staple of the Louisville fine-dining scene. This Highlands resto features Southern flavors that are showcased using classical French techniques and the atmosphere is always buzzy.
Two things are certain at Kingsley's Queen of Sheba -- you're probably going to share, and you're probably going to get your hands a little dirty. Sticking to it's traditional Ethiopian roots, this restaurant serves its specializes in large stews and thick soups, all eaten by an entire table of diners armed with flaps of flatbread they'll hungrily dip into the pot like a kid scooping jelly beans in a candy store. The long marination process makes for hearty and bold flavor that culminates in house staples like beef-based Gored-Gored and Lega Sega with other meat and veggie offerings.
Three words: Hot stone Bibimbap. It's the signature dish at Charim, Louisville's favorite Korean joint hidden away in a Richlawn strip mall. Its contents (one choice of meat with rice, vegetables, and sauce in a hot stone bowl) are self-explanatory, but that doesn't make it any less flavorful. Veterans of this spot will at times opt to venture out into the bulgogi bowls, colorful creations of noodles, veggies, meats, and a fried egg, all separated to satiate the organizational freak in all of us.
This casual Mediterranean spot is an all around crowd pleaser. Favorites like the Greek salad, baba ghanoush, and gyros are in ample supply along with Mediterranean tacos and our favorite, the avocado wrap.
This vegetarian menu is comprised of small plates designed for sharing and sampling. We're fond of the forbidden rice risotto, cooked slowly with baby spinach, black cherries, goat cheese, and candied walnuts. Don't forget to check out the impressive tea menu as well.
The distinct latin menu at this restaurant changes seasonally, but the high-quality is maintained thanks to James Beard: Southeast finalist chef Anthony Lamas. His famous "avocado" dessert is made with avocado ice cream, dulce de leche chocolate, a bourbon pit, and coffee pine nut soil.