A Food Critic’s Favorite Restaurants In Louisville, From Burgers To White Tablecloth

“What is your favorite restaurant?” 

“What’s the best restaurant in town?” 

As a frequent diner who writes about my experiences, I get these questions often. 

My stock answers, though, aren’t as simple as you might expect: My favorite is probably wherever I ate last. The best? I won’t name one. I might name 10, but which 10? They change often. And that’s without considering the pandemic, the favorites that have closed and new favorites still finding their footing.

In other words, to talk about my favorite restaurant is going to require a full column, because it’s like potato chips: I can’t do just one. High-end, white tablecloth, cheap eats? Down-home, world cuisine … from where?

So let’s break this down, and I’ll tell you about a bunch of places that I particularly like. 

White Tablecloth

For the record, white-tablecloth restaurants don’t actually require, you know, white tablecloths. But they should be elegant and upscale, with excellent food and attentive service. Two of my current favorites are Seviche (1538 Bardstown Road, 473-8560), where Chef Anthony Lamas presides over some of the best creative pan-Latino fare around, with a commitment to sustainable seafood and fish, and Anoosh Bistro (4864 Brownsboro Center, 690-6585), where Chef Anoosh Shariat offers upscale American cuisine with international touches in a stylish setting.

Steaks

As an old stockyards town, Louisville has its share of steakhouses, most of which exist in the same rarified price altitudes as white-tablecloth restaurants. Among many, I enjoy Le Moo (2300 Lexington Road, 458-8888) for the quality of its steaks, yes, but also for the variety of its bill of fare, and, of course, the memorably wacky decor. Another favorite is Brooklyn and the Butcher (148 E. Market St., New Albany, Indiana, 812-590-2646.) Located in the stylish environs of a historic former hotel, it offers an enticing mix of quality steaks and chops plus a raw bar, intriguing small plates, even creative vegetarian options.

Seafood

I already told you about Seviche, which fits equally well under white tablecloth, upsale Latino and seafood categories. Another winner in this department (that could also be listed in top Italian) is Volare Italian Ristorante (2300 Frankfort Ave., 894-4446), where Chef Joshua Moore combines an impressive, chef-driven Italian menu with locally-sourced ingredients, and daily seafood specials featuring fresh, sustainably line-caught fish.

All these places are delightful, and on the pricey side. That’s a problem for me, because between pandemic restrictions and pandemic economics, affordable dining is both a choice and a necessity for me these days. 

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Happily, Louisville is rich with cheap eats, where a couple can dine in style for $50 or less, and sometimes even for $30 or below.

A burger from the Shady Lane Cafe.

Burgers

Can’t afford a steak? How about a burger? Louisville has a wealth of burger joints, and it’s hard to go wrong at any of them. I’m always happy to dine at Shady Lane Cafe (4806 Brownsboro Road, Brownsboro Center, 893-5118), a longtime favorite where a relatively-recent ownership change didn’t affect the quality of the delicious Brownsboro burger. A more recent arrival, BurgerIM (3733 Lexington Road, The Vogue Center, 901-1101), landed at the start of the pandemic, survived a leap from chain to independent ownership and earns deserved popularity for its quality product.

Pizza, Italian

Pizza is so popular that a few new pizzerias even opened during the pandemic while most of us were hunkering down. I’ve rarely met a pizza I didn’t like, so it’s hard to narrow down to just two or three. Still, I’m never shy about recommending MozzaPi (12102 La Grange Road, 494-7012), for its exceptional pizzas and other baked goods made with flour from artisanal wheat milled on the premises. That’s commitment taken to the next level. Another favorite is Pizza Lupo (1540 Frankfort Ave., 409-8440). which offers remarkable wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzas, pastas and small plates from a lovely old red-brick house on the edge of Butchertown.  

For fine Italian eateries with exceptional pizza on the menu, I’d choose bar Vetti (moved during the pandemic from the 800 Building to the AC Hotel, 727 E. Market St., 883-3331) and Ciao Ristorante, 1201 Payne St., 690-3532), which excel in both departments.

Pizza from MozzaPi.

Pub Grub

It’s hard to go wrong at the region’s many pubs and brewpubs. They’re all worth a visit; I’m a particular fan of Pints & Union (114 E. Market St., New Albany, Indiana, 812-913-4647) for its delicious small plates and extensive beer list, and Monnik Beer Co. (1036 E. Burnett Ave. 742-6564), for its family-style Germantown vibe, first-rate brewpub brews and tasty bill of fare.

Vegan

I’ve often declared that V-Grits (1025 Barret Ave., 742-1714) is not just one of my favorite vegan restaurants, it’s one of my favorite restaurants, period. Delicious “chicken” and “beef” dishes taste like the real thing, yet they’re made entirely from veggies. Try it: You’ll like it. And don’t miss out on a pint of excellent beer from its partner brewery, Chimera Brewing.

World fare

All this and I haven’t even gotten around to Louisville’s extensive world-wide selection of deliciousness from our immigrant neighbors: From taquerias to the Mediterranean, Africa and the Pacific Rim. This sounds like another column for another day. Bon appetit!

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