Louisville has a bevy of choice restaurants and bars perfectly suited for this year’s festive week leading up to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 4, and local marketing and event planning guru Joey Wagner knows the Derby City like few others do. His J Wagner Group partners with the Kentucky Derby, Breeders’ Cup, and other lifestyle clients to present a variety of functions scheduled around big events.
Here are Wagner’s top food and drink recommendations for Derby week in Louisville.
This is my favorite restaurant in Louisville and always the hot spot in the city. My favorite items on the menu are the Ruby Roll, one of the best sushi rolls I’ve ever eaten. Then my go-to dish is the Steak Collinsworth which is a filet mignon crowned with crab meat, Bearnaise, and asparagus on top.
Chef and owner Bobby Benjamin has created one of the hottest restaurants in the city, located in the popular NULU District. It’s probably one of the best cocktail bars in the city and the food is so good. My favorite appetizer is the Tuna Tartare and my favorite dish is the Catelli Bros. Lamb Rack.
One of the best Italian restaurants in Louisville. Tim Coury, the owner, is one of the nicest guys and a great friend. The appetizer Tortelloni Alla Matriciana is one of the best pasta dishes in the city and one of my favorite entrees is the Pollo Al Marsala.
Louisville’s best Cuban restaurant and always a “Best of Louisville” winner. They have amazing mojitos, and the Steak Chimichurri is my go-to dish!
If you love sushi and Japanese, this is your spot! This “Best of Louisville” restaurant is always a great dining experience. My favorite sushi roll is the Playboy Roll, and you can’t go wrong with the hibachi.
Louisville restaurateur Ryan Rogers has created one of the best BBQ joints in the city! I love the brisket and ribs, and their sides of mac & cheese, sweet potato fries, and greens are so good! They also have the best soda machine in the city with Big Red and Ale-8 on tap. And if you like bourbon, get one of their Bourbon Slushes.
This is a hidden gem in Louisville. The owners are from Brooklyn and use their parents’ famous recipes. It’s one of my favorite Italian spots to go to. For appetizers, I love the Monkey Bread and the Giant CIAO Meatball. They have amazing brick oven pizzas, and my favorite is the Mushroom & Truffle. I also think their lasagna is the best in the city.
Chef and owner Geoffrey Heyde has always been known to have one of the best restaurants in the city. Located on historic Frankfort Ave., this is always a great spot. I love the Fried Brussel Sprout Salad which is one of my favorite salads in the city. Then, you can’t go wrong with Crab Cakes (appetizer) and Short Ribs (entrée).
One of the best brunch spots in the city! They have great Bloody Marys, and my favorite item to get is the steak and eggs.
If you love breakfast, you’ll love Wild Eggs! It’s one of the best breakfast and brunch restaurants in Louisville. My favorite is the pancakes, which I promise you will be some of the best you’ve ever eaten.
The TAJ has become another hidden gem in downtown Louisville. It’s a small spot but a very cool bar. Great cocktails, great staff, and great customer service.
Located upstairs at Butchertown Grocery, LOLA is one of the best craft cocktail spots in the city!
This is an awesome bar in downtown Louisville in the NULU District. The owners gutted an old automotive garage and turned in into one of the coolest spots in the city.
Another hidden gem in the city! It’s an awesome place to watch sports and have a cocktail and beer. They also have a great menu for dinner before it turns into one of Louisville’s nicest spots.
One of my favorite hotel bars. Located in the lobby of the Aloft Louisville Downtown, they always have great cocktails and awesome staff!
Another awesome hotel bar – located in the new Omni Hotel downtown – that makes you feel like your having a drink in a library. The decor is really cool and it has a great drink menu.
Sullivan’s Tap House
Located in the St. Matthews Bar district, and if you are looking to party Derby weekend, this is your spot! It has great drinks, great food, and live DJs Thursday through Saturday – and it’s open until 4 a.m. each night!
Located in the East End of Louisville in the Plainview Shopping Center, Brownie’s is one of Louisville’s best neighborhood bars and restaurants. The beer is always cold, and I love their food! You can’t go wrong with the pretzel nuggets, double-dipped wings, and burgers. Brownie’s is an awesome place to watch sports, and their staff is always so nice.
This is Louisville’s only rooftop bar, located on top of the Hilton Garden Inn downtown. It has great craft cocktails and an awesome view of the city.
If you love LIVE Music Gerstle’s is your spot! The have bands every night, and they are located in the St. Matthews bar district.