One chef’s recommendations of the city’s top eateries.
By Hope S. Philbrick
Louisville, Kentucky is booming with great tastes, from bourbon and beyond.
As a visitor to the city, it’s a challenge to narrow down the options of where to sip and savor. Too many options, too little time!
Thus when I learned that Gary Bajdek, the retail trainer, sensory specialist, and my tour guide at Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. also happened to be an experienced chef, I asked for his recommendations. Clearly the guy has great taste, given his delicious choice of where to work after an injury drove him out of the kitchen.
“Louisville is a foodie town,” says Bajdek. “It’s crazy now!” Indeed, great dining and drinking options abound. Your tongue is certainly an essential travel companion to get the most enjoyment out of your visit.
Chef Gary Bajdek’s recommendations (listed in the order he spoke of them)…
Fond — “It’s reservations only,” warns Bajdek. The small fine dining restaurant in Crescent Hill offers only 12 seats for the six-course dinners prepared by Chef Madeleine Dee. “It’s almost speakeasy-ish,” he says. “You can BYOB.”
Feast BBQ — “It’s an amalgamation,” he says of their barbecue style. The menu offers snacks like fried pickles and loaded tots while mains include pulled pork, brisket, chopped chicken, crispy smoked tofu and baby back pork ribs. Sides include the traditional options: baked beans, slaw and more.
Joella’s Hot Chicken — “It’s the best Nashville-style hot chicken place in Louisville,” says Bajdek.
The Seafood Lady — “It’s good seafood,” he says. “Floridian style with a Cajun influence. Interesting.”
SuperChefs — “I have two kids, so…they love this place. It’s interesting. The workers dress up like Superheroes,” says Bajdek. The breakfast menu offers waffle donuts, breakfast nachos, banana pudding granola encrusted French toast and omelets. Lunch offers burgers, salads, fish tacos, and several vegetarian and vegan options.
Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse & Raw Bar — Is a fresh take on a traditional Southern American menu serving a range of options coastal seafood favorites to multiple barbecue styles. Located on Whiskey Row, the bar menu focuses on America’s native spirit.
Mussel & Burger Bar — “It’s exactly like it sounds,” says Bajdek: seafood (mussel) and meat (burger). The diverse menu packs surprises like foie gras, Korean BBQ wings, lamb meatballs, chèvre fig salad, and turkey duck melt among many more mouthwatering temptations.
Hammerheads — Located in Louisville’s “Germantown” neighborhood, this contemporary gastropub/smokehouse is a hidden gem.
Wild Eggs — From cinnamon rolls to taco salad and an eye-popping array of options in between, this menu has something for everyone.
Wild Rita’s — “Great Mexican street food, tacos, margaritas,” says Bajdek.
“For more ‘mainstream’ picks, Chef Edward Lee’s restaurants are all popular,” says Bajdek. “610 Magnolia is booked six months in advance. MilkWood is a little more casual, a step down in price but not in quality.” (Author’s Note: You can get lucky and snag a table at MilkWood without a reservation—I did.)
Hell or High Water — “A great speakeasy, not a secret, make a reservation!” recommends Bajdek. It’s worth the extra effort of planning ahead to get inside this space. There’s a swanky, old-school, underground-bar vibe and the bartenders have top-notch skills.
Art Eatables — This chocolatier makes bourbon-infused and bourbon-themed candies and chocolates above and beyond typical, traditional bourbon balls.
– Photos © HSP Media LLC
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion. Thanks to Go To Louisville for hosting my visit.