Louisville is a fantastic food city. There’s a lot more out there than fried chicken, hot browns and derby pies – new restaurants open and close every day and you’ll probably find plenty of amazing places I’ve never heard of. That said, here are some of my favorite places in the city with annotations about why I like them!
Vietnam Kitchen (Iroquois Manor Shopping Center, 5339 Mitscher Ave). Hands down some of the best Vietnamese food in the country. This place is simply incredible with low prices, big portions and amazing food. I love the K6, but everything is amazing. You’ll need a car to get here from downtown, but it’s totally worth the trip.
Harvest (624 E Market St.). In the funky NuLu neighborhood less than a mile from the Marriott, (wander the crazy Joe Loy Antiques across the street if you’re not quite hungry enough to eat yet). Harvest sources about 80% of everything locally. The menu changes frequently depending on what’s in season, but it’s always imaginative and fantastic. It’s much more reasonably priced for lunch than it is for dinner but the prices still won’t break the bank.
Milkwood – (316 W Main St.). Nestled below Actor’s Theatre (and less than a quarter mile from the Marriott) this is Chef Ed Lee’s informal bistro (as opposed to his upscale 610 Magnolia). Milkwood has a limited but great menu of light Asian-inspired food. Reservations are a good idea. If you go, get the octopus bacon or the bone marrow – you’ll thank me later.
Hotel 21c/Bar/Proof on Main (702 W Main St.). Hotel 21c is super cool and hip and less than a half mile from the Marriott. Check out the amazing (and free to visit) art, and be sure to stop by the bathrooms for a strange experience. While there, stop by the bar for expensive but incredible mixed drinks – these folks know how to make them. The attached restaurant Proof on Main is considered one in the best in the city – but it’s awfully pricey.
Mayan Cafe (813 E Market St.). A mile from the Marriott in NuLu, Mayan Café is beloved by Louisville’s chefs. Always fresh and seasonal with interesting flavor combinations. It doesn’t always hit the mark for me, but it won’t be like anything else you’ve ever had.
Schimpff’s Confectionery (347 Spring St, Jeffersonville, IN). Schimpff’s is across the Ohio River in Indiana. The best way to get there is to take a walk across the lovely Big 4 pedestrian bridge. Schimpff’s is like stepping back in time to an old fashioned candy store. They’re famous for their Red Hots, but for me the turtle sundae is worth every single glorious calorie.
Food Trucks! (Various locations across Louisville). Louisville has a large and diverse food truck scene and chances are at least a few trucks will be close to the conference. If it’s a hot day you can’t go wrong with the ice cream sandwiches from the Dessert Truck.
The Dragon King’s Daughter (1126 Bardstown Rd). Fusion sushi – always imaginative and fun. The happy hour deals are incredible. It’s about 2.5 miles from the Marriott.
Havana Rumba (three locations: 4115 Oechsli Ave/12003 Shelbyville Rd/2210 Bardstown Rd) All locations require transportation, but all of them provide some of the best Cuban food I’ve had. Not fancy, but inexpensive and consistently excellent. These folks know how to cook – I recommend the Havana Rumba sandwich with sweet potato fries.
Game (2295 Lexington Rd) — A tiny place that makes burgers made from everything from elk to ostrich. Casual and likely to be packed with hipsters, but the food is interesting and tasty.
If you’re looking for more official guides to eating in Louisville, check out:
A Note from Trevor about Bourbon:
You can’t take two steps in Kentucky right now without hearing about bourbon. Bourbon’s hot and marketing departments know it. Distilleries are now selling super aged bourbons, single barrel bourbons, and probably bourbons distilled by moonlight — and they’re charging a premium for all of them. Don’t believe the hype — the best bourbons tend to be priced in the mid range, and aging them over eight years increases price more than quality. For an everyday drink I think nothing beats a glass of inexpensive Old Forester on the rocks. If you’re not sure about this bourbon thing but want to try some, order something light like Basil Hayden’s or Four Roses. But the best advice is always to drink what you like – and if that’s not bourbon, that’s fine too.
Trevor Jones is the Director of Museum Collections and Exhibitions at the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort, KY. He also serves on the 2015 Program Committee and assists with the 2015 Host Committee.