The 2022 LEO Weekly Staff Choices: Here’s What We Think Is The Best In Louisville

You got your say, now we get ours. In random and messy order (we are the Louisville Eccentric Observer, after all), here is what the LEO staffers and writers think is the best in town. We hope you find something new and exciting. 


Asian Food Mart.

Best Asian Grocery
Asian Food Mart (Formerly Dixie Oriental)
3900 Bardstown Road
I’m a big fan of this area of Bardstown Road. There’s just so much happening culturally that it’s such a rich experience spending time there. I have been a longtime shopper at the Asian markets in town, and to pick my favorite was super difficult, but I decided to go with Asian Food Mart because I visit it the most. First, let me mention Choi’s almost won with its freshly made kimbap, but Asian Food Mart wins on convenience for me and that it is a well thought out and executed small market with plenty of rice varieties, ramen choices and my favorite snack aisle. The specialty drink choices are excellent with our family favorite, the Tomomasu Mango and Peach sodas. The customer service is always lovely and since my cooking specialty is East and Southeast Asian food, I always find the ingredients, spices, and utensils that I need to prepare any dish from these regions including sushi ingredients. 

As a student of Korean language, the store gives me great practice in reading product labels not translated into English. All of the local Asian markets have their charms and you should visit, but, for me, Asian Food Mart is my top choice. Pro tip: Don’t go to the store and make weird noises or frown at products or ingredients you don’t understand. It may not be for your palate but you can at least be polite. —Erica Rucker 


Lynn Family Stadium.

Best Sports Arena
Lynn Family Stadium
350 Adams St.
I often judge local venues through the lens (no pun intended) of their photographer-friendliness, and Lynn Family Stadium takes the top honors for accommodating sports photographers. Although there are big sports venues in the city in which one can actually get onto the field, the court, etc., albeit on the sidelines, what makes LFS so great is: you can’t! You’re pretty much limited to one end of the field or the other end of the field. Two straight lines. That’s it. You never have to worry about whether or not you’re allowed to be somewhere. Plus, those sides are both separated from the field by barriers, meaning you don’t have to worry about roly-poly-ing away from a full-speed linebacker as he almost crashes into you, then sending one of your Crocs flying… right next to an ESPN camera. Not that that’s ever happened to me… LFS has given Louisville’s soccer teams so many victories, and the “Estopinal End,” where the fans bang drums and send up purple smoke at goals, always has such a great energy. (The above was written before sexual abuse allegations against former Racing Louisville coach Christy Holly surfaced. I will continue to support the players, all of whom deserve to be safe inside a beautiful venue like this.)— Carolyn Brown 


Frankfort Ave Liquors.

Best Bar In A Liquor Store
Frankfort Avenue Liquors & Wine
2115 Frankfort Ave.
When it comes to bars inside of liquor stores, Frankfort Avenue Liquors is hard to beat. A long bourbon list and an equally long bar. Live music. Draft beer from local breweries. Cocktails served up in Tiki mugs. You can bring your dog. What more can you ask for? Sure, the lighting is a little bright and there are shopping carts next to the entrance, but this is a still a store after all. And the fact that it is a liquor store means it’s an easy place to pick up a six-pack or a bottle of that fancy bourbon you’ve just sampled before you head home. Last time I was there, the customers spanned from newly-legal drinkers to octogenarians, and the band on the small stage up front played a surprisingly good Johnny Cash cover. Frankfort Avenue Liquors is a delightfully quirky experience in a still-quirky Louisville. And when I’m looking to have a drink in a liquor store, it’s my go-to. —Josh Wood 


Manhattan Project.

Best Place To Watch The NFL Sunday Ticket
Manhattan Project
2101 Frankfort Ave.
There’s nothing quite like watching football with a motley crew of friends and strangers, with everyone cheering and screaming in every direction, watching upsets and heartbreaks and fantasy highs and lows. Sure, there’s that loud Eagles fan and the smug Tom Brady acolyte. And everyone with an AFC North jersey is probably side-eyeing each other like they want to start throwing ninja stars across the room. But a good football crowd… there’s nothing better than that the day before you have to return to work and start the horseshit responsibility cycle all over again. There are several pretty solid places to watch the NFL Sunday Ticket, but the Manhattan Project has edged out as the best. And it’s all about that back room that’s spacious and airy and full of TVs playing every single game. The beers are well priced (the food a little less so), but the crowd is what shines. There’s a Skittles pack of jerseys repping every team out there, which makes the “witching hour” fun, when the 1 p.m. games start descending into chaos. —Scott Recker 


Crescent Hill Reservoir.

Best Place For A Quick Walk
Crescent Hill Reservoir
Reservoir Avenue
With its paved loop around the 110 million gallons of water clocking in at just under one mile in length, the Crescent Hill Reservoir is the perfect place for a 15-minute walk. It’s man-made, but the body of water is nonetheless beautiful and easily tricks the mind into thinking you’re out in the country while you’re still in the city. On your trip around the reservoir, you’ll also be treated to signs on lampposts sharing facts about the Louisville Water Company (Did you know that Louisville Water Company maintains over 24,000 fire hydrants? Or that typhoid rates dropped by 60% when people switched from well water to Louisville Water?). The Gothic-style gatehouse from the late 1800s adds architectural flare (and is occasionally opened to the public). The only caveats to Crescent Hill Reservoir being the perfect walk are: 1. No dogs allowed and 2. They lock the gate at dusk, so you need to get your walk in while the sun is still in the sky. —Josh Wood 


Surface Noise.

Best Place to Attend A Poetry Reading
Surface Noise
600 Baxter Ave.
The first poetry reading I ever attended was during my freshman orientation at the University of Louisville. The speaker’s name was Brett Eugene Ralph, then an English professor at Hopkinsville Community College, reading from his recently published book of poetry, “Black Sabbatical.” His voice immediately drew me in. Nearly a decade later, I would be walking into his record shop, Surface Noise, to be greeted with that same voice once again. Since opening the business in 2016, Brett has hosted countless musical performances and literary events at this space on Baxter Avenue. He is a champion for local art and music – in 2018, he transformed the shop’s back room into the Darby Forever Gallery, which now displays a rotation of works by local artists. More than just a small record shop, Surface Noise is an intimate gathering place for conversation and community, making it one of the best places in Louisville to attend poetry readings (and shop for rare vinyl!). “A lot of poetry encourages me to go to a deep and interior place, and that’s an intense experience,” he told me. “Getting to experience that interiority, publicly, with other people, there’s something really magical and vulnerable about that.” —Lara Kinne


A yard made for dog shit.

Best Place in Town To Let Your Dog Shit
The Yard Of A Politician Who Shall Not Be Named
So look, you probably think that letting your dog or any other pet (no one’s judging you, babies; walk your cats or turtles and live your life) take care of business is impolite at the least, and pretty ornery at worst, but hear me out. If you’re like me, you probably also find it, I don’t know, ruder when one person who has wielded incredible political capital stacks the Supreme Court to a conservative majority, which leads to more than 51% of the U.S. losing the right to their bodily autonomy. And maybe that person has minimized opportunities for the have-nots while lining the pockets of the ultra-wealthy who just so happen to be donors. Oof… that sounds like a lot, right? What a goon, a jerk, or a villain. I mean, yikes! Now, we’re not saying this character lives off Douglass Loop on a street with a tavern named after it, but what if this ABSOLUTELY NO WAY NOT a fictional character just maybe, like just might, have the softest grass that your dog’s ass has ever had the experience of touching? What if that person cannot possibly live another day without a properly fertilized yard, your gift to this “pretend” person who has no problem looking you in the eye while they strip you of your rights? Well, I think you’d have an obligation to leave the gift of a greener planet, don’t you? —Syd Bishop 


Louisville Arcade Expo.

Best Video Game Event Of The Year
Louisville Arcade Expo
Triple Crown Pavilion (1776 Plantside Drive)
Sure, we now have a practically unlimited number of video game titles at our fingertips, with next generation systems carrying libraries of thousands of options, all available after a few quick clicks (and a credit card ding). But don’t you miss that old arcade feel? All the noises, the eccentricity and electricity of people losing their collective minds over pixelated, 16-bit nonsense. Well, the annual Louisville Arcade Expo has all of that and so much more. Besides hundreds of free-to-play arcade cabinets and pinball machines from almost every era, there are tournaments, speakers and special guests. Personally, my favorite area is the LAN room, where eight computers face eight more computers that are connected for classic multiplayer games like “Unreal Tournament.” There are always new pinball machines and a neo-retro indie game to steal the show, too. It’s easily one of the best events in Louisville. —Scott Recker  


Eden Kissi.

Best Wings
Eden & Kissi
3912 Bardstown Road
Yep, it is literal steps from my favorite Asian grocery but this Caribbean eatery wins best wings, hands down. Their Peri-Peri wings never let me down. Each Saturday morning as I make my way to the Louisville Korean School (best language experience), the grill outside Eden & Kissi is already pumping out the heavenly scent of smoking meat. It isn’t just the smoke. It’s the seasoning, the people, the care in which your food is received with positive vibes and well-wishes. The owners Kissi and Jean-Pierre Gnamba always greet their customers with smiles, and really, they treat you like an extension of their family. The shop is small and there is always a short wait, but being surrounded by the smells of what will surely be manna for your belly and happy customers who know that the food will be excellent, it’s never a bad time. The greatest advice I can give you when ordering is go with the Peri-Peri wings. Yes, take the hot sauce, and, yes order extra because one order will never be enough, especially if you live with other people. Once that smell enters the house, the wings disappear. It’s clearly some form of sacred magic that makes these wings possible. The way that the meat slides off the bone… and it has complex, seasoned and smoky flavor for days. It’s… just go. —Erica Rucker


Belushi Speed Ball.

Best Local Band To See Over And Over Again
Belushi Speed Ball
belushispeedball.bandcamp.com
In fairness, this one was probably a predictable choice. I’ve written about them plenty of times. I’ve photographed them plenty of times. Even so, there’s no way I could refrain from giving pop culture punk rockers Belushi Speed Ball the props — not literally, they have plenty of those already — that they deserve. You don’t go to a Belushi show just to hear music, though they do have bangers. You go to a Belushi show for a (literally) one-of-a-kind experience. Any band can play their own songs, but how many bands would play a show specifically to cats, with all of their lyrics changed to be cat-related? How many bands would play a roving Mad Max-themed show from a moving van? How many bands would douse the bowl of a skatepark with foam, LaCroix, whipped cream, colored powder, and orange Jell-O, for a show in which “Indiana Jones” ran away from a human-sized beach ball “boulder”? (Sidenote: all of this mess does not come out of a camera bag easily.) Belushi Speed Ball not only carries the torch of Keep Louisville Weird, but it also throws a bunch of chemicals into it to make the flame bigger, brighter, messier, and more colorful. Or something like that. Even a former member of GWAR — GWAR! — left that band to play with our hometown heroes, so you know they’re worth seeing. This LEO writer loves Belushi, and Belushi — BeLEOshi? — loves LEO. —Carolyn Brown  


Four Pegs at the stadium.

Best Stadium Food
Four Pegs at Lynn Family Stadium
Under Section 210
I love sports. But stadium food can be disappointing: Despite all the advancements of society, the bland, overpriced hot dog served scrunched up inside some tin foil is still the most ubiquitous staple at stadiums everywhere. Sure, you can get something slightly more palatable, like chicken tenders or a hot dog with toppings, but it’ll cost you (and might still suck anyways). Four Pegs at Lynn Family Stadium — an outpost of the Germantown restaurant that makes some of the best BBQ in the city — overcomes the taste issue. They don’t have their full Germantown menu on offer, but a pulled pork sandwich at $13.99 that comes with delicious fried potatoes that lie somewhere between fries and chips is super satisfying and only costs a few more dollars than less-tasty offerings elsewhere in the stadium. Sadly, the Four Pegs stand has been closed during the last few Racing Louisville games I’ve gone to. —Josh Wood 


Norae Bar.

Best Karaoke Bar
NoraeBar
717 E. Market St.
Karaoke isn’t new to Louisville. There have been bars that have given singers and screechers alike the microphone for many years. What is new to Louisville is the way NoraeBar does Karaoke. Like its cousins across East and Southeast Asia, NoraeBar — named after the Korean word for song and the karaoke/noraebang ( 노래방 ) culture in Korea — offers a main-room karaoke experience but also the chance to rent small or larger private karaoke rooms where you and your close personal friends can squeal your favorite songs happily into the night. Even better, the bar offers private service to each of the rooms where your drinks are delivered to you. The setup is nice and feels safe, with a plethora of disposable mic covers and clean rooms. Party lights in each noraebang space set the mood. The bar offers great specialty drinks served with a diverse twist. From kimchi or pickle juice and tequilas to the Bidi Bidi Bom Bom with Mexican flair, NoraeBar offers a place for all and the crowd generally reflects that sentiment. When I’ve been there, the faces have spanned the spectrum of diversity across the city, and it’s a really beautiful gift to have spaces like that in Louisville. —Erica Rucker 


Bootleg BBQ.

The Best Workout and Workout Reward That You Convince Yourself Doesn’t Cancel It Out
Riding the Parklands End-to-End and Bootleg Bar-B-Q
9704 Old Bardstown Road
First thing: this end-to-end bike trip I’m suggesting is about 40 miles long. But if you’ve got half a day to spare, it’s by no means a pros-only route. If I can take it on as an asthmatic riding an undersized 21-speed, the average rider should be more than able. Feeling secure surrendering to a hill and walking your bike from time to time helps, though. No matter what the best nutrition science says, capping a long, grueling workout with a hearty meal is what my soul knows. Luckily, there’s just a mile up and five lanes across Bardstown Road. Hop in the car for this last stretch; this drag of state highway isn’t pedal friendly. There’s also a choose-your-own-adventure dimension to this combo. Riders starting from Pope Lick Park–there’s no shame in a half-ride, but don’t pick up any passengers–can swing by FDKY (9606 Taylorsville Rd.) And down from the northern end of the Parklands is Barrel 33 (14049 Shelbyville Rd.). —Jon Larmee 


Mayan Cafe.

Best Vegan Dishes That Aren’t
At A Vegan Restaurant
Multiple Restaurants
Louisville’s vegan/vegetarian scene seems to be thriving, with events like Bluegrass VegFest and restaurants like V-Grits continuing to get better and better. But this is about those hidden delicious gems in the Louisville restaurant scene that also happen to be vegan. For example, Vietnam Kitchen in south Louisville has an amazing vegan dish: stir-fried tofu with lemongrass. And, of course, Ramsi’s Cafe On The World has a few options, including the Jamaican tofu sandwich (on Ramsi’s popular focaccia bread), the raw hope salad (made with greens from Ramsi’s own farm), and a few others that we just don’t have space to cover here. One final recommendation: Try the vegetarian burrito at Mayan Cafe in NuLu, easily modified to be vegan for all you animal lovers out there.—Ethan Smith 


St. Michael’sCemetery.

Best Cemetery That Isn’t Cave Hill Cemetery
St. Michael’s Cemetery
What do I mean by Best Cemetery? I mean, what cemetery do you think of when that fall weather hits, and you just want to get a warm cup of joe and take a chilly stroll through the graveyard. (A few of you get it.) No offense to Cave Hill Cemetery; it’s naturally beautiful and filled with historic gravestones. But it just doesn’t hit the spot the way St. Michael’s Cemetery in Germantown does. My recommendation: Head to the Bean Roastery and Cafe on Goss Avenue, grab a warm cup of beanie goodness and take a stroll down the road to St. Michael’s side entrance. The grounds are well maintained, and the Germanic names give the cemetery a lot of character. And if that isn’t enough cemetery strolling for you, keep walking down Ellison Avenue towards St. Louis Cemetery on the hill (my super-secret  #2). —Ethan Smith 


Old Forester’s Paristown Hall.

Best Concert Venue To Take Photos At
Old Forester’s Paristown Hall
724 Brent St.
I always appreciate seeing that the bands and events I like are coming to Paristown Hall. I’ve photographed multiple concerts and wrestling shows here, and I’ve never had a bad time shooting. The venue is spacious and the staff are gracious — they always go to the fullest extent possible to make my job easier. When I was struggling to see above a full-house crowd at a show without a photo pit, the staff let me borrow a step stool, and for once in my short-person life, I finally experienced the feeling of tallness. It was magical. I even have the venue to thank for getting me my LEO job in the first place: when I was a grad student in journalism school (virtually), I did what would become my capstone project on how the Louisville Orchestra was adapting to a virtual season. They rehearsed inside Paristown Hall at the time, with a reduced capacity, electric fans on the stage, distanced chairs and other pandemic adaptations that we now look back on as hallmarks of 2020 as a whole. Thanks to that project, I had a stronger portfolio to send to LEO, and, well, two years later, here I am. — Carolyn Brown


Board games, but probably not ones that will be played at NerdLouvia.

Best Board Game Event Of The Year
NerdLouvia
Art Sanctuary (1433 S. Shelby St.)
On the surface, board games are sort of a weird and forgotten piece of the pop culture puzzle; everyone likes them, but few people make time to play them. But look a little deeper and there’s a bustling world of unique, creative and robust games that run the spectrum from being able to play in under 30 minutes to campaigns that last months. NerdLouvia — a local board game con — is a vibrant look into that world. And, after a two-year hiatus, it’s back in 2022, scheduled for Friday, Nov. 4-5. They arrange a schedule of times and seats for various board games, and you can sign up for what you want to play. Someone will be staffed to lead each game and will help all of the players throughout. It’s a great way to get outside your wheelhouse and make some new friends. It also features vendors, artists, panel discussions, workshops, cosplay, improv and more. It’s worth the $30 per day. —Scott Recker 


Cunningham’s Creekside.

Best Riverside Restaurant
Cunningham’s Creekside
It’s no shock that Louisville, aka River City, has plenty of riverside restaurants to choose from. And they’re all great, don’t get me wrong, but Cunningham’s Creekside does it best. First of all, the drive there is half the fun. If you’re coming from downtown, you get to soak in the view of the Ohio River from the long ride down River Road. Now, many of you might be screaming at your paper, “What about Captain’s Quarters!” Sorry, folks, not my scene. I’m settling down on the porch at Cunningham’s and watching wildlife, kayaks, paddleboarders, and the occasional boat make its way down Harrods Creek towards the Ohio. And best of all, the fried fish is top-notch. You just can’t beat it. And the coleslaw! *Chef’s kiss.* It’s a fantastic place to wind down after a long day. Or you could check it out after paddling with nearby Nachand Canoe & Kayak. —Ethan Smith 


Heitzmans Bakery. 

Best Pastry
Heitzmans Bakery
3333 Bardstown Road
The caramel pecan danish. Babies, this thing packs some calories at about 390 – 400 for a danish, but with a coffee, a bite of fruit and a bit of time in the toaster oven, you will not find a better, more satisfying diet-busting event. For 130 years, the Heitzman family has been keeping the local blood sugar high and the sweet tooth satisfied. The pecan danish isn’t rare or hard to find. You can actually go to any Kroger and buy the pastries there. It’s just that you need to have the experience to understand it, and then definitely repent for it in whatever way that you rectify your transgressions. This danish is a transgression. One you won’t regret as long as you take a nice long walk after. —Erica Rucker 


Follow this bike route.

Best Bicycle Route That’s
Not The Louisville Loop
A Route We Made Up (See Below)
The Louisville Loop sounds cool in theory, but with many sections unfinished or just too damn busy with car traffic, I set out to find my own loop. 

First, start at Big Four Station in Jeffersonville, where you can get a glimpse of the sunrise as you ride over the bridge. Make your way to Lexington Road and circle around the backside of Cave Hill Cemetery. Enter Cherokee Park and weave your way through until you find another beautiful park — Seneca. And as you ride the Seneca Park Loop, you’ll catch a nice view of Bowman Field and its historic WWII-era plane backlit by a rising sun. Since the Seneca Loop is about five miles total, add as many laps as you want, then head back to the Big Four Bridge for some food and drinks at Parlour Pizza in Jeffersonville. —Ethan Smith


A classroom is the best place for comedy.

Best Place for Free Entertainment/Best Place to See Comedy/Pretty much anything in the Arts & Entertainment category
A public high school classroom
Citywide
 Word’s gotten around my school this year that Spider-Man’s teaching Culinary. At least, Tobey McGuire is, I don’t know who Gen Z’s default Spider-Man is. That’s an improvement over last year when, 12 weeks into school, a student asked her neighbor what my name was. Lamar or something. Prompting a student across the room to shout, “Did you just say his name was Lemur!” It’s all endearing, since they seem to trust me enough to ask for help…with other subjects’ classwork. Why would I know how to do trigonometry? “Because you always make us do math in here.” That’s a better answer than I expected. Especially from a student whose tardy notes have her going to Room Number IDK. Genres other than comedy pop up, too. There are the hallway rom-coms that spur classroom discussion. The “Rudy”-esque sports triumphs of the guy who missed the first six paper ball shots. And my personal favorite, the espionage missions of a student slyly using their phone during a test. The hero always gets busted. It probably doesn’t help that they’re in casual gym fits instead of James Bond’s tux. —Jon Larmee 


Sports & Social Club.

Best Place To Watch UFC Fights
The Sports & Social Club
427 S. 4th St.
Yes, I’m aware that you’re a local, and locals don’t go to Fourth Street Live!. You think it’s our version of Nashville’s Broadway Street. A place where tourists swarm around like wild drunken bees. A hive of scum and villainy. But hear me out here: One of the bars within the district, The Sports & Social Club, is the best place to watch the UFC fights in the city. And within the Watterson Expressway, one of the only places to watch to UFC fights in the city. But, the massive sports bar/bowling alley almost always features a good crowd and a laid-back atmosphere when a big card rolls around, which isn’t always the case in other establishments since people sometimes have problems acting right when the TVs are blasting fistfights that take place in cages. The worst I’ve ever seen at Sports is someone doing the Conor McGregor walk — you’re never going to be at a sports bar without at least a little cringe, but that’s some of the fun. The point is, there are plenty of TVs, plenty of people who want to nerd out about a niche sport and plenty of food and drinks at a reasonable price. —Scott Recker


Birria Quesadilla.

Best Quesadilla
Birria quesadilla at I Love Tacos
Multiple Locations
I’m not a full-fledged foodie, but I like knowing what’s hot in the food world. By the time I first heard about birria, I was already behind the trend, but no problem: trying the birria quesadillas at I Love Tacos, a colorful local chain with three locations, has since helped me get my fix more times than I can count. The restaurant has become my go-to spot for taking first dates and out-of-town guests, and the birria quesadillas are always my top recommendations. They’re savory and packed full of slow-cooked meat and cheese, with a red birria broth for dipping. The dishes are filling and delicious and never too spicy — yes, I know, don’t judge, but I can’t really handle spice. In any case, I have I Love Tacos to thank for introducing me to one of my new favorite foods. — Carolyn Brown


Gravely Brewing Co., part of the Louisville Ale Trail.

Best local alcohol trail to follow that isn’t the Urban Bourbon Trail
Louisville Ale Trail
More Than 25 Local Locations
In Louisville, bourbon is king! With the local bourbon industry bringing hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy each year by way of tourism, that’s not likely to change anytime soon. However, bourbon is not the only alcohol-related industry bringing in the tourists. Louisville’s craft beer scene has exploded over the past few years with 26 individual breweries now calling Louisville home (and more on the way)! Enter the Louisville Ale Trail’s Brewery Passport Program, which acts as an informational guide to all things Louisville craft beer. Pick up a passport at any local brewery for $10 (literally all of them are participating), get your passport stamped at each brewery you visit, collect 12 or more stamps and redeem for prizes! Started in 2020 by three entrepreneurs who have been heavily involved in the local beer community for years, their mission is simple: elevate and promote the entire local craft beer scene. And with the Brewery Passport Program, putting on Louisville Beer Week for the past five years, and creating the now annual Louisville Beer Appreciation Day on May 2, the Louisville Ale Trail has certainly done just that! —Jeff Polk


Syrian Grill Abu Abdu.

Best Shawarma
Syrian Grill Abu Abdu
3325 Bardstown Road
In a life before Louisville, I spent seven years as a journalist living in Beirut, Lebanon (and spent time in Syria both before and during that country’s devastating war). Middle Eastern cuisine is near and dear to my heart, but it’s also something I generally avoid in many parts of America after too many disappointing meals. Shawarma may be the dish hardest to nail. To be done properly, it has to be cooked on a rotating spit. And oftentimes, places cooking shawarma or its Greek cousin the gyro eschew the spit in favor of a stovetop, which just does not capture the same flavor or texture. Thankfully, Syrian Grill Abu Abdu is the real deal, cooking up chicken and beef shawarma on massive spits in their Bardstown Road kitchen, shaving off the outer layer of grilled meat fresh for every order. As a marker of how good it is: If Syrian Grill Abu Abdu were a shawarma spot in Beirut, I’d go there over other places. Their chicken shawarma is cooked to perfection, wrapped in a thin bread and then pressed on a grill to crisp it up. Make sure you dip it in the garlic sauce that they provide. I usually do takeout, but inside, their dining room features cosy couches typical of majlis sitting rooms in the Arab world, a fountain and large pictures of the Citadel of Aleppo and Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock. —Josh Wood  


Con Huevos Rancheros.

Best breakfast when you’re recovering from COVID
Huevos Rancheros at Con Huevos
2339 Frankfort Ave.
Why, yes, I did just get COVID after 2 1/2 years of artfully avoiding the pandemic. And no, I am not recommending this to you as one of Louisville’s best things to do in 2022. But COVID did teach me some useful things about eating. I didn’t have a lot of appetite while recovering, but a man’s got to eat, so I treated myself to local restaurant fare to fascinate my appetite. In this and the following two reports, I’d like to share with you my nominees for the best breakfast, lunch, and dinner (for me), when recovering from COVID. You need a good breakfast to start your day, and I can’t think of a better dish to jumpstart my system when I’m not feeling it than the Huevos Rancheros at Con Huevos ($12.99). Yes! I’m feeling better just thinking about this gently spicy, crunchy yet soft combination of rich egg flavors and chile spice. Literally “ranch eggs,” this is a hearty, filling dish that, in olden times, set up hardworking farm workers for a long day in the fields. Two glowing golden sunny-side-up eggs perch fetchingly atop crisp corn tortillas folded over creamy refried black beans and dressed with spicy salsa ranchera, avocado, and mild yet gently funky queso fresco. Desayuno de campeones, I tellya … breakfast of champions! —Robin Garr


Margherita at Coals.

Best lunch when you’re recovering from COVID
Margherita Pizza at Coals
3730 Frankfort Ave.
Pizza has always been comfort food for me since I was a little kid, and my infatuation only got worse after living in New York City for a few years and making frequent trips to Italy after that. Naturally, when I was recovering from COVID and still felt short on appetite, pizza was one of the most tempting foods I could imagine. Must. Have. Pizza. But where? Louisville is rich with pizzerias, and plenty of them are worthy. Heck, a good half-dozen favorites could call my name on any given day. But Coals Artisan Pizza always makes my top five with the tasty leopard-spotted crussts that emerge from its coal-fired oven; and Coals’ branch in St. Matthews’ Vogue Center is handy. Best of all, its “St. Matthews” pie – Coals’ moniker for the classic Neapolitan pizza Margherita – is a perennial favorite. Simple, perfect, its three toppings of fresh tomato, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil reflect the red, white, and green colors of the Italian flag. Indeed, it was first created in Naples in 1889 and named in honor of the newly unified Italy’s first queen, Margherita. The St. Matthews ($14.50) mirrors the original and ups the ante with fior de latte mozzarella and Coals’ tangy sauce. You can even make it a breakfast pie, adding two eggs over easy and Nueske’s applewood smoked bacon for $2.50 more, but naah. Authenticity matters. —Robin Garr


Daal Makhani at Tikka House.

Best dinner when you’re recovering from COVID
Daal Makhani at Tikka House
3930 Chenoweth Square
The current COVID variants don’t usually completely demolish one’s senses of smell and taste. I’d have hated that. But COVID did tweak my taste buds. My whole tasting system was just off. Nothing tasted quite right. Bitter tasted more bitter, and spicy tasted like fire. The overall impact made me lose my appetite. What could I do? Go for the dishes that make up my idea of comfort food: Huevos Rancheros, a traditional margherita pizza, and maybe best of all, to round out a day with a hearty, rich dinner, Indian daal makhani. Daal in its many forms comprises spicy Indian lentil soups and stews, and you could call daal makhani the king of daals. Makhani means “buttery,” and this rich, consoling dish from Northern India’s Punjab wraps a combination of long-simmered black lentils and red kidney beans in a rich robe of butter and cream. Reserved for special events, it’s often served at wedding feasts and other parties. And, of course, as an appetite kick-starter when I’m not feeling great. The daal makhani at Louisville’s Tikka House ($13.99) is one of my favorites among many contenders, and two large pieces of tender, puffy garlic naan ($4.49) and long-grain basmati rice made it a filling meal. Subtle, complex and harmonious spicing elevates Tikka House’s rendition, a thick, dark soup of black lentils and kidney beans – tender, flavor-loaded legumes – swimming in that thick, savory cream-and-butter sauce. —Robin Garr 


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