Two Day Culinary Experience
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Start your morning off with a Southern staple, biscuits, at Biscuit Belly in Nulu. Try the Gravy Train to sample two traditional Kentucky versions of gravy that you probably won’t find outside of the state – Goetta & Chocolate. Goetta is a German-inspired meat and grain sausage that was made famous in Northern Kentucky. Chocolate Gravy is a dessert version made with cocoa powder.
Next, head down Main Street to the Frazier History Museum to experience their Cool Kentucky Exhibit. Learn how the original restaurant critic, Duncan Hines, helped promote the always-original Colonel Sanders at his startup cafe in North Corbin. And get a deep dive into the history of iconic Kentucky foods like Dippin’ Dots® ice cream, the Hot Brown, Bourbon balls, and burgoo!
Then, it’s time to visit Louisville’s public market just south of downtown in the up-and-coming Smoketown Neighborhood. Logan Street Market is filled with local food vendors and merchants. They also host a seasonal outdoor farmers market and beer garden, and have a coffee shop, brewery, bar and wine shop serving up libations all day long. Snack on some of the city’s best Latin-inspired food at Foko – helmed by James Beard nominated chef Paco Garcia, pick up a treat for your pet at Bourbon City Barkery, grab a jar of pickled veggies at Garden Girl Foods and browse the African baskets, chic boutiques and locally made artwork for sale in the upstairs mezzanine.
When it comes to fried chicken, the Bluegrass state is legendary. Afterall, this is the birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken. You can find this deep-fried culinary goodness on the menu at many Louisville restaurants from fast to fancy. Head to Royal’s Hot Chicken in the Nulu neighborhood for their version which ranges in spiciness levels from a non-spicy classic fried to Gonzo hot that’ll knock your socks off! Cool things down with a bourbon slushie.
After lunch, walk down the street to Muth’s Candies for Louisville’s most famous candy – the Modjeska, a caramel covered homemade marshmallow that was originally created in the 1800s and named for a famous Polish actress who performed in the city at that time. And, grab a few bourbon balls to go – it is Kentucky’s most iconic candy, after all. Muth’s version is the old fashioned style made with bourbon, pecans and fondant dipped in chocolate.
Next, you’ll hop in the car for a quick drive to South Louisville and the Kentucky Derby Museum located at Churchill Downs. The Derby Museum lets visitors get a taste of Derby year-round. And while the Derby is primarily about the horse race – it’s also about the pageantry and traditions involved – including Derby Pie® and the day’s official cocktail, the Mint Julep. Sample both at the Derby Museum’s Café.
Next, it’s off to the Paristown neighborhood for a factory tour at Stoneware, one of the oldest stoneware manufacturers in the United States. Stoneware has been dedicated to the tradition and careful craftsmanship of transforming clay into enduring, functional art forms for the home, kitchen and garden since 1815.
For dinner, it’s time for Louisville’s signature dish – the Hot Brown. 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 at the Brown Hotel in the 1920s to satiate late night revelers at the hotel’s famous dinner & dance parties. It’s been a legend ever since and can be found in different variations at restaurants all around Kentucky. Grab a table in the hotel’s opulent art deco lobby bar and get whisked back in time to the golden age of the roaring 20s.
Cap off your evening with Louisville’s Official Cocktail – the Old Fashioned. Invented at the Pendennis Club (a private club still operating in downtown Louisville) in the late 1880s, the old fashioned is an iconic pre-Prohibiton cocktail with it’s roots in Bourbon City. A simple mixture of bourbon, bitters, sugar and usually an orange and cherry – you’ll find a huge variety of signature versions along Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Trail (a collection of the best bourbon bars in town). For a one-of-a-kind experience head down to Whiskey Row’s Hell or High Water, a stunning speakeasy hidden behind a curiosities shop.
Head to the Schnitzelburg neighborhood for Nord’s Bakery’s famous Maple Bacon Donut (you’ll even find it featured in a mural on the outside of the building for a fun photo opp!). Next door, grab a fresh brewed coffee or espresso at one of Louisville’s best coffee shops, Sunergos.
In the Highlands neighborhood, visit a 296-acre Victorian-era National Cemetery and arboretum, Cave Hill, to see the final resting places of culinary & bourbon legends like “Colonel” Harlan Sanders and “Pappy” Van Winkle. Founded in 1848 as a rural, garden-style cemetery, Cave Hill was designed to follow the natural contours of the land on what was then the outskirts of Louisville. The landscape has been a continual source of beauty and inspiration to visitors, and the vitality of the arboretum, accented by memorials, provides an aesthetic balance of nature and art. As you walk or drive through, you can easily identify many of the unique trees. Be sure to look for signs affixed to certain trees that reveal common and botanical names and much more.
For lunch, head to The Café for a Louisville specialty, Benedictine. This recipe was invented by Miss Jennie Benedict in a one-room kitchen in the family backyard around the turn of the 20th century and famously served it to Louisville high society and workers alike earning it her namesake years later. Now the scrumptious spread and finger sandwich filling is a menu must-have for any Kentucky host worth their salt. It’s almost a guarantee that it will be served at baby and bridal showers in the Bluegrass, as well as Derby parties and spring luncheons. The Café’s “Queen Anne” sandwich features their homemade Benedictine spread on artisan walnut wheat bread garnished with sliced cucumbers, bacon and lettuce.
Next, get a grain to glass education on America’s Native Spirit and Kentucky’s pride and joy, bourbon, at Kentucky Peerless Distillery on the edge of the Portland neighborhood. A family-owned operation, this whiskey brand has been revived in a state-of-the-art distillery that uses the finest ingredients. All under one roof the grains are milled, cooked, fermented, double distilled and barreled so that guests can experience every aspect of crafting bourbon and rye.
Kick off happy hour at Garage Bar in the Nulu neighborhood. A casual neighborhood spot, Garage Bar is housed in a former auto garage with “crashing” muscle cars out front. Try one of their signature bourbon cocktails with a Kentucky country ham sampler. Kentucky country hams are typically salt-cured for one to three months, and then aged anywhere from several months to a couple of years, depending on the meat’s fat content. Country hams are not fully cooked, but instead are preserved by the cure. What once was typically served thick cut as a breakfast or dinner entrée with a side of red-eye gravy, is now also seen sliced paper thin and served charcuterie style in many Louisville restaurants – rivaling some of the finest hams from Spain.
Continue on a progressive dinner journey down the street to Mayan Café. This local favorite serves traditional Mayan fare with locally sources ingredients and is home to one of Louisville’s most beloved dishes – Tok Sel Lima Beans (just trust us, you need to try them to understand).
Wrap up the culinary tour with dessert down the street at Louisville Cream – premium small batch ice cream with flavors like Bourbon Smoked Pecan, Coffee with Bourbon Cream and Banana Pudding.