Just went to Louisville for business.
Stayed downtown right on 4th Street-- at The Brown.
1. Try The Hot Brown at The Brown Hotel.
(Obviously, it's eponymous creation). The Hot Brown is a famous open faced sandwich served all over KY-- it was created in the 20s at The Brown Hotel. They still serve it, and it is very tasty but very very bad for you. Here's a bit on it:
Chef Fred K. Schmidt at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, created The Hot Brown sandwich in 1926. In the 1920s, the Brown Hotel drew over 1,200 guests each evening for its dinner dance. The band would play until late, and when the band took bread, around midnight; people would retire to the restaurant for a bite to eat. Bored with the traditional ham and eggs, Chef Schmidt, delighted his guests by creating the Hot Brown.
Here's a link to the restaurant-- there are a few dining rooms there. I also recommend having a drink if the lobby before you eat. It's a beautiful place:
2. Have a cup of coffee at Highland Coffee.
This is the local beanery in Louisville. They have wireless, mohawked baristas, and tremendously good coffee.
They also coined the phrase, "Keep Louisville Wired". You can see the stickers around town.
This is definitely worth a visit (especially over the ubiquitous Starbucks)-- supporting local coffee is a good thing! Support REALLY GOOD local coffee is a GREAT thing!!!
The Hair Raiser Blend is especially good. I went every morning.
3. Have a drink (or dinner) at the new restaurant at the Galt House-- Rivue. It opened June 4, 2007.
I'm from San Francisco. Rivue reminds me of the Top of the Mark. It's swanky, it's the top floor of an established historical hotel, and it has panoramic views of a beautiful city and waterway.
Like the TOTM, Rivue also offers a great martini menu, in addition to a pretty good selection of wines.
We had an Austrian gewurtz, a Malborough sav blanc, and a Sonoma zin. All well described by our server.
Because it was a light meal, I just had the asparagus soup poured tableside over lobster slaw. My friend had the Med Salad. My soup was fantastic.
We shared an amazing dessert-- I can't remember the name but it was divinity smothered with raspberries and chocolate (that's what we had the zin with). It was amazing.
We were not dressed for dinner-- and apparel tended to be slightly more dressy for the dining room. However, for the cocktail sofas (which still had a great view of the Ohio river and the city)-- casual wear seemed fine. Service was top notch. I'd love to go back for dinner.
When we went it was so new there were few reviews, but everyone was raving as they walked by us on the way out.
4. Mint Julep at Churchill Downs
I don't drink bourbon, or other hard alcohols for the most part, but I have to say I was happy to try a julep while watching the races at the Downs.
Turns out a Mint Julep is basically the same thing as a Mojito but with bourbon instead of Rum. It's sweet and minty and you don't really notice the burn of the bourbon. It sort of warms you up.
Besides, this is where the Kentucky Derby takes place-- it's a must do. If you go off season like we did, you can sit literally feet from the track in your own box.
5. OK, One More Really Good Local Brew Pub
Across the street from my hotel, the Brown is the locally famous Bluegrass Brewing Co.
Who knew Louisville would have such great microbrews?
The beers are excellent and they have several on site that are not available anywhere else. Food is good, and they have a nice outdoor seating section. Excellent and friendly service.
6. You MUST MUST MUST have dinner at Jack Fry's
Everything about this place made me want to move in.
Excellent food and ambiance. Perfect dinner place.
I asked several locals about it before I went, and as soon as I mentioned the name they all shook their heads and said something in the neighborhood of: "Mmm, Mmmm, Mmmm....Yes, Jack Fry's is the best."
They were right. We had a really good dinner there.
Jack Fry's is over on Bardstown Road in a college area of town.
It's a small two room restaurant that feels like your grandmother's house. There's a piano player in the corner, the servers are great (knowledgable but unobtrusive, very professional server-type-- not rushing us, attentive and ready with suggestions, good at pairings, etc.), and the food was simply divine.
The famous shrimp and grits. Very good (my first grits), creamy, tasty, unusual gravy and jalapeno combination went very well.
Diver Scallops with truffle sauce. These were so good they curled our toes. We talked about them for two days afterward.
Center cut filet with asparagus and potato cake, medium rare. Perfectly cooked, amazing cut, great.
Lobster campanelle. Unusual (in a good way) mix of ingredients: lobster tails tossed with campanelle pasta, Nicoise olives, bacon, sun-dried-tomatoes, jalapanos, broccoli rabe and tomato concasse in a rosemary shallot olive oil. Topped with Parmigiano Reggiano.
The campanelle was good, though a teensy bit dry for my taste. I asked for a little olive oil and drawn butter to figure out what was missing. I think a little moisture on the lobster and a little oo on the pasta. Just a little, and that may have been just my taste. With a splash of olive oil and a drape of butter on the lobster it was very very good and unique.
All in all-- a fantastic place and dinner.
If this was in my town I'd be at least a monthly visitor.
Dining attire ranged from casual to dressy. You can basically come in whatever you're wearing.
It gets the best restaurant of Louisville award every year (displayed on the wall). The other walls have authentic historic photos of the site, restaurant, old patrons, etc.
Reservations recommended (though we got lucky and didn't have any, we noticed it was really full all night long and people were waiting as we left. Probably due to the small number of tables and the lack of rush on you by the servers. This is really the kind of place you can sit all night if you want to).
GO! You really won't be sorry.
5. Cumberland Brewery
Now-- if you're a microbrew type like me, you will want to take a walk after dinner up Bardstown road to Cumberland Brewery. You can do sample size tastes of their house microbrews.
The local college students will file in and out as you sip-- carrying big jugs they get filled for $6.
The stuff is great. I'm an IPA fan, and theirs is top notch-- floral and bitter and complex. The wheat beer was also a nice thing to try in the humidity.