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Let's List Louisville's Legendary Restaurants

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Louisville's restaurant scene is currently full of stars, but, just like Hollywood, some legendary figures still haunt the local scene. Eater thought it would be fun to collect some now-closed places Louisvillians still recall (and will often use as directional aids, as in "where the old Grisanti's used to be"). Some (like Casa Grisanti) live on in the experience of local chefs like the soon-to-be-Ward 426's Dean Corbett. Others (like Benedict's) became legends in their own ways. Enjoy the trip through Louisville's restaurants of yore. Any additions or observations, maudlin or otherwise, will be welcomed in the comments.


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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Jay's

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1812 West Muhammad Ali Boulevard
Louisville, KY 40203
From 1974 to 2005 owner Frank Foster's West Louisville cafeteria fed legions of neighborhood residents and downtown office workers fried chicken, chitterlings, smothered pork chops, BBQ rib tips and individual-serving pies.

2. Cunningham's

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900 South 5th Street
Louisville, KY 40203
Established in 1870 as a delicatessen-grocery and horse stable, Cunningham's became Louisville's first drive-in restaurant in 1942. Even into the 1990s Louisvillians could enjoy the restaurant's small dining rooms with saloon doors and ages-old odors of fried fish. The original closed after a fire in 2001, and though iterations have continued downtown and on the river, Cunningham's has never been the same. [Photo: University of Louisville Photographic Archives]

3. The Old House

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432 South 5th Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Built before the Civil War, this house on 5th near Liberty was once nationally known as "the local epitome of fine dining," at least from 1946 to 1995. [Photo: ebay]

4. Benedict's

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554 South 4th Street
Louisville, KY 40202
According to The Encyclopedia of Louisville, when men were visiting downtown saloons their wives were visiting "Benedict's Confectionery" and eating Benedictine sandwiches and other treats served by famed Louisville caterer, Jennie Benedict. Demolished in the 1980s, what was the birthplace of Benedictine is now the site of clothing and jewelry store Gifthorse. [Photo: University of Louisville Photographic Archives]

5. Blue Boar Cafeteria

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644 South 4th Street
Louisville, KY 40202
The Blue Boar cafeteria chain began serving in 1931, with its downtown flagship really swinging through the '30s, '40s and '50s. At one point, Blue Boar had numerous locations throughout Kentucky and surrounding states, with some suburban locations (including Southland Terrace) surviving into the current century. The final closing was in 2003. Many Blue Boar recipes (including carrot and raisin salad, stuffed pork chops and stewed tomatoes with croutons) can still be found on the Courier-Journal's website. [Photo: Facebook]

6. Colonnade Cafeteria

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455 South 4th Street, Fourth Street Live!
Louisville, KY 40202
By the late 20th century this downtown cafeteria in the Starks Building basement became known for its shambolic lunch line, where blue-haired ladies and downtown professionals vied for service in a system understood only by management and longtime regulars (some of whom had "assigned" tables). The Colonnade originally opened just down the street in 1913 before shifting to the Starks basement. What were people in the constantly shifting, confusing "lines" fighting for? Homey dishes including turkey and dressing, Waldorf salad, iceberg lettuce wedge with blue cheese/cottage cheese dressing and the homemade pie slices.

7. Kunz's The Dutchman

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530 South 4th Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Kunz's opened in 1892 as a wine and liquor wholesaler, becoming a grocery with a buffet and private dining rooms in 1903. With various locations in downtown Louisville over the years, Kunz's longest hitch was the location just south of the Seelbach Hotel, which burned in 1987. While Kunz's later reopened for a time a few blocks north, the steaks, seafood and jaeger schnitzel at 540 South Fourth Street are the ones that folks remember. [Photo: University of Louisville Photographic Archives]

8. Miller's Cafeteria

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429 South 2nd Street
Louisville, KY 40202
One of only two pre-Civil War homes still standing in downtown Louisville, the house was built in 1830. Miller's restaurant began in 1898, when the Miller family began serving meals to U of L Medical School students boarding there. Downtown workers through Miller's closing in 1998 remember chicken livers and salmon croquettes with white sauce and peas on the cafeteria line. [Photo: Business First]

9. Stewart's Orchid Room

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501 South 4th Street
Louisville, KY 40202
What was once Louisville's iconic department store opened a restaurant on an upper floor of its downtown flagship in 1949. Former Courier-Journal editor, Keith Runyon, remembers that "the air of gentility was almost too thick for schoolboys, but the food was worth waiting for. The Orchid Room was decorated in the art-deco style of the 1940s, and you almost expected to see Joan Crawford or Jean Arthur join the line of ladies waiting for tables." People still talk about the salads (tuna, potato and chicken) made with homemade mayonnaise and the hot fudge sundaes, all of which were eaten sometimes in hats and white gloves. [Photo: University of North Carolina]

10. Casa Grisanti

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1000 East Liberty Street
Louisville, KY 40204
Opened in 1959 a family who simultaneously brought a plaster novelties business to Louisville, Casa Grisanti really took off in the 1970s, becoming Louisville's iconic northern Italian restaurant. To this day, many Louisville chefs trace their beginnings to Casa Grisanti, which closed in 1991 when the family failed to navigate a course between "casual" and "fine dining" audiences. [Photo: ebay]

11. Hasenour's

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1028 Barret Avenue
Louisville, KY 40204
For many years Hasenour's, with its upscale German-style food (sauerbraten, steaks, stuffed potatoes, etc.), was the height of sophistication for Louisville's World War II generation after it opened in 1952. The restaurant saw civil rights protests and "gambling" indictments for pinball machines, but in 1974 owner Ed Hasenour was named "Restaurateur of the Year" by the Kentucky Restaurant Association. The Encyclopedia of Louisville says the restaurant closed in the mid-90s following tax troubles resulting from "fewer affluent would-be diners living and eating in the city [and] reliance on an elderly clientele." [Photo: Goodreads]

12. Cafe Metro

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1700 Bardstown Rd
Louisville, KY
Debuting in 1981 as Bardstown Road's first high-end restaurant, Cafe Metro virtually set the stage for everything that neighborhood would become known for. With vintage posters on the walls, amiable owner Nancy Shepherd offered craft cocktails, a prix fixe menu and many decadent desserts until shuttering in 2009, citing "a drop in fine dining." [Photo: Urbanspoon]

13. Bauer's

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3612 Brownsboro Road
Louisville, KY 40207
In 1870 John Bauer decided to start serving beer and sandwiches "next to his blacksmith shop and wagon manufacturing firm on the toll road." By the 1970s Bauer's was an established East End hangout, but that name retired in the early 1980s. It was later the site of Susan Seiller's La Paloma before an Atlanta restaurant outfit's Azalea closed the building. [Photo: LoopNet]

14. Mazzoni's

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2804 Taylorsville Rd
Louisville, KY
Three brothers from Genoa, Italy began Mazzoni's as a downtown bar in 1884, serving beer with free oysters. These "rolled oysters," more cracker/cornmeal than actual shellfish, were later priced at 5 cents apiece, and kept being popular even after the price rise and a move from Third Street to Seventh Street and finally to Taylorsville Road. Originally available only during "R" months, the rolled oyster remains as a unique gift to Louisville from the Mazzoni family, even though their eponymous restaurant closed in 2008. [Photo: CityVoter]

15. John E's

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3708 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40218
This Buechel establishment started in the circa-1851 home of the Hikes family. The restaurant became known for its live entertainment, its famous patron Denny Crum and, as critic Robin Garr described, its "[s]tandard American fare, with emphasis on steakhouse delights." It closed in 2013. [Photo: VideoCityGuide]

16. Ferd Grisanti Restaurant

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10212 Taylorsville Rd
Louisville, KY
(502) 267-0050
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As Casa Grisanti was getting fancy downtown, Ferd's was throwing down homey Italian food in J'town. The downscale suburban Grisanti's survived longer than its fancier downtown cousin, with insiders still ordering veal alla panna (even after it was deleted from the menu) until Ferd's closed in 2008. [Photo: LoopNet]

1. Jay's

1812 West Muhammad Ali Boulevard, Louisville, KY 40203
From 1974 to 2005 owner Frank Foster's West Louisville cafeteria fed legions of neighborhood residents and downtown office workers fried chicken, chitterlings, smothered pork chops, BBQ rib tips and individual-serving pies.
1812 West Muhammad Ali Boulevard
Louisville, KY 40203

2. Cunningham's

900 South 5th Street, Louisville, KY 40203
Established in 1870 as a delicatessen-grocery and horse stable, Cunningham's became Louisville's first drive-in restaurant in 1942. Even into the 1990s Louisvillians could enjoy the restaurant's small dining rooms with saloon doors and ages-old odors of fried fish. The original closed after a fire in 2001, and though iterations have continued downtown and on the river, Cunningham's has never been the same. [Photo: University of Louisville Photographic Archives]
900 South 5th Street
Louisville, KY 40203

3. The Old House

432 South 5th Street, Louisville, KY 40202
Built before the Civil War, this house on 5th near Liberty was once nationally known as "the local epitome of fine dining," at least from 1946 to 1995. [Photo: ebay]
432 South 5th Street
Louisville, KY 40202

4. Benedict's

554 South 4th Street, Louisville, KY 40202
According to The Encyclopedia of Louisville, when men were visiting downtown saloons their wives were visiting "Benedict's Confectionery" and eating Benedictine sandwiches and other treats served by famed Louisville caterer, Jennie Benedict. Demolished in the 1980s, what was the birthplace of Benedictine is now the site of clothing and jewelry store Gifthorse. [Photo: University of Louisville Photographic Archives]
554 South 4th Street
Louisville, KY 40202

5. Blue Boar Cafeteria

644 South 4th Street, Louisville, KY 40202
The Blue Boar cafeteria chain began serving in 1931, with its downtown flagship really swinging through the '30s, '40s and '50s. At one point, Blue Boar had numerous locations throughout Kentucky and surrounding states, with some suburban locations (including Southland Terrace) surviving into the current century. The final closing was in 2003. Many Blue Boar recipes (including carrot and raisin salad, stuffed pork chops and stewed tomatoes with croutons) can still be found on the Courier-Journal's website. [Photo: Facebook]
644 South 4th Street
Louisville, KY 40202

6. Colonnade Cafeteria

455 South 4th Street, Fourth Street Live!, Louisville, KY 40202
By the late 20th century this downtown cafeteria in the Starks Building basement became known for its shambolic lunch line, where blue-haired ladies and downtown professionals vied for service in a system understood only by management and longtime regulars (some of whom had "assigned" tables). The Colonnade originally opened just down the street in 1913 before shifting to the Starks basement. What were people in the constantly shifting, confusing "lines" fighting for? Homey dishes including turkey and dressing, Waldorf salad, iceberg lettuce wedge with blue cheese/cottage cheese dressing and the homemade pie slices.
455 South 4th Street, Fourth Street Live!
Louisville, KY 40202

7. Kunz's The Dutchman

530 South 4th Street, Louisville, KY 40202
Kunz's opened in 1892 as a wine and liquor wholesaler, becoming a grocery with a buffet and private dining rooms in 1903. With various locations in downtown Louisville over the years, Kunz's longest hitch was the location just south of the Seelbach Hotel, which burned in 1987. While Kunz's later reopened for a time a few blocks north, the steaks, seafood and jaeger schnitzel at 540 South Fourth Street are the ones that folks remember. [Photo: University of Louisville Photographic Archives]
530 South 4th Street
Louisville, KY 40202

8. Miller's Cafeteria

429 South 2nd Street, Louisville, KY 40202
One of only two pre-Civil War homes still standing in downtown Louisville, the house was built in 1830. Miller's restaurant began in 1898, when the Miller family began serving meals to U of L Medical School students boarding there. Downtown workers through Miller's closing in 1998 remember chicken livers and salmon croquettes with white sauce and peas on the cafeteria line. [Photo: Business First]
429 South 2nd Street
Louisville, KY 40202

9. Stewart's Orchid Room

501 South 4th Street, Louisville, KY 40202
What was once Louisville's iconic department store opened a restaurant on an upper floor of its downtown flagship in 1949. Former Courier-Journal editor, Keith Runyon, remembers that "the air of gentility was almost too thick for schoolboys, but the food was worth waiting for. The Orchid Room was decorated in the art-deco style of the 1940s, and you almost expected to see Joan Crawford or Jean Arthur join the line of ladies waiting for tables." People still talk about the salads (tuna, potato and chicken) made with homemade mayonnaise and the hot fudge sundaes, all of which were eaten sometimes in hats and white gloves. [Photo: University of North Carolina]
501 South 4th Street
Louisville, KY 40202

10. Casa Grisanti

1000 East Liberty Street, Louisville, KY 40204
Opened in 1959 a family who simultaneously brought a plaster novelties business to Louisville, Casa Grisanti really took off in the 1970s, becoming Louisville's iconic northern Italian restaurant. To this day, many Louisville chefs trace their beginnings to Casa Grisanti, which closed in 1991 when the family failed to navigate a course between "casual" and "fine dining" audiences. [Photo: ebay]
1000 East Liberty Street
Louisville, KY 40204

11. Hasenour's

1028 Barret Avenue, Louisville, KY 40204
For many years Hasenour's, with its upscale German-style food (sauerbraten, steaks, stuffed potatoes, etc.), was the height of sophistication for Louisville's World War II generation after it opened in 1952. The restaurant saw civil rights protests and "gambling" indictments for pinball machines, but in 1974 owner Ed Hasenour was named "Restaurateur of the Year" by the Kentucky Restaurant Association. The Encyclopedia of Louisville says the restaurant closed in the mid-90s following tax troubles resulting from "fewer affluent would-be diners living and eating in the city [and] reliance on an elderly clientele." [Photo: Goodreads]
1028 Barret Avenue
Louisville, KY 40204

12. Cafe Metro

1700 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, KY
Debuting in 1981 as Bardstown Road's first high-end restaurant, Cafe Metro virtually set the stage for everything that neighborhood would become known for. With vintage posters on the walls, amiable owner Nancy Shepherd offered craft cocktails, a prix fixe menu and many decadent desserts until shuttering in 2009, citing "a drop in fine dining." [Photo: Urbanspoon]
1700 Bardstown Rd
Louisville, KY

13. Bauer's

3612 Brownsboro Road, Louisville, KY 40207
In 1870 John Bauer decided to start serving beer and sandwiches "next to his blacksmith shop and wagon manufacturing firm on the toll road." By the 1970s Bauer's was an established East End hangout, but that name retired in the early 1980s. It was later the site of Susan Seiller's La Paloma before an Atlanta restaurant outfit's Azalea closed the building. [Photo: LoopNet]
3612 Brownsboro Road
Louisville, KY 40207

14. Mazzoni's

2804 Taylorsville Rd, Louisville, KY
Three brothers from Genoa, Italy began Mazzoni's as a downtown bar in 1884, serving beer with free oysters. These "rolled oysters," more cracker/cornmeal than actual shellfish, were later priced at 5 cents apiece, and kept being popular even after the price rise and a move from Third Street to Seventh Street and finally to Taylorsville Road. Originally available only during "R" months, the rolled oyster remains as a unique gift to Louisville from the Mazzoni family, even though their eponymous restaurant closed in 2008. [Photo: CityVoter]
2804 Taylorsville Rd
Louisville, KY

15. John E's

3708 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40218
This Buechel establishment started in the circa-1851 home of the Hikes family. The restaurant became known for its live entertainment, its famous patron Denny Crum and, as critic Robin Garr described, its "[s]tandard American fare, with emphasis on steakhouse delights." It closed in 2013. [Photo: VideoCityGuide]
3708 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40218

16. Ferd Grisanti Restaurant

10212 Taylorsville Rd, Louisville, KY
As Casa Grisanti was getting fancy downtown, Ferd's was throwing down homey Italian food in J'town. The downscale suburban Grisanti's survived longer than its fancier downtown cousin, with insiders still ordering veal alla panna (even after it was deleted from the menu) until Ferd's closed in 2008. [Photo: LoopNet]
10212 Taylorsville Rd
Louisville, KY