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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.

1. 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.

2. Rye On Market

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900 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40206
"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.)

3. Holy Grale

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1034 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40204
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).

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. 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.

7. Proof on Main

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702 W Main St
Louisville, KY 40202
(502) 217-6360
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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.

8. 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—which focuses on "organic teas, mountain-inspired tea cuisine and tea hooch"—is as quintessential Kentucky as it gets.

9. Seviche: A Latin Restaurant

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1538 Bardstown Rd
Louisville, KY 40205
(502) 473-8560
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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.

10. 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? Its menu changes weekly but fresh and local are staples.

11. Jack Fry's

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1007 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40204
(502) 452-9244
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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.

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

13. 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.

14. 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 "contemporary approach to the Southern table" is among the top restaurants in his adopted hometown too.

15. Mayan Café

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813 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40206
(502) 566-0651
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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.

16. Decca

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812 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40206
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.

17. Corbett's: An American Place

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5050 Norton Healthcare Blvd
Louisville, KY 40241
(502) 327-5058
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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.

18. Wagner's Pharmacy

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3113 South Fourth St.
Louisville, KY
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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1. 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

2. Rye On Market

900 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40206
"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.)
900 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40206

3. Holy Grale

1034 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40204
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).
1034 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40204

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. 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

7. Proof on Main

702 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202
"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.
702 W Main St
Louisville, KY 40202

8. Hillbilly Tea

120 South 1st Street, Louisville, KY 40202
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.
120 South 1st Street
Louisville, KY 40202

9. Seviche: A Latin Restaurant

1538 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, KY 40205
Ceviche? In Kentucky? Anthony Lamas's original take on the traditional Latin American dish (try the tuna old fashioned) proves it's possible here.
1538 Bardstown Rd
Louisville, KY 40205

10. 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? Its menu changes weekly but fresh and local are staples.
636 E. Market
Louisville, KY

11. Jack Fry's

1007 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40204
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.
1007 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40204

12. Harvest

624 E Market St., Louisville, KY 40202
Harvest and chef Coby Lee Ming'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

13. 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

14. 610 Magnolia

610 W Magnolia Ave, Louisville, KY 40208
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.
610 W Magnolia Ave
Louisville, KY 40208

15. Mayan Café

813 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40206
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.
813 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40206

16. Decca

812 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40206
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.
812 E Market St
Louisville, KY 40206

17. Corbett's: An American Place

5050 Norton Healthcare Blvd, Louisville, KY 40241
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.
5050 Norton Healthcare Blvd
Louisville, KY 40241

18. Wagner's Pharmacy

3113 South Fourth St., Louisville, KY
It is what it is—a pharmacy with a lunch counter right across the street from Churchill Downs' backside—and that's Louisville.
3113 South Fourth St.
Louisville, KY