Food & Drink

The 12 Best Dishes in Louisville

Published On 01/28/2015 Published On 01/28/2015
GLINTstudios/21c Museum Hotels/Courtesy
Bistro 1860
El Camino
Josh Johnson/Thrillist
The Mayan Cafe
Highland Morning
Please & Thank You
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1. Proof on Main 702 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202

Located in The 21c Museum Hotel Louisville, a boutique hotel and art museum, Proof on Main serves up gourmet meals from Chef Levon Wallace, including a unique and scrumptious burger made out of bison and topped with a Jezebel sauce that gives it a fruity, earthy flavor, plus Tillamook cheddar and applewood-smoked bacon. You'll want to throw in a side of the crispy cauliflower, and top it all off with the s'mores dessert. This trendy spot houses the Proof Bar, too, which offers an enormous bourbon list (we're talking upwards of 50 varieties).

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2. Gralehaus 1001 Baxter Ave, Louisville, KY 40204

Offering excellent brews downstairs and cozy guest rooms upstairs, cafe-meets-inn Gralehaus gives a whole new meaning to the term B&B: bed & beverage. On the ground floor, the rustic-chic cafe serves a solid selection of craft beers alongside inventive brunch dishes, while visitors can stay in three handsome, exposed-brick suites upstairs if they please. The same masterminds behind the Holy Grale, which Gralehaus sits next to inside a 1905 Victorian home, give morning favorites their own unique spin here, such as lamb sausage and grits, breakfast sandwiches on pretzel buns, and the fan-favorite black pepper biscuits smothered with duck gravy and topped with a fried egg. When it comes to beer, you can expect four rotating taps, 150 bottles, and signature beer cocktails.

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3. Feast BBQ 909 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40206

This is the first Feast actually in Louisville (the first is in New Albany) and it gets the job done just like the first, with 60+ craft beers and a menu loaded with tasty 'cue. The hearty, savory food and drink (loaded tots, fried pickles, and um, BOURBON SLUSHIES) will have you coming back for more. Feast's warm and friendly vibes are just an added bonus to otherwise great barbecue fare.

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4. MilkWood 316 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202

MilkWood, Downtown’s Actors Theater restaurant, is Top Chef alum Edward Lee's ode to Southern fare and the Asian spice pantry in a flavor-forward dining experience. With hybrid ingredients like gochujang butter and green apple-ginger zest, and dishes like Korean Griddle Buns, Mushroom and Grits, Collards and Kimchi, and Togarashi Cheesecake, the cuisine is elegant, elevated, and rooted in culture. The down-home favorites have prevalent Asian influence, but neither is compromised in their marriage. To reiterate the importance of flavor to guests, the cocktail menu is laid out by beverage type, and how it will play on the palate -- wine, beer, and cocktails alike.

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5. Bistro 1860 1765 Mellwood Ave, Louisville, KY 40206

This Crescent Hill eatery/drinkery features eclectic décor, French-American fusion cuisine, and an array of delicious and unique cocktails, not to mention a full bar. On any given evening, pick from a selection of 50 different wines, a delicious dinner menu, and a great patio to use during the warmer months.

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6. El Camino 1314 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, KY 40204

Tequila might never be the most popular spirit in The 'Ville, but El Camino is certainly making it a runner-up. The drink menu here is “artisan Tiki” offering both twists on traditional options like a Mai Tai or a daiquiri, and more traditional libations like bowls of punch that you should definitely not try to drink by yourself. And whoever said honky-tonks don't deliver on food hasn't checked out El Camino's list of Mexican eats, which includes savory creations like grilled petite filete with cotija, and a pan roasted salmon with grilled pear.

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7. Toast on Market 620 East Market St, Louisville, IN 47130

Wedged into Market Street, Toast is a casual breakfast-and-lunch eatery that's become a crowd-favorite brunch spot in NuLu thanks to its famous lemon soufflé pancakes, which come served with vanilla custard and berry compote, and taste even better with a side of hash brown casserole. Not to mention, there's a solid list of mimosas that should not be overlooked, including mint julep, passionfruit, and mango variations. This friendly spot has plenty of sandwiches, grilled cheeses (go for the spicy chipotle to give your favorite comfort food some heat), and salads for lunch, too.

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8. Mayan Café 813 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40206

Chef Bruce Ucán heads up Mayan Cafe, a beloved veteran restaurant in NuLu, infusing the traditional flavors of his Yucatan heritage into every beautiful plate on the menu -- from the signature tok-sel lima beans to the Mayan Burger, a grass-fed beef patty topped with chili aioli, greens, pickled onions, mozzarella cheese, and tomatoes, and (best of all) served on a warm pretzel bun.

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9. Game 2295 Lexington Rd, Louisville, KY 40206

This Irish Hill hot spot doles out all the bourbon and beef you could ask for, like its Wagyu burger with bone marrow mayo and brioche bun, aka one of the best burgers in the city.

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10. Highland Morning 1416 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, KY 40204

A cozy breakfast and lunch eatery with comforting Southern dishes, Highland Morning has become a neighborhood favorite, attracting lines that spill out the door and packing crowds in tight, especially on weekends. Whether you’re ordering the famous Baja Benedict (a welcome introduction of Southwestern corn-cakes, chorizo, and pico de gallo to the traditional eggs Benny) or one of the specialty pancake plates, such as banana-berry blast and lemon lover's, it’s well worth the wait.

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11. Please & Thank You 800 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40206

Please & Thank You is a hip small-batch bakery, coffee house, and record store in one, meaning you can stop by to sip a latte while listening to vinyl tunes and biting into its famously decadent chocolate chip cookies. Though it's not your typical brunch spot, Please & Thank You also offers some excellent breakfast fare at the counter, including a range of bagels (add some color to your morning with the Rebel, an every-seed bagel with cream cheese and rainbow sprinkles) and incredible egg sliders anointed with habanero on brioche buns.

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12. Harvest 624 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40202

You know you're in for a fresh meal at Harvest, because the walls are adorned with large photos of the various Kentucky farmers who grow and raise the ingredients you’ll find on your plate. The team here knows a thing or two about fried chicken, crafting a buttermilk-soaked, battered, and fried breast and thigh served over a savory hoecake, drizzled with creamy gravy and topped with spicy greens. It’s heaven on a plate. And if you're not in the mood for chicken, they also have one of the best burgers in Louisville: a local beef patty topped with tomato jam, triple-cream brie, and lettuce on an addictive pretzel bun.