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The 18 Essential Louisville Restaurants, October 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. To be included here, all restaurants must be over two years old—that's a change from previous Eater 18s where restaurants just had to have passed the one-year mark. So a couple restaurants got cut, but they'll likely be back once they've graduated from the Heatmap, which is just for restaurants younger than two years old.

Added: Garage Bar, The Oakroom
Removed: Decca, Rye on Market

Again, their removal wasn't a knock on these restaurants at all—in fact, both the removed restaurants are on the latest Eater Heatmap.

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

·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 and The Oakroom, removed Decca and Rye on Market

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

Eiderdown

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

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.

Garage Bar

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Crowds at the auto mechanic garage turned pizza restaurant on a weekend night regularly engulf the front patio. It's not just a place to be seen though, as the wood-fired pizza, craft cocktails and beer, and ham bar attest.

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.

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

The Oakroom

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Now in its 106th year, the fine-dining restaurant at the Seelbach Hilton is Kentucky's only AAA Five Diamond restaurant. Focusing on classic American cuisine, executive chef Patrick Roney has added modern touches to its seasonal menus.

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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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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

Eiderdown

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

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.

Garage Bar

Crowds at the auto mechanic garage turned pizza restaurant on a weekend night regularly engulf the front patio. It's not just a place to be seen though, as the wood-fired pizza, craft cocktails and beer, and ham bar attest.

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.

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.

Basa

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

The Oakroom