clock menu more-arrow no yes
A long table set for dinner with white tablecloth and leather-backed chairs. The walls, painted blue, are filled with eclectic artwork in ornate frames Proof on Main

The 27 Essential Louisville Restaurants

Where to find Kentucky Stack Cake, bourbon bone marrow luges, sticky apricot tofu, chocolate cigars, and mole-covered fries in Derby City

View as Map

Louisville is home to more than baseball bats, bourbon, and the fastest two minutes in sports. Set on the Ohio River on the border with Indiana, Derby City is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, with the robust cultural scene to go along with that status, especially when it comes to good food. The city is home to the famous hot brown: a mess of turkey, Mornay sauce, cheese, and bread cobbled together at the Brown Hotel nearly a century ago. Louisville also has plenty of Southern dining, from old-fashioned classics to dishes inflected with French and Mediterranean twists, plus lots of Cuban specialties, vegan beer, Scandinavian pastries, and pan-Asian comfort food. The city’s best eateries offer way more than pit stops before the races.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.

Lennie Omalza is a Kentucky-based freelance writer. Originally from Hawaii, she is a yoga-loving foodie who travels as often as she can.

Read More
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. 610 Magnolia

Copy Link
610 W Magnolia Ave
Louisville, KY 40208
(502) 636-0783
Visit Website

Celebrity chef Edward Lee presents a modern menu with Southern flare at 610 Magnolia, where every dish focuses on locally sourced produce. The team at the Old Louisville gem is constantly experimenting with fresh and unique flavor combinations, changing offerings weekly since the restaurant’s opening in 2003. Recent highlights have included a seared carrot starter; butternut squash soup; beetroot gnocchi; and a drunken banana cake perfect for bourbon aficionados, made with butterscotch, chocolate Pappy Van Winkle bourbon-infused maple syrup, corn, and brown-butter ice cream.

A shiny black textured dish holding a small circular patty of tuna topped with buckwheat, a collop of cream, a pile of caviar and an herb sprig for garnish
Bluefin tuna, ponzu, buckwheat, chive, finger lime, kombu cream, spoonbill caviar
Sarah Babcock

2. Buck's Restaurant

Copy Link
425 W Ormsby Ave
Louisville, KY 40203
(502) 637-5284
Visit Website

Tucked away in Old Louisville, on the bottom floor of the historic Mayflower building, Buck’s Restaurant is a gem and has been a go-to special occasion restaurant (complete with live singer/pianist) for locals since opening in 1992. As part of the Urban Bourbon Trail, the bar also offers more than 50 bourbon selections, as well as Kentucky-themed, bourbon-based cocktails. Manager Karen Shane especially recommends the New York strip served with crab legs and shrimp, followed by a mocha dacquoise — the eatery’s signature dessert — which consists of three layers of toasted almond meringue with mocha buttercream, rum Chantilly, powdered sugar, and chocolate drizzle.

The sign for Buck’s Restaurant outside the restaurant
Outside Buck’s
Buck’s Restaurant

3. Proof on Main

Copy Link
702 W Main St
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 217-6360
Visit Website

Set inside the 21C Museum Hotel, Proof on Main matches an intriguing menu with equally interesting decor. Contemporary wall hangings, paintings, and sculptures overflow from exhibits put on by the hotel. Try to stop gawking long enough to try the charred octopus with bagna cauda, lime, and toast, which has been a staple since day one. And finish off any meal with the Kentucky Stack Cake, a rich dessert crafted with lemon buttercream, almond, and buttermilk whip. The most popular picks from the drinks menu are the bourbon-based cocktails, like the No Spectators, which includes Old Forester 86 bourbon,  sfumato, grapefruit rosemary cordial, lemon juice, and a spritz of a peaty scotch.

A long table set for dinner with white tablecloth and leather-backed chairs. The walls, painted blue, are filled with eclectic artwork in ornate frames
Inside an eclectic dining room at Proof on Main
Proof on Main

4. CC's Kitchen

Copy Link
800 S 4th St
Louisville, KY 40203
(502) 215-0797
Visit Website

At the bottom of the 800 Tower City Club Apartments in downtown Louisville, CC’s Kitchen offers a whimsical dining experience, especially on the weekends. Owner Corey Milliman holds drag brunches every Saturday and Sunday, featuring performers from all over the U.S. — and he’s been known to perform on occasion too. Bring a group and try the Beast Mimosa Tower: a mimosa pitcher outfitted with speared pineapple, Oreos, raspberry Zingers, chocolate-covered bourbon-candied bacon, Little Debbie jelly creme pies, white-chocolate-dipped strawberries, Snowballs, giant gumdrops, and more.

A pitcher of mimosas with skewers sticking out for garnish. The skewers include fried Oreos, creme pies, and gumdrops, among other colorful treats
Beast Mimosa Tower
CC’s Kitchen

5. Safier Mediterranean Deli

Copy Link
641 S 4th St #2403
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 585-1125
Visit Website

Safier is well known amongst the downtown weekday lunch crowd, but the casual, walk-in Mediterranean eatery is open weekends too. Owner and head chef Youness El Mesyah serves scratch-made Lebanese dishes and daily Indian specials, including a plethora of vegetable-based options and halal selections. Go for the popular vegetarian platter, which comes with four choices of grape leaves, hummus, falafel, mutabbal, rice, tabbouleh, mujadara, or spinach pie.

A plate of bright biryani studded with meat, with a side of white sauce in a cup and salad
Chicken biryani
Safier Mediterranean Deli

6. Lobby Bar & Grill at the Brown Hotel

Copy Link
335 W Broadway
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 583-1234
Visit Website

A Louisville landmark, downtown’s historic Brown Hotel is home to the world-famous hot brown, invented here in 1926. The famed dish consists of roasted turkey breast, toast points, Mornay sauce, and pecorino Romano cheese baked golden brown, all finished with bacon and tomatoes.  Chef Dustin Willett oversees the hot browns and the rest of the menu, including indulgent slices of the hotel’s decadent Derby Pie, which pairs perfectly with a handcrafted cocktail or bourbon flight for dessert.

A ceramic dish filled with a cheesy concoction topped with bacon
The famous hot brown
Lennie Omalza

7. Swizzle

Copy Link
140 N Fourth St 25th floor
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 252-2500
Visit Website

Scott Shoenberger, president and CEO of the Al J. Schneider Company, which owns Swizzle, says the restaurant was created as an homage to a former Louisville supper club of the same name. The retro-style eatery atop the Galt House Hotel features two revolving sections, and diners all over the restaurant enjoy sweeping views of the city and the Ohio River. The menu covers prime steaks, sustainable seafood, local produce, and unique cocktails. For a fun, Derby City-specific experience, order the 1910 Old Fashioned, made with 1910 Old Forester whiskey and served in a box filled with smoke — an homage to the fire that took hold of the Old Forester distillery in 1910.

From above, a table filled with dishes including a crudite and prosciutto plate, seared tuna, steak with eggs, and brunch plate
A full spread at Swizzle
Kriech-Higdon Photography

8. Jockey Silks Bourbon Bar

Copy Link
West Tower, 140 N Fourth St 2nd Floor
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 589-5200
Visit Website

One of the original locations on Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Trail, Jockey Silks Bourbon Bar first opened its doors in the Galt House Hotel in 1972. It boasts a collection of 100 different bourbons, as well as craft cocktails and small bites. If straight pours aren’t your thing, try the Kentucky Apple Shine, made with Buffalo Trace bourbon and spiced apple cider; or a Winter Old Fashioned with bourbon, sugar, barrel-aged bitters, and winter spices, all best enjoyed while munching on fried green tomatoes, Southern fried chicken, or truffle fries. 

A darkened bar interior with plush leather couches and chairs, and a dimly lit bar with lots of bottles
Inside Jockey Silks
The Galt House Hotel

9. Everyday Kitchen

Copy Link
552 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 805-7345
Visit Website

Designed to showcase the bounty of the Ohio River Valley, Everyday Kitchen takes a fresh, inventive approach to regional cuisine. Senior executive chef Mike Wajda’s menu focuses on local flavors and creative cocktails, offering an upscale version of Southern comfort food in a space with a cozy, everyday feel. Be sure to start dinner off with the hummus brulee, a combination of charred onion jam and spiced sunflower seeds, served with lavash; and the bourbon and marrow luge, which comes with garam masala butter and sourdough from local bakery the Grainwright.

A salad of charred cabbage, black eyed peas, sliced Trinidad apple, and shaved cheese piled up on a plate beside a concrete wall
Charred cabbage salad
Mike Wajda

10. Wiltshire on Market

Copy Link
636 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 589-5224
Visit Website

Susan Hershberg’s Wiltshire restaurants have been around for more than 30 years, with each location featuring an independent chef who creates their own menu. Wiltshire On Market’s offerings change every other week, with modern takes on farm-to-table food. Options might include a Caesar salad with smoked trout, sunflower, radicchio, sourdough crunch, and white anchovy dressing; or sticky apricot tofu with mushrooms, an apricot glaze, black garlic, and fried rice. Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options are usually also available. 

A bowl of soup topped with tortilla strips on a sunny outdoor wooden table
Chicken tortilla soup
Wiltshire on Market/Facebook

11. La Bodeguita de Mima

Copy Link
725 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 742-3358
Visit Website

You can’t miss La Bodeguita De Mima. Just drive down East Market Street in NuLu, and you’ll see the bright yellow, two-story building that was designed to evoke 1950s Cuba. The restaurant is run by chefs and cousins Fernando and Yaniel Martinez, who offer traditional Cuban flavors for dinner seven days a week, with occasional weekend and holiday specials. Try the pollo asado: a mojo-marinated, half-roasted chicken, topped with mojo onions and served with gravy, rice, black beans, and sweet plantains. For dessert, order the habano de chocolate, a chocolate cigar made with almond cake, Nutella mousse, and chocolate ganache, served with coffee ice cream.

A chocolate cigar served in a cigar box with a mound of ice cream
Chocolate cigar
Lennie Omalza

12. Bar Vetti

Copy Link
727 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 883-3331
Visit Website

The pizzas and pasta dishes by executive chef Andrew McCabe are popular picks, but this Italian restaurant is also a great stop for late-night bites and drinks. Formerly located on the ground floor of the 800 Tower City Club Apartments, Bar Vetti relocated to the AC Hotel by Marriott in NuLu, becoming one of few places in the neighborhood that’s open till midnight and the only eatery serving coffee in the wee hours. End a night out with a cocktail or espresso, or try one of four desserts with a recommended amaro pairing. The chocolate budino — made with orange caramel, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, pecans, and whipped cream — is not to be missed.

A diner holds up a thick noodle from a plate of pasta in red sauce with vegetables
Pasta at Bar Vetti
Tommy Johns

13. Mayan Café

Copy Link
813 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40206
(502) 566-0651
Visit Website

At Mayan Café, chef Bruce Ucán serves dishes rooted in traditional Mayan cuisine utilizing local ingredients. Ucán, who identifies as Mayan Indian, hails from the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. He can often be found shopping for ingredients himself at local farmers markets. While everything on the menu is good, a visit wouldn’t be complete without an order of the tok-sel lima beans, topped with a blend of roasted, ground pumpkin seeds, lime, salt, and sesame oil.

A large bowl of cochinita pibil in bright red sauce beside a small dish of lima beans covered in green sauce
Cochinita pibil and tok-sel lima beans
Jessie Kriech-Higdon Photography

14. Copper & Kings

Copy Link
1121 E Washington St
Louisville, KY 40206
(502) 561-0267
Visit Website

At the Copper & Kings distillery in Butchertown, visitors can take a tour of the facility and learn how the company uses copper pot stills to forge American brandies that are influenced by American whiskey and music. Then they can head upstairs to the rooftop bar and restaurant, where Josh Lehman leads the kitchen and has created a menu inspired by Kentucky’s seasonal fare. Dinner offerings include country-fried mushrooms, salmon tartine, sesame scallion pancakes, and an umami burger with charred scallion aioli. Sunday brunch is particularly lovely on the roof.

Eggs, toast, patatas bravas drizzled with white sauce, and bacon, served on a slate board
Breakfast plate
Lennie Omalza

15. V-Grits

Copy Link
1025 Barret Ave
Louisville, KY 40204
(502) 742-1714
Visit Website

A meal of vegan dishes at V-Grits will have meat-lovers questioning their choices. Chili nachos, Reuben egg rolls, a Texas Buffalo chicken fried sandwich, and more are all made sans meat, dairy, and animal byproducts. The restaurant shares a space with Chimera Brewing, which produces vegan beers. Both are owned by Kristina Addington, who says many of her customers are not vegan but simply like the food and beer. A portion of every pour of Chimera beer benefits a local nonprofit supporting racial equality, food justice, animal rights, foster care, or another cause.

From above, a skillet full of saucy/cheesy looking grits topped with a fried item, crumbled vegan bacon, tomatoes, and other fixings
V-Grits’s take on the hot brown
V-Grits

16. Taco Luchador

Copy Link
938 Baxter Ave
Louisville, KY 40204
(502) 583-0440
Visit Website

Part of Olé Restaurant Group, which is owned by cousins Fernando and Yaniel Martinez, Taco Luchador offers a fun and festive vibe with lots of tacos and tortas across its four locations. Try the baja fish tacos, made with Mexican beer-battered cod, chipotle aioli, pickled cabbage, and cilantro; or the veggie tacos, stuffed with corn and roasted poblanos, black beans, sweet plantains, guacamole, crema, queso fresco, and cilantro. Wash it all down with a sangria or margarita pitcher.

A pile of fries topped with mole and diced herbs on branded wax paper
Mole fries
Taco Luchador

17. Jack Fry's

Copy Link
1007 Bardstown Rd
Louisville, KY 40204
(502) 452-9244
Visit Website

Any Louisville restaurant list would be incomplete without a mention of Jack Fry’s. Established in 1933 by Jack Fry and his wife Flossie, the bistro offers Southern-style cuisine with French influences. The eatery was a hangout for local sportsmen whose historic photos still hang on the restaurant walls. Beloved dishes include the ricotta gnocchi tossed in Calvados cream sauce with roasted mushrooms and broccolini; spicy fried oysters served over Weisenberger grits with country ham; and the prosciutto-wrapped chicken saltimbocca served over creamy polenta and roasted brussels sprouts, and finished with lemon-caper berry thyme jus.

A restaurant interior with diners seated at two-tops along walls covered in framed photos, servers moving around the room, a checkered floor and windows with shades pulled down
Inside Jack Fry’s
Jack Fry’s

18. Pizza Lupo

Copy Link
1540 Frankfort Ave
Louisville, KY 40206
(502) 409-8440
Visit Website

Set in an 1800s brick building in the Butchertown neighborhood, Pizza Lupo is run by husband-and-wife owners Adam Turla and Sarah Balliet, whose brother, chef Max Balliet, heads the kitchen. The restaurant serves about a dozen wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzas, which locals have voted the best in town. The Pizza Fiore, for instance, consists of mozzarella, tomato sauce, and basil baked into a Ricotta-stuffed crust and topped with arugula, burrata, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The restaurant also offers a few non-pizza bites, such as crispy fried cauliflower and gnocchi primavera, as well as a wide selection of wines.

From above, slices of pepperoni pizza with leaves of basil slightly separated on a metal serving tray to reveal trails of gooey cheese between slices
Gooey pepperoni pizza at Pizza Lupo
Pizza Lupo/Facebook

19. Chik'n & Mi

Copy Link
1765 Mellwood Ave
Louisville, KY 40206
(502) 890-5731
Visit Website

Specializing in Asian-inspired comfort foods, Chik’n & Mi is owned by husband-and-wife team Jason and Aenith McCollum. The couple serves dishes like wood ear mushroom egg rolls, kimchi mac and cheese, tofu lettuce wraps, and chicken noodle soup ramen, but the real must-try dish is the fried chicken sandwich: a fried thigh on a brioche bun with kimchi slaw, black garlic aioli, and pickled cucumbers. The bar also boasts an extensive selection of sake, craft beer, and cocktails featuring local ingredients and house infusions.

A fried chicken sandwich on plush bun stuck through with a steak knife, beside bowls of sides
Fried chicken sandwich
Chik’n & Mi

20. Phantom Cafe Modern Eatery

Copy Link
1813 Frankfort Ave
Louisville, KY 40206
(502) 373-8110
Visit Website

Phantom’s humble digs in the Clifton neighborhood belie the dishes being served inside. The casual, walk-in-only eatery is run by St. Louis native Nick Bean, who spent time working in Louisville and in New York working under chefs Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Tom Colicchio. Bean returned to Louisville amid the pandemic, opening his restaurant to serve Louisvillians his version of Southern comfort food with modern infusions. Menu highlights include smoked Gouda carbonara and fried cheesecake served in an edible sugar glass bowl.

A chef holds out a bright green bowl made of sugar with stalagmite-like edges
Chef Nick Bean with an edible sugar glass bowl
Phantom Cafe Modern Eatery

21. Øskar’s Slider Bar & Smør Nordic Bakeri

Copy Link
3799 Poplar Level Rd
Louisville, KY 40213
(502) 395-9010
Visit Website

When Norwegian Liz Huot and her husband Jesse toured his native North Dakota, they noticed a lot of Scandinavian restaurants, but their home in Louisville lacked anything similar. So they opened two businesses side by side: Øskar’s Slider Bar and Smør Nordic Bakeri. The sliders at Øskar’s are an easy introduction to Scandinavian flavors for unfamiliar locals, served a la carte so guests can try multiple varieties; options include the banana pork and lefse sandwich (pork braised with bananas and miso, house Norwegian potato flatbread, pickled red cabbage) and the venison sausage slider (spiced venison and pork sausage patty, Swedish mustard, onions caramelized with tart cherries). For dessert, pop over to Smør for skolebrød (cardamom dough filled with vanilla bean pastry cream, glazed, and topped with coconut) or a Smørk (brown-butter chocolate chip cookie loaded with Swedish mørk syrup and house-made toffee).

Dishes in paper boats on a wooden table beside a can of Pabst. The dishes include various sliders, including one in the center topped with vibrant purple cabbage, a salad, and fries
Sliders and sides Øskar’s
Øskar’s Slider Bar

22. Game

Copy Link
2295 Lexington Rd
Louisville, KY 40206
(502) 618-1712
Visit Website

This rustic eatery is a meat lover’s paradise. As the name suggests, the place specializes in game sourced from local farmers who pride themselves on supplying high-quality meats. Some of owner Tim Lewis’s offerings include roasted bone marrow, buttermilk-fried frog legs, and meatballs and burgers made with kangaroo, rabbit, venison, and elk. A few vegetarian burgers and a bunch of meat-free sides are also available, and all diners can enjoy the beer and bourbon selection. Note that no reservations or call-ahead seating is available.

A cheese-covered burger with the top bun pulled back served on a plank with a pile of dressed salad and a can of beer nearby
One of Game’s umami-packed burgers
Game/Facebook

23. Le Moo

Copy Link
2300 Lexington Rd
Louisville, KY 40206
(502) 458-8888
Visit Website

Owned by Kevin Grangier of Belle Noble Restaurant Group, Le Moo is known for its eclectic steak menu, which boasts prime cuts of rib-eye, filets, and 10-ounce grade A5 wagyu from Miyazaki, Japan. The interior space offers an intimate, moody vibe, with exposed brick walls, low lighting, and private dining areas separated by curtains. With outside seating also available, the restaurant can accommodate more than 200 guests, making it an ideal venue for wedding receptions and other large parties. On the weekends, Le Moo serves a decadent brunch buffet (including steak) with a drag show to match.

Deep red slices of filet on a pile of squash, asparagus, bell peppers, and onion, with a fried egg on top
Filet hash with butternut squash, asparagus, bell peppers, onion, and a fried egg
Le Moo/Facebook

24. Havana Rumba

Copy Link
2210 Bardstown Rd
Louisville, KY 40205
(502) 749-4600
Visit Website

After immigrating from Cuba to the U.S. in 2000, Marcos Lorenzo founded Havana Rumba, which has since become the go-to for Cuban cuisine in Louisville. At both locations you’ll find classic offerings like steamed rice, black bean soup, and sweet plantains, but be sure to try the lechon asado, fricase de pollo, or the Cuban sandwich. End the meal with the signature dessert, Havana Bananas — dark rum flambe bananas served over vanilla ice cream — and a Cuban coffee.

From above, a ceramic bowl of full shrimp in garlic sauce, beside slices of bread, dipping sauce, cup of salsa, and lemon wedges
Camarones al ajillo
Havana Rumba

25. The Kitchen Table

Copy Link
522 Happy Hollow Rd
Clermont, KY 40110
(502) 347-2908
Visit Website

It’s worth the drive to visit the Jim Beam distillery (technically the James B. Beam Distilling Co.) in nearby Clermont, Kentucky, if only for a meal at the Kitchen Table, the on-site restaurant that offers a seasonal, locally sourced menu. Chef Brian Landry has crafted a creative menu of venison poppers, pulled pork empanadas, fried catfish, and a hot brown pizza. Of course, every dish pairs great with all the available bourbons.

A chef prepares a thick flatbread dish on a kitchen counter beside other dishes in stages of prep. In the back is a large pizza oven branded James B. Beam Distilling Co
At work in the Kitchen Table kitchen
The Kitchen Table

26. Lou Lou Food & Drink

Copy Link
108 Sears Ave
Louisville, KY 40207
(502) 893-7776
Visit Website

Owner Jared Matthews calls Lou Lou Italian/Cajun with a Mediterranean twist. A Southerner through and through, Matthews was born in Louisiana and spent some time in Alabama before moving to Kentucky, so his love for Cajun food runs deep. His menu ranges across crawfish etouffee, jambalaya, pasta carbonara, and a classic gyro, plus an extensive wine and cocktail list. Restaurant regulars will recommend ordering the Lou Chicago, a Chicago-style, double deep dish pizza loaded with cheese and three toppings of your choice.

A shallow bowl of mussels in sauce covered with chopped herbs and served with puffy flatbread
Mussels at Lou Lou
Lou Lou Food & Drink/Facebook

27. Barn8

Copy Link
10510 W Hwy 42
Goshen, KY 40026
(502) 398-9289
Visit Website

Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown of 21C Museum Hotels bought up Hermitage Farm, about 20 minutes outside of town, to prevent the land from being developed. The couple have kept all 683 acres open as a place to celebrate champion thoroughbreds, distinctive bourbon, and with Barn8 — the on-site restaurant set inside a gorgeously restored barn — fresh, farm-to-table Kentucky cuisine.  The seasonal menu is filled with dishes crafted from produce grown right on the farm and sourced from friends nearby. The eatery also highlights all things Kentucky on the drinks side, including a fully stocked bourbon bar and Southern-themed cocktails such as the vodka-based Bless Your Heart and the Hissy Fit made with tequila, lime, acacia honey syrup, grapefruit liqueur, pink Himalayan sea salt, and cinnamon bitters.

From above, a dish of pasta topped with large singed shishito peppers and breadcrumbs, on a marble countertop beside some flowers
Shishito campanelle with pepper mole and garlic breadcrumbs
Ryan Mahoney

1. 610 Magnolia

610 W Magnolia Ave, Louisville, KY 40208
A shiny black textured dish holding a small circular patty of tuna topped with buckwheat, a collop of cream, a pile of caviar and an herb sprig for garnish
Bluefin tuna, ponzu, buckwheat, chive, finger lime, kombu cream, spoonbill caviar
Sarah Babcock

Celebrity chef Edward Lee presents a modern menu with Southern flare at 610 Magnolia, where every dish focuses on locally sourced produce. The team at the Old Louisville gem is constantly experimenting with fresh and unique flavor combinations, changing offerings weekly since the restaurant’s opening in 2003. Recent highlights have included a seared carrot starter; butternut squash soup; beetroot gnocchi; and a drunken banana cake perfect for bourbon aficionados, made with butterscotch, chocolate Pappy Van Winkle bourbon-infused maple syrup, corn, and brown-butter ice cream.

610 W Magnolia Ave
Louisville, KY 40208

2. Buck's Restaurant

425 W Ormsby Ave, Louisville, KY 40203
The sign for Buck’s Restaurant outside the restaurant
Outside Buck’s
Buck’s Restaurant

Tucked away in Old Louisville, on the bottom floor of the historic Mayflower building, Buck’s Restaurant is a gem and has been a go-to special occasion restaurant (complete with live singer/pianist) for locals since opening in 1992. As part of the Urban Bourbon Trail, the bar also offers more than 50 bourbon selections, as well as Kentucky-themed, bourbon-based cocktails. Manager Karen Shane especially recommends the New York strip served with crab legs and shrimp, followed by a mocha dacquoise — the eatery’s signature dessert — which consists of three layers of toasted almond meringue with mocha buttercream, rum Chantilly, powdered sugar, and chocolate drizzle.

425 W Ormsby Ave
Louisville, KY 40203

3. Proof on Main

702 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202
A long table set for dinner with white tablecloth and leather-backed chairs. The walls, painted blue, are filled with eclectic artwork in ornate frames
Inside an eclectic dining room at Proof on Main
Proof on Main

Set inside the 21C Museum Hotel, Proof on Main matches an intriguing menu with equally interesting decor. Contemporary wall hangings, paintings, and sculptures overflow from exhibits put on by the hotel. Try to stop gawking long enough to try the charred octopus with bagna cauda, lime, and toast, which has been a staple since day one. And finish off any meal with the Kentucky Stack Cake, a rich dessert crafted with lemon buttercream, almond, and buttermilk whip. The most popular picks from the drinks menu are the bourbon-based cocktails, like the No Spectators, which includes Old Forester 86 bourbon,  sfumato, grapefruit rosemary cordial, lemon juice, and a spritz of a peaty scotch.

702 W Main St
Louisville, KY 40202

4. CC's Kitchen

800 S 4th St, Louisville, KY 40203
A pitcher of mimosas with skewers sticking out for garnish. The skewers include fried Oreos, creme pies, and gumdrops, among other colorful treats
Beast Mimosa Tower
CC’s Kitchen

At the bottom of the 800 Tower City Club Apartments in downtown Louisville, CC’s Kitchen offers a whimsical dining experience, especially on the weekends. Owner Corey Milliman holds drag brunches every Saturday and Sunday, featuring performers from all over the U.S. — and he’s been known to perform on occasion too. Bring a group and try the Beast Mimosa Tower: a mimosa pitcher outfitted with speared pineapple, Oreos, raspberry Zingers, chocolate-covered bourbon-candied bacon, Little Debbie jelly creme pies, white-chocolate-dipped strawberries, Snowballs, giant gumdrops, and more.

800 S 4th St
Louisville, KY 40203

5. Safier Mediterranean Deli

641 S 4th St #2403, Louisville, KY 40202
A plate of bright biryani studded with meat, with a side of white sauce in a cup and salad
Chicken biryani
Safier Mediterranean Deli

Safier is well known amongst the downtown weekday lunch crowd, but the casual, walk-in Mediterranean eatery is open weekends too. Owner and head chef Youness El Mesyah serves scratch-made Lebanese dishes and daily Indian specials, including a plethora of vegetable-based options and halal selections. Go for the popular vegetarian platter, which comes with four choices of grape leaves, hummus, falafel, mutabbal, rice, tabbouleh, mujadara, or spinach pie.

641 S 4th St #2403
Louisville, KY 40202

6. Lobby Bar & Grill at the Brown Hotel

335 W Broadway, Louisville, KY 40202
A ceramic dish filled with a cheesy concoction topped with bacon
The famous hot brown
Lennie Omalza

A Louisville landmark, downtown’s historic Brown Hotel is home to the world-famous hot brown, invented here in 1926. The famed dish consists of roasted turkey breast, toast points, Mornay sauce, and pecorino Romano cheese baked golden brown, all finished with bacon and tomatoes.  Chef Dustin Willett oversees the hot browns and the rest of the menu, including indulgent slices of the hotel’s decadent Derby Pie, which pairs perfectly with a handcrafted cocktail or bourbon flight for dessert.

335 W Broadway
Louisville, KY 40202

7. Swizzle

140 N Fourth St 25th floor, Louisville, KY 40202
From above, a table filled with dishes including a crudite and prosciutto plate, seared tuna, steak with eggs, and brunch plate
A full spread at Swizzle
Kriech-Higdon Photography

Scott Shoenberger, president and CEO of the Al J. Schneider Company, which owns Swizzle, says the restaurant was created as an homage to a former Louisville supper club of the same name. The retro-style eatery atop the Galt House Hotel features two revolving sections, and diners all over the restaurant enjoy sweeping views of the city and the Ohio River. The menu covers prime steaks, sustainable seafood, local produce, and unique cocktails. For a fun, Derby City-specific experience, order the 1910 Old Fashioned, made with 1910 Old Forester whiskey and served in a box filled with smoke — an homage to the fire that took hold of the Old Forester distillery in 1910.

140 N Fourth St 25th floor
Louisville, KY 40202

8. Jockey Silks Bourbon Bar

West Tower, 140 N Fourth St 2nd Floor, Louisville, KY 40202
A darkened bar interior with plush leather couches and chairs, and a dimly lit bar with lots of bottles
Inside Jockey Silks
The Galt House Hotel

One of the original locations on Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Trail, Jockey Silks Bourbon Bar first opened its doors in the Galt House Hotel in 1972. It boasts a collection of 100 different bourbons, as well as craft cocktails and small bites. If straight pours aren’t your thing, try the Kentucky Apple Shine, made with Buffalo Trace bourbon and spiced apple cider; or a Winter Old Fashioned with bourbon, sugar, barrel-aged bitters, and winter spices, all best enjoyed while munching on fried green tomatoes, Southern fried chicken, or truffle fries. 

West Tower, 140 N Fourth St 2nd Floor
Louisville, KY 40202

9. Everyday Kitchen

552 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40202
A salad of charred cabbage, black eyed peas, sliced Trinidad apple, and shaved cheese piled up on a plate beside a concrete wall
Charred cabbage salad
Mike Wajda

Designed to showcase the bounty of the Ohio River Valley, Everyday Kitchen takes a fresh, inventive approach to regional cuisine. Senior executive chef Mike Wajda’s menu focuses on local flavors and creative cocktails, offering an upscale version of Southern comfort food in a space with a cozy, everyday feel. Be sure to start dinner off with the hummus brulee, a combination of charred onion jam and spiced sunflower seeds, served with lavash; and the bourbon and marrow luge, which comes with garam masala butter and sourdough from local bakery the Grainwright.

552 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40202

10. Wiltshire on Market

636 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40202
A bowl of soup topped with tortilla strips on a sunny outdoor wooden table
Chicken tortilla soup
Wiltshire on Market/Facebook

Susan Hershberg’s Wiltshire restaurants have been around for more than 30 years, with each location featuring an independent chef who creates their own menu. Wiltshire On Market’s offerings change every other week, with modern takes on farm-to-table food. Options might include a Caesar salad with smoked trout, sunflower, radicchio, sourdough crunch, and white anchovy dressing; or sticky apricot tofu with mushrooms, an apricot glaze, black garlic, and fried rice. Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options are usually also available. 

636 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40202

11. La Bodeguita de Mima

725 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40202
A chocolate cigar served in a cigar box with a mound of ice cream
Chocolate cigar
Lennie Omalza

You can’t miss La Bodeguita De Mima. Just drive down East Market Street in NuLu, and you’ll see the bright yellow, two-story building that was designed to evoke 1950s Cuba. The restaurant is run by chefs and cousins Fernando and Yaniel Martinez, who offer traditional Cuban flavors for dinner seven days a week, with occasional weekend and holiday specials. Try the pollo asado: a mojo-marinated, half-roasted chicken, topped with mojo onions and served with gravy, rice, black beans, and sweet plantains. For dessert, order the habano de chocolate, a chocolate cigar made with almond cake, Nutella mousse, and chocolate ganache, served with coffee ice cream.

725 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40202

12. Bar Vetti

727 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40202
A diner holds up a thick noodle from a plate of pasta in red sauce with vegetables
Pasta at Bar Vetti
Tommy Johns

The pizzas and pasta dishes by executive chef Andrew McCabe are popular picks, but this Italian restaurant is also a great stop for late-night bites and drinks. Formerly located on the ground floor of the 800 Tower City Club Apartments, Bar Vetti relocated to the AC Hotel by Marriott in NuLu, becoming one of few places in the neighborhood that’s open till midnight and the only eatery serving coffee in the wee hours. End a night out with a cocktail or espresso, or try one of four desserts with a recommended amaro pairing. The chocolate budino — made with orange caramel, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, pecans, and whipped cream — is not to be missed.

727 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40202

13. Mayan Café

813 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40206
A large bowl of cochinita pibil in bright red sauce beside a small dish of lima beans covered in green sauce
Cochinita pibil and tok-sel lima beans
Jessie Kriech-Higdon Photography

At Mayan Café, chef Bruce Ucán serves dishes rooted in traditional Mayan cuisine utilizing local ingredients. Ucán, who identifies as Mayan Indian, hails from the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. He can often be found shopping for ingredients himself at local farmers markets. While everything on the menu is good, a visit wouldn’t be complete without an order of the tok-sel lima beans, topped with a blend of roasted, ground pumpkin seeds, lime, salt, and sesame oil.

813 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40206

14. Copper & Kings

1121 E Washington St, Louisville, KY 40206
Eggs, toast, patatas bravas drizzled with white sauce, and bacon, served on a slate board
Breakfast plate
Lennie Omalza

At the Copper & Kings distillery in Butchertown, visitors can take a tour of the facility and learn how the company uses copper pot stills to forge American brandies that are influenced by American whiskey and music. Then they can head upstairs to the rooftop bar and restaurant, where Josh Lehman leads the kitchen and has created a menu inspired by Kentucky’s seasonal fare. Dinner offerings include country-fried mushrooms, salmon tartine, sesame scallion pancakes, and an umami burger with charred scallion aioli. Sunday brunch is particularly lovely on the roof.

1121 E Washington St
Louisville, KY 40206

15. V-Grits

1025 Barret Ave, Louisville, KY 40204
From above, a skillet full of saucy/cheesy looking grits topped with a fried item, crumbled vegan bacon, tomatoes, and other fixings
V-Grits’s take on the hot brown
V-Grits

A meal of vegan dishes at V-Grits will have meat-lovers questioning their choices. Chili nachos, Reuben egg rolls, a Texas Buffalo chicken fried sandwich, and more are all made sans meat, dairy, and animal byproducts. The restaurant shares a space with Chimera Brewing, which produces vegan beers. Both are owned by Kristina Addington, who says many of her customers are not vegan but simply like the food and beer. A portion of every pour of Chimera beer benefits a local nonprofit supporting racial equality, food justice, animal rights, foster care, or another cause.

1025 Barret Ave
Louisville, KY 40204

Related Maps

16. Taco Luchador

938 Baxter Ave, Louisville, KY 40204
A pile of fries topped with mole and diced herbs on branded wax paper
Mole fries
Taco Luchador

Part of Olé Restaurant Group, which is owned by cousins Fernando and Yaniel Martinez, Taco Luchador offers a fun and festive vibe with lots of tacos and tortas across its four locations. Try the baja fish tacos, made with Mexican beer-battered cod, chipotle aioli, pickled cabbage, and cilantro; or the veggie tacos, stuffed with corn and roasted poblanos, black beans, sweet plantains, guacamole, crema, queso fresco, and cilantro. Wash it all down with a sangria or margarita pitcher.

938 Baxter Ave
Louisville, KY 40204

17. Jack Fry's

1007 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, KY 40204