A Gourmand’s Guide to Louisville, Kentucky’s Most Happening City

Edward Rubin
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louisville friedrich_wand.1818Part One features two of Louisville’s most popular hotels, one overflowing with  museum-quality works of art, along with eight of the city’s most-talked about restaurants with special attention paid to the food and cocktails that not only fueled my stay but allowed me to, in the course of nine days, to move with ease from one place to another.

Arriving is a State of Mind

It seems that no matter what city I visit I tend to fall in love with it, sometimes deeply. Yes, wherever I go—the result is that I meet myself there, face to face. The world of commerce being what it is, it is not often that I get to quietly experience myself unhindered by daily annoyances in this manner. Being able to look at where I am coming from, where I have been, where I am now, and just perhaps where my next step in life might take me without having to spend a month in rehab, is a joy. This, coupled with indulging my intellectual and hedonistic desires—always a must on any trip made (why else leave town?). xxxxxx  My latest affair of the heart is with Louisville, Kentucky, where everything anybody could want, fine hotels and restaurants, choice museums, a nationally heralded theatre, distilleries, beautiful louisville skylineparks, and a river—if not at your fingertips, or reached easily by foot or bike—is just a hop, skip, and jump away. No wonder CNN named Louisville a ‘Top 10’ travel destination, and Travel + Leisure identifying it as one of the ‘Best Places to Visit’ in 2015.

Louisville, KY, lights reflecting on the Ohio River.

For a small town of some 600,000 people (I live in Manhattan so most every city is a small town) Louisville is a visitor’s delight, bursting with southern hospitality. In addition to its well-earned Bourbon and Kentucky Derby reputation, it is a city with a great many unique and surprising attractions, some of which, like the Muhammad Ali Center, The Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, and the Mega Cavern, the country’s only underground zip line that I daringly braved, and lived to tell the tale, can be found in Louisville.

First Things First: Finding a Good Hotel:

Finding a good hotel that meets all of my requirements is at the very top of my list. If I am not comfortably housed and catered to like a king, why bother? Numero uno is that I want to be in the center of all the action, so the hotel must be centrally located. A peaceful hotel not overrun by tourists noisily cavorting from room to room with bottle-in-hand is also a necessity. I crave a quiet room, preferably not too far from, or too close, to the elevator, a bright bedside light to read by, louisville bernard-schoenbaum-porter-in-hotel-with-man-in-baggage-rack-new-yorker-cartoonand a telephone next to the bed and not across the room, where some hotels mindlessly place them. Like Baby Bear, I want everything to be Just Right.

A pleasant view, if at all available, is also high on my list of amenities. Looking out on a noisy street, a solid brick wall, a parking lot, or facing another hotel room is not my idea of comfort. Last but not least, free Wi-Fi access is an absolute must.  I find, especially when attending conferences, if you arrive a day or two early, you have a wider range of room locations to choose from.

It also helps if the hotel’s restaurant opens early for breakfast. Six a.m., however rare, is a dream. Seven a.m. is livable. Eight a.m. is already getting too long in the tooth. I like to be the first one down for breakfast so I can meet the staff, find the perfect table, one near an outlet where I can plug in my laptop, and make believe that I am Walter Winchell, holding court at New York City’s old Stork Club.

As far as the evening, the hotel’s restaurant should not close their kitchen before 10 pm, and its bar should stay open for late night imbibing. This is the time that I like to relive the day’s activities, plan my tomorrows, quietly talk to myself a la Woody Allen, and if the opportunity presents itself, flirt shamelessly, before I hit the hay.

The Galt House Hotel

To get the full visitor’s blast, during an American Theatre Critics Association conference that I recently attended, I stayed at two of Louisville’s most popular downtown hotels, each one as different as night and day. The Galt House Hotel, below right and left, the official hotel of Churchill Downs and thelouisville galt house img2 Kentucky Derby, appeals primarily—or so it seems with its lack of frou frou—to the horsey, sports and business set. No doubt, it is filled at Derby time. Situated on the Ohio River, it is the largest hotel in Kentucky. A small city in itself, the two-towered Galt has 1291 deluxe guest rooms and executive suites, 53 meeting rooms, a business and shipping center, a spa and salon, a barbershop, retail shops, two ballrooms, an exhibition hall, and six on-site restaurants, one floating high in the sky.

Its 25 story, West Tower houses the hotel’s deluxe guest rooms. In the 18 story East Tower—where I stayed for a week in a suite bigger than my New York City apartment—reside suites and apartments, some with waterfront balconies. The towers are connected by a skywalk. With a dizzying number of elevators, escalators, stairways, long halls, and skywalks just about everywhere you look, I never fully mastered the correct routes to meeting rooms, or for that matter to the right street to exit on. Sometimes this was exasperating. At other times, when my louisville galt house img6mood du jour was one of great good humor, I actually courted being lost, knowing full well that eventually I would find where I was going. I played it as an adventure, a puzzle to be solved.

I never sampled any of the Galt House’s eateries, other than a couple of satisfying breakfasts at the Café Magnolia. For, after reading that Zagat named Louisville one of seven ‘Up-and-Coming Food Cities’ in the US, I found myself eager to leave the hotel’s premises to experience the city’s most highly-rated restaurants, none of which appeared to be housed at the Galt. However, I did unexpectedly discover Thelma’s Deli, Galt’s 24/7 takeout haven, and had a surprisingly inexpensive and delicious chili and iced tea lunch run for $5, including tip. I also shared a few, after-conference, late night drinks with friends in a sitting area opposite the hotel’s plant-filled atrium bar, and an after-theater, snack and drink-fest, at the top of the hotel’s Rivue Restaurant and Lounge, featuring a stunning view overlooking the city.

21c Museum Hotel

If I were going to marry a hotel, which, since I am single, is not out of the question, I would ask for the hand of the 21c Museum Hotel, below, right, a four-floor, 90-room luxury boutique hotel. Situated on Main Street in historic downtown Louisville, 21c attracts the hot, hip, happening, and those folks like me, given to sudden epiphanies. Within its walls is Proof on Main, one of the finest restaurantslouisvilleKY_21 c 378 in the city, and a bar that USA Today named #3 in its top ten list of ‘America’s Best Hotel Bars.’ The hotel also features museum quality art exhibitions, open to the public 24-hours a day. While many hotels claim to be an ‘art hotel,’ only a handful that I know of take art as seriously as Alice Gray Stites, the hotel chain’s curator of art. Stites knows how to rattle the mind, and she definitely does not shy away from the controversial.

One might say that the 21c’s around the clock art viewing starts even before entering the hotel, with New York-based artist, Serkan Oskaya’s enormous, 30 foot, golden fiberglass replica of Michelangelo’s David (above, right). Situated at the entrance of the hotel, the Golden David trumpets the art treasures that fill the hotel. Equally intriguing are the hotel’s large signature hot pink penguin sculptures (below, left), by Cracking Art Group, an artist collective out of Italy, that line the edge of 21c’s roof. Migrating, as penguins do, with the staff’s help, they also can also be found wandering about on Louisville Penguins-on-Patrol-at-the-21C-Museum-Hotel-484x245the hotel’s rooftop terrace, at the bar and in the restaurant. One morning I even met a large pink penguin in the elevator. While the penguins are definitely playful, the intention of the seven artists that make up the collective—a deceptively serious one—is to raise awareness of environmental issues and the use and misuse of natural resources by creating artworks with materials derived from petroleum products. For those who may be smitten, smaller versions of the pink penguins are sold in the hotel’s store.

On view in the hotel’s lobby gallery during my stay was the dramatically lit work of self-taught, French born, Spain-based artist, Pierre Gonnard’s large portraits of people considered to belouisville Nicola pierre-gonnord-07-755 outsiders. Gonnard views his subjects—the destitute, homeless urban youth, gypsies, tattooed Japanese gang members, and miners’ families in rural Spain—through a lens of deep compassion, creating images to bring out their storied past in a reverent way.

Right: Pierre Gonnard, ‘Nicola,’ from the series ‘Venetian Portraits,’ Venice, 2010, Digital print on Hahnemühle paper, 56.9 x 42.9”.

Each colorfully worn face is given to us to explore, ponder, and question how it reached the state it is in today. “I choose my contemporaries in the anonymity of the big cities because their faces, under the skin, narrate unique, remarkable stories about our era,” the artist notes. “Sometimes hostile, almost always fragile and very often wounded behind the opacity of their masks, they represent specific social realities and, sometimes, another concept of beauty.”

One of the most stunning works is Anne Peabody’s Wheel of Fortune (2010), below, left, a silver toned sculpture inspired by the artist’s memory of the tornado that leveled much of Louisville in 1974. Commissioned by 21c, the louisville peabody wheel of fortunesculpture—a swirling mix of broken eggs, flashlights, dolls’ heads, turkey basters, glass objects, and batteries, all made of wood—form a massive funnel cloud that overlooks the Atrium Gallery. Peabody carved the wooden objects in Wheel of Fortune by hand, inviting other carvers and wood turners to participate. “I wanted to look at the clash between devastation and beauty, and the unexpected consequences of disaster,” the artist is quoted as saying. “While Wheel of Fortune grew out of events in own my life—my house was spared but others were not—I wanted to speak to the experience of anyone touched by the bizarre dislocations of calamity.”

Filling the hotel’s large, lower-level Atrium Gallery is Aftermath: Witnessing War, Countenancing Compassion, a stunning Alice Gray Stites–curated exhibition presenting the work of 25 international artists, each examining the cost and causes of global conflict. “As the ‘war on terror’louisville shonibare witness enters a second decade,” curator Stites writes in her introductory wall text, “the global pervasiveness of violence has engendered the normalization of shock and numb: we are horrified by tragic incidents, yet accustomed to their regularity, and often, blind to their causes and costs.

Above, right: Yinka Shonibare, ‘The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (Europe)’, 2008, Chromogenic photographs, Edition of 5.

Using both factual and fictional sources, the artists that I have chosen from North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa witness the wages of conflict and reveal an unseen spectrum of loss. Whether reporting from the front lines of recent war zones or excavating past conflicts to expose the roots of current conditions, the artworks featured in this exhibition emphasize our basic, at times banal, shared humanity.”

Holding a commanding place among the artists on view is New York based artist Kara Walker’s, A Warm Summer Evening in 1863 (2008), below,  a theatrical room-size woolen tapestry with black hand-louisville walker a-warm-summer-evening-in-1863-1cut silhouettes exposing suppressed histories of racism and sexism, illuminating the legacies of conflict and inequality with which we continue to grapple. Based on an engraving from the 19th-century Harper’s Weekly magazine, it depicts an orphanage for African American children set on fire during Civil War draft riots, in New York City. Overlaid in felt is a silhouette of a young female, hanging from a noose. “The silhouette says a lot with very little information,” Walker states, “but that’s also what the stereotype does….I wanted accessibility, something that was easily read and could operate on some sort of innocuous level to engage people—then I could pull the rug out from under them.”

Equally indicting are two large photographs, titled David 6 (detail, below) and David 12 (2005), taken by Columbian artist Miguel Angel Rojas. Hung high, situated like a Christ figure on the cross in alouisville Miguel Angel Rojas 2 church, so as to look upward at them, are his two Davids. The series, in which the artist transforms contemporary nudes by photographing them in the classical style, are eye-tricking. At first glance, you are shocked at finding large photos of a naked man, in a hotel setting. At second look, after recovering, you see that this handsome young man is missing a leg. The wall text tells you that the naked man is, in fact, a Colombian soldier who lost his leg to a land mine while working in drug enforcement. As the text explains, “it is the consequences of an inadequate educational system that often leaves Columbian youths with two choices: military service and the drug trade.”

Cocktails and Cuisine

If Hotel 21C triggered thoughts of marriage, the Louisville restaurants that I chose to sample – suppers at Proof on Main, Milkwood, English Grill, Seviche, Le Relais, Jack Fry’s, Hillbilly Tea, and a Bloody Mary breakfast at Wild Eggs, brought on reoccurring food orgasms. The city helped spur the famous cocktail movement of the late 1920s. Louisville bars and hotels helped make famous the wildly inventive Mint Julip, Manhattan, and Old Fashioned, created at the city’s member-based, Pendennis Club. Ingenious food combinations, wonderful service, and differing ambiences at each restaurant had me tilting back my head in rapture. And just when I thought it could not get any better, the next restaurant proved me wrong.

Proof on Main at Hotel 21c

My first dining experience was at Proof on Main at Hotel 21c. Dinner was exquisite, thanks to Chef Levon Wallace’s extraordinary creations that the thought of taking all of my meals at Proof crossed louisville proof on mainmy mind. As it happened, I did enjoy two wonderful breakfasts. I highly recommend Proof Benedict, with cornmeal biscuits, poached egg, country ham, red eye hollandaise, and a delicious supper aided and abetted by two cocktails created by the hotel’s innovative bartender, January Miller. Titled, ‘Barely Know Her,’ the drinks had me lingering lovingly in my thoughts. After scanning the restaurant’s décor—colorful photographs of Louisville scenes by Cuban photographer Carlos Gomez de Francisco lined the walls—I struck up a conversation with the couple at the next table, who graciously shared their roasted bone appetizer with me.

So wondrous were my ‘Barely Know Her’ cocktails that I could have had a third – I am still lamenting that I didn’t – but figuring that I would have to make sense when ordering my meal, or more to the point, make it back to my room without falling facedown, I decided to play it safe, so as to wake up ready to roll in the morning. With a pad and pen, as I always do when eating out inlouisvillemproof on main bison burger fine restaurants, I recorded the ingredients, food and drinks, as you will see below, so that I could duplicate the meal at home, as well as pass it on to my fellow gourmands:

‘Barely Know Her’ Cocktail: Cazadores Resposado Tequila, becherovka, aperol. lime, grapefruit simple, and peychard bitters.

Appetizer: Kentucky Trout Tartare with radish, cucumber, cilantro, citrus dunzu. Roasted Bones with pickled farm egg, radish with shorty marmalade and Sri Racha, a hot sauce made from a paste of chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt.  

Entree: Woodland Farm hog chop with rye spaetzel, bread N’ butter, cabbage, smoked onion, green apple.

Side Dish: Weisenberger grits with capriole goat cheese, scallion, olive oil, lemon,

Dessert: vanilla and mint ice cream.

Milkwood Restaurant

louisville milkwood restMilkwood Restaurant is housed on the lower level of Actor’s Theatre of Louisville on Main Street. With low lights, brick walls, country wooden tables, and a well-stocked bar at the entrance – bourbon cocktails are the house specialty – the restaurant, casual in feeling, is pleasingly inexpensive. With Kevin Ashworth and Edward Lee, two chefs whose aim is double your pleasure, nobody walks away unhappy. The menu, a fusion of southern cuisine with Asian flavors, is extremely inventive, with unique offerings, such as ‘Smoke & Pickle,’ a scotch drink with Pernod, brine, mesquite; ‘Dead Mules,’ made with sherry, chartreuse, rhubarb, ginger; fresh grilled pickled strawberries; miso smothered chicken; and brisket & grilled mortadella.

My meal, which loosened both brain and body, was sublime. Starting off with two margaritas, I followed up with a mouth-watering, rock shrimp sausage, a scallop and pork dish, and a dessert that had me reeling:

Appetizer: Rock Shrimp Sausage with Texas toast, red boat aioli, carrot slaw, herb salad.

Entrée: Scallop, Pork Belly with buttermilk curry, cucumber, papaya, black bread.

Dessert: Sorghum & Grits Ice Cream with coconut cake, coffee syrup, croissant, berries.

Lilly’s Bistro

Though I enjoy my caffeine-filled morning breakfasts, leisurely dinners, offering the most ambitious creations, are my true loves. As for lunch, I often skip them in order to maintain mylouisville kathy cary lilly's waistline (and most of you should do so too!). However, thanks to owner and executive chef Kathy Cary, left,  and Chef de Cuisine, David Scales, I did have one heavenly lunch at Lilly’s Bistro, a flora and fauna-bedecked eatery on Bardstown Road.

Below, right: Prince Edward Island mussels, with pancetta, shallots, thyme, garlic and sherry.

I wanted to try everything on their menu. Alas, I managed to pass, just barely, on Lilly’s frites with truffle sea salt and green goddess, as well as their delicious-sounding fried oysters with Weisenberger grits with Tabasco cream, spinach, and crispy leeks. Starting off with ice louisville lilly'stea, I ordered a simple, but glorious, weight-challenging—but well worth every added inch—three course lunch:

Appetizer: Baby Iceberg salad with bacon, blue cheese, red wine vinaigrette.

Entrée: Shallow fried cornmeal crusted Carolina catfish with lemon mashed potatoes, spinach remoulade.

Dessert: Bourbon Pecan Pie with vanilla ice cream.


Seviche, a Latin American restaurant helmed by award-winning chef/owner Anthony Lamas, below, right,  blew me away with its inventive supper menu, , which is what award winning chefs are all about. What louisville seviche-southern-heata find! Again I wanted to try everything on the menu. The drinks! It’s always the drinks first that catch my eye. Like Bachus, on the way to a feast, I flirted with ordering Seviche’s exotic Hooglimoo, shishito pepper infused lemonade, muddled cucumber, beef gin; and ‘Angel’s Envy,’ rye, orgeat; as well as their Noval with ruby port and black walnut bitters. Though remembering my glorious visits to Rio and San Paolo, and wanting to relive this hallucinatory-like experience, I ordered two Caipirinhas, the Brazilian national cocktail.louisville serviche Lamas

The same excitement befell me with the menu’s dizzing array of signature seviches, of which Tuna “Old Fashioned” with bluegrass soy, orange, Kentucky bourbon, pineapple; Crawfish, Jicama, olives, cilantro pesto, sweet peppers; and Pickled Wild Caught Shrimp, with celery, radish, cumin coriander broth, had my mouth watering and brain pondering. Among the many entrees offered, was an intriguing Halibut and Crab “Cigar” with macadamia nut, red chili ginger butter, bluegrass soy. However, bypassing temptation, I managed, with some regret, to turn a blind eye to these sensuous seductions, and instead ordered:

Caipirinhas: made with sugar cane hard liquor, sugar, and lime.

Appetizer: Kentucky Bison Empanadas with avocado jalapeño, pico de gallo.

Seviche: Jumbo Lump Crab with lemon, cilantro, jalapeño.

Salad: Green Chili Caesar, with romaine, pepita, manchego, tortilla crisp.

Entrée: Churrascos de Argentina: skirt steak, chimachurri.

Dessert: The “Avocado” avocado ice cream, dulce de leche, bourbon truffle “pit” chocolate shell, coffee pine nut soil.

Bistro Le Relais

Another surprising Louisville find, situated in the historic airport terminal of Bowman Field, where Charles Lindberg landed the “Spirit of St. Louis” in 1927, is the Bistro Le Relais, where I basked in the restaurant’s intimate, 1940s art-deco interior, reminiscent of the café in the movie louisville bistro-le-relais“Casablanca.” Here I got to tap into my Francophile lusts. The food, by Chef Alexander Dulaney, was exquisitely prepared, as well as beautifully plated, and the service impeccable. In good weather, from the outdoor terrace, patrons are able to watch small planes land in the sunset, an intoxicating experience. The owner, below, right,  Anthony Dike’s friendly table hopping, added a special touch to the evening.

Though the menu was varied, a number of entrées vied for my attention: Truite meunière, rainbow trout with haricot verts, with roasted red potatoes and brown butter; and Cod loin, pistachio encrusted with garlic and basil aioli, served with a salad of mixed greens, avocado, string beans and tomatoes. Among them, I chose a simple fare of escargots, and a delightful bouquet of lamb chops, but not before downing a couple of wondrouslouisville anthony dike Le Champagne Royals, perfectly mixed by Elisabeth Gregg, Les Relais’ beautiful bartenderess. To cleanse my pallet, I turned to slowly melting chocolate sauce, and ordered Profiterolles, one of my all-time favorite guilty pleasures. My dinner included:

Cocktail: Le Champagne Royal. A touch of blackberry liqueur from Lejay-Lagoutr served with Korbel champagne.

Appetizer: Escargots de Bourgogne: Snails in garlic herb butter,

Entrée: Carré d’agneau, lamb chops, rosemary dry rub, sherry jus, spinach, gratin dauphinois.

Dessert: Profiterolles Glacées, cream puffs filled with ice cream, topped with warm dark chocolate sauce

English Grill at the Brown Hotel

One of the most revered restaurants in the city, the English Grill—Forbes Traveler cited it as one of the finest restaurants in the city—is  situated in the historic, 16-story, Brown Hotel in downtown louisville English-Grill-Brown-HotelLouisville. With its oak paneling, stained glass windows, antique brass lighting fixtures, carved columns, equestrian oil paintings and tracery ceilings, the English Grill is a reminder of what downtown Louisville restaurants used to be.

The hotel itself, remodeled a few times since its 1926 opening, features 293 guest rooms and suites. Decorated in English Renaissance style, with ornate hand-painted plaster relief ceilings, intricately carved railings, decorative crown moldings, and a myriad of classic architectural details, the hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places. The lobby, as well as its opulent ballroom alone, with its two-story, columnedLouisville ENGLISH%20GRILL%20CHEFS expanse, warrants a visit.

My dining experience, an early, pre-theatre dinner, shared at a large round table with eleven discerning theatre critics, each ordering a different drink and dish – need I say more – was deftly handled by two (or was it three?) waiters overseen by the maître d’hotel whose job it was to make sure that we all made it to our theatre seats in time. The staffs’ timing was spectacular. Talking about ultra service, the hotel supplied a van – free of charge – which dropped us at the theatre after dinner. Being advised of this treat before we ordered, allowed us all two-hours of delicious, worry-free, feasting.

The menu, which matches the décor of both the restaurant and hotel, embraces classic fare. Executed by Executive Chef Joshua Bettis, and Chef de Cuisine, Ryan O’Driscoll, pictured above right, with the kitchen staff, foie gras, scallops, grilled pork chops, seared salmon, and handmade Gnocchi were among the menu’s offerings. The restaurant’s signature dish is Hot Brown, a roasted turkey breast with toast points covered with mornay sauce, pecorino romano cheese, baked to golden brown, louisville english grilland finished with bacon and tomatoes. Eliciting oohs and aahs from the two critics who ordered it – Hot Brown has been a Louisville tradition since the hotel first opened.  My feasting consisted of:

Cocktails: Two Screwdrivers

Appetizer: Crispy Kentucky Pork Belly with Maker’s Mark, salted caramel-candied apple, Dijon trotter galette, and smoked pancetta,

Entrée: Open Face Wild Mushroom Ravioli with butter braised salsify, pea hearts, tomato confit, parmesan espana, basil dust.

Dessert: Chocolate Striptease: milk chocolate mousse, espresso steam cake, salted caramel (left).

Jack Fry’s

Sporting an excitingly shady past is Jack Fry’s Restaurant, with 22 ‘Best of Louisville’ awards. Established in 1933, Fry, a much beloved and very discreet gambler, bookmaker, bootlegger, louisville Jack-Frys-From-The-Highlands-In-Louisville-Web-Picture-boxing and racing aficionado, conducted business, together with his wife Flossie, in a back room. Now owned by Stephanie J. Meeks, the restaurant remains one of the city’s more popular eateries. Decorated with hundreds of historical photographs, many from the late Fry’s own collection, not one wall remains untouched by history. The restaurant serves Southern American soul food with a slight French twist, created and overseen with great flare by Executive Chef, McClain Brown, and Pastry Chef Robbi Santos.

The menu, geared to the season, changes several times during the year. The one item likely to remain forever on the menu is Fry’s Shrimp & Grits, their long time, signature dish. It was brought to my attention, as a ‘must try’ dish, even before I arrived in Louisville. Whether they keep or drop their other popular seasonal dishes, like their Agnolotti pasta with fava beans, sweet corn, mascarpone, rapini; Spicy Fried Oysters with green onions, grits, country ham, beure blanc; and their crab-encrusted ruby red trout, avocado mousse, sweet corn, rainbow chard, chow chowlouisville jack fry's relish, will depend on the time of your visit.  I intend to sample all of these on my next trip to Louisville, if they are still on the menu.

As it is, I did order:

Cocktail: Old Fashioned, Johnny Drum Bourbon, muddled orange and maraschino cherry, simple syrup, angostura bitters, and a splash of soda.

Appetizer: Escargot, garlic butter, parmigiano-reggiano, croutons.

Entrée: Shrimp & Grits, sautéed shrimp, grits, red eye gravy with shitake mushrooms, tomatoes, and country ham.

Dessert: Vanilla ice cream with pieces of Samoa cookies.

Hillbilly Tea Café

Another favorite place, exciting as hell in a laid back, dress down,  country sort of way, is the Hillbilly Tea Café, a 2-story, eatery with bare wooden tables and floors, and a brunch and dinner menu that would do Dolly Parton proud. Here, tea is served in a Mason jar. Patrons are graced with such down-home, southern country fare as, Jar o’ pickles; beet fritters; hellbelly frog legs; Louisville Hillbilly-Tea-3seared walleye; smoked catfish; grilled rabbit on corn pone, with dill cream sauce, and caramelized carrots; as well as bourbon caramel beef cheeks, with onion pie and charred broccoli. Drinks include, Hooch, a tea infused alcohol, and moonshine white whiskey, both legally distilled on the premises. My dinner, magically helped along by Hillbilly’s uber mixologist, Karter Lewis’ unique cocktails—of which I eagerly sampled two—consisted of:

Cocktails: A Big Early, Big Earl’s Hooch, lemony syrup, and a splash of soda water, and Rev, Mack’s Snake Bite, Kentucky bourbon, hot chai tea, and habanero bitters.

Appetizer: Liver spread on bacon toast with holy basil braised figs.

Entrée: Billy Goat Mussels steeped in Pabst Blue Ribbon, and smoked tea.  

By Edward Rubin, Contributing Editor

Part Two, still in the works, will cover the city’s blossoming museums, the nationally renowned Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Kentucky Derby, available city tours, and the amazing underground zip line (the one that spared my life), all of which make Louisville a go-to destination.

Where to Stay:

Galt House Hotel, 140 N. Fourth Street, Louisville, KY 40202 800-843-4258, 502-589-5200 www.GaltHouse.com

21C Museum Hotel, 700 West Main Street, Louisville, KY 40202 502-217-6300 www.21cMuseumHotels.com

Brown Hotel, 335 West Broadway, Louisville, KY 40202 502-583-1234, 888-888-5252 www.brownhotel.com

Where To Eat:

Rivue Restaurant & Lounge, 502-568-4239, Reservations taken 10AM-3PM – 25th floor at the Galt House Hotel www.Rivue.com

Proof on Main, 702 West Main Street, Louisville, KY 40202 502-217-6360 www.proofonmain.com

Z’s Oyster Bar & Steak House, 111 S. 4th Street, Louisville, KY 40202 502-855-8000 www.zsoyster.com

Jack Fry’s, 1007 Bardstown Road, Louisville, Kentucky 40204 502-452-9244 www.jackfry’s.com

Seviche- A Latin Restaurant, 1538 Bardstown Road Louisville, KY 40205 502-473-8560 www.sevicherestaurant.com

Lilly’s Bistro, 1147 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40204 502-451-0447

Milkwood, 316 W. Main St Lower Level of Actors Theatre 502-584-6455 www.milkwoodlouisville.com

Le Relais, 2817 Taylorsville Road, Louisville, KY 40205 502-451-9020 www.lerelaisrestaurant.com

St. Charles Exchange, 113 South 7th Street, Louisville, KY 40202 502-618-1917 www.stcharlesexchange.com

Hillbilly Tea, 120 S 1st Street, Louisville, KY 40202 502-587-7350 www.hillbillytea.com

Wild Eggs, 121 South Floyd Street, Louisville, KY 40202 502-690-5925 www.wildeggs.com

English Grill-The Brown Hotel, 335 West Broadway, Louisville, KY 40202 Reservations 888-387-0498 www.brownhotel.com/downtown-louisville-restaurants.htm  

What to See:

Kentucky Derby Museum/Churchill Downs 704 Central Avenue, Louisville, KA 40208 502-637-1111 www.derbymuseum.com

Speed Art Museum, 3035 South Third Street, Louisville, KY 40208 502-634-2731     www.speedmuseum.org

Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, 715 West Main Street KY 40202 502-589-0102 www.kentuckyarts.org

Frazier History Museum, 829 W Main Street, Louisville KY 40202 502-753-5663 www.fraziermuseum.org

Muhammad Ali Center, 144 North 6th St, Louisville, Kentucky 40202 502-992-5326 www.alicenter.org

Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory 800 West Main Street, Louisville, KY 40202 877-775-8943` www.sluggermuseum.com

Old Louisville – Conrad Caldwell House, 1402 St James Court, Lousiville, KY 40208 502-636-5023 www.conrad-caldwell.org

Evan Williams Experience, 528 W Main Street, Louisville, KY 40202   Mellwood Arts Center, 1860 Mellwood Avenue, Louisville, KY 40206 502-895-3650 www.mellwoodartcenter.com

City & Surrounding Area Tours

R & R Limousine: http://www.rrlimo.com/packages/kentucky-bourbon-trail

Mint Julep Tours: http://mintjuleptours.com

Gold Shield: www.goldshieldcars.com

Woodford Reserve tour: www.mimtjuleptours.com


Actors Theatre of Louisville, 316 West Main Street, Louisville 40202-4218 502-584-1205   http://actorstheatre.org

Theatre 502, Baron’s Theatre, Whiskey Row Lofts, 132 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202      502-509-1595 www.theatre502.org

MegaZip at Louisville, Mega Cavern, 1841 Taylor Avenue, Louisville, KY 40213 502-855-3581 www.louisvillemegacavern.com

Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau 1-888-LOUISVILLE (1-888-568-4784). www.gotolouisville.com

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