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The 18 Essential Louisville Restaurants, July 2013

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Welcome to the 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 should satisfy all of your restaurant needs. Every couple of months, we'll be adding restaurants that were omitted or have stepped up their game.

These are the places that you think of when you think of Louisville. Not necessarily the newest and hottest spots on the block (for that, there's the Eater Louisville Heatmap), but the classics (yes, there's some overlap). To be included here, all restaurants must be over a year old. And, no, this list isn't in any order.

No changes

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


Eater Louisville 18 history

·January 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

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
Michael and Stephen Ton's modern Vietnamese restaurant has been a top draw since it opened in 2007.

Rye On Market

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"We would love to establish ourselves based on our chef-driven menu and ingredient-focused philosophy," Rye's general manager wrote recently in an email. Based on the crowds at this NuLu New American restaurant, however, it's already done so. (Of course, a deep craft cocktail menu doesn't hurt either.)

Holy Grale

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Chef Joshua Lehman's elevated bar food (try the burger) has made this converted Unitarian church a destination for eats as well as drinks (it has 26 craft beers on tap).

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.

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.

Proof on Main

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"Holy shit, I can't believe I'm in Kentucky," the diner said, marrow from the roasted bones appetizer dripping from his mouth. Lest there be any doubt to this New American restaurant's whereabouts, note the Kentucky Proud logo and thank you to local suppliers at the bottom of the menu. A favorite since it opened, the kudos have become even louder since Levon Wallace became executive chef.

Hillbilly Tea

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Despite having only opened in 2010, this downtown cafe—which focuses on "organic teas, mountain-inspired tea cuisine and tea hooch"—is as quintessential Kentucky as it gets.

Seviche: A Latin Restaurant

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Ceviche? In Kentucky? Anthony Lamas's original take on the traditional Latin American dish (try the tuna old fashioned) 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? Its menu changes weekly but fresh and local are staples.

Jack Fry's

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

Harvest

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

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.

610 Magnolia

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A contender on Bravo's "Top Chef," Edward Lee's "contemporary approach to the Southern table" is among the top restaurants in his adopted hometown too.

Mayan Café

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Start with chef Bruce Ucán's tok-sel lima beans. Then move on to discussing how the existence of an authentic Mayan restaurant shows just what a great food city Louisville is.
Called "an icon in the making," in April 2012 by LEO Weekly, this modern American restaurant is still winning over skeptics a year later. Chef Annie Pettry's menu focuses on "locally farmed and small production ingredients," and the bar's Waysider gives a modern take on the iconic mint julep.

Corbett's: An American Place

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Located in a restored 19th century mansion, the New American cuisine at the flagship restaurant of one of the city's marquee chefs, Dean Corbett, draws praise from national media.

Wagner's Pharmacy

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It is what it is—a pharmacy with a lunch counter right across the street from Churchill Downs' backside—and that's Louisville.

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Basa

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

Rye On Market

"We would love to establish ourselves based on our chef-driven menu and ingredient-focused philosophy," Rye's general manager wrote recently in an email. Based on the crowds at this NuLu New American restaurant, however, it's already done so. (Of course, a deep craft cocktail menu doesn't hurt either.)

Holy Grale

Chef Joshua Lehman's elevated bar food (try the burger) has made this converted Unitarian church a destination for eats as well as drinks (it has 26 craft beers on tap).

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.

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.

Proof on Main

"Holy shit, I can't believe I'm in Kentucky," the diner said, marrow from the roasted bones appetizer dripping from his mouth. Lest there be any doubt to this New American restaurant's whereabouts, note the Kentucky Proud logo and thank you to local suppliers at the bottom of the menu. A favorite since it opened, the kudos have become even louder since Levon Wallace became executive chef.

Hillbilly Tea

Despite having only opened in 2010, this downtown cafe—which focuses on "organic teas, mountain-inspired tea cuisine and tea hooch"—is as quintessential Kentucky as it gets.

Seviche: A Latin Restaurant

Ceviche? In Kentucky? Anthony Lamas's original take on the traditional Latin American dish (try the tuna old fashioned) 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? Its menu changes weekly but fresh and local are staples.

Jack Fry's

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

Harvest

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

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.

610 Magnolia

A contender on Bravo's "Top Chef," Edward Lee's "contemporary approach to the Southern table" is among the top restaurants in his adopted hometown too.

Mayan Café

Start with chef Bruce Ucán's tok-sel lima beans. Then move on to discussing how the existence of an authentic Mayan restaurant shows just what a great food city Louisville is.

Decca

Called "an icon in the making," in April 2012 by LEO Weekly, this modern American restaurant is still winning over skeptics a year later. Chef Annie Pettry's menu focuses on "locally farmed and small production ingredients," and the bar's Waysider gives a modern take on the iconic mint julep.