In recent years, Louisville has gone from having the reputation as a “hidden gem” on the dining and entertainment scene to being duly recognized as one of the best cities in the U.S. for unique restaurants and bars. And of course, the spotlight shines brightest on Kentucky’s biggest (some would say only) city during Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve week.
Like a lot of cities across the country, especially in the South it seems, Louisville is undergoing a lot of urban development, and new places are opening (sometimes replacing former “buzz” establishments) at a fast pace. Here are some restaurant and bar options to consider during a hectic week leading up to Derby 2019.
1. Bar Vetti
This restaurant opened in late 2017 at the ground floor of one of Louisville’s most distinctive buildings, the 800 Tower City Club Apartments a few blocks south of downtown. From the same people that opened the much-loved Feast BBQ , Bar Vetti features creatively-inspired, delicious Italian food and a hip ambience, with a particular shout-out to the Caesar salad.
These two Mexican restaurants sit across from one another on bustling Frankfort Ave., northeast of downtown. Both have their loyal fans and friendly, helpful staff. Celebrating its 24th year, El Mundo has the more distinctive cuisine and vibe, but it’s in a smaller space and may require a longer wait. Ramiro’s has a fine chicken burrito, generous portions, and a good bar area with big-screen TVs. These restaurants will be non-stop busy during Derby week.
Located in east Louisville, Selena’s offers a Creole-inspired menu and is particularly enjoyable this time of year when the patio is open. This is one of Louisville’s best places to get brunch, with scrumptious beignets, eggs Benedict, mimosas, bloody marys, and the like. Daily happy hour specials from 2 to 6 p.m. are another highlight.
4. Garage Bar
Heading east from downtown on Market Street, a few blocks in you’ll hit the NuLu district, easily one of Louisville’s biggest redevelopment success stories this century. The area, once blighted, has become a hipster enclave full of unique restaurants, stores, and bars including the above-mentioned Feast BBQ. Garage Bar is a perfect spot to start your NuLu crawl on an evening in early May. The name tells it all – a converted auto garage with an extensive craft beer and drink menu, small plates, brick oven pizza, and more.