On a recent and all-too-brief visit to Louisville, Kentucky, to tour the Maker’s Mark distillery and try their brand-new restaurant, Star Hill Provisions, I got a tiny taste of bourbon country. Now I can’t wait to go back. Chef Newman Miller, a Kentucky native who returned to his home state to launch the distillery’s first restaurant, and Jeremy Johnson, owner of the fabulous downtown cocktail bar Meta, have both shared their favorite restaurants and bars with us (and I’ve thrown in a couple of suggestions, as well) for an insider’s guide. Here, your guide to an excellent stay in Louisville.
“This is the best beer bar in the country; far above average,” says Miller. “The executive chef’s, Joshua Lehman, specials are what I’d recommend ordering every time.” Johnson echoes that sentiment: “It has Louisville’s best rare beer selection as well as a killer food program. Also check out sister restaurant Gralehaus for brunch and The Louisville Beer store for hard-to-find beers to go.”
“Just incredible high-end goodness,” raves Johnson. “Sourced locally when possible, but also with some stunning overnighted seafood options, this place is my go-to upscale joint. Everything is available in small, medium, or large portions, but trust me: Don’t go bigger than medium, and order as many options as possible!”
Miller and Johnson both love this place. Miller goes for the K8. “Hủ tiếu Saté extra spicy with pork and the A28. Turnip cake is my go-to order.”
“Over the Big Four walking bridge in Jeffersonville, Portage House is great comfort food, in a beautiful setting without pretension,” says Johnson. “Great chefs, great bartenders.”
“This is a liquor store/old-school deli, and the thing to get is a Country Ham Sandwich with Father’s Country Ham on white with Colby cheese, mayo, and mustard,” says Miller. “Their white beans are also really good. It’s a great neighborhood spot.”
Red Hog and Blue Dog
“Both located on historic Frankfort Avenue, Blue Dog (lunch/bakery) and Red Hog (dinner/butcher) offer fantastic European-inspired food which is both meticulously assembled, as well as locally baked and raised,” says Johnson. “Always an excellent choice.”
Proof on Main
This restaurant is located at the gorgeous 21C Museum Hotel. “Proof on Main is my go-to for a fantastic craft cocktail but also has one of Louisville’s most thoughtful wine lists by the glass, as well as a fantastic bar food menu that serves late if you get hungry.”
“This is easily my favorite dive-y, Cheers-type bar,” says Johnson. “I guess I would categorize them as Nu-Dive. They have a solid beer list, but also stock some bartender/foodie staples like Fernet, Cynar and Campari, which are great for late-night casual shots.”
Johnson’s own bar is a can’t-miss spot, housed in a former camera store that became a strip club and now offers a superb array of cocktails. The laid-back vibe was the perfect place for me to sip some tequila to refresh after a long, bourbon-filled dinner.
Haymarket Whiskey Bar
For an absolutely insane bourbon and whiskey list, hit up Haymarket. If you ask nicely, they might even make you a cocktail.