One of my favorite things to do regarding food in Louisville is to give recommendations. I don't just like to share a list because I'm particularly interested in finding establishments that fit exactly what people are looking for in their dining experiences. Whether it be romantic, budget-conscious, family friendly, daring, I usually have a go-to eatery to recommend. This is why I'm always excited when I get emails from anyone who reads my reviews. Here's one that came in around Forecastle weekend:
Just ran into an article you wrote on Hillbilly Tea. I'm thinking about visiting Louisville for this upcoming weekend with my husband. If there were any four places we just HAVE to eat at, what would you recommend? We love fun, relaxing atmospheres and a pretty moderate price point aka we don't have a whole lot of cash to blow on food. Sadly. If you have time, I'd love to hear your thoughts on must-see must-eat things that Louisville offers. Hope you had a great long weekend!
My response may have been a little overzealous...
Hello! I'm going to answer your question in a couple different ways partially because I"m proud of the amazing food available in my lovely city but also because people's concept of relaxing and moderate price point can vary.
In the $10 -$15 range: This can be including tip.
Heart and Soy: Located in the trendy Highlands neighborhood, Heart and Soy is a Asian "street food" restaurant where you can get a variety of delicious vegetarian dishes for under $10. It's also connected to Roots, a more upscale vegetarian eatery that is a little more expensive because it's more tapas style and everything is al carte. There's no booze at Heart and Soy but they do have a great selection of tea and other fun drinks like Vietnamese Coffee or Tea. Finally, the tofu is manufactured in house here so it's super fresh and available for purchase should you want to take some to go. Check out their menu here: http://www.heartandsoy.net/heart-and-soy-menu.php
Taco Punk: Taco Punk is located in the NuLu district, a section of the Phoenix Hill Neighborhood on the east side of Market Street in downtown Louisville. If you are coming in for the Forecastle Festival, this is nearby. Taco Punk's tacos are more expensive than your regular chain because aside from paying a better wage then your local taco bell, they offer biodegradable packaging, recycling, and composting. In addition, they use as much local meat and produce as possible. I recommend the Americano, made with local grass-fed beef. Their beer cheese queso is also a house favorite. Condiments include the usual cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes but they also have fun flavored sauces and salsas, pickled onions, and fresh cilantro. You can also sign up for texts for a few discounts in advance, find out more here: http://www.tacopunk.com/
Dakshin: Are you willing to drive and full of adventurous spirit? Do you LOVE Indian food? Dakshin is further into South Louisville and hosts a huge menu of Northern Indian, Southern Indian AND Indo Chinese options. The menu has so many options it can be a bit overwhelming. It is in a strip mall in the middle of nowhere but do no mistake.. this is definitely a local favorite.
Vietnam Kitchen: Similar to Dakshin, Vietnam Kitchen is located right at the beginning of our South End in the hub of our Vietnamese community. Again, it is located in a strip mall but expect it to be busy. This is also a local's favorite. The menu is also very big. Don't miss out on the avocado milkshake.
Papalinos PIzza: Our favorite New York style pizza joint. They have good beer on tap and featured special toppings daily. There is outdoor seating in a busy bar area of Louisville.
Stevens and Stevens: Sometimes you just want sandwich. Stevens and Stevens isn't open for dinner but grab a to go Reuben for some seriously decadent grub. Their garlic potato side is also to die for.
In the $15-$25 range:
El Mundo: Located on another fun and eccentric strip in Louisville called Frankfort Avenue, El Mundo is Mexican food done with a little flare. They have a great queso made with real cheese and roasted garlic. Their cocktails are amazing. Try the mango stanger, a rum concoction with habenero.There portions are generous, I often split Kentucky bison tacos with a friend and am perfectly satisfied, especially after some chips and queso.
Blue Dog Bakery: If you are the European Cafe type, there is nothing better than Blue Dog Bakery. Here you will have the best crusty French baguette available in Kentucky. They have an incredible brunch pizza for $12 that's topped with arugula, nutty cheese, and poached eggs. Everything is delicious here.
Holy Grale: Portions will be smaller here but if you love beer, this is a must. Tons of interesting beers on tap and a menu of decadent local fare including pork belly sliders and pretzel bread with beer cheese. The menu is seasonal.
Dragon King's Daughter: This Bardstown Road eatery can get expensive if you can't resist the sushi. However, go after 10 pm and they host a happy hour with discounted drinks and sushi rolls. In addition, they are fusion restaurant and have fun appetizers, tacos, and flat breads that are more affordable.
Garage Bar: If you are feeling hammy, they have artisan ham sampler plate for $18. They also have great pizza and the most amazing basil gimlet you will ever taste.
In the $25-$50 range (if you're feeling spendy or win the lottery):
Seviche: Also on Bardstown Road, this Latin inspired restaurant is A M A Z I N G. Fresh tastes with an array of meat and seafood offerings that are sustainable and local when possible. The Ahi Tuna seviche is delicious and Chef Lamas house made chimichurri is unequaled. The churrascos is my recommendation and the portion size is definitely split-able.
Proof On Main: Proof is pricey. However, Proof is also an internationally recognized restaurant and I have experienced some of the best meals of my life there. That is all.
Harvest: Amazing farm to fork restaurant with the BEST burger in town ($15). Try the sazerac if you love bourbon. Another one of my favorite haunts! Hosts an inventive and delicious seasonal menu and friendly and accommodating staff. I always try the bread board, mostly because their sorghum butter sends me to heaven.
Basa: Upscale Vietnamese cuisine to DIE for. The mussels and shaking beef are some favorites.
Hope you enjoy yourself and have some amazing food while you are here!