Food & Drink

8 hugely underrated Louisville restaurants

Published On 10/08/2014 Published On 10/08/2014

Sure, many would argue that Louisville’s food scene itself is underrated, but it’s picking up new fans every day -- and as the city’s culinary star rises, some spots are being left unjustly out of the spotlight. Here are some excellent places that you won't find on anyone's "Best Of" lists...

Peter Berkowitz

Abyssinia

Downtown
Any local fan of Ethiopian cooking knows their favorites at Queen of Sheba by heart. But you’re much less likely to hear about the also-terrific Abyssinia, where the homestyle meals are delicious, filling, and make you feel like you’re in someone’s home, in the best way. Somewhat hidden on a drab stretch of 5th St, it’s not the type of place you’d make -- or need -- a reservation, and you get a lot for a little here.

Facebook/Banh Mi Hero

Bánh Mì Hero

Highlands
Owner Lee Tran is young -- early 20s young, so young he should be eating his own food after a long night out -- but he grew up in his Mother’s Vietnamese restaurant, Annie’s Café (another underrated gem). Don't mistake this for being just another Vietnamese restaurant though, because his spot deliciously honors traditional dishes while also giving them a modern, fresh update. Hidden in plain sight in the middle of the Highlands, BMH also has a food truck you can catch on the town.

Facebook/Bluegrass Burgers

Bluegrass Burgers

Crescent Hill
Talk about a modern upgrade. This joint that should be a chain (or at least multiplied several times over around Louisville), but has nonetheless not attracted the necessary attention, offers some of the highest quality burgers around, made from grass-fed beef, bison, and other new wave ingredients. The toppings bar lets you adjust your desires accordingly, and the fries (hand cut) are not to be skipped. They say “Good is Good ... Local is Better,” but when it comes to burgers, who wouldn’t want it both ways?

Peter Berkowitz

DakShin

Buechel
Another traditional hot spot still overshadowed by what’s closer, or has been around longer (one of Louisville’s lesser qualities sometimes), DakShin’s Southern Indian-centric restaurant (the more typical Northern options are also available) is worth the drive -- and it can be a drive, even in a city where few things are even 20 minutes away. Between the fresh, stunningly delicious food and the log cabin vibe bolstered by TVs showing music videos straight from the homeland, it’s impossible to not love DakShin.

Facebook/Danny Mac's Pizza

Danny Mac's Pizza

Schnitzelburg
Around his neighborhood (and sadly, not too far beyond), everyone knows Dan “Danny Mac” McMahon. It’s due in part to his work running a Facebook page about what’s happening in said ‘hood, but also due to the excellent 'zas he’s been making -- and some credit must also go to his garlic bread and Parmesan-smothered (his word) breadsticks, better known as “Cracksticks”. If you think that would go well with, say, a Chicken Bacon Ranch pie, come to the AMVETS post he works out of and get an experience you won’t find anywhere else.

Facebook/El Molcajete

El Molcajete

University
While the also-wonderful Santa Fe Grill has dominated the Mexican food market in that sweet spot near Churchill Downs, just past the college, El Molcajete quickly won over some of its fans when it recently moved North from its original location. (Seems like there’s a metaphor there.) Bold enough to list some very authentic items on its menu (try the brains tacos), this newcomer is a welcome addition to an area close to -- but just out of sight of -- where the tourists go.

River City Drafthouse

River City Drafthouse

Highlands
In the middle of a well-traveled area once the center of Louisville’s counter-culture (hippies, not lunch counter), River City Drafthouse sits next to a more popular brewpub. Surely some of that content audience is sneaking over for -- if nothing else -- the giant pretzel. It’s a meal by itself, and well worth the trouble. River City’s main attraction is its well-curated selection of craft beers, but try the food, too. You’ll be very satisfied.

Facebook/Winston's Restaurant

Winston's Restaurant

Highlands
At the Southern end of the Highlands neighborhood, overlooking the highway to somewhere else, lies Winston’s, the restaurant fueled by Sullivan University’s culinary students, but overseen by veteran, celebrated Chef John Castro. Young chefs-in-the-making and servers not yet jaded by the years present world-class (and not inexpensive) cuisine in a suitably classy (yet not stuffy) setting. 

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1. Abyssinia 554 S 5th St, Louisville, KY 40202 (Downtown)

Somewhat hidden on a drab stretch of 5th St, it’s not the type of place you’d make -- or need -- a reservation, but at Abyssinia, the home-style meals are delicious, filling, and make you feel like you’re in someone’s home, in the best way.

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2. Bánh Mí Hero 2245 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, KY 40205 (Highlands)

This Highlands spot honors traditional dishes while also giving them a modern, fresh update. Hidden in plain sight in the middle of the Highlands, BMH also has a truck that you find all around town (always a happy sight).

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3. Bluegrass Burgers 3334 Frankfort Ave, Louisville, KY 40207 (Crescent Hill)

With a short menu flaunting just burgers, dogs, and desserts, Bluegrass Burgers is an all-american classic. This family-friendly joint with multiple suburban outposts grills up high-quality Kentucky-raised beef for some of the biggest and unexpectedly inventive burgers around. Aside from it's staple, the all-beef burger, Bluegrass' menu changes the game with other bases like fresh ahi tuna, bison, and vegetarian black bean patties -- all winners, if you ask us.

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4. DakShin 4742 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, KY 40218

Between the fresh, stunningly delicious food, and the log cabin-vibe bolstered by TVs showing music videos straight from the homeland, it’s impossible to not love DakShin and its Southern Indian cuisine.

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5. Danny Mac's Pizza 1567 S Shelby St, Louisville, KY 40217

Around Schnitzelburg, everyone knows Dan "Danny Mac" McMahon due to the winning pizzas he makes -- and some credit must also go to his garlic bread and Parmesan-smothered breadsticks.

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6. El Molcajete 2932 S 4th St, Louisville, KY 40208

Bold enough to list some very authentic items on its menu (try the brains tacos), this Mexi-spot was a welcome addition to an area close to -- but just out of sight of -- where the tourists go.

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7. River City Drafthouse 1574 1/2 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, KY 40205 (Highlands)

In the middle of a well-traveled area once the center of Louisville’s counter-culture (hippies, not lunch counter), River City Drafthouse's main attraction is its well-curated selection of craft beers, but try the food, too. You’ll be very satisfied.

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8. Winston's Restaurant 3101 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, KY 40205 (Highlands)

At the Southern end of the Highlands neighborhood, overlooking the highway to somewhere else, lies Winston’s, the restaurant fueled by Sullivan University’s culinary students. Only open Fridays and Saturdays for lunch and dinner, and Sundays for brunch, this is a special occasion location for when you’re looking to impress someone special.

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