Located within the 21C Museum Hotel, Proof on Main serves rich and sustainable cuisine alongside a menu of more than 50 Kentucky bourbons. The menu is playful while keeping its sophistication, so you'll see items like cotton candy next to yellowfin tuna crudo. A number of small plates options are available like smoked catfish dip, heirloom pumpkin soup, or country ham falafel. During brunch, a selection of favorite dishes are offered - with a twist. Try the French toast casserole with Nutella, hazelnuts, and toasted marshmallow, fried bologna with eggs and cheese, or shrimp and grits with mushrooms, tomatoes, and onions.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: The same creativity from the trendsetting hotel, 21C, can be found throughout the menu at Proof on Main.
Lydia's expert tip: The bison burgers are amazing.
Located in the downtown East Market Street area, Harvest has been hailed as one of the best restaurants in Louisville, thanks to its high-quality, regionally-inspired farm-to-table cuisine. Everything's grown locally, and the seasonal menu will likely be different every time you dine here. They also win bonus points for the fun, but elegant recycled decor that includes: re-purposed church pews, mason jar lamp shades and recycled surfaces from across the city. Appetizers range from items like buttermilk-fried chicken livers and cheese boards, while mains consist of barbecue items, pizza, pasta, and smoked pork chops. Harvest is open for lunch, brunch and dinner.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: With southern comfort food served in a unique setting, Harvest is as local as it gets.
Lydia's expert tip: Be sure to check out their selection of local beers.
With five locations (and growing) throughout Louisville and 20 to 30 flavors, the Comfy Cow is a must for those with a sweet tooth. The ice cream chain uses the freshest ingredients (local whenever possible) and in addition to traditional ice cream, they offer a variety of ice cream pies, frozen, chocolate-dipped bananas and bon-bons. They also let guests build-their-own ice cream sandwiches and sundaes. Try one of their signature flavors - like "cake batter up," "Georgia butter pecan," or the "doctor's cure" – brown butter and Old Forester bourbon ice cream loaded with sugared pecans and swirls of bourbon caramel.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Cute decor (ice cream scoop chandeliers and kitchen utensils on the walls) and amazing ice cream flavors make this a clear favorite.
Amber's expert tip: They ship nationwide, so online shopping is available and they are also open for breakfast!
When the occasion calls for fine dining, The Oakroom guarantees an outstanding menu, exceptional service, and romantic atmosphere. The restaurant is known for its use of Kentucky-grown products and bourbons, adding in punches of European and Asian influence (as well as other American regional ingredients). Notable are dishes like Kentucky beef Wellington and Bluegrass free-range chicken with country ham pesto stuffing. Naturally, there's an exceptional wine list to complement the creative fare. Reservations recommended. The seasonal menu may include items like Cabernet-braised short ribs with black truffle butter and foraged mushrooms, or bacon-wrapped pork loin stuffed with collard greens and bourbon and maple belly confit.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: This upscale restaurant has been honored with the five-diamond award.
Lydia's expert tip: Don't miss their brunch!
Buck's is located in the heart of Old Louisville in the historic Mayflower building and is well known as the place to be for special occasions. Dark, hunter-green walls, white tablecloths, candlelit bars, mix-matched china, and nightly live piano music set the tone. A varied, continental lunch and dinner menu consists of items like pan-seared scallops with sweet corn puree, country-fried quail stuffed with sausage and peppercorn gravy, or spicy Cantonese noodles with stir-fried vegetables and Thai chili sauce. The restaurant straddles the line between upscale casual and classy, so dress up for dinner - but not to the nines.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Perfect for date night or family gatherings, Buck's has a relaxed yet elegant atmosphere and amazing cuisine.
Lydia's expert tip: Buck's is a member of of Urban Bourbon Trail, a collection of legendary bars and distilleries throughout Kentucky.
Established in the early 1930s, this well-regarded restaurant near Cherokee Park is known for first-class cuisine and is open for lunch and dinner. A classic shrimp and grits appetizer is updated with shiitakes and tomatoes, and Medjool dates are wrapped in bacon, stuffed with chorizo and goat cheese, and dressed with tomato sauce. Main-course fare includes an herb-crusted pork chop, beef tournedos, and honey-roasted crimson snapper. Don't leave without trying one of the heavenly desserts made by the outstanding pastry chef. Live jazz is hosted just about every night of the week, so this is a great place to start the evening right.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Jack Fry's has an old-school feel with an amazing menu and wine list.
Lydia's expert tip: It's a smaller venue to get there early to avoid feeling cramped.
If you want affordable and delicious comfort food in Louisville, try to snag a table at Hammerheads. Menu items like crispy mac & cheese balls, smoked cheddar grit cakes, pork belly BLT sandwiches, truffle fries and an amazing bacon brownie have made it a favorite among Louisville locals. Take your pick of burger type: there's chorizo, elk, venison, and traditional angus all served with sun-dried tomato or jalapeno aioli. Tacos, sandwiches, and sliders all have just as many meat choices, and you can have the accompanying fries cooked it duck fat. They do not take reservations, so show up and hope for a seat!
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: For hearty dishes and downright good eats, this is a carnivores dream.
Amber's expert tip: Be aware that they are closed on Sunday.
Even in the trendy entertainment district of Nulu on East Market Street, Mayan Cafe stands out as one of Louisville's best. With a focus on sustainability, the restaurant prepares seasonal menus to reflect the best of what's available, including fresh ceviches and salads. Chef Bruce Ucán brings authentic flavors and traditions he learned in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Open for lunch and dinner, dishes include roasted pork and cheese enchiladas with pumpkin seed sauce, black bean stew with pretzel bread, or oven-roasted rabbit with grilled cactus. Reservations are highly recommended and if you're completely impressed with the food, the chef also offers private cooking lessons.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: This quaint, family-run restaurant uses locally-sourced ingredients in flavorful, creative dishes.
Amber's expert tip: Try the lima beans. They're a house specialty.
The first Havana Rumba opened in 2004 to bring the flavors of Cuba to Louisville. The Cuban-style pulled pork rivals that of any local BBQ joint, and the portions are big and at affordable prices. The service is notoriously awesome as is the menu. Start things off with hot or cold tapas like chicken or ham croquetas topped with pepper sauce, empanada pastries, or ceviche served with plantains. All year long, enjoy live music on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights, or happy hour during the week - which runs until the restaurant closes on Monday and Tuesday. Mojitos, margaritas, sangria, and beer are all discounted.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: This rapidly expanding restaurant serves authentic Cuban cuisine with an unassuming and inviting atmosphere.
Amber's expert tip: Check out the second location in Middletown.