Culinary Genius: Louisville’s Best Restaurants

By: Mark Shallcross

January 20, 2014

While it may be true that too many cooks spoil the broth, sometimes too much of a good thing can be wonderful – at least according to the indomitable Mae West.

Residents of Louisville, Kentucky, as well as an impressive collection of food critics and travel writers from across the globe, have found that it’s not possible to have too many good cooks and top-notch eateries in town. Choosing where to eat in Louisville is not a cut-and-dried decision.

“Our food scene is exploding right now,” says Nick Sullivan, executive chef at Louisville’s acclaimed 610 Magnolia restaurant. “It’s largely due to us as chefs challenging ourselves, and the diners being supportive of that. It’s a team effort on the part of the diners and the chefs.”


Sullivan belongs to a close-knit community of chefs and restaurateurs who have helped earn Louisville a reputation as one of the top dining destinations in the country.


Later this year, some of the top culinary stars in the world will descend upon the city for the Distinguished Restaurants of North America‘s 2014 annual conference from 5-9 October. Past conferences have been held in Vancouver, British Columbia; Cozumel, Mexico; and Napa, California. Vincenzo Gabriele, of Vincenzo’s Italian Restaurant in downtown Louisville, is a member of the conference host committee.


Bone Marrow at Proof on Main | Where to Eat in Louisville

Bone Marrow at Proof on Main © Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau


“Having leading chefs and restaurateurs come here to discuss the future of dining is a great way to showcase Louisville, our restaurants and our bourbon,” said Gabriele. “It’s very exciting. We’re now in the process of talking to potential sponsors and putting together an agenda for the visitors.”


Building on venerable Kentucky cooking classics such as the Hot Brown, Derby Pie®, burgoo, Benedictine sandwiches, country ham, fried catfish and bourbon balls, Louisville offers a wide range of “ethnic” eateries, ranging from Asian to Irish to Middle Eastern and Mexican. The growth of independent restaurants in town has been so rapid in recent years that many locals have a hard time keeping up with all the openings.


El Mundo | Where to Eat in Louisville

Mexican restaurant ‘El Mundo’ © Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau


Three major thoroughfares in different parts of the city comprise what are known locally as Restaurant Rows.


Bardstown Road bisects the Highlands neighbourhood and is lined with a slew of bohemian bars and clubs, as well as a seemingly endless variety of locally operated restaurants. You’ll find a pizza place on virtually every block, as well several sushi bars, sandwich shops, casual comfort food purveyors and fine dining fare.


Frankfort Avenue, in the city’s east end, was once a buffalo trace and later a turnpike for stagecoach travellers. This historic byway is now home to upscale Italian eateries, a cosy Irish pub, barbecue joints, coffee shops and family-run bistros. This attractive neighbourhood offers all these options in a safe, walkable setting.


RYE | Where to Eat in Louisville

Local eatery ‘ The Rye’ © Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau

East Market Street, on the edge of downtown Louisville has become known in recent years as the NuLu (New Louisville) neighbourhood. Until recently a somewhat sketchy section of town, and largely devoid of eating establishments, NuLu is now a hotbed of culinary creativity and quaint boutiques, many of which are housed in 19th century structures.


Garage Bar | Where to Eat in Louisville

The unique ‘Garage Bar’, a popular Louisville eatery © Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau


If you consider yourself a “foodie,” or aspire to be one, Louisville will leave you pleasantly surprised by its abundance of dining options to sate even the most discerning palate.


Booking flights to Louisville has never been simpler. Our partnership with Delta offers connections to and from over 70 destinations across the United States and Canada.


Have you discovered Louisville’s many food haunts? Where do you go for a great meal when you visit? Let us know in the comments below.

Written by Mark Shallcross


Mark Shallcross

Mark V. Shallcross is a free-lance writer living in Louisville, Kentucky. A graduate of the University of Louisville, Mark is a tenth-generation Kentuckian who has worked as a reporter for The Courier-Journal, Voice-Tribune and Jeffersonville (Indiana) Evening News newspapers. He worked most recently as a communications manager, copywriter and media liaison for the Kentucky Derby Festival. He enjoys travel, reading and competitive running.

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