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Louisville, Nashville and everything in between (what's good?)

My wife and I are taking a trip to Kentucky and Tennessee in early April. We'll be spending about a week in Louisville, a couple of days in Nashville and then heading back north through Virginia.

So, what's unmissable in Louisville and Nashville and what's unmissable between the two and between Nashville and Blacksburg? We have no preferences cuisine-wise, we only want to eat the best. We're also not necessarily into fine dining, if it's good we'll eat it.

We're coming from Montreal so we've had our fill of French and Vietnamese food. We want the local stuff.

Thanks guys!

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  1. Bowling Green, KY:

    If you are traveling on I-65 between L'ville and N'ville, swing into downtown Bowling Green, KY and
    give The Brickyard a try: http://www.brickyardcafe.net/
    They serve Mediterranean and Italian food. The lunch menu is best bet for affordable dinning.
    I love their Cannelloni!

    Also, Mariah's: http://www.mariahs.com/ is very good option!!

    If you were looking for more mom and pop type meat and 3 joints... let me know.

    Brickyard Cafe
    1026 Chestnut St, Bowling Green, KY 42101

    801 State St, Bowling Green, KY 42101

    3 Replies
    1. re: kelomaki

      Meat and 3 is something we can't get up here so we're definitely interested in that. Montreal has some really great Italian and Mediterranean food so we'll probably skip The Brickyard but Mariah's sound good. We'd like to go on the Southern Food Diet.

      Thanks for the tips! And hit us up with some great meat and 3s!

      801 State St, Bowling Green, KY 42101

      1. re: Tiny Iota

        I'm hesitant to recommend some of our local dives... They come and go quality'wise.
        You won't go wrong with Mariah's .. always good.

        I would recommend:
        Cambridge Market, 830 Fairview Ave: http://cambridgemarketandcafe.com/
        They always have a "Special of the Day" meats and choice of vegs. Very reasonable and good sandwiches too.

        Judy's Castle, 1302 Us 31w-Byp.
        Very good breakfast, Meat and 3's and the pies are awesome! Recently went smoke free.

        If you're wanting southern BBQ,
        Smokey Pig, 2520 Louisville Road
        Split Tree Barbeque, 115 Alvaton Road, Alvaton, KY http://www.splittreebbq.com/

        If you do make it BG, be sure to visit our downtown "Fountain Square". Art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, shops..etc
        And drive thru Western Kentucky University's campus which should be in full bloom by early April.

        Cambridge Market & Cafe
        830 Fairview Ave, Bowling Green, KY 42101

        Judy's Castle
        1302 US 31W Byp, Bowling Green, KY 42101

        1. re: kelomaki

          Thanks for the meat and 3. We'll probably be going through Bowling Green and now we know where to eat. Everything sounds great!

    2. I don't know if you'll be going through/near Murray, but if you are it's worth a stop. I went to college there (originally from Louisville) and while it's a tiny college town that's loaded with chains, there are a few hidden treasures.

      Mary's Kitchen, right off 641, is a major greasy spoon with country friend steak that is UNREAL. I'm a bit of a connoisseur, it's my favorite food ever, and it's the best I've ever had. They're open 24 hours and serve breakfast all the time, and the staff is friendly and efficient. My best friends and I used to hang out for hours, talking or playing mahjong.

      The Big Apple cafe is an American/over-Americanized mexican food place, but their bean dip is pretty decent and the Apple burger is excellent and served on a slightly sweet house-made bun.

      The green curry at Jasmine is better than any I've had at some of the highest rated Thai places in Louisville. Their sushi is also wonderful.

      There are also a few good pizza joints in town -- Tom's Pizza (thin crust, good garlic bread), Mugsie's Hideout (fantastic, authentic Chicago-style deep dish with the sauce on top) and Matt B's (deliciously greasy, more New York style)

      By far my favorite restaurant ever in Murray, though, is Happiness. It's relatively americanized Chinese (not as bad as PF Chang's, but not the authentic Chinese menu at Oriental House in Louisville either) but they have the best lo mein I've ever had -- get the house lo mein(with a mixture of all the proteins that Happiness offers) or the shrimp. Get the spring rolls, too, they're fantastic.

      Oriental House
      4302 Shelbyville Rd, Louisville, KY 40207

      Big Apple Cafe
      1005 Arcadia Cir, Murray, KY 42071

      Tom's Pizza
      506 N 12th St Ste A, Murray, KY 42071

      1. We are planning a trip through Kentucky from Ohio and down to Nashville. We are planning to stop for lunch in Frankfort, KY at Rick's White Light Diner, it was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and got good reviews off Yelp. We will also visit the Buffalo Trace Distillery near Frankfort, where they supposedly give out samples of their liquor as well as bourbon balls. Who could resist?

        We haven't planned out all our favorites in Nashville, but will definitely be visiting Pancake Pantry near Vanderbilt campus for breakfast, the Loveless Motel for both breakfast and dinner (fried chicken!). We are deciding on a couple of meat & 3 places, haven't made up our minds yet.

        Won't be doing it this trip, but a visit to the Jack Daniels distillery in Lynchburg, about an hour's drive south of Nashville is always fun. I recommend Miss Bobo's Boarding House. If you do this, you will ABSOLUTELY need reservations.


        Pancake Pantry
        1796 21st Ave S, Nashville, TN 37212

        White Light Diner
        114 Bridge St, Frankfort, KY 40601

        3 Replies
        1. re: Diane in Bexley

          Loveless is fine, and is a tourist favorite, but really there's no need to go twice in lieu of experiencing another restaurant. There are plenty of places in town to get good fried chicken besides Loveless. You could even branch out into the Nashville specialty hot chicken.

          1. re: TLF

            Any good suggestions for fried chicken? And what is a hot chicken? Is it anything like what we call a hot chicken here? Basically an open faced sandwich with gravy on it?

            1. re: TLF

              Ditto on the Loveless and regarding Pancake Pantry I must say that the food is not the attraction. It is average at best and very expensive for what you get. People go there more to see and be seen. For some reason they stand out in line at times. Never understood that.

              Pancake Pantry
              1796 21st Ave S, Nashville, TN 37212

          2. There are a few good threads about Louisville and Nashville, but I have to mention Eiderdown and Hammerheads in Louisville.

            LouisvilleHotBytes.com is a fantastic resource for the Louisville food scene.

            3 Replies
            1. re: LauraGrace

              We definitely plan on hitting up Hammerheads. What's the deal with Eiderdown?

              1. re: Tiny Iota


                I reviewed it awhile back. Their prices have gone up a HAIR, but it's still VERY reasonable for the quality of food!

                1. re: Tiny Iota

                  And update on Hammerheads: pulled pork sandwich, PBLT, and sweet potato fries all get this hound's seal of approval. Whoooooaaa, mama. YUM.

              2. If you have a hankering for Middle Eastern/Arabic food, there is a place in Nashville that is amazing. It's a little hole in the wall place on Nolensville Rd. Almost across from the zoo. It's called Kabab Erbil. From what I understand, the woman who cooks all the food has cooked at various Arabic restaurants in town and each time she moved her fans followed her. It must be a sign that her food is good!

                I think they now have a week day buffet. If you stop in for dinner, I recommend the lamb shank with white bean soup. Her gyro on rice is also worth the trip.

                1. Hi, Tiny Iota. I came back to this thread to respond to your reply to my previous post but found it had been removed. I am the tour guide for Bleu Plate Tours and did not state my affiliation with Bleu Plate (therefore all of my responses were removed from Chow Hound). My apologies. I was not trying to be deceiving - I just didn't think to (or realize that I was supposed to) state my affiliation.

                  Anyway, Bleu Plate is in Lexington which may be on your way back from Nashville to Blacksburg. However, there is also a food tour in Louisville called City Taste Tours (of which I have no affiliation - I've just been on them and thought they were informative, interesting and great for anyone interested in the local food scene). City Taste Tours is a guided tour that stops at various restaurants and samples their food. It is done via van/bus whereas the tours I lead in Lexington are guided walking tours.

                  In Louisville, I would also suggest Toast on Market (for breakfast/brunch) and DEFINITELY Hillbilly Tea (on First Street) for lunch. Hillbilly Tea was very interesting and different. We also went to Varanese which I LOVED.

                  I would also highly recommend getting reservations for and going to The Glitz at Irish Acres Gallery. It is about 1 1/2 hours east of Louisville and about 1/2 hour on to Lexington - in a little community called Nonesuch, Kentucky. It is a fabulous experience (and the website does NOT do it justice).

                  Thanks, and my apologies again for not disclosing my affiliation previously with Bleu Plate (I don't have an affiliation with any of the other places I mention - just a foodie and they're some of my favorites). I truly just didn't realize I should.

                  Enjoy your trip!

                  2106 Frankfort Ave., Louisville, KY 40206

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Whipporwill

                    That's alright. I give tours myself, I just put my link in my profile. But they want to keep discussion here strictly free of commercial connotations. What's the deal with Hillbilly Tea, I've been hearing about but have no idea what it is.

                    1. re: Tiny Iota

                      Oh, man, apparently Hillbilly Tea is just amazing. I constantly have pictures in my facebook feed from my foodie friends. I'm dying to try it. Here's the food menu:


                      1. re: Tiny Iota

                        Thanks. Hillbilly Tea is really good. I was told by my server that the concept was conceived more out of a joke than anything - the oxymoron of a stuffy, high tea and how it would be done by 'hillbillies' (I'm saying that because I consider myself one). They have a large selection of hot teas and some good cold ones, delicious homemade sodas (I had a lavendar soda that was fabulous). I think the only soda available was Ale 8 One. Their food is quite 'hillbilly' eclectic. Collard greens on the breakfast menu. Bison sausage (delicious). Two neatly cut triangles of homemade breakfast potato gratin (not a 'scoop' of mushy hashbrown casserole) served on a tea cup saucer. I don't remember what was on the lunch menu because I was there for breakfast. The inside is very modest. But there were a lot of cute things that they did - like your silverware is brought to you wrapped in a paper napkin that is held together with a wooden laundry clip. And I was there on my birthday so I got a piece of cake to go. OMG. It was so good - pistachio. Hope that helps!

                    2. First good country food is at Exit 204 before you get to downtown Nashville on I 40. Get off and go right on Robertson Ave. then take your first left on Charlotte Ave. go past the shopping center on your left and take a left on 53rd Ave. N and Wendell Smith's is on your left open for breakfast, lunch and dinner serving good soul and country food. There's a Best Western, Days Inn, Comfort and Baymont back at Robertson where you get back on I 40 if you want to stay there. If you stay in this area you can go back to Wendell Smith's for breakfast.

                      Wendell Smith's @ 407 53rd Ave. North, Nashville, TN 615 - 383 - 7114.
                      If you pass up Wendell Smith's then you can get off I 40 at Exit 1A and go back E on West End about a mile and then turn left on 25th Ave. N just past Centennial Park take your 1st right on Elliston and Rotier's is just ahead. Have a great country meal there in one of Nashville's most well liked restaurants serving good seafood, steaks, sandwiches and plain ole good food in great atmosphere. Opens around 10:30 AM for lunch and dinner and closed on Sunday. Get back on I 40 and find yo self a motel E of Nashville headed to Knoxville out of the traffic.
                      Rotier's Restaurant @ 2413 Elliston Place, Nashville, TN 615 - 327 - 9892.
                      Get off I 65 at Exit 2 in Franklin, KY and go to Nashville Road in Franklin, KY to Jim's BBQ for outstanding KY country food. Get off I 65 at Exit 26 in Bowling Gren, KY and go W on Cemetery Road or Fairview Avenue to Chestnut. Take a left and go to Brickyard Cafe for fine Italian for lunch and dinner. Get off I 65 at Exit 65 in Munfordville, KY and go S on Main Street to Big Bubba Buck 's BBQ for good Kentucky BBQ. Get off I 65 at Exit 86 at Glendale, KY and go to The Whistle Stop or Tony York's for outstanding southern country food for lunch or dinner. Get off I 65 at Exit 94 in Elizabetown, KY and go W on Mulberry to Commerce Drive. Take a left and go to Texas Outlaw BBQ for good road food.

                      Jim's BBQ @ 6111 Nashville Rd., Franklin, KY. 270 - 586 - 9851.
                      Brickyard Cafe @ 1026 Chestnut St., Bowling Green, KY 270 - 843 - 6431.
                      Big Bubba Bucks BBQ @ 1802 Main St., Munfordville, KY 270 - 524 - 3333.
                      The Whistle Stop Restaurant @ 216 East Main St., Glendale, KY 270 - 369 - 7969.
                      Tony York's @ 201 East Main Street, Glendale, KY 270 - 369 - 6000. I65/EXIT86.
                      Texas Outlaw BBQ @ 220 Commerce Dr., Elizabethtown, KY 270 - 234 - 8586.
                      Get off I 65 at Exit 94 in Elizabethtown, KY and go W on N Mulberry about half a mile to Stone Hearth Restaurant for outstanding southern food. The fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy is outstanding. Get a Kentucky tradition Hot Brown sandwich or one of their delicious po boys. Call ahead and get a box lunch to go. Get off I 65 at Exit 127 in Louisville, KY and go E on Highway 1065 to Preston Highway. Take a left a go 3 blocks to Bootleg BBQ for outstanding southern food open at 11AM for lunch and dinner 7 days a week. For good home style food with a water front view get off I 65 at Exit 0 at Court and go W to the first street. Take a left and go S to Riverside Drive to Buck Head Mountain Grill for lunch or dinner.
                      Stone Hearth Restaurant @ 1001 North Mulberry Street, Elizabethtown, KY 270 - 765 - 4898.
                      Bootleg BBQ @ 7508 Preston Hwy., Louisville, KY. 502 - 239 - 2722. I65/EXIT127/128.

                      1. Get off I 40 at Exit 238 in Lebanon, TN and go N on S Cumberland to Sunset Restaurant for good country food. Get off I 40 at Exit 258 at Gordonsville, TN and go N on Gordonsville Highway to Timberloft for good BBQ and road food for lunch or dinner. Get off I 40 at Exit 287 in Cookeville, TN and go N on S Jefferson to Maddux Station at E Spring Street for good road food. Go to Brass Lantern in Crossville for good road food. Dickey's has good BBQ and Halcyon is a fun dining choice.
                        Sunset Restaurant @ 640 South Cumberland St., Lebanon, TN 615 - 444 - 9530.
                        Timberloft Restaurant @ 470 Gordonsville Highway, Gordonsville, TN 615 - 683 - 5070.
                        Maddux Station Restaurant & Wine Bar @ 319 East Spring St., Cookeville, TN 931 - 854 - 0883.
                        Brass Lantern Restaurant and Lounge @ 79 Chestnut Hill Rd., Crossville, TN 931 - 484 - 7657.
                        Dickey's BBQ Pit @ 965 Northside Dr., Crossville, TN 931 - 484 - 4900.
                        Halcyon Days Restaurant @ 2444 Genesis Rd., Crossville, TN 931 - 456 - 3663.
                        Before you reach Knoxville get off I 75 at Exit 373 on the S side and hit the first street left on Parkside and go about a mile to Smokey Mountrain Brewery for pizza, burgers and steaks. Get back on I 75 and head N on I 75/I 40 past Knoxville.
                        Smokey Mountain Brewery @ 11308 Parkside Dr., Knoxville, TN 865 - 288 - 5500.
                        The folks that own Smokey Mountain own Copper Cellar just N of SM at Exit 380 S of I 75 on Parkside also convenient to plenty of shopping and just a minute off I 75. Both places are similar.
                        Copper Cellar Restaurant @ 7316 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN 865 - 673 - 3422.
                        Unless you spend the night close to Knoxville, TN I would keep rolling and get on around Knoxville, TN and head E out of the traffic. Litton's is a good family restaurant in Knoxville, TN but it's not convenient to I 40. If you took the I 640 by pass around Knoxville, TN on the N side it's pretty convenient. Get off I 640 at Exit 6 and go N on N Broadway SE to Litton's for good country family food.
                        Litton's Market and Restaurant @ 2803 Essary Dr., Knoxville, TN 865 - 688 - 0429.
                        When you leave Knoxville, TN you may need to make a road stop.. If you want to get on past Knoxville here's a neat place 30 miles E of Knoxville with good seafood for lunch. If you don't eat you can rest and get a cold drink. Get off I 40 at Exit 417 and go S on Hwy. 92 a couple of miles to Dandridge, TN. This runs into Meeting St. Go 5/6 blocks to Dandridge Seafood Restaurant.
                        Dandridge Seafood Restaurant @ 310 East Meeting St., Dandridge, TN 865 - 397 - 2315.
                        I would rather go to Smoky's Steak and BBQ which is one street over on E. Main and before the Dandridge Seafood Restaurant. They have good burgers, salads, etc. I know you did not want BBQ but Smoky's is a very nice restaurant in an attractive location with outdoor dining on the front porch. Check this link for their menu.
                        Smoky's Steak and BBQ @ 149 East Main St., Dandridge, TN 865 - 397 - 2272.

                        1. Phil's Dream Pit BBQ is excellent at Exit 67AB near Kingsport, TN go E on I 26 just a minute to Exit 10 then go N on Eastern Star Rd. a minute. About 5 minutes off I 81.
                          Phil's Dream Pit @ 534 Eastern Star Rd., Kingsport, TN 423 - 349 - 6437.
                          Just N about 10 miles on E side of I 81 is Dixie Outpost BBQ if you prefer at Exit 69. Go E on # 394 a mile or two then turn left or N on # 126 just a few minutes to Dixie.
                          Dixie Outpost BBQ @ 3172 Highway 126, Blountville, TN 423 - 574 - 7447.
                          Troutdale Bistro is the place for lunch/dinner in Bristol, TN.
                          Troutdale Bistro @ 724 State St., Bristol, TN 423 - 989 - 3663.
                          Cootie Brown's @ 2715 North Roan St., Johnson City, TN 423 - 283 - 4723.
                          Ridgewood BBQ @ 900 Elizabethton Hwy., Bluff City, TN 423 - 538 - 7543.
                          At Abingdon, VA there's some fine places. Have lunch at the House on Main and dine on the porch, lunch or dinner at Peppermill or BBQ at Parks BBQ at Exit 17. Chick N Little is good country food and Ellis Soda Shop and Grill has good salads, soups, sandwiches, burgers and more with outdoor seating as well. Wildflower Bakery and Cafe is great for breakfast,lunch or dinner and it's close to I 81 at Exit 19. Your next stop is Wytheville, VA.
                          The House on Main @ 231 West Main St., Abingdon, VA 276 - 619 - 0039.
                          Parks Mill BBQ @ 21405 Parks Mill Rd., Abingdon, VA 276 - 628 - 9191.
                          Peppermill Restaurant @ 967 West Main St., Abingdon, VA 276 - 623 - 0530.
                          Chick N Little @ 401 West Main St., Abingdon, VA 276 - 628 - 6690.
                          Ellis Soda Shoppe and Grill @ 217 West Main St., Abingdon, VA 276 - 623 - 8187.
                          Wild Flower Bakery and Cafe @ 24443 Lee Hwy., Abingdon, VA 276 - 676 - 4221.
                          Harvest Table Restaurant at Exit 24 in Meadowview, VA is outstanding for lunch or dinner.
                          Harvest Table Restaurant @ 13180 Meadowview Square, Meadowview, VA 276 - 944 - 5142.
                          On up N on I 81 in Wytheville, VA stop at Smokey's BBQ at Exit 70 or 73. Peking Chinese Restaurant is outstanding also. C J's Pizza is good if you have kids.
                          Smokey's BBQ @ 1090 East Main Street, Wytheville, VA 276 - 228 - 9014.
                          Peking Chinese Restaurant @ 105 Malin Drive, Wytheville, VA 276 - 228 - 5515.
                          C J's Pizza @ 1025 West Lee Highway, Wytheville, VA 276 - 228 - 8448.
                          In Fairlawn @ Exit 105 is Troy's Steaks and Pizza but it's 10 minutes or so W of I 81 and W of Radford in Fairlawn in town. Good place for road food.
                          Troy's Steaks, Subs and Pizza @ 7339 Peppers Ferry Boulevard, Fairlawn, VA 540 - 731 - 4611.
                          In Christiansburg just on up the road a piece is Dude's, Due South, Farm House and Summit. All are very good places to eat.
                          Dude's Drive In @ 1505 Roanoke St., Christiansburg, VA 540 - 382 - 7901.
                          Due South BBQ @1465 Roanoke St., Christiansburg, VA 540 - 381 - 2922.
                          Farm House Food @ 285 Ridinger St., Christiansburg, VA 540 - 382 - 4253. .
                          Summit Restaurant @ 95 College St., Christiansburg, VA 540 - 382 - 7218.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Littleman

                            That is one heck of a extensive list! Thanks so much for all of the tips!

                            1. re: Tiny Iota

                              We really love Hillbilly Tea as well. In Louisville you may also consider Doc Crow's and 732 Social. Both downtown. Sounds like a great trip.