Tickets to Churchill Downs for Thurby, Oaks or Derby? Check. Dress? Check. Hat? Check. Shoes and accessories? Check. This is the April to-do list for Louisvillians, and the list goes on and on (and on!). But if you’re hosting out-of-town guests for the Derby Week festivities, your to-do list grows even longer: a clean house, spruced-up yard, fresh towels, stocked bar (you’re going to need more bourbon), and don’t forget to EAT! From festive dinners and lazy brunches to quick bites and necessary coffee stops, you and your crew will certainly be hitting some hot spots on the Louisville culinary scene.
We’ve rounded up some of our favorite restaurants where your friends can eat like locals this Derby season. You’ll find local dives as well as four-star restaurants, but each and every establishment will be serving Louisville favorites that will give your guests a true taste of Kentucky. Don’t forget to call ahead, try to make a reservation — if there are any tables left! — and remember that every place in town will be crowded. Take a deep breath, have a drink, and make some new friends while you wait for your scrumptious Louisville meal. Happy Derby!
Breakfast, Brunch & Lunch
2339 Frankfort Ave., Louisville, KY 40206 • (502) 384-3027
Hours: Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
It’s tiny and it’s usually packed, but if you can get into Con Huevos, you will leave happy. Creative takes on Mexican brunch standards like huevos rancheros made with local farm-fresh eggs will start your day off right, and tasty tacos make for a perfect lunch.
800 East Market St., Louisville, KY 40202 • (502) 553-0113
2341 Frankfort Ave., Louisville, KY 40206 • (502) 432-8614
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
At some point during the big weekend, you’re going to need a killer cup of coffee and maybe a sweet bite to tide you over until your next meal. Please & Thank You, now on Frankfort Avenue as well as in NuLu, brews strong coffee and is home to “Louisville’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookie,” as well as other tasty bakery bites. If your guests agree with the proclamation (and we have a feeling they will!), the shop sells boxed cookie mix so friends can make a batch when they return home.
1416 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40204 • (502) 365-3900
111 St. Matthews Ave., Louisville, KY 40207 • (502) 883-0203
Hours: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Highland Morning has collected a devoted following of brunchers at their Bardstown Road location, and now a new location in the heart of St. Matthews allows for even more patrons to enjoy a true Southern brunch experience. Rehash memories of the night before over Bloody Marys, and plan your next day of Derby Week fun over the delicious Baja Benedict — isn’t this what a laid-back brunch is all about?
1702 Bardstown Rd., Louisville, KY 40205 • (502) 409-8103
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Dinner Thursday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
For an epic breakfast or lunch experience that your friends won’t soon forget, head to the new home of the Super Chef himself, Darnell Ferguson. Reopened in the Highlands after a tragic fire destroyed his St. Matthews restaurant, SuperChefs still serves up the gargantuan plates of Reese’s Cup pancakes, Cinnamon Toast Crunch waffles and banana pudding granola encrusted French toast for breakfast. Lunch offers burgers, seafood, soups and salads, and take note that SuperChefs is now open for dinner from Thursday through Saturday. We dare you to read the dinner menu and not drool; meatloaf, ribs, shrimp gumbo and fried chicken are all served with passion and creativity – come with an empty stomach!
712 Brent St., Louisville, KY 40204 • (502) 589-9191
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Tucked off the beaten path near Louisville Stoneware & Co. (and a perfect spot to eat after shopping at the legendary pottery store), The Café would be a great lunch spot if you’re looking for something casual in between downtown and the Highlands. Menu items include Southern lunch staples such as pimento cheese and chicken salad, and the outdoor patio is charming on a pleasant day. (Fingers crossed for great spring weather during Derby Week!)
901 Barret Ave., Louisville, KY 40204 • (502) 581-8561
Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (no table service; coffee and pastries only)
This quiet cafe serves up terrific pastries and pies – artfully displayed on Louisville Stoneware tableware – and a great cup of coffee. If you have time to linger, lunch starts at 11 a.m. and the healthy, homemade sandwiches, soups and salads are a delight. SB Tip: Try the hippie bowl for one of the best vegetarian options in town. Be sure to check out their sister locations – Wiltshire at the Speed Museum and Wiltshire on Market for dinner – if you’re in those neighborhoods.
2868 Frankfort Ave., Louisville, KY 40206 • (502) 899-9800
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, Bakery 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Brunch 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.; Lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
A favorite bakery and lunch spot along Frankfort Avenue, Blue Dog makes you feel like you’re in a Parisian cafe, casually lingering over a tasty lunch while chatting with fellow diners and passersby. Their house-made bread and baguettes, which you’ll find in eateries and groceries all around town, make delicious sandwiches and accompaniments to salads and soups. If you don’t have time to sit down for lunch, get some pastries and coffee to go.
Dinner (and Great Lunches Too!)
1007 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40207 • (502) 452-9244
Hours: Lunch Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Dinner Monday through Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
What roundup of Louisville restaurants is complete without a mention of this venerated establishment, hidden in a bland white building along a busy section of Bardstown Road? Once you enter the restaurant, however, your guests will immediately know why you worked so hard to get a reservation – live jazz (always a pianist), the cozy dining room, dark walls cluttered with black and white photos, and some of the best meals and drinks in town make Jack Fry’s a winning ticket anytime, but especially during Derby Week.
Finn’s Southern Kitchen
1318 McHenry St., Louisville, KY 40217 • (502) 708-2984
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Finn’s is new on the trendy Germantown scene, but its combination of great Southern comfort food, tasty beers and cocktails, and comfortable dining — either indoors or out — makes for a relaxed eating experience that your friends will love. Attached to the old Germantown Mills, a 19th century cotton mill turned into modern lofts, the dining room reflects the art deco design of the mill’s original offices, and there is plenty of room for laughs and lingering on the large patio outside.
702 W. Main St., Louisville, KY 40202 • (502) 217-6360
Hours: Dining room and bar hours vary; Call ahead for Derby Week hours.
As 21c Museum hotels and restaurants keep expanding (now in six cities and coming soon to Nashville and Kansas City), the original Louisville restaurant and bar remain a benchmark for its innovative Southern farm-to-table menu. If you’re looking for a mixologist to make you a cocktail worth writing home about, look no further. The mix of fine dining, high art, and local food will be a highlight of your guests’ visit to Louisville.
1314 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40204 • (502) 498-8420
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m to 12 a.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
The Eagle, formerly El Camino but completely renovated beyond all recognition, boasts one of the great patios in the city. If it’s a beautiful night, bring your crew to hang out near the fire pits outside or enjoy dining indoors with the large windows flung open; either way, you are guaranteed great people-watching on Bardstown Road. Choose one of the many craft beers, order tasty Southern sides or apps, and let your guests eat some legit Kentucky fried chicken.
624 E. Market St., Louisville, KY 40202 • (502) 384-9090
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Another home run restaurant in NuLu, Harvest sources most ingredients from within a 100-mile radius, so you know your guests will be eating fresh. Southern comfort food reigns on this menu, so be ready for grits, greens, and our favorite appetizer, bourbon queso made with local cheese and “Old Fo” (the locals’ nickname for Old Forester, what some call Louisville’s house bourbon).
700 E. Market St., Louisville, KY 40202 • (502) 749-7100
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
It’s hard to miss Garage Bar in NuLu – you’ll see a hip crowd playing ping pong in the courtyard and you can’t miss the crashing cars out front. But this old service station-turned-eatery isn’t just a gimmick; the food and drinks are delicious. Brick oven pizzas will serve a hungry crowd, and where else will you find a country ham and cheese bar? Garage Bar is a great choice for a fun crowd.
1147 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40204 • (502) 451-0447
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Another classic Louisville dinner destination, Lilly’s Bistro offers ever-changing menus based on the freshest local product available. Seven-time James Beard nominee chef Kathy Cary founded Lilly’s in 1988 — before the rest of us had heard the phrases “farm to table” or “slow food” — and the food and drink offerings are as fresh as ever.
1076 East Washington St., Louisville, KY 40206 • (502) 742-8315
Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Inspired, upscale food served in a former grocery store within Butchertown, Louisville’s up-and-coming neighborhood that until recently was more infamous for its meat market smell than famous for its fine eating establishments, has made Butchertown Grocery a new culinary destination in town. Call for reservations if you’re looking for an interesting meal or cocktail during Derby Week. Chef Bobby Benjamin calls the shots in the restaurant, and upstairs at the cozy bar Lola, you can relax, enjoy live music, and chat about the horses you’ll be betting.
1761 Frankfort Ave., Louisville, KY 40206 • (502) 259-9540
Hours: Monday through Friday, 5 p.m. to 12 a.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Honky tonk music and Southern fare like brisket, oysters and fried catfish served in an old firehouse – if you’re lucky, with the big doors open to Frankfort Avenue – make for a relaxed, fun environment for your Derby guests. If they are bourbon lovers, the extensive liquor menu will entice. If you don’t get your fill of mint juleps at the track, try its cousin the Kentucky mule – served like a snow cone in a julep cup.
1034 Bardstown Rd., Louisville, KY 40204 • (502) 459-9939
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Friday, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturday, 12 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.
1001 Baxter Ave., Louisville, KY 40204 • (502) 454-7075
Hours: Open every day, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Holy Grale and Gralehaus share more than just the coveted outdoor biergarten that connects the church and Victorian home, both built in 1905. Both establishments serve drool-worthy food and a seemingly endless supply of draft beer. You won’t find bourbon (even during Derby Week) or sodas, and you can’t bring the kids, but if you’re a fan of tasty food and beers from around the world, you’ve found the right place. Gralehaus is Louisville’s first and only “bed and beverage,” but with only three boutique hotel rooms, all bets are off that there is still an opening for the first week of May.
Near the Track
3113 South Fourth St., Louisville, KY 40214 • (502) 375-3800
Derby Week Hours: Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Friday and Saturday (Oaks and Derby Day), 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Perhaps the most famous dive in town, Wagner’s Pharmacy has been a popular hangout for jockeys and trainers – and now, tourists and track goers – since it opened across the street from Churchill Downs in 1922. Expect greasy diner food as well as racing memorabilia and lots of track stories served up by the people who work and eat there every day of the year, not just the first Saturday in May.
Sante Fe Grill
3000 S. Third St., Louisville, KY 40208 • (502) 634-3722
Hours: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Call for Derby Week hours.
Locals love the inexpensive and authentic Mexican fare at Sante Fe Grill, conveniently located about one block away from the track. You’ll get above average tacos for a below average price, but this little joint doesn’t have a liquor license, so keep that in mind if you’re craving a margarita to balance out all the bourbon you’ve had through Derby Week.
5339 Mitscher Ave., Louisville, KY 40214 • (502) 363-7535
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Closed on Wednesday
We wouldn’t call Vietnam Kitchen one of Louisville’s best kept secrets (because everyone raves about it), but we would say this restaurant is under the radar. Perhaps because of its location – tucked in the nondescript Iroquois Manor shopping center, about two miles south from Churchill Downs down Southern Parkway – Vietnam Kitchen doesn’t always make the “must-visit” list when friends are in town. But since you’re already in the neighborhood, check it out and leave happy; the Vietnamese dishes are delicious.
Eat, drink and be merry in Louisville with guests during Derby Week!
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