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Apr 7, 2005 09:48 PM

Louisville, KY - long report

  • m

Here is a quick report on the Louisville restaurants I have visited during my long stay for work out here from San Francisco. I am stuck in chain-restaurant hell near my hotel, but I am happy to report that I have managed to eat very well at many non-chain restaurants.

I know about Louisville HotBites, but I think that there are not many reports about this area in Chowhound.

Before you keep reading, I am looking for tips on the following as I will be here for a while:

- where to find homemade Derby Pie (or KY Pie, whatever a non-trademark name is) that is not from the package. Has anyone tried the pie at McAllisters?
- good BBQ. I am a Californian and don't know all the nuances of BBQ, but a rec for a good place would be welcome. How is Mark's Feed Store?
- are there any stellar bakeries out here?

Phlen's Bakery - this is located on Shelbyville Road and I ventured out there for the pumpkin donuts with glaze that were featured in the local paper. These were great! Definitely worth the hike out to the bakery.

Martini House - "upscale" Italian chain restaurant located in The Summit shopping center. The food the first time was acceptable, especially the decent pizzas. The chicken pizza was a bit doughy, but still good. We ordered an antipasto that seemed have chopped Hormel pepperoni - not good. I also had the arrostito di vegetale on another visit - pass this one up. It was a vegetable plate that was memorable only because it was so bad.

Martini's Fish Market - this restaurant is a sister chain restaurant to the Martini House and is located right across the island from the Martini House in The Summit. Wow - this place is pretty good!! My picky co-workers and I have made this one of our favorite spots for dinner. Particularly enjoyable is the seafood stew (shrimp, mussels, fish, scallops in a spicy tomato broth and two cheese breads). Today I had the spinach and pear salad and the seared tuna. The tuna was served with an apricot ale sauce - very light sauce - and was quite nice. The gumbo there is also delicious. Overall, it is an elegant place where one has a wide array of seafood choices. Warm bread (not great but at least they warm it up) is served, so that is an added bonus for me. The wines are super expensive though – but I am a spoiled Californian I guess.

Ramsi's Cafe - eclectic place on Bardstown Road. It was a bit too inventive and fusion-y for me, but I scored with the Shrimp Creole served over rice. The Mediterranean platter was ok, the crackers served with the fried, honey drenched brie tasted stale. Our server was incredibly attentive, but I am not sure whether I would run back there.

Uptown Cafe - nice restaurant located on a corner on Bardstown road. The food was pretty good; it was a nice introduction to dining in Louisville. All I recall are the grits that accompanied my co-worker's filet of beef and the strawberry napoleon.

Lynn's Paradise Cafe - we made a stop for Sunday brunch and had omelettes. The omellettes were nothing stellar, but the fresh orange juice, fat biscuits and cheese grits were great. I will run back there just for the biscuits - delicious!! There is definitely a lack of biscuits in SF. Any recommendations for dinner entrees there?

Palermo Viejo - this is an Argentinean restaurant on Bardstown Road. I was pleasantly surprised that the owners seem to recreate authentic dishes, such as provoleta (grilled provolone drizzled with olive oil and oregano - wo that was good!) and panqueques (crepes stuffed with dulce de leche). Our waitress was attentive as she allowed us to share a Mixed Grill for 3 among 4 of us. The meat was great - flank steak, sausage, short ribs...delicious and pretty light. The empanadas stuffed with tomato & basil were also great. Nice selection of wines from Argentina and decently priced by the glass.

Bristol's - another great find. It is so reasonably priced. I have only been there once and had the roasted chicken - delicious. I liked the added touch of warm rolls served with dinner. However, I was disappointed that their Derby Pie was from a package, although I understand that "Derby Pie" is always of that frozen variety. Any recs for homemade real Derby Pie are welcome.

Rincon Latino - this is a hole in the wall Mexican place located on Goose Creek Road (I think) off of Westport Road. I went with trepidation, but the place was great. The taco de carne asada (grilled beef) was very good when partnered with green salsa. My co-worker had a huge burrito drenched in a chile sauce, melted cheese and sour cream. It was also delicious. The standout for me was the sope - thick corn tortilla-like boats filled with beans, meat, lettuce and sour cream. This was a wonderful find in that area.

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    1. Try Leander's at 1st and Oak in Louisville. They are a relatively new restaurant in old Louisville, right on the edge of everything downtown. They specialize in seafood; the chef is the best in town. Make sure to have the banana pudding.
      Regarding the derby pie, the reason you are having trouble finding a homemade derby pie is that the official "derby pie" was invented by and trademarked by Kern's bakery. No one else can use the name. What you want to look for are names like "chocolate chip walnut pie," or ask the servers if the restaurant has their own version of derby pie. But if you have access to an oven, the authentic Kern's derby pie is actually delicious after it's been heated and crisped.

      1 Reply
      1. re: carol

        Thanks - i will try that place out.

        Re. Derby Pie, I just think that maybe trying a nice homemade version would make it even better. I would love one with pecans, and I am sure I can probably make it at home one day.

      2. I live in Louisville and know the food. It's a surprisingly
        sophisticated city when it comes to food. Many mid-price chef-owned restaurants. Here are my pics:

        Solid, really good food, not too expensive (dinner entrees

        Napa River Grill (great value; nice outdoor patio)
        Azaleas (another good patio outside)
        Asiatique (exceptional Pacific Rim; polished service)
        211 Clover Lane (another great outside dining area)
        More expensive but good deals for my money:

        Equus (don't be put off by the horse stuff; polished service, great food). Incidentally, Jack's (the bar next to it) has superb upscale bar food.
        the Oakroom at the Hilton Seelbach (4 stars; great Sunday
        brunch which is a value for about $22; theatre specials)
        Winston's at Sullivan's University (cooking school): open only
        on Friday and Sat. night; great value
        Lily's (maybe the best; the chef has performed at the Beart
        house several times).
        Jack Fry's (really solid food in an historic bldg.)
        Proof (new restaurant on Main; great art work, a "scene"

        CHEAP EATS: Stan's Fish Sandwich in St. Matthews (great
        fresh seafood and grass-fed hamburger; Qudoba (quick Tex-
        Mex, good ingredients); Za's pizza on Bardstown; Whole

        A COOL CITY.

        P.S. Lynn's has become a noisy, touristy place. Food is still
        O.K. but do you really want to dine in a place where you enter through a gift shop?
        Leander's is out of business. Bristol's is pretty mediocre compared to other restaurants.

        2 Replies
        1. re: fresh

          Revisions added in late August 2008: 1) Corbett's An American Place, a relatively expensive and excellent far East-end restaurant has opened (owner of Equus and Jack's); it's excellent and very fine service; if you don't want to pay the tarrif, then you can eat quite well on their front porch. 2) for whatever reason, Asiatique is not as good as it use to be. 3) Mojito has opened in the Brownsboro/St. Matthews area, and it has fantastic, reasonable tapas. Storefront place but really, really good. It impresses our friend from NYC and Chicago.

          1. re: fresh

            I found myself driving with my family through Louisville yesterday around lunchtime. Surfing this board while driving I found this post. We plugged the address in the GPS and we headed over to Mojito.

            Very good lunch. We had some great guacamole with plantain chips and then some garlic shrimp and chicken on skewers. From there we had some great meatballs and mussels in a tomatoe sauce.

            Highly recommended place.

        2. 1.Bristol is very smoky at times. Most overrated place in Louisville. I've never had a good meal there.
          2.Z's best in town for seafood.
          3.Seviche just blew me away.
          4.Nios ate there last night and did the small plate experience. Fantastic! Ask for a seat in the non smoking room, alas.
          5.Napa River Grill is always a favorite and has gone smoke free.
          6.Proof on Main- fun, pretty good didn't blow me away.
          7. L and N Wine Bar is excellent. They have over 100 wines by the glass and you can order flights.
          8.Club Grotto never disappoints.
          9.Yang Kee Noodle. Looks sort of fast food, but I love this place! One overlooked place, probably cause it's in Oxmoor Mall
          For Pacific rim,
          11.August Moon.
          12.Equus always good- entire place smoke free.
          13. Melillo's for great bargain, good home style Italian
          Tried lunch at Bloom's last week, din't like the red pepper soup, fruit salad too oily.
          Avoid like the plague:
          Captain's Quarters (fine for music and drinks, food no)
          Rick's Ferrari Grill
          Pat's Steak House
          Lemongrass Cafe (how can you mess up pad thai?)

          8 Replies
          1. re: llindac

            Interesting report on Louisville restaurants, Mari. I've not heard of many of your picks so I'm learning a few things here.

            Did you make to Jack Fry's? A friend and I had dinner at Proof on Main last weekend and it was quite good. (The first time I was there it didn't impress me much, but this last visit was very satisfying.)

            1. re: HickTownBarnaby

              Still really good to excellent: Jack Fry's and Lily's (Bardstown Rd.); 211 Clover Lane and Jack's/Equus (St. Matthew's); Proof and Mayan Gypsy (downtown); Havana Rumba and Mojitos (the Holiday Manor and St. Matthew's area); Corbett's: An American Restaurant (**** restaurant w/affordable bar and porch food). Sullivan's Cooking School's Winston's Restaurant on Bardstown Rd. is still excellent but only open on weekends. North End Cafe (Clifton): excellent breakfast often w/good local ingredients.

              Vietnam Kitchen still a great buy for inexpensive food. The
              Oakroom (when its chef returns in the future) will be an expensive great
              option. Z's Fusion downtown is promising: we had one really good and
              one mediocre meal.

              Come back Inn: don't bother. Lynn's Paradise Cafe: not bad food but mostly just hype.

              1. re: fresh

                Just an update: The excellent restaurants cited above are still great and (amazingly) still in business. In addition to Vietnam Kitchen, I'd emphasize Basa Modern Vietnamese (wonderful buy esp. since it's open for lunch now).

                1. re: fresh

                  Another obsessive update: very good-great new places: Wiltshire on Market (very small menu; very good and often local food); Mayan Cafe (also on Market downtown) just gets better and better (Mexican, South American; also great use of local foods including beef, chicken, and bison); Cafe Classico on Frankfort (wife is chef, husband runs the restauarant) is an attractive, inexpensive, and always dependable very good-excellent meal [open only on limited nights as is Wiltshire]. Corbett's in now doing small plates in their basement and bar. Mojitos remains cheap and great as does its mother restaurant, Havana Rumba.

                  Llindac's suggestions right on target above but there are changes: Mellio's and Nio's closed and L & N Wine Bar's food is less good than it used to be (from my perspective and I haven't been for a year). Z's has great fish but is expensive; e.g., my husband was charged $35 for a single small piece of sole. What we do at Z's is eat in the bar and esp. at lunch: it's quiet, very attractive, and the same food for a very reasonable price.

                  1. re: fresh

                    Just saw 'Lynn's Paradise' featured on Bobbie Flay's 'Throwdown' last night. The place looks like a lot of fun for families. Lynn beat Bobbie Flay with her French Toast and Strawberries laced with bourbon, and I forget what else. (Not low-cal for sure!). I always like to see the locals beat Bobbie!

                    Also, our college kids love it when we stop at 'Proof' (which is down the block from the Louisville Slugger Museum on museum row). We eat salads and sandwiches at the bar and sample the 40 kinds of Bourbons. "Proof" is one stop on the 'Urban Bourbon Trail". And their bathrooms won first prize in a contest for best bathrooms in the country. Who could ask for more?

                    And we are thrilled they are going to build a "Proof" (and hotel) here in Cincinnati in 2012, I think.

                    And if you're in Louisville, don't forget to stop at the Zappos Outlet for shoes! Great deals!

                    1. re: dumas

                      I think Lynn is great, and I think her bourbon ball french toast is dynamite, but Lynn's is about fifth on my list of breakfast places in town! I wish more folks knew about Toast, Blue Dog, and especially Wild Eggs! :)

                      1. re: LauraGrace

                        My husband and I had breakfast at Toast about 2 years ago on our move from Dayton OH to Memphis TN. Now we have moved to Lexington KY and are planning a day trip to Louisville. Great to hear that Toast is still around. We really enjoyed our breakfast there.

                      2. re: dumas

                        Oh, well, if Lynn has been on a celebrity cable show, the restaurant must be fantastic! Irony is alive and well in the midwest.

            2. The Oakroom at the Seelbach has the best brunch in town!. Wild Eggs is fun and their food is good (breakfast/brunch). Lynn's is overrated and greasy, way too touristy and annoying. It was good 10 years ago but has gone considerably downhill.
              I love Jack Fry's, and the Grape Leaf has good Mediterranean. Avalon is nice for late-night cocktails/appetizers. Ermin's in Old Louisville has good soup/lunches, and of course the Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen (the original on Bardstown Rd at Taylorsville) has the best caramel cake.

              Jack Fry's
              1007 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, KY 40204

              Grape Leaf
              2217 Frankfort Ave, Louisville, KY 40206

              Wild Eggs
              3985 Dutchmans Ln, Louisville, KY 40207

              Pie Kitchen
              5606 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, KY 40291

              The Oakroom
              500 4th Avenue, Louisville, KY 40202