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Louisville

Whenever I'm in Louisville (which is rarely), I always hit the Brown Hotel for the original hot brown.
Thanks,
Kevin
http://www.thebrownhotel.com/

rbh

You are in luck. Robin Garr has one of the best independent restaurant web sites I know of. Click on the restaurant listings (alphabetical at first), then at the bottom of the listing click on the ranking by 100 point scale to get to the best quickly.

My fave is Lynn's Paradise. Extremely funky. Good place for breakfast and a very good hot brown, tho I have never had the one at the Brown Hotel so I can't compare.

Note--when in Louisville, you must have a hot brown at least once.

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Louisville

Thanks for the pointers... most meals were rather uneventful, with a couple meals at 4th Street Live, which while not bad does not provide interesting dining (Hard Rock and The Pub [Closed Nov 12, 2012] were the places we went; there's also a Friday's, Lucky Strike [Became Sports and Social Club in May, 2009], some Irish bar) - basically a lot of chains.. nothing wrong with that, just not interesting.

The one interesting place we went to was Proof on Main which was good. I had Kentucky bass on top of corn and green beans which was quite tasty. The special was a bucatini with pancetta and tomato based sauce which my co-worker liked. She particularly raved about the warm white chocolate pudding cake. Another co-worker had the penne pasta, which she said was good, but nothing particularly creative. Chocolate malted gelato decent. Service was quite slow (as were many things in Kentucky) - took them a couple tries to find the bottle of wine we ordered (Lake Chalice Sauvignon Blanc - nothing fancy). Artwork a bit odd... the current artist having pictures displayed included photographs of real people with mannequins. The plaster calves (or were they lambs?) hanging from the upper corners of the dining room (looking like they were being led to slaughter) were also somewhat disconcerting to my co-workers.

Did stop by Ruth Hunt Candies [since 1921] while in Mount Sterling. Was expecting a much larger operation based on how a couple folks in Frankfort mentioned it... but good chocolates if you're in the area.

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That was some good eatin'!

post-710-1188799914_thumb.jpg

early supper at The Brown Hotel, Louisville KY, Friday 31 August 2007

Major artery clogger, but oh so good! And the original at the Brown is the best. (I'm from Kentucky and have eaten hundreds of hot browns.)

Great shot. Thanks.

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Louisville, Bardstown

Just got back from Kentucky Bourbon Fest, and I was in Louisville for exactly one dinner, but we ate at Proof On Main, and I really enjoyed it. I wish I could remember what I ordered, the whole trip was such a blur, but I'd definitely recommend it to friends. I think that they were possibly a tad overwhelmed due to the Ryder Cup activities which were also taking place. Apparently, the restaurant has an herb garden on their roof, which I thought was pretty cool. The art gallery part of the place was fascinating, but I didn't have time to explore it. I enjoyed my cocktail, a Naughty Presbyterian, which was Old Forester Bourbon, Reed's Ginger Beer and Grand Marnier. Despite recent accolades in the press, I was a little disappointed in the wine list, and I found some of the prices surprisingly high, but perhaps that's just me.

My first meal in Louisville was brunch/lunch at a nearby Cracker Barrel. Scoff if you will at the corny decor and massive gift shop, but if you are hungry and looking for a decent meal, you could do a whole lot worse. It's clean, comfortable, and quite satisfying. Food-wise, I'd put it about on par with a Denny's or Howard Johnson's, so it isn't fancy, but on the road I certainly don't require fancy.

If one's travels take them to Bardstown, I can heartily recommend Mammy's Kitchen, on 3rd street, for breakfast and lunch (didn't eat dinner there, perhaps next time). It's hardly fancy, but just good, honest, homestyle cooking. I didn't have a hot brown, but I wish that I had, the one that I saw looked absolutely delicious. If you leave there hungry, then you simply weren't trying. It was recommended to me by a business associate who is from Lexington, Kentucky, and I am grateful to him for that.

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Bardstown

I highly recommend Kurtz Restaurant in Bardstown for a post-distillery dinner. The standout here is grilled pork loin, slightly crisp on the sides and tender, juicy and savory throughout. I also enjoyed the 1/4 dark fried chicken, but the Kentucky fried ham was a bit dry and too salty. For dessert, definitely go for the bourbon soaked biscuit pudding.

On the distillery front, we visited three (technically two). Heaven Hill's tour is on the grounds of the Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown, while its distillery is closer to Louisville, but the tour is fantastic once you get past the cheeseball movie. Heaven Hill's tasting is great too. Two single barrels aged 10 and 18 years respectively, and they give you enough to try each without and with water. Maker's Mark's tour was crowded, but very informative, and you actually got to see the stills, taste from the tubs of sour mash and walk through the bottling factory. The Jim Beam tour in Clermont consisted of a cheeseball movie and a gift shop.

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Louisville


Any more recent reports from Proof on Main or recommendations for an alternative within walking distance?

Probably too late for your trip, but we were there a few weeks ago. It was OK, but not the outstanding, overwhelming experience people have raved about. There's not much within walking distance for dining unless you want to go to Morton's. Brunch at Proof was better than dinner.
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Louisville, Frankfurt, Lawrenceburg, Bardstown

Just did a solid portion of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, hitting up Four Roses, Heaven Hill, and Maker's Mark as well as Buffalo Trace which is technically not a part of the "official" trail.

Our first stop was Buffalo Trace outside of Frankfurt, where most of my favorite bourbons are produced; it's worth calling ahead to book the Hard Hat tour which is 1-1.5 hours and takes you really in depth to all the buildings plus our tour guide was a third-generation employee who was really enthusiastic and knowledgeable. All tours are free and included tastings, we were poured some white dog, Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare as well as some creme liquor abomination that most everyone else seemed to enjoy. The woman there said that Pappy Van Winkle and the Antique Collection are usually released around mid-October for those who like their bourbons to cost a lot of money.

Four Roses in Lawrenceburg was a bit of a sh*tshow, so much so that my companions took doubles on the tastings because no one was keeping track. To be fair they are in the process of building a new, larger visitor's center which will hopefully make it much more enjoyable. The tour was just okay, especially following the excellent example of Buffalo Trace, but it didn't help that their barrel storage facilities and distilling operations are 45 minutes apart so you could really only see one or the other depending on which location you went to. We were given tastings of the yellow label, small batch and single barrel; tasting and tour were gratis.

By the time we made it to Heaven Hill in Bardstown we were toured out. Plus Heaven Hill tours cost money and the cheapest, fastest one was basically someone walking you through the visitor's center, an option that local friends said was especially lame. The gift shop had the best bourbon selection of others we visited but otherwise I can't say much more about this place. They won't even let you in the gift shop without checking in with some women at the front desk, even if you aren't taking a tour. Oh and you can't do any tastings without doing a tour, even though we offered to pay for the tasting. Bah humbug.


If you've read Charles Cowdery's excellent, if a bit outdated, treatise on bourbon (and I recommend you do if you plan on doing the trail) you're familiar with Maker's Mark mythology-wrapped marketing scheme, an approach that carries over into their very slick tour. I wasn't expecting much but it was quite well done, even the tastings of Maker's and Maker's 46 were well-organized and beautifully presented. The best part was they were the only distillery producing while we were in town so everything was going full throttle. We even go to taste some of the distiller's beer that was percolating in the open-air fermenting tubs. Unfortunately it was Sunday and they weren't dipping the bottles in wax but if you're willing to pay a hefty premium on bourbon from the gift shop you can totally do it yourself. We declined.

For those considering a visit soon, note that the Willet distillery is on the verge of opening to the public - a woman at Heaven Hill, which is just a half mile away from the Willet operation, advised that the official road sign for the distillery just went up this week. It looks like it'll be a fun addition.

Having said all that, I'm now of the opinion that there's no reason to visit all these distilleries unless you're interested in the mechanics of distillation. All of them were pretty much just marketing operations and, unlike, say, going directly to a winery, the gift shops didn't have any bourbon you couldn't get at any good liquor store, PLUS we discovered the bourbons at these shops were always a few dollars more than the liquor stores. So unless you like branded sweatshirts and barware you could probably do fine just perusing the liquor shops or sitting down and working your way through the bourbon menus of Louisville bars and restaurants to get your bourbon fix.

I'm amazed that some entrepreneurial soul hasn't opened the definitive bourbon shop in Louisville. Our searching was cursory so maybe we missed it? However the two stores we did visit were wonderful: Liquor World outside of Bardstown, had most every bourbon you can imagine and the owners try hard to get the rare stuff. The gentleman who helped us asked us about Bourbon bar in Adams Morgan once he heard we were from DC, apparently someone from Bourbon is a frequent customer of his. Here we found some Buffalo Trace Experimental and he had a couple other goodies on hand. We also visited Keg Liquors in Indiana, just across the river from Louisville, so that my mate could get hisThree Floyds fix (you can only get 3F bombers in Kentucky). They had some items from the BT Antique collection, as well as the Willet pot still and family estate bourbons.

As for food we didn't do as much eating as we should've for people consuming so much bourbon. One dinner in Louisville was at Smoketown USA, a bbq place in the Smoketown neighborhood. It was fine is really all I can say; the proprietors were lovely, there was a gentleman performing tunes at the front and it was affordable. Lots of character, very soulful, family-oriented joint. Beer wasn't half bad either.

Holy Grale is one of the few bars to participate in Zwanzee Day so naturally we had to make a stop for my beer-loving mate. There's nothing but beer but the selection is sophisticated and well-edited (read: shorter list than Churchkey but high quality). The food was the sort of gastropub fare popping up all over the place these days: scotch eggs and sliders and what have you. The pate and rilletes were unremarkable if you're familiar with Churchkey's wonderful charcuterie board but the pork belly sliders were an incredible, if a bit heavily salted. I stand by any place that uses pretzel buns exclusively for their bunned food. I regret not ordering more, it was intriguing enough to continue making our way through the menu.

We needed lunch while in Bardstown so we ate at the Old Talbott Tavern, the sort of place that anyone would be familiar with as it sits on the main drag of the older part of downtown, looks like an old country inn, attracts tourists like flies and has a boring menu of safe favorites. We opted for the "bourbon bar" which looked like a depressing dive and had only a couple of customers, clearly just some locals enjoying some day drinking. We loved it. You could order *any* 5 shots of bourbon for $25, they had a decent selection and a knowledgeable bartender to administer them and between four of us it ended up being a great deal shared. I got the BLT which delighted me with fried green tomatoes in place of the traditional, their potato chips were made in-house and it was cheap and fast. No complaints here.

Finally we tried two different bars to take ourselves on a sitting-in-place bourbon trail: Jockey Silks in the Galt House and the bar at Proof on Main. The Galt House has the air of a hotel on the old Las Vegas strip. Everything about it was horribly depressing but I'm not above recommending the bar since it was basically empty and they had a lot of bourbon. Having said that we quickly abandoned it for the ultra slick bar at Proof on Main, which had bourbon flights and some pretty tasty french fries.

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Any recs for Lexington and the surrounding areas? Will have a 17 month with me, so needs to be kid-friendly and chef aunt-friendly :)

This feels like a very long shot since Kentucky isn't well covered by DR.com, Lexington was only mentioned once, as a question by MBK in the 19th of 20 posts and MBK's question never got an answer.

I've posted on other threads how great dr.com is for substantive content and community but how it's limited when ranging far from DC in spots like this. Which then drive one to start consulting those other websites.

Undaunted, can anyone advise on Lexington?

Will be out there for a few days in April. As blasplemous as this will sound, less interested in bourbon. More interested in good food for all meals. Also, if anyone knows anything about the food options (whether to engage or avoid) at Keeneland, that'd be huge. Planning to spend a day at the Spring Race Meeting.

Here's hoping, he says, while raising a not-so-good bourbon :)

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Lexington

Last year my brother took my mom and me to Malone's steakhouse.  There are three locations, and since he was driving I have no idea which location we went to.  We both enjoyed it.  He likes going there because he enjoys steak and seafood and they also have a lot of gluten-free options.  Good wine list too, if I recall correctly.

www.bluegrasshospitality.com

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Lexington

Keeneland has several dining rooms/options, at different price points.  Certainly, one must give the burgoo a try, even if it might not be the best rendition of it out there :)  (I'll be at the Spring Meeting, too.).

Joe Bologna's is a casual favorite from high school trips to Lexington, many moons ago.  It was still good on visits in recent years and the breadsticks are a must. Definitely not fine dining, but just good food in a building with an interesting history.

I'll check with some locals and see what suggestions they might have.

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Lexington, Berea

Suggestions from the locals - with the caveat that I haven't been to any of these places:

Table 310 on Short Street

Holly Hill Inn in Midway (a prix fixe place, with exceptional food) - seconded by another friend.

Azur

Sahara for Mediterranean
Portofino downtown

Dudley's

Jonathan's in Gratz Park "a great place"


The same people that run Holly Hill Inn run a casual restaurant called Wallace Station, on Old Frankfort Pike. It's supposed to be a good place to grab a lunch on your way back from touring the Woodford Reserve Distillery or just sightseeing in horse country. The same couple also do the Picnic on the Porch lunch at Woodford Reserve Distillery, available April through October.


Boone Tavern in Berea is home to a well-known restaurant, where your waiter/waitress will more than likely be a student at Berea College.
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Paducah

Should you find yourself in Paducah...

I recommend a stop at Kirchoff's Bakery for lunch in the deli and some sweets to go from the bakery. The soups and sandwiches are very good and made to order on fresh bread. The Elvis cookie (peanut butter, banana, bacon) was as tasty as it sounds.  The business dates back five generations - check out the website for the back-story on how it reopened in the late 90's after a 40 year break.

In the same neighborhood is the only other family-owned location of Doe's Eat Place (the original is in Greenville, MS).  I may have to check it out on my next trip (yes, there will be another), along with a definite stop for lunch at House of Grace. House of Grace appears to be a sort of reincarnation of the Ninth Street House, run by the son of Curtis Grace (who was chef/owner of the Ninth Street House).  I have fond memories of long-ago 'fancy' lunches at Ninth Street House, and their 'famous' chicken salad and iced tea.

And, IMHO, a visit to the National Quilt Museum would be time, and $11, very well spent.

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Paducah

Should you find yourself in Paducah...

I recommend a stop at Kirchoff's Bakery for lunch in the deli and some sweets to go from the bakery. The soups and sandwiches are very good and made to order on fresh bread. The Elvis cookie (peanut butter, banana, bacon) was as tasty as it sounds.  The business dates back five generations - check out the website for the back-story on how it reopened in the late 90's after a 40 year break.

In the same neighborhood is the only other family-owned location of Doe's Eat Place (the original is in Greenville, MS).  I may have to check it out on my next trip (yes, there will be another), along with a definite stop for lunch at House of Grace. House of Grace appears to be a sort of reincarnation of the Ninth Street House, run by the son of Curtis Grace (who was chef/owner of the Ninth Street House).  I have fond memories of long-ago 'fancy' lunches at Ninth Street House, and their 'famous' chicken salad and iced tea.

And, IMHO, a visit to the National Quilt Museum would be time, and $11, very well spent.

I can't say anything about the restaurants you mentioned, except that if the Doe's Eat Place in Paducah is anything like the original in Greenville Miss., it's very much worthwhile.  The quilt museum is a must do. Unbelievable work.  There is also a museum downtown that features an original drugstore from the turn of the last century that is worth a visit.

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Lexington

I hit three of Ouita Michel's four (five if you count the chef-in-residence gig at Woodford Reserve) establishments during my stay in Lexington.

Windy Corner Market is on the eastern outskirts of town, with a beautiful view of the neighboring farms.  It was a nice spot for a late, relaxed lunch of pulled pork bbq and a corncake, along with a Kentucky Ale. The market is an upscale country store selling local products and serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I had a lovely Sunday brunch on the porch of the Holly Hill Inn in Midway. Being Sunday, the options were fairly limited, but I think I picked the best of the bunch.  The three-course $18 menu was a great value. I enjoyed the Salmagundi, chicken and herbed dumplings, and bread pudding.  Service was friendly and helpful and looking out over the lawn full of spring beauties made the meal that much more pleasant.  I stopped at the Midway School Bakery for some treats to take home. The corn on the cob cookie and the Woodford oatmeal cookie were both delicious (and quite large).  The Bakery is in the former cafeteria of the old school.  Spots that were closed but looked good or were recommended include Heirloom and Darlin' Jean's Apple Cobbler Cafe.

A Saturday dinner at Coba Cocina, the new hotspot in town, might not have been a great idea on the evening of the Bluegrass Stakes AND the UK Spring Game.  The nearly two hour wait may not have been worth, if it hadn't give time to catch up with old friends.  The space is huge, and unexpected, given the strip mall location.  In addition to the restaurant, there is a large bar on the second level and a bakery/gelateria.  The two-story 'world's largest private jellyfish aquarium' feels like Vegas, which was the intention of the owners.  (They own 35 Cheddar's franchises and several other restaurants in the Lexington.)  It was evident they were still working out opening kinks and there were lengthy gaps between ordering and receiving our food. It was pretty good and quite reasonably priced.  Maybe not my first choice on a future visit, but I wouldn't object to giving it another try.

I made a stop at Joe Bologna's (mentioned above), mainly for sentimental reasons.  It's consistent - not great, but a good spot for a casual meal.

A food tour company - Bleu Plate Tours - offers two walking tours of downtown Lexington. Unfortunately, the scheduling didn't work for me on this trip, but they look like they'd be fun and interesting.  The owner was quite helpful (via e-mail) in suggesting places to check out during my stay.  The website lists her 'picks' in several different categories.

The Town Branch and Kentucky Ale brewery/distillery are located a few minutes northwest of downtown and tours are offered daily. The history of the brewery is interesting, given that it is owned by Alltech (an animal nutrition company).  There is a connection between the two, believe it or not - more info on their site or during a tour.

Lots of good eating and drinking to be done in Lexington and the surrounding area!

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HOLY SHAMOLIE Jackie - why I love this site.

I'm headed to Lexington tomorrow for the weekend. I made a 2 day itinerary that includes restaurant stops based on prior posts in this thread.

Tonight I will revisit my choices :) Thanks for the deep and wide review! - I'll post on my return if I have anything new to add. And maybe Lexington is close to getting its own thread.

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Lexington, Versailles

I just realized I forgot to include my favorite spot (for the experience, not necessarily the food - though I like a good country breakfast):  the Keeneland Track Kitchen.

Even though there's only racing at Keeneland 30 days out of the year, the track operates every day. Go early, park by the kitchen, walk up through the barns to the track, watch the morning workout, and head back to the Track Kitchen for a hearty,and downright cheap, breakfast. It's a good reason to get your day started early.

From there you can head west and see the castle in Versailles (prounounced ver-sails), and then on to Doughdaddy's.

(You did know there's a Kentucky Doughnut Trail, didn't you?)

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Lexington

OK, just back from a wonderful first trip to Lexington.  We generally stuck to the recommendations above.  Impressions:

Saturday:

Breakfast at Wallace Station:  The restored building has a general store feel, is small and is nowhere near ANYTHING else but horse farms.  So you get a nice drive to what seems like a "secret" place.  I had the "Duece's Hell-A-Rito" breakfast burrito ($7.95) and it was one of the better breakfasts I'd ever had.  It was different - I think the chipotle mayo made it taste different than any other breakfast I've had before.  My wife had the Breakfast Brown and it was good - a basic meat/egg/cheese approach.   The kids had Sausage Biscuits that included double sausage patties and a question of "how am I supposed to eat this thing, especially with all the orthodontics in my mouth..."

Lunch at Sahara Mediterranian Cuisine:  This strip-mall counter service place gets busy and crowded but processes orders quickly.  It is probably most comperable to our own Moby Dick chain; fast, simple and a decent value.  I enjoyed the Sahara Chicken and the Chicken Shawarma, neither is spicy.  The pine nuts in the rice is a nice touch. 

A non-food related mention here, as this was just crazy:  We did mostly horse-related activities but one departure was a ride on the Bluegrass Scenic Railroad.  It is a nice narrated 40 minute ride out in an old rail car, a 10 minute stop, then 40 minutes back to the station.  Amazingly, they overshot the station - but the tracks don't...they derailed the train, causing the lead car (a loaded passenger car, the engine was in the back) to jump over the rail "bumpers" at the end of the track, cross an asphalt road and hit a shipping container sitting on the ground on the other side of the crossroad.  The wheel sank into the asphalt like it was butter - and the shipping container was pushed back a few feet.  I SURVIVED A TRAIN DERAILMENT!!  And all for only $16.50 each in first class.  We stayed for about 45 minutes after and watched them removed the bumpers with torches, then pull the train back up off the ground and onto the rails.  Circle that day on the calendar!!!

Dinner was to be at Coba Cucina, but it was packed at 8;30pm so we went to The Parkette instead.  Breakfast and Dinner at two places shown on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives was pure chance, but there we were.  This place is an old drive-in of the Sonic style.  We don't have many old ones around here any more, but it reminded me of Doumar's in Norfolk, VA.  We tried the chicken and a few other things but...nothing to write home about except maybe very high weight-to-price ratio.  When the waiter handed my chicken box through the car window I almost dropped it - it weighed like 3 pounds.  Much of that was the frozen fries and gravy - which had a nice pepper to it.  As I sat and ate, I pondered my love-hate of flourescent lighting - it is so harsh and at times I can catch the 'blinks' - but yet it is the lighting for all things traditional but nearly lost in our world - things like the wait line for the bumper cars at Knoebel's Amusement Park, like the buildings at The Bengie's Drive-In Movies and The Parkette.  Alas, the flourescent light...

Sunday:

We awoke brisk and early and headed to Keeneland for the morning workouts.  We were there at about 7am with one other person watching.  I don't know much about horse training but to have two horses practicing going neck-and-neck, full speed across the finish line - and being one of only a handful of people to watch such majesty in the long rays of the morning sun - it is breathtaking.   At about 8:30 they stop for a few minutes to "Zamboni" the track surface, a perfect chance to walk down to the track kitchen.  As said above, this is basic breakfast food, served cafeteria style.  You eat as the great horses surround you, peering from their frames and the jockeys get a quick coffee before heading back up to the track.  The buscuit with gravy was pretty good.  If getting eggs and given the choice, ask them to make an egg vs just grabbing some scrambled eggs from the trough. 

We had lunch at Joe Bologna's.  This was decent pizza and pasta and a very busy place.  I wouldn't say it was the best I've ever had but the breadsticks and cookie included in the meals was a nice touch and I could see where it would be very popular.  Like The Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh, PA, it is in a converted church.  Unlike that place, Joe Bologna's isn't cavernous and doesn't make its own beer.

Dinner at Coba Cucina's was pretty neat, and again, this place is very busy even at 8:30 on a Sunday night.  It has a very strong trendy/upscale vibe with a two-story jellyfish tank in the middle, blue neon throughout the place and a nightclub soundtrack (that wasn't too loud, just a constant un-tah, un-tah, un-tah beat).  The dishes were kind of hit-or-miss for us but the prices were reasonable relative to what you might expect given the setting - so I could see where the popularity comes from.  Entrees were generally $10-$12.  I enjoyed the shrimp ceviche tropicale ($10), though I wish it wasn't chopped into such small pieces.  My Tampico Platter ($10) had decent vegetarian spinach enchiladas but again, nothing too exciting (full disclosure, I'm not a big fan or expert at Latino cuisine).  My wife's Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes (only $6.50) were a hit -essentially corn bread cakes with Pico on top.   Delicious and enough to be her main dish. 

Our prior trip a few weeks ago was to Myrtle Beach, SC and I feel like any one of these Lexington meals would have been welcome there.  And we didn't even try any true fine-dining places in Lexington, these were all family-and-a-little-bit-dirty-friendly places.  We were pleasantly surprised at our dining success here and hope to return soon to try others.

Special thanks to Golden Ticket for the advice!

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Lexington

Wow...never thought I'd see the Parkette drive-in mentioned here!  That was my usual destination after taking my girlfriend to the drive-in movie across the road, nearly fifty years ago.  The signature sandwich was and is the double decker Poor Boy hamburger...nothing special, but they were one of the first doing the double decker.  It's a true Lexington institution, one that will probably be there for as close to forever as we can measure.

Joe Bologna's was my go-to pizzeria for a brief time, just after college.  I went back a couple years ago and would agree that the breadsticks in garlic butter is the best thing on the menu.  Back in the day, Joe opened his pizzeria when there was no decent pizza in Lexington, so his success was quick and continues to this day, even though there are better choices around.   Good Fellas on North Mill has very good pizza...I was up there for the end of the Keeneland meet and very happy with the pizza we took home after the races.

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Louisville

Louisville needs its own thread - I'll try to split it off when I get a moment.

I've been procrastinating writing a continuation of my trip to the Midwest - the day of Matt's invocation, I decided to take the southern route home, and hit a couple James Beard nominees in the process.

The night before, in Bloomington, IN, Matt and I had dinner at Restaurant Tallent, a 2015 James Beard semi-finalist for Best Chef - Great Lakes; on this evening, I went to 610 Magnolia (website), Edward Lee's flagship restaurant in Louisville, KY, which was a 2015 James Beard finalist for Best Chef - Southeast. This is a deceptively formal restaurant, is prix-fixe only, and is absolutely fine dining. I was surprised to see that Tom Sietsema this week reviewed Succotash in National Harbor, nominally run by Edward Lee. Lee also has a second Louisville restaurant, MilkWood, which is decidedly more downscale and less formal. He also has published a cookbook, "Smoke and Pickles." Lee has been a busy man - perhaps a little too busy for his (or our) own good.

I've held off writing this until now because I can't find my menu (I asked if I could take a copy, and they said yes). So I wrote 610 Magnolia, and they graciously emailed me a copy, although it wasn't quite the same - I could probably patch together the courses I had, but I don't think that would be fair to the restaurant which was, as a whole, a lovely, elegant, civilized dining experience that really hit the spot after a long day - it was my very first evening as an empty nester. :(

I chose the four-course prix-fixe instead of the six-course, and the dinner was everything I hoped it would be, except for two things: they didn't have the first bottle of wine I ordered (a Godello), and they had to substitute drumfish for snapper, and the drumfish - which was the main course of the meal - was overcooked to the point of being very dried out.

But there were some seasonal and regional items on my menu, such as compressed watermelon, baby red spinach, a cornmeal cake with Georgia freestone peaches and buttermilk ice cream, etc. You knew were in the South, and you knew it was the end of summer - it's hard to compliment a restaurant any more than that. I'm not entirely convinced that Edward Lee should win the Beard Award for 610 Magnolia, especially since he's diluting himself, but there's no doubting the thoughtfulness and class that went into implementing this very good, refined dinner. If there's a more sophisticated dining experience than this in Louisville, I'd like to know what it is.

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Louisville

I found myself in Louisville and only had time for one dinner, so I wanted to get a good one. Thanks to Don's post above, I decided to go to Milkwood. I already had a few drinks in me when I sat down but upon the server's recommendation, I ordered the "Big in Bangkok" cocktail with Four Roses bourbon, peanut butter, lime, and thai bitters and I am glad I did. The cocktail that came out looked like a gimlet and I was surprised it wasn't darker. Overall it was well balanced, savory, and light. I wish I could get this drink in DC. Next I ordered the pimento cheese with spoonball caviar which was served on light and airy pork rinds and sprinkled with ham salt. All of that sat on top of a scallion pesto. This was also a great dish and I wish I could order here in DC. I had perfectly wonderful fried chicken on top of a slightly too dense biscuit for my entrée. I don't even remember the last time I ate fried chicken and this dish made the wait worth it. Finally, my waiter was able to procure for me a half order of graham cracker macaron as a dessert. This is a wonderful restaurant. I am only bummed that this is likely my only visit.

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Louisville

I didn't have a hot brown, but having experienced it before I didn't mind skipping it on this short trip.

Dinner at Buck's was a bit of a happy trip back in time; the dining room is well-cared for, but feels like a bit of an artifact from the early 1990s. Dinner was very good, though; a wedge salad not over-dressed, a duroc pork chop that was perfectly prepared, and grits and Brussels sprouts that made sure you knew you were in the south (at least sort-of).

Dinner at 610 Magnolia was splendid; we were in their private dinner space across the street from the main restaurant, and had a great experience. The small bites were amazing--pimiento cheese and crackers were solid, but a crispy mushroom surprising and delicious, and the foie gras BLT was completely addictive. The parsnip soup with chili oil was bold and worthwhile; the duck breast was very good--perhaps partially cured?--and served with (more) (and even better) Brussels sprouts. a bourbon-banana cake took it over the top, so I didn't finish it, but would have if I could have.

I had dinner at 610 Magnolia 8-10 years ago, and was extremely impressed; at the time, it seemed like the type of place that was operating at the top of its game. I'm even more impressed now, that after so many years it has maintained its quality. I know that the chef has a few places in Louisville, and in DC, and of course anybody who follows restaurants would be worried about dilution of attention leading to the first restaurant losing its way. Not the case here, based on my visits.

Edited by seanvtaylor
To add another thought on 610 Magnolia
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Louisville

We stayed at the historic Brown Hotel for one night, which was very nice.  The lobby and bar area are both decorated with that classic hotel feel.  Rooms were nice with a king sized bed.

We arrived fairly late (8pm-ish on a Tuesday night) after a 10 hour drive from DC.  The hotel bar area was open until 9:30pm.  We took a walk around the neighborhood which is near the 4th Street Live entertainment district which looked like it was hurting.  The chain restaurants were all open, but lots of the independent looking restaurant spaces in the area were empty and for lease.  In a three block walk we passed about 6 or 7 spaces for lease. 

At the hotel we had an excellent classic caesar salad (made us realize why it's a classic after all), fries, wings and a couple cocktails.  They have a long list of bourbon.

The next morning we went down the street to the recently opened Riot Cafe.  Pretty good coffee, pastries, and breakfast sandwiches.  Seriously, this place looked like it was the only newly opened place for blocks. 

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