Eating like a local:- Louisville: Better Than Ever
Regional food specialties
Regional food specialties
I had a chance to make some money down in Louisville this past September. We had the opportunity to vend at a couple of sold out music shows and decided to make a little vacation of it while earning some cash. We would end up driving down one weekend and working the fest and then leaving everything we brought down there and returning the following wkd for another show. It worked out quite well. Not just the logistics but the time spent in Louisville which remains one of my favorite little cities in the country. To me it's the start of the South. That said there's tons of Northerners who've made it their home. Folks from Chicago, Indianapolis etc. So it's got a really nice vibe from both the people and also it's surroundings. On my watch it's one of the best small dining cities in the States. As far as a city it's size goes they dont get much better when it comes to the food options found around town. I challenge you to find a site with more info than this one when it comes to food in Louisville.
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I'd considered visiting this cute little Mexican breakfast shack on previous visits but never got around to doing so. This trip I finally did and all I can say is shame on me it took so long to do so. This was one of a few highlights this time around. Con Huevos is owned by a local family who emigrated to Louisville from Mexico. This is the only restaurant in the region that focuses solely on Mexican breakfast/brunch. It's a small space and the place is very popular so either arrive early or later. We went in on the first wkd and ended up having to take a rain check since it was so busy. But the food looked so good I made it a point to return early the next day. The menu is filled with delicious items.
Tres Leches Pancakes
One of my buddies opted for the tres leches pancakes which was without a doubt the sexiest plate of pancakes I've ever seen. Made with three types of milk and topped with fresh fruit and whip cream this was one of those dishes that could make me change my mind about being a sweets guy in the AM. As delicious as my taste of the pancakes was the signature Huevos Rancheros plate I ate was out of this world good. I was so mad at myself that this was the first time I was eating here. Mexican breakfast doesn't get the love it should. But then again I dont know many places making plates as fresh and tasty as this place. It's the type of spot that would do well anywhere. Mexico included.
Huevos Rancheros - Corn tortilla, homemade salsa ranchera, refried black beans, queso fresco, avocado mousse, cilantro, green garnish & sunny eggs - at Con Huevos
The folks behind Rye also started to do breakfast this past summer. It's served in the same building as Rye but they call themselves Lox during the morning and early afternoon hours. The menu prefects the name with a handful of options made with salmon. I really liked this place and everything we tried.
Bagel with Lox
Nothing was past $11 on the menu and everything was really well made. It was very casual in that you just walk in and up to the counter to place your order. Pay and they give you a number to find you when your food is ready. It was a perfect day so we enjoyed some sun at the tables outside.
Salmon Tartare with Housemade Chips
A plate of salmon tartare with housemade chips was terrific. The egg broke into a perfect drizzle of yolk and the chips were the perfect replacement for a fork. I could eat that for breakfast on the daily. Another plate I could eat regularly is the lox and eggs. Served with a couple lightly toasted pieces of rye it had me wondering why I've never made a breakfast sandwich with the ingredients on the plate.
Lox and Eggs at Lox
Ok is everyone paying attention? I want you to go grab a piece of paper and a pen or get your phone and open the notes. When you get them I want you to write/type "MozzaPI in Louisville" down. Why am I having you do this? Because this place cant be missed. It just opened in it's brick & mortar space not to long before our trip and even though it's out there it's well worth the ride. Heck it might be worth the drive from Chicago. Sitting in a restored barn this was one of the nicest spots I've had the pleasure of dining in. On a nice day it's the type of place you could hang out at for the whole afternoon. MozzaPi doesn't just do pizza. They mill their own flour for everything from bread to cookies. But its the pizza that put their name out there. It started off as a mobile unit at events.
a peek inside
After walking in you just go up to the counter and place your order. The young lady at the register had mentioned how the meatball sandwich was her favorite sandwich ever. Tempting though at first I just stuck with the pizza. After a few minutes I decided what the hell if she says it great I'll get one too. best decison I made since I asked my wife to marry me. This was indeed the best meatball sandwich I've ever ate. So good that the meatballs, which were perfect, were an afterthought. The bread was good as it gets. Never had better for this particular sandwich. Still thinking about this one.
Meatball Sandwich at MozzPi
Seeing as how good the sandwich was I almost forgot the reason we came here. It was the pizza that made this place what it is. But could it even come close to the deliciousness of that sandwich? Some hoe, some way it did. This was wood fired pizza perfection. I remember thinking to myself how perfect it was as I started rattling off spots in my mind that I thought it was better than. The pizza menu changes up but this once with pepperoni, giardinieria, and a few type of cheese was must order if you see it on the menu. On top of all this I also ate a fantastic corn cookie and bought some grits milled on-site to use in my own kitchen. It's only a matter of time until this place is nationally recognized.
Pizza at MozzaPi
Joella's Hot Chicken
Seeing as how Louisville is only a couple hours North of Nashville on I-65 Hot Chicken has made it's way there. There's two popular spots that have opened up in the past couple years and Joella's is one of them. I'll be honest, hot chicken isn't my favorite regional eat. I like it but dont love it like I do so many other things. But the taste does come now and then and it did while in Louisville. Joella's makes a pretty good hot chicken that compares to other spots but like other spots I found the sides to be the best thing going. Joella's has a few locations in Kentucky and one in Indianapolis.
Hot Chicken at Joella's Hot Chicken
Louisville has some good options when it comes to international eats. Like most other places you need to drift away from downtown towards outskirts of town to find them. Look in strip malls for spots like Yummy Pollo. This place has nothing but rave reviews and the fact they're cooking their chicken over live charcoal is all I need to know before I decide to go. Peruvians have mastered the art of charcoal chicken which they cook using a rotisserie. Pic'd below is the machine Yummy Pollo uses.
Rotisserie at Yummy Pollo
This place isn't far from Churchill Downs which we visited before our visit. It was a beautiful Friday at the track but unfortunately the food selection there is bare. I highly recommend stopping here before or after should you take in a day at the races. The Peruvian chicken was seasoned perfectly.
1/4 Chicken with Yucca Fries and Cilantro Rice at Yummy Pollo
MexA Steak Tacos
Always on the prowl for the best tacos in whatever town I'm in I came upon this new place. It's owned by a lady from Northern Mexico who's husbands job brought them to Louisville. She wanted to bring the tastes of Mexico with her and decided to open up a spot dedicated to the different regional styles of steak tacos found all over Mexico. The menu showcases different steak taco options from cities such as Monterrey, Mexico City, and Sonora. Having fallen in love with the Costra (crispy cheese) style taco in Mexico City I went for one of those. The idea here is they cook a handful of cheese on the flattop until crispy and then fold it over some steak before it all goes into a handmade corn tortilla. My only complaint about this place was I wish they cooked the steak over a live fire.
The Crunchy Cheese Taco at MexA Steak Tacos
Over on Market street (NuLu) there always seems to be new places popping up. I read about Galaxie Bar when it opened and had it in the back of mind for the next time I was in town. This place can best be described as a far out hipster bar brought to Louisville by the team behind Rye on Market. The place is colorful and has DJ's spinning music etc. But in it's heart of heart's it's just a neighborhood place in an area where most people dont live. I liked it. Especially on a hot summer day with all sorts of festivals happening around town. The food blends Mexican, Mediterranean, Indian etc. in the form of Wakatakas. Little flat breads with a variety of international toppings that you eat like a taco. I tried the Baja Fish version and it was like a roti with the fillings of a Baja fish taco. Good bar food.
Baja Fish Wakataka at Galaxie Bar
Back Deck Bar-B-Que
Upon our arrival in town the first trip in we needed to meet the others at the tent and help set up. So instead of driving off somewhere we just decided on a whim to try this food truck serving BBQ when we pulled up next to it at a red light. It was parked near a hospital so I assume they setup there regularly during lunch hours. Typical stuff on offer but a few thing were out as lunch was winding down. I got a pulled pork sandwich and it came with a wing on the side. Not bad but I wish there was more smoke flavor in the meats. Louisville has lots of good things going for it but BBQ isn't one.
Pulled Pork Sandwich at Wing at Back Deck Bar-B-Que
River Road BBQ
Here's another BBQ spot that wasn't on my hit list. River Road BBQ is down by the river near where the festival we were vending at was located. We drive by the place every morning on our way to the grounds and every morning the big smoker out in front would be puffing smoke. Reviews online were predominantly positive so it would end up being lunch one day. We tried a little bit of everything.
Pulled Pork Sandwich
An upside down pork sandwich sounds somewhat exotic but that's exactly what we got when they misplaced it in the box. Good stuff but again I found myself wishing for more smoke flavor. Maybe mild smoke is a Louisville thing? Who knows these guys actually said they came here from Gainesville Florida. I went with the mixed platter and the fat pork ribs in it were the best item on the plate. I liked the pulled pork and brisket just fine but the ribs were worth returning for. Sides too.
Ribs, Brisket, Pulled Pork Platter at River Road BBQ
Here's another spot (along with Indi's) I make it too each trip in. The sign says Karem Deeb but the family that bought it from the previous owner switched up the name. This is one of the best little deli's in the country. For real. Aside from sandwiches and a handful of other made on-site options this place is a full blown liquor store with a large walk-in beer cooler and more bourbon options than a place like Binny's here in Chicago. They make Eastern KY style BBQ outside on the wkds and all of the soups, cookies, and cheese spreads are housemade. It's a treasure. The type of place that could fit in on Eater's 38 best restaurants in the south. I stopped here three times between the weekend visits.
a peek inside
My go-to is the country ham sandwich on white. It's literally a sandwich like your mom would've made you for school had your mom had access to Kentucky Country Ham. One of my buddies working with us on the second week couldn't understand what the big deal was but he's the type of guy that is fine with Subway. I always wanted to try their meatloaf sandwich and this time I did. It was everything I expected. Just like mom would've made. This place is as good as as it gets. Run dont walk!
Gravely Brewing Co.
When researching newly opened spots since my last visit this brewery caught my eye. I'm always down for beer on a nice big and open patio and if there's beer on the patio with Salbutes you can count on me being there soon. Before a Friday dinner reservation me and a friend went over Gravely Brewing's new bar to grab a beer and also so I could check out the new Mayan Cafe food truck in back. You may remember Mayan cafe from a previous round-up. It's a Louisville institution where some of the best Yucatean food in the States is being made. The Yucatán is a state in Mexico where the Mayans thrived a long, long time ago. Yucatean food has many roots in Mayan culture. Chef Bruce Ucan hails from that region but he's called Louisville home going on 20 years now. The Mayan Cafe food truck is parked in back f the brewery and they;re doing a few Mayan classics that work well in this setting. The salbutes were great at the restaurant when I went and they're terrific here.
Mayan Salbutes at Gravely Brewing Co.
I dont take trips to Louisville and not stop in at my favorite dinner spot there. Chef Edward Lee has been a busy man lately with the opening of a new place in DC but Milkwood remains the goods. We did dinner here one Friday night and everything on the table was great. The octopus bacon dish must be one of their signature plates bc it's still on the menu. Other items that hit the spot on this visit were a grilled eel dish with very Japanese flavors and some of the best smoked wings I can remember. So good I could see them on the year end best of list. My bowl of bibimbop with Kentuckyaki Smoked Pork was flame. Milkwood's blend of Southern / Asian is always a good pick.
Octopus Bacon - smashed potatoes, sour cream, kalamata olives, jalapeno puree
Grilled Kabayaki Eel - puffed rice, smoked coconut, green apple ginger zest
Smoked Chicken Wings - chili lime sauce, scallion, sesame seeds
Pimento Cheese with Spoonbill Caviar - on pork rinds w/ ham salt and chimichurri
Bi Bim Bop - carrot, kimchi, cucumber, spinach, shiitake, egg, pulled pork
Fried Chicken Plate - charred green beans, biscuit, buttermilk dill dressing, ponzu
I was in charge of the dinners out and settled upon this place on the back end of the wkd trips. It seemed to have a few options that most people in the group would enjoy such as a burger and steak. I like the setup of the place as the restaurant sits in an old 19th century building in a very quiet part of town. For starters we ate fresh oysters from Virginia as well as a plate of charred cauliflower.
Cauliflower (olives, pine nuts, spicy carrot hummus, golden raisins,calabrese chile, local honey) + Oysters
Everyone just kind of did their own thing for dinner plates. I ended up with the steak and frites. It was pretty good. I enjoyed the tender hanger steak on the plate but the fries could've been much better. I'm not even sure if they were freshly cut. Nice place if looking for a low key night with the wife but I might choose a different spot if going out with friends. Next time I plan on checking their wkd cocktail lounge upstairs that goes by the name of Lola. The food menu from there looks enticing.
Creekstone Hanger Steak & Frites at Butchertown Grocery
This 24 hour institution also sits in a very residential part of town. On the first trip in we tried to go here post festival but one of the grillman didn't show up to work. Thus they had a long ass wait due to it being a popular spot for late nite grub. On the return trip I made a visit hans solo around Midnight. It seemed like most of the orders were being taken to go but groups of people came in to sit every so often. Burger Boy has been serving burgers at the corner which it sits for over 50 years. You can tell.
a peek inside
Take a seat at the counter and you can watch all the action take place in their little open air kitchen. The menu here reflects menus found at most diners. Aside from burgers they have all sorts of breakfast options and sandwiches for you to choose from. I went with the Burger Boy Combo which consisted of two 1/4 lb patties on a 3 piece toasted bun with special sauce, 2 slices of cheese, fries and a drink. First thing I noticed was the fries have the same secret spicing that Ollie's Trolley uses. They're pretty damn addicting even with being frozen. The burger was perfect in that old school double decker sort of way. I like this style of burger to the point where I even eat a Big mac once every five years or so. Of course Burger Boy's freshly made double decker was much better than McD's.
Burger at Burger Boy
See ya next time @chibbqking