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The 18 Essential Louisville Restaurants, April 2014

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Welcome to the Louisville Eater 18, our best answers to the question "Can you recommend a Louisville restaurant?" This group covers the entire metro area, spans myriad cuisines and should satisfy just about any restaurant need. Every few months, we may shift things around a bit, in our bid to find restaurants stepping toward iconic status.

These are the places that provide a sense of the Louisville restaurant culture. They may not be the newest nor the hottest spots (that's what the Eater Louisville Heatmap is for). Eater 18 restaurants must be over two years old, and bring a unique sensibility to the local scene. Any disagreements or additions? Feel free to leave them in the comments.


Eater Louisville 18 history

· Jan. 8, 2013: Initial Eater Louisville 18
· April 9, 2013: Added Corbett's: An American Place and Holy Grale, removed Dragon King's Daughter and El Mundo
· July 9, 2013: No changes
· Oct. 8, 2013: Added Garage Bar, The Oakroom; removed Decca and Rye on Market
· January 7, 2014: Added Decca, Lilly's, Rye on Market, The Silver Dollar, Blue Dog Bakery & Café; removed Holy Grale, Bistro Le Relais, Garage Bar, The Blind Pig, Wagner's Pharmacy
· April 11, 2014: Added Guaca Mole; removed Corbett's: An American Place

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. 610 Magnolia

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610 W Magnolia Ave
Louisville, KY 40208
(502) 636-0783
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Edward Lee's "contemporary approach to the Southern table" is an unassuming, often innovative institution in a quiet corner of historic Old Louisville.

2. Proof on Main

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702 W Main St
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 217-6360
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Executive Chef Levon Wallace creates dishes that can stand out amid the incredible art of this design-forward boutique hotel, whether it's breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or room service.

3. The Oakroom

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500 S 4th St
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 585-3200
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Opened in 1907, The Oakroom has been a AAA Five Diamond Restaurant since 1998. Seasonal menus "celebrate [The Oakroom's] unparalleled tradition of excellence," and dining here can give one a Gilded Age feeling.

4. Hillbilly Tea

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120 South 1st Street
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 587-7350
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This downtown cafe focusing on "organic teas, mountain-inspired tea cuisine and tea hooch" is an inside joke, an inspired idea and a really good restaurant combined. And it "done gone global" with a second restaurant in Shanghai.

5. Harvest

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624 E Market St.
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 384-9090
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Harvest and chef Coby Lee Ming have a mission "to serve outstanding, regionally inspired, seasonal 'farm-to-table' cuisine." And they do—creating wonderful stuff with 80% of ingredients sourced from within a 100-mile radius.

6. Mayan Café

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813 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40206
(502) 566-0651
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Bruce Ucán's restaurant has been an East Market standout since "NuLu" was only a fantasy, and shows how good blending Mayan ideas with Kentucky ingredients can be.

7. Decca

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812 East Market Street
Louisville, KY 40206
(502) 749-8128
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Decca says it's "excited to feature local artists and musicians alongside inspired food and drinks in a warm atmosphere," and diners have been consistently excited by the food Annie Pettry and her team deliver.

8. Wiltshire on Market

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636 E. Market
Louisville, KY
(502) 589-5224
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Chef Jonathan Exum emphasizes fresh, local ingredients in a menu that changes weekly in an "intimate restaurant environment."

9. Rye On Market

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900 East Market Street
Louisville, KY 40206
(502) 749-6200
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Ever since Michael Trager-Kusman went to New York, worked his way up to line cook at The Breslin and attracted Tyler Morris to Louisville, Rye has been an electric addition to the city's restaurant scene.

10. Hammerheads

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921 Swan St
Louisville, KY 40204
Burgers, BBQ, tacos and fries may not sound like much, but this Swan Street shack is anything but a dive and dazzlingly popular.

11. Eiderdown

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983 Goss Ave.
Louisville, KY 40217
(502) 290-2390
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"European-inspired Southern Food" is what Eiderdown says it has in mind for its patrons, although they admit "another inspiration is beer." Whatever they call it, this comfortable, eclectic blend of beer and bohemian gourmet seems very, very Louisville.

12. Jack Fry's

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1007 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40204
(502) 452-9244
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Beginning as the home of a bookie and bootlegger, this clubby "New American" restaurant is full of photos, memorabilia and fine food.

13. Lilly's

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1147 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40204
(502) 451-0447
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Kathy Cary can safely be called Louisville's farm-to-table pioneer. Setting the locavore bar for the city, she continues to deliver comfortable yet compelling cuisine.

14. The Silver Dollar

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1761 Frankfort Avenue
Louisville, KY 40206
(502) 259-9540
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Honoring the "'Bakersfield Sound,' ... great juke joints and the spirited people who inhabited them" has earned The Silver Dollar much praise, both for whiskey and for food.

15. Seviche: A Latin Restaurant

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1538 Bardstown Rd
Louisville, KY 40205
(502) 473-8560
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Anthony Lamas's "Nuevo Latino" cuisine of course includes the somewhat eponymous ceviche, along with an array of Latin American-inspired dishes that consistently rank him among the top chefs in the city.

16. Basa

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2244 Frankfort Ave
Louisville, KY 40206
(502) 896-1016
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Led by chef/owner Michael Ton, Basa brings elegant, modernized Vietnamese flavors to fine dining in Louisville.

17. Blue Dog Bakery & Cafe

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2868 Frankfort Avenue
Louisville, KY 40206
(502) 899-9800
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Baker Bob Hancock seemingly supplies half the city with his marvelous breads, while simultaneously raising his own heritage hogs, making his own charcuterie and overseeing one of the best breakfast and lunch spots in the city.

18. Guaca Mole

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9921 Ormsby Station Rd
Louisville, KY 40223
(502) 365-4822
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Part of the Fernando Martinez Empire (which currently includes two other popular restaurants, Taco Luchador and The Place Downstairs) Guaca Mole offers upscaled, often innovative takes on Mexican cuisine. Try not to miss the guacamole trio, Elotes Callajeros (grilled corn on the cob slathered with mayo, chili and cheese) or the fish tacos.

1. 610 Magnolia

610 W Magnolia Ave, Louisville, KY 40208
Edward Lee's "contemporary approach to the Southern table" is an unassuming, often innovative institution in a quiet corner of historic Old Louisville.
610 W Magnolia Ave
Louisville, KY 40208

2. Proof on Main

702 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202
Executive Chef Levon Wallace creates dishes that can stand out amid the incredible art of this design-forward boutique hotel, whether it's breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or room service.
702 W Main St
Louisville, KY 40202

3. The Oakroom

500 S 4th St, Louisville, KY 40202
Opened in 1907, The Oakroom has been a AAA Five Diamond Restaurant since 1998. Seasonal menus "celebrate [The Oakroom's] unparalleled tradition of excellence," and dining here can give one a Gilded Age feeling.
500 S 4th St
Louisville, KY 40202

4. Hillbilly Tea

120 South 1st Street, Louisville, KY 40202
This downtown cafe focusing on "organic teas, mountain-inspired tea cuisine and tea hooch" is an inside joke, an inspired idea and a really good restaurant combined. And it "done gone global" with a second restaurant in Shanghai.
120 South 1st Street
Louisville, KY 40202

5. Harvest

624 E Market St., Louisville, KY 40202
Harvest and chef Coby Lee Ming have a mission "to serve outstanding, regionally inspired, seasonal 'farm-to-table' cuisine." And they do—creating wonderful stuff with 80% of ingredients sourced from within a 100-mile radius.
624 E Market St.
Louisville, KY 40202

6. Mayan Café

813 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40206
Bruce Ucán's restaurant has been an East Market standout since "NuLu" was only a fantasy, and shows how good blending Mayan ideas with Kentucky ingredients can be.
813 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40206

7. Decca

812 East Market Street, Louisville, KY 40206
Decca says it's "excited to feature local artists and musicians alongside inspired food and drinks in a warm atmosphere," and diners have been consistently excited by the food Annie Pettry and her team deliver.
812 East Market Street
Louisville, KY 40206

8. Wiltshire on Market

636 E. Market, Louisville, KY
Chef Jonathan Exum emphasizes fresh, local ingredients in a menu that changes weekly in an "intimate restaurant environment."
636 E. Market
Louisville, KY

9. Rye On Market

900 East Market Street, Louisville, KY 40206
Ever since Michael Trager-Kusman went to New York, worked his way up to line cook at The Breslin and attracted Tyler Morris to Louisville, Rye has been an electric addition to the city's restaurant scene.
900 East Market Street
Louisville, KY 40206

10. Hammerheads

921 Swan St, Louisville, KY 40204
Burgers, BBQ, tacos and fries may not sound like much, but this Swan Street shack is anything but a dive and dazzlingly popular.
921 Swan St
Louisville, KY 40204

11. Eiderdown

983 Goss Ave., Louisville, KY 40217
"European-inspired Southern Food" is what Eiderdown says it has in mind for its patrons, although they admit "another inspiration is beer." Whatever they call it, this comfortable, eclectic blend of beer and bohemian gourmet seems very, very Louisville.
983 Goss Ave.
Louisville, KY 40217

12. Jack Fry's

1007 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40204
Beginning as the home of a bookie and bootlegger, this clubby "New American" restaurant is full of photos, memorabilia and fine food.
1007 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40204

13. Lilly's

1147 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40204
Kathy Cary can safely be called Louisville's farm-to-table pioneer. Setting the locavore bar for the city, she continues to deliver comfortable yet compelling cuisine.
1147 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40204

14. The Silver Dollar

1761 Frankfort Avenue, Louisville, KY 40206
Honoring the "'Bakersfield Sound,' ... great juke joints and the spirited people who inhabited them" has earned The Silver Dollar much praise, both for whiskey and for food.
1761 Frankfort Avenue
Louisville, KY 40206

15. Seviche: A Latin Restaurant

1538 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, KY 40205
Anthony Lamas's "Nuevo Latino" cuisine of course includes the somewhat eponymous ceviche, along with an array of Latin American-inspired dishes that consistently rank him among the top chefs in the city.
1538 Bardstown Rd
Louisville, KY 40205

16. Basa

2244 Frankfort Ave, Louisville, KY 40206
Led by chef/owner Michael Ton, Basa brings elegant, modernized Vietnamese flavors to fine dining in Louisville.
2244 Frankfort Ave
Louisville, KY 40206

17. Blue Dog Bakery & Cafe

2868 Frankfort Avenue, Louisville, KY 40206
Baker Bob Hancock seemingly supplies half the city with his marvelous breads, while simultaneously raising his own heritage hogs, making his own charcuterie and overseeing one of the best breakfast and lunch spots in the city.
2868 Frankfort Avenue
Louisville, KY 40206

18. Guaca Mole

9921 Ormsby Station Rd, Louisville, KY 40223
Part of the Fernando Martinez Empire (which currently includes two other popular restaurants, Taco Luchador and The Place Downstairs) Guaca Mole offers upscaled, often innovative takes on Mexican cuisine. Try not to miss the guacamole trio, Elotes Callajeros (grilled corn on the cob slathered with mayo, chili and cheese) or the fish tacos.
9921 Ormsby Station Rd
Louisville, KY 40223