Louisville is well known for its long list of eclectic restaurants and eateries, serving everything from bourbon-inspired cuisine to authentic Mayan and Cuban fare. To help you narrow down your choices, US News researched dozens of review sites, including restaurant, dining and travel industry review sites, to bring you the best restaurants in this top Kentucky destination. Fill up your belly at one of these award-winning eateries, then work off the calories by exploring Louisville’s top attractions.
(Note: Some of the following restaurants may be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. New policies may be in place, including requirements for proof of vaccination, capacity restrictions, reservation requirements or mask mandates. Check the establishment’s website before your visit.)
What food is Louisville known for?
(Courtesy of Mayan Cafe)
From bourbon-infused cuisine to classic mint juleps – the official drink of the Kentucky Derby – bourbon is at the heart of Louisville’s dining scene. In fact, Kentucky produces 95% of the world’s bourbon supply, so it comes as no surprise that this libation has become an integral part of the city’s character. But there is more to Louisville than just bourbon: Barbecue is also a staple in the “Derby City,” and it wouldn’t be a trip to Louisville without trying the famous Hot Brown, an open-faced turkey and bacon sandwich smothered in mornay sauce. This foodie destination is also acclaimed for its Cuban and Southern-style fare.
The Best Restaurants in Louisville
- Feast BBQ
- Mayan Cafe
- Mima’s Bodeguita
- Proof on Main
- Mussel & Burger Bar
- Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse
- Lobby Bar and Grill at The Brown Hotel
- Jack Fry’s
- Taco Luchador Taqueria
- Havana Rumba & Tapas Bar
Visitors to Louisville would be handed over to skip out on NuLu’s top-notch dining scene. Also known as the East Market District, this hip neighborhood near downtown Louisville boasts art galleries, vintage stores, distilleries and a number of award-winning restaurants.
(Courtesy of Feast BBQ)
For classic comfort food, head to Louisville’s iconic Feast BBQ. This casual Southern-style eatery is a great place to relax with loved ones while dining on a variety of smoked meats and barbecue favorites like coleslaw and baked beans. The restaurant also offers family meals, which can feed up to six people and include your choice of meat, sides and bread. Start off with a plate of fried pickles or mac and cheese balls, then chow down on tasty brisket tacos with a side of collard greens. The pulled pork sandwich comes highly recommended by guests, and customers agree that you can’t leave without trying one of the establishment’s famous bourbon slushies.
From the moment you step inside this 1950s-inspired Cuban eatery, you’ll understand why travelers can’t seem to get enough. Sit in the dining room, where vintage light fixtures hang from the ceiling and red vinyl seating complements dark wood furniture, or opt instead for a table on the leafy outdoor patio. Boasting a cigar lounge, rum bar and live music, La Bodeguita de Mima is an homage to the matriarch of the family who runs this restaurant, brought to life by owners Fernando and Yaniel Martinez’s love of family and food.
Recent guests raved about the inviting atmosphere, friendly service and authentic Cuban cuisine, which ranges from traditional rice dishes to seafood to classic Cubano sandwiches. No matter which entree you select, travelers suggest pairing it with one of the establishment’s delicious signature mojitos. And don’t forget to save room for dessert: Past visitors raved over the habano de chocolate, a chocolate cigar made of almond cake and Nutella mousse and served with coffee ice cream.
(Courtesy of Mayan Cafe)
Using fresh, local ingredients sourced from sustainable farms, NuLu’s Mayan Café is a Louisville staple. In addition to the standard menu, which offers Mayan-inspired fare like papadzules and salbutes, the restaurant debuts themed menus every month that highlight in-season specialties from nearby Kentucky farms. Enjoy your meal inside or on Mayan Café’s heated outdoor patio, but be warned: Travelers say the restaurant fills up quickly, so make a reservation ahead of time if you want to ensure a table.
Past guests were blown away by the welcoming staff and said that every detail of their meal, from the robust flavors to the beautiful presentation, was exceptional. The tok-sel lima beans, in particular, have captured the hearts of many patrons; the restaurant has even posted the coveted recipe online in response to the massive following it has garnered. Pair them with one of the restaurant’s blood orange margaritas, then indulge your sweet tooth with lavender flan or decadent tres leches cake.
In addition to must-see Louisville attractions such as the Louisville Slugger Museum, Muhammad Ali Center and Frazier History Museum, the city’s bustling downtown area features an array of exceptional dining options that appeal to all kinds of travelers. From delectable seafood to fresh farm-to-table cuisine, downtown Louisville has everything you need for a food-centric getaway.
Proof on Main
Located in downtown Louisville’s 21c Museum Hotel, Proof on Main is an American restaurant that is perfect for foodies and art aficionados. Rotating contemporary art exhibitions mean the decor is always fresh and exciting, and the tasty Tuscan-influenced menu wows travelers with its unique flavors and beautiful presentation. Past guests recommend ordering the charred octopus at brunch or the cast-iron skillet cornbread with dinner. The restaurant also offers a wide selection of Kentucky bourbons, making it a can’t-miss stop on the Urban Bourbon Trail – a curated selection of bars and restaurants highlighting Louisville’s best bourbons and bourbon-infused cuisine.
Lobby Bar and Grill at The Brown Hotel
(Christ Witzke/Courtesy of The Brown Hotel)
Travelers agree that the Lobby Bar and Grill at The Brown Hotel – one of the top hotels in Louisville – is a can’t-miss stop on any Louisville itinerary. Although the restaurant serves a variety of mouthwatering entrees ranging from shrimp and grits to pan-seared scallops, the Lobby Bar is best known for its namesake Hot Brown sandwich, which was invented at the hotel in 1926 and remains a culinary staple in Louisville. Round out your meal with a side of bourbon barrel fries, then satisfy your sweet tooth with a traditional Derby pie, made with walnuts and chocolate chips. Keep in mind that the Lobby Bar switches to its limited late-night menu starting at 9 pm
Mussel & Burger Bar
At this iconic Louisville haunt, the name says it all. Satisfy your seafood cravings at Mussel & Burger Bar with a plate of the restaurant’s Korean-style curry cream mussels, or opt instead for a plate of the mussels basquaise mussels, which feature Spanish chorizo and piquillo peppers. Past guests particularly raved over the restaurant’s broad and unique burger selection, which includes specialties like a Mediterranean burger, an Argentinian burger, a Mexican burger and much more. Meanwhile, those of legal drinking age can explore Mussel & Burger Bar’s extensive drink menu, which includes a collection of red and white wines, several local brews, a cocktail list and a robust variety of bourbons. In addition to its convenient downtown location on Seventh Street, Mussel & Burger Bar also has a second Louisville location on Taylorsville Road.
Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse
The award-winning Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse is without a doubt one of Louisville’s most elegant establishments, but be warned: A dinner here won’t come cheap. However, those willing to shell out some coin will be treated to an upscale evening filled with impeccable service, live entertainment and decadent Kentucky-inspired cuisine. Guests can savor a classic New York strip steak or indulge in a Japanese wagyu filet, the rarest type of beef in the world. Meanwhile, seafood lovers will be overjoyed with the restaurant’s sushi bar menu, which features specialties like the Hemingway Roll and the Ruby Roll, both made with tempura lobster.
Recent guests were awed by the restaurant’s perfectly cooked entrees and recommend pairing your meal with a side of the famous Jeff Ruby’s macaroni and cheese. For travelers who would rather dine at home, the restaurant offers to-go meal kits with all the ingredients and instructions you need to cook your meal to perfection. Whether you’re planning a sophisticated private event or a romantic evening for two, Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse has everything you need for a memorable dining experience.
This eclectic neighborhood is one of Louisville’s most popular destinations for foodies. Often dubbed “Restaurant Row” for its high density of local bars and eateries (the majority of which can be found along Bardstown Road), the Highlands area draws travelers seeking a one-of-a-kind dining experience.
(Courtesy of Jack Fry’s)
Opened in 1933 by Louisville resident Jack Fry and originally billed as a casual sportsman’s hangout, this historic establishment is now one of Kentucky’s most celebrated fine dining restaurants. At Jack Fry’s, live jazz music plays in the evenings and original photographs adorn the walls. Take a look at the menu, where you’ll find traditional Southern-style cuisine met by French influences, resulting in signature dishes such as the chicken saltimbocca, lamb chops and ricotta dumplings. There are several vegetarian and gluten-free appetizers and salads, but the entrees are largely oriented toward meat eaters, so research the menu ahead of time if you have food restrictions. Although many past travelers loved the restaurant’s lively ambiance, some warned it could get quite loud at times.
Taco Luchador Taqueria
One of four locations in Louisville, the original Taco Luchador Taquería serves street-style Mexican fare in a casual, fun atmosphere. Dine on house-made dips and salsas, then pick from a wide variety of tacos, ranging from traditional barbacoa to baja fish to suadero (brisket). Or, opt for one of the restaurant’s tortas, which include classic asada, carnitas and more. Recent travelers agree that the elote callejero (corn on the cob) and maduros (fried plantains) are superb, and recommend getting a margarita pitcher to share with the table.
Havana Rumba & Tapas Bar
Travelers love Havana Rumba & Tapas Bar for its delicious Cuban cuisine, moderate prices and generous portions. Located along Bardstown Road, this popular Highlands restaurant is perfect for dinners with friends or fun date nights with your beau. Enjoy live music every night of the week while you dine on tapas and popular dishes like the Cubano sandwich; if you arrive on a Wednesday night, you can enjoy half-off drink specials, which include traveler favorites like mojitos and margaritas. For dessert, try the famous Tia’s flan or Cuban-style chocolate cake, then treat yourself to a flavorful Cuban coffee.
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