Road Trip Request - Chicago to Charleston
I'm taking a trip this weekend - starting in Chicago and heading towards Charleston, SC via I-65/Indianapolis, I-64/Louisville, I-75/Lexington, I-40/Knoxville, I-26/Columbia. Would love recs for a few good places to stop for breakfast/lunch/snacks along the way. Recs within a couple of miles of the road would be most appreciated!
My experience in Louisville is pretty much limited to where local friends have taken me but here are my favorites:
Quill’s Coffee - I haven’t been here in a while but as of last time I was there it was a contender for best lattes in the state. People from Louisville have a love affair with Heine Brothers but I think they’re too inconsistent personally. Anyhow this place is always busy but for good reason.
Cafe Classico - Good coffee/espresso drinks, glass-bottled cokes, small sandwichy things to eat. Very calm and quiet Euro-bistro atmosphere.
Vietnam Kitchen - This is off of 65/264 but is totally, absolutely worth the detour and hassle of finding the place if you like (or want to try) Vietnamese. It’s cheap, fantastic, and more food than you will ever eat. I know people who have driven the 70 miles from Lexington to eat here.
Cafe 360 - It’s on Bardstown Road, open 24 hours, and is also a hookah bar but anytime I’ve been it’s just for food. They’ve got a weird mix of divey food, southern food, and ethnic food. Prices are always pretty reasonable, food is always pretty decent, and service is always a little slow but otherwise okay. It’s just generally a good standby sort of place, it’s usually crowded, they also have chicken-and-waffles which apparently isn’t too common in other parts of the country?
Okay so I know this is WAY too long but people are always down on Lexington’s food scene when there are actually great places to eat. Also, the highway wraps around the city rather than going through it, so there isn’t much “right off” of the highway:
Coffea - The best coffee/espresso/latte/smoothie/everything in Lexington. They also have small sandwiches and pastries, of which I’ve heard good things.
Doodles - Breakfast-brunch-lunch place. Kentucky comfort food meets Louisiana zing. I’ve never had anything else besides their pancakes and bacon but that’s because they’re so good I haven’t been able to move on. Prices are either great deals or a little expensive - short stack of pancakes is $2.50, but a pot of french press coffee is $4? (It’s really good coffee though.) They have a menu online but also have different daily specials according to what’s fresh.
Stella’s Kentucky Deli - Delicious expensive sandwiches and other things like burgers, salads, etc. made with mostly local/organic things in an old Victorian house. The bleu cheese burger, KY apple and bleu cheese sandwich with turkey, and the J Street Club are particularly good.
Pazzo’s - The pizza ranges from eh to alright but the beer selection is ridiculous - 40 beers on tap and like a billion more bottles. If you like bourbon they not only have a few bourbons but Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale (<-on tap)!
Liquor Barn - Speaking of alcohol...it’s right off of the highway and a sight to behold, so if nothing else stop at the Hamburg one.
Gumbo YaYa - Bills itself as “fast casual cajun creole”. I don’t like spicy things much but everyone I know loves this place. Inexpensive, vegetarian options, open lunch and dinner.
Han Woo Ri - Korean. There are about 13 different choices; you order your main dish by number and they bring over some soup, and then your dish with two sides that sort-of-rotate, and also kimchi, and depending on what you got sometimes rice. AND IT’S ALL FOR 7 BUCKS.
Bangkok House - I don’t like Thai but anyone I know who does swears this place is the shiz.
Goodfellas - I’m not sure what kind of pizza fan you are, but if you like that deep-dish-with-a-ton-of-sauce-and-ew you probably won’t like this stuff. It’s salty greasy cheese-bread of wonderfulness with a slight sauce undertone. They also have a lot of weird topping options. They’re open until 3 AM Thurs - Sat and around one the lines start getting huuuuuge but it’s worth it. They have this lunch deal which is a slice of pizza bigger than my face, a breadstick the size of my arm, and a drink, all for five dollars. The hours aren’t on the website but it’s 11 - 9 PM M-W, 11 - 3AM Th - Sat, closed Sunday.
Natasha’s - I don’t even know how to categorize this place. It’s a venue/restaurant/bistro with eastern-european-contemporary-american-fusion food? I guess? Regardless, it’s fantastic. Possibly my favorite “nice” restaurant in Lexington. If you just want apps/dessert though they have Turkish coffee and this really rich chocolate torte cake thing...and this brie pastry with chutney appetizer thing...and the best alcoholic mixed drinks in town.
Tolly-ho - Standard 24-hour cheap college dive food with obligatory all-hours breakfast right by UK’s campus. You will see all kinds of people mingling here: UK bros and their girls, suburban high school scene kids, crust dudes, homeless dudes, hippies and hipsters, police officers, I’ve even eaten next to a huuuuge table of transvestites. Basically it’s just a Lexington institution. If you go past midnight Th - Sat it will be CRAZY.
Ramsey’s - Mid-price southern country cooking near downtown but there are other locations too. They have fried catfish/Hot Browns/chicken-and-dumplings/fill in the rest. Dieters need not apply. In the summer - i.e. now! - they have CORN DAZE (!!!!) and you can get a bucket of corn on the cob.
School - Trendy new sushi place with really good Yellowtail nigiri, a lot of good rolls - including this spicy roll with seared scallops that my friend likes, and some french/japanese fusion menu. I’d stick with the sushi, and order it yourself. Lexington is actually a great place for sushi, with the UPS world air hub in Louisville (fresh fish) and the Toyota plant in nearby Georgetown (Japanese execs). One more warning, sometimes service is weird...not bad...just...weird. (My favorite place in Lex for sushi is actually Seki but it’s probably not possible to get a reservation there this late.)
Regional food that might be worth picking up if you see it: Greater’s ice cream, Ale-8-1 - a gingery soda, Snyder’s BBQ chips, Skyline Chili.
In Louisville, Havana Rumba and Cafe LouLou are both great lunch or dinner places and only a mile or so from I-64 in the St. Matthews area. In Lexington, there is a Ramsey's about 2 miles from I-75 off the Man O'War exit, which is good homestyle food, and open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.