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One Night in Louisville - Dinner spot and cocktails - May 2010

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We'll be venturing out of the cofines of Minneapolis and passing through Louisville on our way to a wedding in May. Haven't finalized itinerary yet but hoping to be able to make an evening out of it. Looking for any/all recs for a place to grab a bite to eat and more importantly (ha!) looking for some recs for great places to get a drink and relax. These definitely do not need to be the same place as we should have a car and will be able to be mobile if necessary. Don't worry about price, type of cuisine, etc - we are looking for honest suggestions and open to any/all!

Thanks in advance from snowy Minneapolis!

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  1. depending on what you like.. there are a ton of choices ..Bardstown Rd for high end Mexican (Seviche), Spanish(De La Torre's), Argintine (Palermo Viejo), Indian(Kashmir), Italian( La Gallo Rosso), Japanese(Sapporo,Oishii) ... or to Frankfort Ave for Philipino (Sari Sari), funky Mex , regional American,. We have it all here.. Viet, Chinese, Bosnian. For drinking.. depends on what you want.. do you want a dive bar (The Back Door) on Bardstown Rd, or The Brown Hotel, The Seelbach for upper crust or head to 4th St. Live .. there is about 7-8 bars there alone.. depending on your mood.

    1. I know there is a ton of ethnic food in Minneapolis, so you might not be craving that, but my favorite Louisville restaurants are ethnic ones (in large part because I've never had the finances to hit up some of the swankier joints in town). We've got a couple of really great sushi places (Maido, which is funky/fusion sushi, and Asahi, which is more traditional). Kashmir is only OK, in my opinion, but Shalimar is fantastic, if you're in the mood for Indian.

      Seviche I wouldn't call "Mexican" but "Latin American" probably. It's pretty legendary around here, and if budget's not an issue, I think you should check it out. Limestone would be my other primary recommendation, because it's pretty great regional, seasonal food but done upscale. You'd be here at a great time for that, too, in late spring!!

      The venerable old Brown and Seelbach bars are supposed to be great places to get a cocktail, but the cocktail scene isn't really my cup of tea, so to speak, so I can't give you first-hand knowledge there. I could give you some recommendations if you're looking for a really well-made beer, though! And unless you're into fighting a crowd of sloppy-drunk downtown workers and U of L students (*wink*), you might want to steer clear of 4th St. Live. It's a nice idea -- the neo pedestrian-mall concept -- but it's crammed with mediocre chain restaurants and places that clearly cater to the overworked masses looking to get blitzed after work. Which is fine, but... My major issue with it is that it's generally the only thing business travellers and conference-goers (of which there are MANY in this town) get to know about Louisville, and it's not representative of the culinary creativity of this city AT ALL. There are so many chefs doing really unique, local, creative, exciting things and most people miss out on it.

      Good luck! :)

      2 Replies
      1. re: LauraGrace

        Regional, locally-sourced seasonal menus sounds right up our alley. Although all of these ethnic choices will also need some web-site perusal/Yelp-ing. Thanks for the feedback!

        1. re: LauraGrace

          I love the Brown.The bar, the hotel, the hot brown...yum!

        2. 732 Social is top notch for both drinks and food. The only drawback is that it can be very loud. It was inspired by communal dining and the tables can be very close and it is a small restaurant.

          http://www.732social.com/

          Proof on Main serves great drinks too but 732's food is more consistent. Other ideas would be Le Relais, L&N Wine Bar, or Corbett's.

          2 Replies
          1. re: etonian

            I agree that 732 Social is the place to go. Proof is awesome, too. The food there is constantly changing with the season and is all from regional sources. Z's Fusion is good for sushi, too. The White Oak has good southern gourmet. Check out the Mayan Cafe for their roasted lima beans!
            On Frankfort Ave, I'd head to the Irish Rover for a casual meal or up the street to Varanese for Asian fusion, Porcini for Italian, or Volare for Italian. Check out Volare's bar menu with fabulous pizzas!
            On the other side of town is Corbett's whose chef has cooked for James Beard.

            1. re: punkin2605

              I just posted a southern road trip I took and had one night in Louisville. We did 732 Social which had great local food and great cocktails. Nice service. It's not a classic southern place, nor ethnic. Influences are from everywhere it's just generally good.

              We also hit up Proof on Main. See my review there. There is a restaurant there too, but we didn't sample. Cocktails could have been better, but atmosphere is killer (if you like art).

          2. I would second--or third--most of the previous recommendations, especially Mayan Cafe!!!

            That said, I have to add Jack's Lounge/Equus in St. Matthews, and La Rosita Grill and NABC Pizza in New Albany, IN.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mamaciita

              Mmmm... the New Albanian...

            2. I am from out of town too...and visit L'ville every year w/ a group. We love Vincenzo's and dine there without fail. (Vincenzo's may remind you of that tall-ceiling, historic place in Minneapolis that was all old-school art deco; sadly that place closed a few years ago...and it's not the style of the restaurant that will be similar as much as it is the excellent service, prices and overall quality of the dining experience.)

              Also, I am particularly fond of Proof, which is adjacent to the best hotel in town. It's called Muesum Hotel and is just that, modern art in a functional hotel...kind of NY comes to KY. Proof carries over the art from the hotel and has always had great bar bevs...terrific service and real team effort from the staff. Food was good, interesting, eclectic. I recall some crazy squid or octopus I think I had there...very well cooked, and I am quite picky. That said, my last meal was a couple of years ago. (It gets a bit loud for my group, who always want to keep 3 conversations going at once...so we go for drinks and late-night dessert these days when the dinner crowd has gone home.) I really do love Proof and if I lived in L'ville I'm sure I'd be a regular.

              1. Well our one night came and passed. After a bit of a hangup traveling through Chicago we were a little frazzled once we got into town, so we decided to go pretty low-key. We were staying in Old Louisville near Central Park so we decided to venture over to Buck's Restaurant in the Mayflower Apartments. It ended up being a very nice meal, nothing too crazy or exciting or anything, but really well executed meals and cocktails.

                We started with a Kentucky Bibb salad which had some fresh chevre, raspberries, blueberries, black pepper. I had an enormous bone-in pork chop, with some really fresh asparagus, polenta and a light, buttery mushroom reduction. My dining partner had a bone-in Ribeye with bourbon butter, asparagus and Yukon Gold potato pancakes. Bourbon butter = crack, almost criminal how delicious it was. For dessert we split a piece of flourless chocolate cake with some more berries. Very warm and rich. They did a nice job with it. Being it was a drizzly/overcast Thursday night the dining room was pretty sparse, which worked to our advantage as we were able to chat with our server and eventually with the piano player located near the bar. A couple of well crafted Woodford Reserve Old-Fashioneds only made the experience that much more pleasant.

                When we go back we will for surely be heading to the Mayan Cafe for a meal, probably the Third Ave Cafe for a meal, 732 Social and Proof on Main for cocktails and back to Ear X-stacy to dive for more Funk and Soul Vinyl.

                Buck's Restaurant
                425 West Ormsby Avenue
                Louisville, KY 40203-3086
                (502) 637-5284
                www.bucksrestaurantandbar.com

                1 Reply
                1. re: mplsean

                  OT but just fyi, Ear X-tacy will be moving this summer. Apparently the owners of the building jacked up the price of his lease, and so he's moving up to the Douglas Loop neighborhood, still on Bardstown but further south.