Ky Lake





Abyssinia Addis Grill Brown Hotel Brazeiros Doc Crowes Fieris Gatsbys Jeff Rubys La Bodeguita Swizzle Vincenzos Walkers

Louisville has worked extremely hard to recreate itself over the last two decades. It has remodelled its riverfront, cleaned up decaying buildings, built new facilities like the Yum Center, and in every way tried to make the downtown a pedestrian friendly place. Today, when Louisville throws a party, as it does with the Derby Festival and Fourth of July, a University of Louisville basketball game, the NCAA Tournament or a great concert, it's worth a visit of several days. With classy hotels, history, scenic vistas and museums, there's something for the whole family. Among its attractions, downtown Louisville has great restaurants. It has retained its old favorites, and added cutting edge new ones. Some of its restaurants, in addition to excellent food, offer magnificent views of the river, with paddlewheel steamboats or river tugs pushing coal barges. It's a reasonably compact downtown, so you can leave your vehicle parked and walk everywhere. COVID has not been kind to Louisville. The city spent millions developing Fourth Street into a tourist attraction and weekend hot spot, but two years of COVID restrictions have forced many restaurants to close and left Fourth Street Live an empty shell. Nevertheless, the downtown is still worth a weekend or even a weeklong visit. It's one of the nation's best.

Abyssinia serves Ethiopian cuisine. It is unique and excellent, well worth coming downtown just for it alone. The menu begins with Appetizers, the best of which are Sambusas (pastries filled with vegetables and beef or chicken) and Kosta (collard greens sauteed with diced onion and garlic then wrapped with injera, a fermented flatbread). Entrees include various Chicken, Lamb, Beef and Seafood items. The Ethiopian Coffee and Tea have strong and rich flavors. Their signature dish is probably Tilapia (an African fish now farm raised and served around the world) sauteed with onion, tomato, garlic and awaze (an herbal pepper sauce). Tilapia grazes on plants, so does not accumulate the mercury found in other fish. It is a lean and healthy fish. You can also order the Tilapia steamed with rice and served with injera. This is a great restaurant for Vegetarians because they have several very good nonmeat options. Portions are generous. The Injera is a tangy and spongy bread that is used to soak up or scoop up the food. Its own flavor contrasts nicely with the flavors of the foods. The red lentils have a spiciness that livens up each dish. Service is efficient and the owner continually circulates making sure everything is satisfactory. Ethiopian art and music create an authentic ambience. Abyssinia is at 554 5th Street, a short walk from either the Brown or Seelbach Hotels. Surprisingly, street parking is usually available.

Addis Grill on 4th Street serves a mix of Ethiopian, Mediterranean and Carribean cuisine. Injera is central to the eating experience here. Injera is a kind of sourdough flatbread, but very spongy. It is used instead of a fork or spoon. You scoop up the food, or soak up the sauces, with injera. This is not a purely Ethiopian restaurant, as among the entrees are Quesadillas, Kabobs and a Greek Salad. But the food is very good, and especially over lunch hour a line usually extends out the door and down the sidewalk. There are Beef, Chicken, Lamb, Seafood and Vegetarian entrees. The Falafel Wrap, Chicken Curry, Athenian Chicken, Chicken Quesadilla, Grape Leaves and Hummus are especially popular. Addis regulars usually order the Chana Masala, a concoction made by blending chana chickpeas, onions, tomatoes and spices. They eat it with rice and hummus. Decor is very basic. There's no Ethiopian art or music here. The owner is a character. She'll come by and scold anyone seen trying to eat with utensils. She'll lecture them on using Injera in true Ethiopian style. Addis is only a block up from the Galt House. There's absolutely no parking nearby.
The Brown Hotel includes three restaurants : the English Grill, Lobby Bar Grill and J. Graham's Cafe. They offer various items from the same core menu, and they all offer the famous Hot Brown. One of the things you must do while visiting Louisville is to eat a Hot Brown where it was created, in the Brown Hotel. If you've never eaten a Hot Brown before, we urge you to order the Petite Hot Brown the first time. It's a more manageable portion. You still may have a hard time finishing it. A Hot Brown was created by Fred K. Schmidt in 1926. It is a variation of traditional Welsh rarebit. It's an open faced sandwich of turkey, ham, bacon, cheese, paprika, parsley, tomatoes, toast and creamy Mornay sauce, baked until the bread is crisp and the sauce begins to brown. It is a very filling entree and is best eaten with a Woodford Reserve Double Oak on the rocks, shaken not stirred, or with a classic Brown Hotel Old Fashioned. To be sure, the Brown's restaurants serve many other entrees: Filet Mignon, Crab Cakes, Shrimp & Grits, Scallops and Pasta Primevera. They offer two Salads, six Appetizers and four Desserts. But you come for the Hot Brown, Louisville's contribution to the world of high cuisine.

The Brown also serves fine breakfasts and lunches, either via room or table service. For Breakfast, the Fruit Plate, Belgian Waffle and Breakfast Sandwich (scrambled eggs, avocado, bacon, white cheddar and crispy golden brown potatoes) are outstanding. There's also the traditional Oatmeal, Eggs, Bacon, Sausage and Coffee.

For anyone's first visit to Louisville, we always recommend staying at the Brown Hotel. Built in 1923 by J. Graham Brown, it has been one of the South's greatest hotels for a century. It reeks of Gilded Age Splendor. You can wander around lobbies, hallways, staircases, store, bar, and various nooks and crannies. There are plenty of comfy couches and chairs to sit and people watch, relax, converse, or read the day's Courier Journal, published just two blocks away. Guests often spend half a day here just taking photos. Photos and historical markers hang on the walls commemorating famous guests who have stayed here, movies made here, and great events which occurred, such as the flood during which people rowed boats in one door, through the lobby and out the other.

The rooms are large, tasteful and classy.

The Brown is located on iconic 4th Street, just a few blocks from the core of the 4th Street Live action. You're within walking distance from the downtown restaurants, the waterfront, the Yum Center, concerts, museums and shopping. Getting to the Brown is easy. You come off I-64, drive south to Broadway, and look for the Brown at the intersection of 4th and West Broadway. If you come south on First Street, turn right onto Broadway. If you come south on Fifth Street, turn left onto Broadway. You can't come south on Fourth, because it's been closed off to create a pedestrian mall.

J. Graham Brown was one of Louisville's great characters. He was a penny pincher in his personal life but spent lavishly on his beloved hotel and on museums, galleries, theaters, Mammoth Cave National Park and Hanover College. He lived on the top floor of the Brown. A statue of him with one of his dogs adorns the sidewalk outside the 4th Avenue entrance.

Doc Crowe's is a Southern restaurant specializing in Barbeque. It's a sleek, New South vibe with hints of the 1920s. Doc's Bourbon Room is right next door so you can add a classic Bourbon to your meal. Appetizers include Doc's House Chips, Wings, Beer Cheese, Sweet Potato Fries, Oysters, Shrimp and Cornbread. Doc's Own Chili includes smoked brisket (with Doc's Own Rub), pablano peppers and jalapenos. It may be the best Chili in Kentucky now that Brookings in Lexington is closed. There are two decent Salads. Entrees all come from Doc's Smokehouse. We highly recommend the Sampler : pulled pork, beef brisket and half a rack of ribs. But you can separate them out into individual entrees : Pulled Pork, Beef Brisket, Ribs, Doc's Chicken, or, if you're on a diet, Doc's Loaded Baked Potato. That Baked Potato is a work of art. It's stuffed with bacon, scallions, homemade cheese sauce, sour cream, your choice of brisket or pulled pork, and a healthy dose of Doc's Own Chili. For Dessert, well, what else? There's Derby Pie (a chocolate walnut pie with Bourbon drizzle, topped with your choice of whipped cream or ice cream). While you're there, you might wander over into that famous Bourbon Room. Doc stocks 2,000 different Bourbons, which is probably the largest collection anywhere. And --- No, we're not making this up --- Breakfast In The Bourbon Room is an iconic Louisville experience. The signature entree is The Derby Skillet (roast turkey, tomatoes, two eggs sunny side up, bacon and mornay sauce), but you can get the Kentucky Farmers Breakfast (Doc's Smoked Brisket, two eggs, two sausage patties, Doc's Hash, and Toast). There are five other breakfast entrees, plus a long list of sides and Doc's Famous Coffee.

Brazeiros is Louisville's Brazilian Steakhouse. It's a unique concept. The Salad Bar is in the middle. You take your Salad and return to your table. From that point on, waiters come around to your table with a special cart containing various cuts of beef, pork, sausage, chicken and lamb. You order what you want and they slice it right in front of you. You choose which of four levels you want. The base level is only the Salad Bar. Higher levels offer you increasing kinds of meats. Once you choose your level, you display a flag at your table and the servers know whether to stop or not. Once you pay for a certain level, there is no further charge no matter how much you eat. There is also a Dessert Bar, and there are Sides. The secret is to restrain yourself so you don't fill up on salad, breads and sides so you don't have room for much meat. People doing that is how Brazeiros makes a profit. Just about everone who eats here ageees these are the best meats they've ever tasted. Unsurprisingly, Brazeiros is usually packed, which means the conversation noise level is high. If you're looking for an intimate place to take a romantic partner or have a business meeting, this is not it. Lunch is a slightly better deal than Dinner. The restaurant is open for lunch on weekends but during the week is dinner only. Remember variety is the key here. You can try a lot of different kinds of meats at one sitting. If what you really want is just a good Ribeye or Sirloin or Filet Mignon, you're better to go to a Steak House. COVID has curtailed Brazeiros. The Salad Bar has been greatly reduced and there is no longer a Dessert Bar. You now order desserts off a menu. However, the meats here are still delicious, and there are still plenty of those.

Swizzle is the new rooftop restaurant atop the Galt House, at the foot of 4th Street. It replaces the old Rivue restaurant but retains the same views of the river and city. The restaurant slowly revolves (once around takes 25 minutes) so your view keeps changing. The menu is classic American focused on Steaks. There's a craft cocktail menu. Their signature drink is their 1910 Old Fashioned made with local Bourbon distilled two blocks away. Service is slow, but that just gives you time to enjoy the panoramic scenery. Among their Appetizers, the Grilled Meatball Skewers, Crab Cakes and Seafood Platter are stars. Salads are small and only average, but the Dinner Rolls are excellent. The Lobster Bisque is a must order. Their Entrees are outstanding, especially the 8 oz. Filet Mignon, Ahi Tuna, Pork Tomahawk Chop, Cedar Plank Roasted Salmon Filet and Scallops. But the 3 Cheese Ravioli, Potato Gnocchi and Free Ranging Chicken are really good. IF you can save room for Dessert, there's a Bananas Foster Cheesecake that is obscenely delicious. Swizzle is expensive. Expect to pay $80-100 per person, which for most people makes it a Special Occasion restaurant.

Downstairs, on the second floor of the western tower of the Galt House, is Walker's Exchange, which is open three meals a day. All three meals feature extensive menus.

Breakfast offers Belgian Waffles, Crab Cake Benedict, Steel Cut Oatmeal, Cast Iron Skillet Cinnamon Rolls and the usual Pancakes, Eggs, Grits, Country Ham and French Toast, but the real star is a creation called the Hot Brown Omelet, basically all the ingredients of a Hot Brown folded into a standard Omelet.

Later in the day, entrees like Chili, Pot Roast, Fried Green Tomatoes, Mac and Cheese, Fried Chicken, Salmon, Shrimp, Spaghetti, Sirloin and Fettucini Alfredo are popular.

The Bar Jockey Silks is right next door and provides a full array of drinks with lunch and dinner. There are even a few drinks available at Breakfast.

The Galt House itself is worth a visit. You could eat Breakfast at the Brown, spend all morning working your way down 4th Street, and stop at Walker's for lunch. On your third visit to Louisville we'd recommend staying here.

The first Galt House opened in 1835 as a classy waterfront hotel where river pilots and owners stayed while cargo was being loaded or unloaded from their boats. It was Louisville's first major hotel. But after 110 years it had deteriorated with age, and eventually closed. The building sat empty for two decades. When Louisville urban renewal occurred in the 1960s, the building was demolished. Developers built the current Galt House and opened it in 1972. Once again, by 2010 it had aged, and a massive updating was completed in 2021.

Today, the Galt House is the largest of Louisville's downtown hotels and the one that houses the major conventions. It connects to the Yum Center so it's the favorite of visiting teams and their fans. It is also the official headquarters for NCAA Tournaments, concerts and other Yum Center events.

It's definitely worth an hour of exploring. That glass bridge across 4th Street holds a bar, fast food counter and chairs and benches for relaxing.

Guy Fieri grew up in Ohio, became interested in food while a foreign exchange student in France, graduated from UNLV, opened restaurants in New York City, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, and became famous hosting a show on the Food Network. His Smokehouse is literally in the center of Fourth Street Live, near the concert stage and under the huge sign. As the name suggests, it specializes in BBQ. Signature entrees are Ribs, Brisket, Pork Butt, Turkey and Sausage. There are also Sandwiches made from all these ingredients. Sides include Cole Slaw, Mac n Cheese, Baked Beans and Red Potato Salad. Thanks to COVID restrictions, Smokehouse currently operates cafeteria style, where you push your plastic tray along a line and pay at the register. You get paper plates, styrofoam cups and plastic utensils. Fieri's charges for the BBQ sauces. And as a final insult the Sides are dry and tasteless. The problem is that this is a city and state that revere their barbeque and the sides that go with it. Locals consider violations of barbeque traditions as sacrilegious. So, thanks to its efforts to cope with COVID, Fieri's has offended a huge part of its customer base. However, the actual BBQ and sauces are very good. If you just drop by for a Sandwich and wander off down 4th Street eating it, you'll think highly of Fieri's. They also serve pretty good alcohol here, beginning with a fine Old Fashioned. There's a short Beer and Wine list, and a longer list of Whiskey and mixed drinks (try to ignore the fact that they misspell "Julep" as "Julip" and "Burgoo" as "Bergew"). Sadly, COVID has forced the abbreviation of the menu, so great sides like Smoked Corn and Fried Okra & Pickles are gone. Hopefully, by 2023 or so, they'll be back, the paper plates and plastic forks and cafeteria line will be gone, and the staff will have learned how to spell "Julep" and "Burgoo."

J. Gatsby's is the restaurant in the famous Seelbach Hotel. Yes, American Literature teachers, literary scholars and readers who love the novel and movie The Great Gatsby eat here for the history. But the food is also good. The kitchen is slow, so come prepared to enjoy a leisurely conversation. The shrimp & grits, steaks and fish are worth the wait. Their Soup of the Day is always good, and any of their four Salads are delicious.

This is a great and interesting place to eat breakfast, as they offer several tempting entrees: The Caprese Egg Fritatta (tomato, mozzarella, basil, olive oil, egg white, toast), Cinnamon Roll French Toast (with cream cheese, caramel and maple syrup), Oatmeal Almond Pancakes, Malted Belgian Waffle, "Legendary Seelbach Kentucky Benedict" (poached egg, country ham, buttermilk biscuit, with hollandaise sauce), and the Power Oatmeal (organic thick cut rolled oats, brown sugar, raisens, sliced banana, berries).

Lunch is equally creative, with two generous Salads, a Soup of the Day, and lots of comfort food entrees. The Coffee here is always good, too.

On your second visit to downtown Louisville we highly recommend staying at the Seelbach. Also on 4th Avenue, it's another of those grand old hotels, beautifully maintained. Now a Hilton, it was built in 1905 in the Spanish Renaissance style. A century of Presidents, foreign dignitaries, executives, movie stars and athletes have stayed here.

Its green and white marble came from Italy, the rose marble from Switzerland, the bronze from France, and the mahogany from the West Indies. The magnificent murals in the lobby were painted by Arthur Thomas, the world's most famous painter of historical panoramas. The murals depict key scenes from Kentucky history. Two massive five tiered bronze and crystal chandeliers hang over the lobby.

The Oak Room, which in non COVID times is a five diamond restaurant, was originally a billiard hall. Paneled in hand carved American Oak, its southwest wall contains a secret getaway passage for Al Capone and the other famous gangsters who frequented the Seelbach.

But among the Seelbach's attractions, you absolutely must descend to the basement and see the Rathskeller. Modelled after a real German Rathsekeller, this is the only surviving Rookwood Pottery room in the world. All the tile work was made by hand at the Rookwood Pottery in Cincinnati. The designs on each tile were drawn by hand and then fired. Each color was added and then refired, once for each color. The designs on the walls depict the Rhein region of Germany, where the Seelbachs were from. The pelicans which adorn the columns are a sign of good luck. The ceilings are made of fine tooled leather with the 12 signs of the zodiac.

F. Scott Fitzgerald frequented the Seelbach on weekends while stationed at Fort Knox during World War I. He ate, drank, partied, danced, played pool and three times got so drunk he was thrown out here. Later, he used the Seelbach as one of the settings for his famous novel The Great Gatsby. He met George Remus here, and most literary historians are convinced Remus was the basis for the character J. Gatsby. In the novel, Gatsby met Daisy Fay here, and Daisy married Tom Buchanan here. The Seelbach became the lens of extreme wealth through which Fitzgerald viewed the world.

Jeff Ruby's is probably the classiest steak house in Louisville. It's too pricey for a regular date, business meeting or a stop before or after a UL game. But if you really want to impress someone, this is the place to bring them. You could just order Appetizers, Salad and Soup here and leave with a very good meal. Appetizers include a Crab Cake, Scallops and Meatballs. The Soup is Lobster Bisque. If you're a Sushi fan you can order eight different kinds. Five large iced Salads are all delicious. Jeff Ruby's is, of course, a specialist in steaks. You can pick from seven, which are variations on Center Cut or Ribeye. Ruby's buys steak from cattle who grazed on natural grass, then were finished off with corn in a feedlot the last six weeks. They claim this adds a marbling to the steak which customers prefer. However, the consensus of critics, ranchers and steak conneisseurs believe grass fed steak has a noticeably better taste and texture to it, that finishing herds off with corn erodes that taste. Food is not the only reason you come to Ruby's. It has a definite Great Gatsby ambience that fits in perfectly with the Brown / Seelbach / Galt House / downtown Louisville vibe.

La Bodeguita is Louisville's, and Kentucky's, great Cuban restaurant. It's on East Market Street, several blocks from the Galt House within long walking distance. It's only open for dinner and reservations are definitely recommended. The vibe is 1950s Havana, just before the Castro takeover. The menu begins with four hearty and delicious Salads and two Soups : Chicken Soup and Black Bean & Chopped Onion Soup. You could make a meal out of the Appetizers. There's a Corn Tamal stuffed with pork, onions, pico and cilantro; Potato Balls stuffed with ground beef, roast red peppers, sour cream and cilantro; Tarot Roots stuffed with black beans, guacamole, chives and cilantro; Pastry Shells stuffed with beef, roast corn, bell peppers, spinach, cheese, sour cream and cilantro; ham and chicken croquettes; and Rellenos stuffed with beef, cheese and onions. Entrees include Chicken, Mahi Mahi, Shrimp, Salmon, Pork, Beef, Ribs and Steaks prepared in various ways using rice, plantains, garlic, onions, tomatoes, peas, olives, peppers, chives, cilantro, yucca, avocado, limes, wine and beer. Of course you can order a Classic Cuban Sandwich. There is Cuban Coffee, and for Dessert Coffee Ice Cream, Pina Colada Ice Cream and a Chocolate Cigar (almond cake, mousse, chocolate ganache and coffee ice cream).
Vincenzo's is Louisville's finest Italian restaurant. It's worth a visit just for its magnificent building, a former bank. Everything about it exudes class. The waiters are professionally dressed and perform flawlessly. The menu is exquisite and the food outstanding. Brothers Vincenzo and Agostino have put together a one page menu that represents the best of Italian cuisine. Appetizers include salmon slices, crabmeat stuffed artichokes, and crepes filled with beef and veal. There are two fine Salads. Pastas include Linguini, Ravioli and Spaghetti. Entrees include Salmon, Sea Bass, Scallops, Sole, Veal, Chicken, Pork, Lamb and Steak. In keeping with the class of a bygone era, Vincenzo's offers a Theater Menu for those in town for a concert or play. It is preset, includes an Appetizer/Salad, Entree and Dessert, and is served quickly to guarantee you make the opening. Their extensive wine cellar includes mostly Italian varieties but does have some from France, Germany, Spain and the U.S. Vincenzo's is open for lunch and dinner M-F and dinner only on Saturdays. It's closed Sundays.
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