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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.
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.

610 Magnolia

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A contender on Bravo's "Top Chef," Edward Lee's among the top chefs in his adopted hometown too.

Hillbilly Tea

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Despite having only opened in 2010, this downtown cafe is as quintessential Kentucky as it gets.

Eiderdown

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Experience Germantown's unique flavor via spaetzle, wurst and half a litter of Spaten Pils.

The Blind Pig

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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.)

Proof on Main

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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.

Rye On Market

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"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.

Hammerheads

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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.

Jack Fry's

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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.

Bistro Le Relais

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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.

Mayan Café

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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.
Michael and Stephen Ton's modern Vietnamese restaurant has been a top draw since it opened in 2007.

Seviche: A Latin Restaurant

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Seviche? In Kentucky? Repeat James Beard semifinalist Anthony Lamas's original take on the traditional Latin America dish proves it's possible here.

Wiltshire on Market

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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?

El Mundo

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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.

Dragon King's Daughter

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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.

Harvest

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Harvest's commitment to all-things local still attracts Louisvillians to dine under the eyes of the watchful farmers.

Wagner's Pharmacy

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It is what it is—and that's Louisville.

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Decca

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.

610 Magnolia

A contender on Bravo's "Top Chef," Edward Lee's among the top chefs in his adopted hometown too.

Hillbilly Tea

Despite having only opened in 2010, this downtown cafe is as quintessential Kentucky as it gets.

Eiderdown

Experience Germantown's unique flavor via spaetzle, wurst and half a litter of Spaten Pils.

The Blind Pig

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.)

Proof on Main

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.

Rye On Market

"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.

Hammerheads

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.

Jack Fry's

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

Bistro Le Relais

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.

Mayan Café

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

Basa

Michael and Stephen Ton's modern Vietnamese restaurant has been a top draw since it opened in 2007.

Seviche: A Latin Restaurant

Seviche? In Kentucky? Repeat James Beard semifinalist Anthony Lamas's original take on the traditional Latin America dish proves it's possible here.

Wiltshire on Market

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

El Mundo

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.

Dragon King's Daughter

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.