Bourbon, barbecue, and hot browns— Louisville, Kentucky , has much more than just horse racing to celebrate, as its food scene is home to some of the region's favorite dishes. If you go, be sure to try the Hot Brown , a Louisville-born feat of pure sandwich genius that combines roasted turkey, crispy bacon, creamy mornay sauce, and juicy tomatoes, all piled on Texas toast.
This city has something for everyone, from neighborhood bistros and barbecue joints to whiskey bars and upscale dining. Enjoy iconic dishes, locally sourced food, and international flavor. Whether you are an early riser looking for a freshly roasted cup of coffee or want to end a great night with a dessert and a classic tasting of Kentucky bourbon, Louisville's thriving dining scene has you covered. Whether you're visiting for the Kentucky Derby or are just enjoying a weekend away, here are 29 great places to eat in the Derby City.
Where to Eat Breakfast
You smell the bread before you even walk in the door of this friendly neighborhood bistro. Try the poached free-range eggs on grilled Levain with heritage ham for a proper breakfast treat. Levain, their perfectly textured sourdough, is also available in a cranberry walnut option on Saturdays.
Get here early for the made-from-scratch buttermilk biscuits served with apple butter. Stick around to peruse the shop's collection of locally sourced bread, wines, and elegant Kentucky bourbon.
An institution since the '90s, Heine Brothers' Coffee boasts 18 locations in the Louisville area, touting fair trade, organically grown beans. The owners take pride in their essential blends, lattes, and cappuccinos. Unique drinks include the Beekeeper, which adds local honey and cinnamon into a latte, and the Iceberg, a coffee-milkshake combination.
Walk over to Wagner's Pharmacy, where horse trainers and jockeys eat. The drugstore and diner has been in business since 1922 and also features a tack shop. Order a fried egg sandwich to chow down on while perusing the many photos of famous horses and jockeys hung on the walls.
For the ultimate breakfast, brunch, and lunch location, check out Wild Eggs. In addition to award-winning and best-voted egg dishes, the House-Made Cinnamon Roll made in a cast-iron skillet is breakfast perfection. Try the Carolina Casserole for an all-in-one meal of home fries, ham, bacon, peppers, and cheese.
Whether you are craving a sweet start to the day or would prefer to keep it savory, you’ll find something to bless your morning at Porch Kitchen & Bar. Try the healthy Quinoa Veggie Scramble or Loaded Breakfast Nachos, topped with bacon, scrambled eggs, sausage, and traditional nacho fixings. Can't make it by until later in the day? Porch serves lunch and dinner, too.
Where to Eat Lunch
A culinary delight, Kaelin's claims to have invented the cheeseburger. Enjoy the smaller, single version or the full-size cheeseburger with fries and slaw. There are plenty of options for dessert ranging from milkshakes to NY cheesecake.
Come in for a sandwich platter and choose from pulled pork, brisket, or smoked bologna for instant Southern barbecue satisfaction. Sample the famous Brown Sugar Wings, which are slow-cooked to perfection and require three-hour lead times for orders of 30 or more. Barnyard specials like The Holy Cow with sliced beef brisket, caramelized onions, cheddar cheese, thousand island, and pickles served on Texas toast also make great lunches,
If it's a casual lunch you have in mind, check out this terrific restaurant in The Brown Hotel: J. Graham's, home of the Hot Brown. Never had one? You must. It's toast, turkey, cheesy mornay sauce, and bacon, all cooked together for one unbelievably melty sandwich.
Enjoy an upscale version of your classic pub favorites at Mussel & Burger Bar. This hybrid fancy and casual restaurant serves unique dishes alongside local beers. Beef, ground in-house daily, is used for all burgers and locally-made artisan bread accompanies the mussels.
You can experience new lunch entrees daily since their specials rotate. Select from dishes like shawarma, chicken tikka masala, and lamb biryani. Looking to cut back on meat or eating a plant-based diet? Choose from grape leaves, hummus, falafel, mutabal, rice, tabbouleh, mujadara, and a spinach pie to create a four-dish vegetarian platter.
Tacos, tortas, and house-made salsa is this restaurant's version of a Triple Crown. Besides freshly made guacamole and queso, try the sweet potato fries, maduros (fried plantains), mole fries, or elote to accompany your tacos.
The signature Peruvian chicken at Yummy Pollo is slowly roasted over a pit of charcoal. Choose from a wide array of sides including chicken fried rice, green beans, and chickpeas, then add dessert to finish your meal.
Along with slow-cooked, smoked meats, diners at Feast BBQ will find from-scratch sides like collard greens and tater tots. Order Pork Cakes and Mac and Cheese balls for the table. With vegetarian, soy-free, and gluten-free options, everyone can agree on this eatery that serves everything from pulled pork, chopped chicken, and brisket to crispy, smoked tofu.
Where to Eat Dinner
Chef and owner Edward Lee's emphasis at 610 Magnolia is on making sure his dishes are natural, regional, fresh, and diverse. Southern dishes get a modern twist with a weekly tasting menu that may feature chanterelle hummus and trout roe to start, a duck breast or ribeye main course, and a fig tart for a sweet finish.
Enjoy rotating seasonal craft cocktails alongside daily specials. Staff includes Certified Bourbon Stewards who can recommend the best Kentucky bourbon to fit your taste. The Bristol Burger features dry-aged Kentucky Proud Berry Beef for full, beefy flavor.
Established in 1992, Buck's is a fine-dining experience that's perfect for special occasions. The restaurant's unique "moon garden" decor uses white flowers, dark green walls, and twinkling candles to set an elegant tone.
425 W. Ormsby Avenue; buckslou.com .
Make an adventure out of mealtime by touring the Copper & Kings American Brandy Company. Authentic to its name, Copper & Kings distills its brandy in American copper pot stills and matures it in bourbon barrels. The Rooftop Bar & Restaurant has small plates and dishes to complement your beverage choice perfectly.
Settle in for a dynamic tasting experience at this casual downtown whiskey bar. Start with the Masa Fried Cheese Curds served with ranch dressing. Choose from pork, chicken, beef, or seafood open-faced tacos, and add a side of beer-stewed borracho beans.
A Louisville favorite, this venerable spot offers more than 75 varieties of bourbon, a wide-ranging wine list, and uses the finest regional produce in its fabulous cuisine.
Start your meal with a bowl of gumbo, jambalaya, or red beans and rice. Another popular dish here is Drunken Chicken: shredded chicken marinated in Cajun spices, stewed tomatoes, and beer. This comfortable spot filled with beads, lively Cajun music, and warm service will make you think you've stumbled into a family-friendly Mardi Gras parade.
Jack Fry's is a nostalgic fine-dining restaurant that retains its 1930s charm with spacious booths and its original bar. The famous Jack's Burger features a local, dry-aged burger on a brioche bun with caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, a choice of cheese, and fries on the side—the onions make the difference. Order the Creme Caramel for dessert.
Find authentic Cuban food in the heart of Louisville. Traditional Cuban rice dishes, including Arroz con Pollo a la Chorrera and Arroz Imperial, are highlights on the authentic menu. You can also find seafood served with yellow rice and plantains.
A gorgeous bar impeccably stocked with California wines adds to the Napa theme at Napa River Grill. Begin your meal with Ahi Tuna Crudo, and then try the Seared Salmon with ratatouille or Bucatini Nero with sauteed shrimp. End a great meal with the Bourbon Creme Brulee, a late harvest wine, a pot of French press coffee, or, better yet, all three.
Where to Eat Dessert
Founded in Louisville, this award-winning ice cream shop offers authentic flavors and sticks to its Southern roots. Ice cream, smoothies, cookies, and even dog treats are made using locally sourced ingredients. Try the award-winning Bourbon Ball featuring Old Forester ice cream, bourbon ball candy pieces that are made in-house, and chocolate chips, or the Brown Butter Peanut Brittle, which includes brown butter ice cream, peanut brittle pieces, and sea salt.
This ice cream parlor has standard favorites like chocolate and vanilla, but don’t miss innovative flavors like Bourbon Smoked Pecan and Lavender Vanilla Honey. Try the homemade torched marshmallow atop the small-batch ice creams, floats, milkshakes, and sundaes.
Enjoy old-fashioned pie or specialty baked goods, including buckeyes and layer cakes. All the cakes are made from scratch. Choose from seasonal ice cream flavors to customize favorite ice cream treats like milkshakes, sundaes, or cones.
Stop by Proof on Main for a dessert and cocktail pairing. This restaurant, open for brunch and dinner, features contemporary art on-site that rotates regularly so each experience can be new. Try the sorbet tastings paired with a curated dessert wine.
Want to feel a little healthier about your choice of dessert? This raw, vegan, and organic dessert shop has a variety of sweets to meet your needs. Peruse the chalkboard menu of house specials or try a signature cake or pie.