We are in Louisville at least once a year—and every time I am here I love it more than before. Honestly if I could have a second home it would be here in a city that some refer to as either “ the northernmost Southern city or the southernmost Northern city”. Whatever you call it, Louisville (pronounced LOO-A-VUL) has my heart and every time we visit we fall more in love with old favorites while discovering new places in this expanding and developing city. In this post I share some of my favorite spots but I decided to leave all distilleries/liquor items for my next post on the bourbon trail.
THE BROWN HOTEL
This is where we stay when we’re in Louisville—some of the staff know us now (LOL), that’s how much we love and visit The Brown Hotel. This historic hotel conveniently set in the middle of downtown Louisville was built in 1923 and still possesses the charm of the 20s and 30s. Although the hotel is known for the Hot Brown (basically a hangover dish comprised of an open-faced turkey sandwich smothered in cheese), don’t let that get in the way of the excellent service (I’ve noticed drastic improvements over the years), and seasonal bourbon cocktails at their tiny but lively bar. With excellent, well-kept rooms and prompt room service, I think the only thing that could make The Brown better is adding a few more items to the bar menu and maybe instead of live piano in the evenings, mix it up with a live jazz band…it’s the place it perfect for it. *335 W Broadway, Louisville, KY 40202
THE MAYAN CAFÉ
My husband and I documented The Mayan Café for the Southern Foodways Alliance oral history project and since then we have been regular customers every time we are in town. Using fresh seasonal Kentucky ingredients to showcase food from his hometown of Yucatecan, chef Bruce Ucán’s welcoming personality is evident in every dish at this restaurant. Consistently strong service, food and drinks. *813 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40206
Our friend Eloisa of Liberita Collective told me about this space off the popular Market Street (thank you Eloisa!). Mahonia, a floral and design shop that focuses on terrariums, air plants and has a color/design theme that reflects their hanging creations is about five months old. You can make your own air plant arrangements, have their talented staff make arrangements for you (flowers are available too) or order larger custom arrangements for special events. Their vases and containers are thoughtful, modern and unlike anything in your local flower shop. *806 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40206
I’ve been fan of Louisville chef Edward Lee since I heard his incredible talk at last year’s Southern Foodways Symposium (note: this is “definitely not” due to the fact that we bonded while sharing a shot of liquid courage right before his talk). His take on Korean-American-Southern food in addition to his humble and friendly personality makes everything special. His book Smoke and Pickles is the closest thing to experiencing his flavors if you can’t make it to Lousiville. For the past few years we have been trying to make it to his popular 610 Magnolia restaurant only to learn that it is never open the days we are in town.
Lee’s latest venture is Milkwood, his downtown and underground restaurant diving deeper into the Asian-Southern hybrid. Think modern Deviled Eggs, Pimento cheese with local Paddlefish caviar, Kimchi-tempura fries and special menus paired with seasonal beers. It’s fun, creative, and casual but also filled with Lee’s attention to blending. *316 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202
I’ve talked about this tea-centric restaurant, Hillbilly Tea a few years ago and we have been trying to go back but the past two years it hasn’t worked out since they were in the process of moving. Finally, we saw that they opened just a block away on Main Street in a prime location on what will be known as “Whiskey Row” in the years to come. Nothing has changed with the move except that the space is much bigger and most of the dining is now on the main floor. So happy to have them back! *106 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202
DOWN ONE BOURBON BAR
While waiting for Milkwood to open we went across this street to Down One Bourbon Bar. We were not expecting that much but were pleasantly surprised by this Cheers-meets-lots-of-bourbon bar. This underground bar with a half stained glass window means your only view is of people’s feet busily walking by outside or checking out their pretty epic bourbon selection with multiple flight options. They also have a number of beer + shot combinations as well. *321 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202
21C MUSEUM GALLERY
In past posts about Louisville I’ve shared our love of Proof on Main, a great seasonal restaurant off Main Street that also has a rotating art collection courtesy of 21C gallery. However I failed to mention the actual gallery which is a fun and lively place with monthly exhibitions but also has permanent pieces that are woven into the building (see outside smoke installation, interactive bathroom pieces and works of art that adorn the exterior of the building). You don’t have to be an art connoisseur to enjoy and appreciate what the space has to offer. *700 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202