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The Hot Brown

Louisville's most famous dish is a local legend and a decadent delight.

at The Brown

History of the Hot Brown

A Hot Brown is a hot open-faced sandwich originally created at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, by Fred K. Schmidt in 1926.

The legendary, open-face sandwich, which is made from Texas toast, thick-sliced turkey, cheesy Mornay sauce, crisp bacon and tomatoes, all baked until bubbling hot, was born here.

It all began at Louisville’s historic Brown Hotel back in the 1920s.

History goes that more than 1,200 guests would come each evening for the downtown hotel’s dinner and dance. When the guests finished kicking up their heels in the luxurious ballroom, they would head to the restaurant to sit back for a bite to eat. But it wasn’t long before they grew tired of the traditional late night ham and egg suppers that were being served.

So one day Chef Fred Schmidt decided to cook up a new, mouthwatering menu item. The Hot Brown was born.

These days, the Brown Hotel has become synonymous with the tasty entrée and estimates making between 400 and 500 each week. The requests double during Kentucky Derby season.

But the Hot Brown is not just a local favorite. It’s received attention all over the globe, including in Southern Living, The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal. It’s also been spotlighted on the “Today” show, “Good Morning America” and Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food.”

at the Brown Hotel

Hot Brown Hop

Many restaurants in the city pay tribute to The Brown Hotel’s original creation with their own recipe.

The variations are as inventive as the chef’s imagination. To help you find the perfect Hot Brown for you, we have created a list of restaurants within the city that share in the Louisville tradition and feature a Hot Brown, or Hot Brown inspired menu item.

To begin the Hot Brown Hop, all you need is an appetite. The Hot Brown Hop has no beginning or ending-you decide which restaurants sound best to you-or stick to just one! And don’t worry about losing anything, you won’t need to carry any brochures or keep track of anything you collect at any stops. Participating stops are located throughout the city, so wherever you are there is sure to be one nearby.

Once you’ve eaten a Hot Brown, you have succeeded in the Hop. And be sure to snap a photo of your Hot Brown. Share it on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with #HotBrownHop for a chance to win a seasonal drawing for an official prize package including a Hot Brown Hop t-shirt, and a Hot Brown platter created by Louisville Stoneware. You will also be entered into an annual grand prize drawing for a complimentary weekend in Louisville with a night where it all started...the historic Brown Hotel.

Louisville Hot Brown Hop Stops

  • Amici Café
  • Bistro 301
  • Blue Horse Restaurant & Bar
  • Bluegrass Brewing Company
  • Bristol Bar & Grille
  • Brooke & Billy's Bites Bourbons and Brews
  • Buckhead Mountain Grill
  • Buck’s Restaurant & Bar
  • The Café
  • Café 360
  • Charr’d Bourbon Kitchen & Lounge (Louisville Marriott East)
  • Cheddar Box Too
  • Churchill Downs (at various kiosks throughout the track)
  • Café Magnolia (The Galt House Hotel)
  • Captain’s Quarters
  • Come Back Inn - an Italian version on Ciabatta
  • Cottage Inn
  • Dish on Market
  • Down One Bourbon Bar – on a biscuit
  • The English Grill at The Brown Hotel
  • Goose Creek Diner
  • The Highlands Tap Room Grill
  • Hilltop Tavern
  • J. Graham’s Café at The Brown Hotel
  • Kayrouz Café
  • Lobby Bar at The Brown Hotel
  • Napa River Grille - Croque Madame version
  • O’Sheas Irish Pub
  • Sal’s Pizza Pub - Hot Brown Pizza
  • Seviche
  • Sicilian Pizza & Pasta - Hot Brown Pizza
  • The Troll Pub Under the Bridge
  • Twig and Leaf
  • Uptown Café
  • Village Anchor Pub and Roost
  • Waycool Café
  • Wild Eggs - with an egg for Brunch
  • Winston’s Restaurant - Not-so Brown fish version

There may be other Louisville restaurants that serve a version of a hot brown, some just as a daily special. Let us know if your favorite is not on this list.

Hot Brown

Yields 2

  • 1 ½ tbs. butter
  • 1 ½ tbs. flour
  • 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ cup Pecorino Romano Cheese plus additional for topping
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 14 oz. roasted turkey
  • 4 slices of Texas Toast
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 4 slices of cooked bacon
  • Paprika and fresh parsley for garnish

First, make the Mornay sauce. In a heavy sauce pan add butter and simmer over medium heat. Once melted add the flour and whisk until well combined but don’t let it brown. Add the cream and bring back to a simmer until thickened (about three minutes) stirring constantly. Once thickened remove the sauce from the heat and add ¼ cup of the cheese. Stir until melted and then add a pinch of nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.

For each hot brown you will layer the ingredients in an au gratin dish. First, two pieces of toast, then two or three slices of tomato, turkey and cover in Mornay sauce. Top with some more cheese and put the dish under the broiler until lightly browned and bubbly (about 5 minutes). Finish the dish with a pinch of paprika, two bacon slices and fresh parsley.

Whiskey Sour

  • 2 oz. Bourbon
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • Cherry juice for garnish

In a cocktail shaker with ice add the Bourbon, egg white, lemon juice and sugar and shake vigorously. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with cherry juice.