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The 18 Essential Louisville Restaurants, January 2013

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Welcome to the inaugural Louisville Eater 18, our answer to any question that begins, "Can you recommend a restaurant?" This elite group covers the entire area, spans myriad cuisines and satisfies all of your restaurant needs, save for those occasions when you feel a need to slum it up (hello Twig and Leaf). Every couple of months, we'll be adding restaurants that were omitted or have stepped up their game.

UPDATE: This article has been revised. Eater's most recent list of Louisville's 18 essential restaurants is here.

These are the places that you think of when you think of Louisville. Not necessarily the newest and hottest on the block (for that, there's the Eater Louisville Heatmap), but the classics (yes, there's some overlap). And, no, the list isn't in any order.

For those of you readying the pitchforks because your favorite isn't included, wouldn't it just be more productive to leave your thoughts in the comments?


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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Decca

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812 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40206
Called "an icon in the making," in April 2012 by LEO Weekly, one of the hottest restaurants in the city's hottest neighborhoods is still packing them in.

2. 610 Magnolia

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610 W Magnolia Ave
Louisville, KY 40208
(502) 636-0783
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A contender on Bravo's "Top Chef," Edward Lee's among the top chefs in his adopted hometown too.

3. Hillbilly Tea

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120 South 1st Street
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 587-7350
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Despite having only opened in 2010, this downtown cafe is as quintessential Kentucky as it gets.

4. Eiderdown

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983 Goss Ave.
Louisville, KY 40217
(502) 290-2390
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Experience Germantown's unique flavor via spaetzle, wurst and half a litter of Spaten Pils.

5. The Blind Pig

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1076 East Washington Street
Louisville, KY 40206
(502) 618-0600
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Catch a whiff of Butchertown's neighborhood slaughterhouse before entering to oink out on a pig-centric menu. (Its pork rillettes might be the best appetizer in the city.)

6. Proof on Main

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702 W Main St
Louisville, KY 40202
Because plopping a 30-foot-tall golden naked David (penis) in front of its entrance wasn't surprising enough, in August, this top Louisville restaurant changed executive chefs. While the reviews of David are mixed (penis), Levon Wallace's menu has drawn near universal praise.

7. Rye On Market

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900 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40206
"Is Yelp Really for Morons?" Time magazine asks. That this NuLu hotspot only nets 3.5 stars on that user-review site answers Time's question with a resounding "fuck yeah." Try the potato and leek fritters or meat plate.

8. Hammerheads

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921 Swan St
Louisville, KY 40204
Diners were walking into this former walkout basement for chicken and waffles before that dish was cool (again). And three of our industry experts listed it as one of their top standbys of 2012.

9. Jack Fry's

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1007 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40204
(502) 452-9244
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If this clubby landmark were any more quintessential Louisville, diners would eat on a thoroughbred while brandishing a baseball bat and quoting Muhammad Ali.

10. Bistro Le Relais

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2817 Taylorsville Rd
Louisville, KY 40205
(502) 451-9020
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This Bowman Field bistro's take on traditional French cuisine—a whiff of the beef bourguignon can transport you instantly to Pont Neuf—stands out in a city named for Louis XVI.

11. Mayan Café

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813 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40206
(502) 566-0651
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Visiting for Derby, dinner at this authentic Mayan restaurant led this then-DC-based editor to realize just what a livable city Louisville is.

12. Basa

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2244 Frankfort Ave
Louisville, KY 40206
(502) 896-1016
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Michael and Stephen Ton's modern Vietnamese restaurant has been a top draw since it opened in 2007.

13. Seviche: A Latin Restaurant

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1538 Bardstown Rd
Louisville, KY 40205
Seviche? In Kentucky? Repeat James Beard semifinalist Anthony Lamas's original take on the traditional Latin America dish proves it's possible here.

14. Wiltshire on Market

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636 E. Market
Louisville, KY
(502) 589-5224
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It doesn't get as much press as some of its East Market neighbors, but what does the media know anyway?

15. El Mundo

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2345 Frankfort Ave.
Louisville, KY 40206
(502) 899-9930
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Try to get a table here, especially on Wednesday and Thursday when margaritas are just $4, and you'll see just how many Louisvillians consider this Frankfort Ave. spot essential.

16. Dragon King's Daughter

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1126 Bardstown Rd
Louisville, KY 40204
(502) 632-2444
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Named in honor of the first woman to reach enlightenment, this Asian-fusion restaurant's sushi, tacos and flatbreads will have you headed on a similar path.

17. Harvest

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624 E Market St.
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 384-9090
Visit Website
Harvest's commitment to all-things local still attracts Louisvillians to dine under the eyes of the watchful farmers.

18. Wagner's Pharmacy

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3113 South Fourth St.
Louisville, KY
It is what it is—and that's Louisville.

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1. Decca

812 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40206
Called "an icon in the making," in April 2012 by LEO Weekly, one of the hottest restaurants in the city's hottest neighborhoods is still packing them in.
812 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40206

2. 610 Magnolia

610 W Magnolia Ave, Louisville, KY 40208
A contender on Bravo's "Top Chef," Edward Lee's among the top chefs in his adopted hometown too.
610 W Magnolia Ave
Louisville, KY 40208

3. Hillbilly Tea

120 South 1st Street, Louisville, KY 40202
Despite having only opened in 2010, this downtown cafe is as quintessential Kentucky as it gets.
120 South 1st Street
Louisville, KY 40202

4. Eiderdown

983 Goss Ave., Louisville, KY 40217
Experience Germantown's unique flavor via spaetzle, wurst and half a litter of Spaten Pils.
983 Goss Ave.
Louisville, KY 40217

5. The Blind Pig

1076 East Washington Street, Louisville, KY 40206
Catch a whiff of Butchertown's neighborhood slaughterhouse before entering to oink out on a pig-centric menu. (Its pork rillettes might be the best appetizer in the city.)
1076 East Washington Street
Louisville, KY 40206

6. Proof on Main

702 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202
Because plopping a 30-foot-tall golden naked David (penis) in front of its entrance wasn't surprising enough, in August, this top Louisville restaurant changed executive chefs. While the reviews of David are mixed (penis), Levon Wallace's menu has drawn near universal praise.
702 W Main St
Louisville, KY 40202

7. Rye On Market

900 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40206
"Is Yelp Really for Morons?" Time magazine asks. That this NuLu hotspot only nets 3.5 stars on that user-review site answers Time's question with a resounding "fuck yeah." Try the potato and leek fritters or meat plate.
900 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40206

8. Hammerheads

921 Swan St, Louisville, KY 40204
Diners were walking into this former walkout basement for chicken and waffles before that dish was cool (again). And three of our industry experts listed it as one of their top standbys of 2012.
921 Swan St
Louisville, KY 40204

9. Jack Fry's

1007 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40204
If this clubby landmark were any more quintessential Louisville, diners would eat on a thoroughbred while brandishing a baseball bat and quoting Muhammad Ali.
1007 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40204

10. Bistro Le Relais

2817 Taylorsville Rd, Louisville, KY 40205
This Bowman Field bistro's take on traditional French cuisine—a whiff of the beef bourguignon can transport you instantly to Pont Neuf—stands out in a city named for Louis XVI.
2817 Taylorsville Rd
Louisville, KY 40205

11. Mayan Café

813 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40206
Visiting for Derby, dinner at this authentic Mayan restaurant led this then-DC-based editor to realize just what a livable city Louisville is.
813 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40206

12. Basa

2244 Frankfort Ave, Louisville, KY 40206
Michael and Stephen Ton's modern Vietnamese restaurant has been a top draw since it opened in 2007.
2244 Frankfort Ave
Louisville, KY 40206

13. Seviche: A Latin Restaurant

1538 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, KY 40205
Seviche? In Kentucky? Repeat James Beard semifinalist Anthony Lamas's original take on the traditional Latin America dish proves it's possible here.
1538 Bardstown Rd
Louisville, KY 40205

14. Wiltshire on Market

636 E. Market, Louisville, KY
It doesn't get as much press as some of its East Market neighbors, but what does the media know anyway?
636 E. Market
Louisville, KY

15. El Mundo

2345 Frankfort Ave., Louisville, KY 40206
Try to get a table here, especially on Wednesday and Thursday when margaritas are just $4, and you'll see just how many Louisvillians consider this Frankfort Ave. spot essential.
2345 Frankfort Ave.
Louisville, KY 40206

16. Dragon King's Daughter

1126 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, KY 40204
Named in honor of the first woman to reach enlightenment, this Asian-fusion restaurant's sushi, tacos and flatbreads will have you headed on a similar path.
1126 Bardstown Rd
Louisville, KY 40204

17. Harvest

624 E Market St., Louisville, KY 40202
Harvest's commitment to all-things local still attracts Louisvillians to dine under the eyes of the watchful farmers.
624 E Market St.
Louisville, KY 40202

18. Wagner's Pharmacy

3113 South Fourth St., Louisville, KY
It is what it is—and that's Louisville.
3113 South Fourth St.
Louisville, KY