A Foodie’s Tour of Louisville: From Hot Browns to Bourbon-Infused Cuisine

Louisville food tour

Dubbed one of the “South’s Best Food Cities” by Southern Living, taking a bite out of Louisville’s culinary scene will be the tastiest item on your bucket list. Start by visiting the historic Brown Hotel to order up the city’s official sandwich, the Kentucky Hot Brown. Use the new digital Urban Bourbon Trail passport as your restaurant guide and visit local establishments with Bourbon infused food dishes ranging from breakfast to dessert. Visit six stops and get rewarded with a prize as an official Urban Bourbon Trailblazer. In this blog post, you’ll get a quick tour and overview of the high-end culinary and bourbon scene in Louisville, the many places and events, and the unique and distinct flavors that make the city a food lover’s paradise. Whether you’re a bourbon aficionado or a culinary connoisseur searching for your next tasty adventure, we’ll showcase the best of what Louisville has to offer, highlighting some of the more exclusive food and bourbon flavors and tasting experiences.

Key Takeaways

  • Louisville is renowned for its culinary scene, featuring the iconic Kentucky Hot Brown and a variety of bourbon-infused dishes.
  • The Urban Bourbon Trail is a must-try experience, offering a digital passport to guide you through local bourbon-centric eateries.
  • Louisville’s food tours provide an excellent way to explore the city’s culinary history and taste local classics like bourbon balls and fried chicken.
  • Seasonal food festivals and barbecue events are highlights of Louisville’s food culture, offering unique dishes and experiences.
  • High-end dining and hidden gems alike make Louisville a paradise for foodies, with options ranging from fine dining to off-the-beaten-path restaurants.

Savoring the Iconic Kentucky Hot Brown

History of the Hot Brown

The Hot Brown is a true Louisville original, first created at the historic Brown Hotel in 1926. This open-faced sandwich features thick slices of roasted turkey, topped with bacon, tomatoes, and Mornay sauce (a creamy cheese sauce) all served over toasted bread. It has since become an iconic dish in Kentucky, celebrated by both locals and visitors alike.

Where to Find the Best Hot Brown

For the authentic experience, head to the Brown Hotel, where the Hot Brown was invented. Be mindful of the dress code, as this historic venue maintains a certain level of formality. Other notable spots to enjoy this dish include Proof on Main and various eateries along the Bourbon Trail.

Making Your Own Hot Brown at Home

Creating your own Hot Brown at home is a rewarding experience. Here’s a simple recipe to get you started:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
  2. Toast slices of bread and place them on an oven-safe dish.
  3. Layer roasted turkey and country ham on the toast.
  4. Pour a generous amount of Mornay sauce over the meat.
  5. Add sliced tomatoes and crispy bacon on top.
  6. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
  7. Broil until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown.

The Hot Brown is more than just a sandwich; it’s a piece of Louisville’s culinary history. Enjoying this dish is like taking a bite out of the past, with flavors that have stood the test of time.

Exploring Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Trail

How to Use the Digital Passport

The Urban Bourbon Trail is a can’t-miss stop for any bourbon enthusiast. To get started, download the digital passport, which will guide you through a curated selection of bars and restaurants highlighting Louisville’s best bourbons and bourbon-infused cuisine. Make sure to check in at each location using the app to track your progress.

Must-Visit Stops on the Trail

Louisville is quickly becoming known as the walkable Napa Valley of Bourbon. Some must-visit stops include Rabbit Hole, Copper & Kings, Brough Brothers, Stitzel-Weller, and Prohibition Craft Spirits. Each offers unique tours and tastings, many with their own in-house cocktail bars.

  • Rabbit Hole: Known for its modern approach to bourbon-making.
  • Copper & Kings: Offers a variety of brandy and bourbon options.
  • Brough Brothers: Kentucky’s first African-American-owned distillery.
  • Stitzel-Weller: A historic distillery with a rich heritage.
  • Prohibition Craft Spirits: Features a range of spirits and a cozy tasting room.

Pro Tip: Tours fill up quickly, so be sure to get an early start on planning. Let us help you start planning your Bourbon City adventure here.

Earning Your Urban Bourbon Trail Prize

Once you’ve checked in at six different locations, you’ll earn a special Urban Bourbon Trailblazer T-shirt. Don’t forget to show your digital passport at each stop to collect your stamps. This prize is a great way to commemorate your bourbon journey through Louisville.

Bourbon-Infused Breakfast Delights

Bourbon Pancakes and Waffles

Start your day with a delightful twist on classic breakfast staples. Bourbon pancakes and waffles are a must-try for any foodie visiting Louisville. The subtle hint of bourbon in the batter adds a unique depth of flavor that pairs perfectly with maple syrup and fresh fruit. For those looking to try something truly unique, look no further than bourbon-infused desserts.

Bourbon-Glazed Bacon

Elevate your breakfast experience with bourbon-glazed bacon. This sweet and savory treat combines crispy bacon with a rich bourbon glaze, creating a mouthwatering dish that’s hard to resist. It’s the perfect addition to any breakfast spread and a great way to start your day on a high note.

Morning Cocktails with a Bourbon Twist

No breakfast in Louisville is complete without a morning cocktail featuring the state’s signature spirit. From bourbon mimosas to bourbon-infused Bloody Marys, there’s a drink for every palate. These cocktails are not only delicious but also a fun way to incorporate a bit of local culture into your morning routine.

The Morning Fork serves up decadent brunch favorites and one-of-a-kind creations. Try the Short Rib Benedict, which has melt-in-your-mouth braised short rib, hash browns, poached medium eggs, béarnaise, and bordelaise. And their French Toast is no regular french toast, no no no. It is made with brioche, and topped with lemon ricotta, Strawberries & Blueberries, because you fancy.

Lunching in Louisville: Must-Try Spots

Louisville is a treasure trove of culinary delights, especially when it comes to lunch options. Whether you’re in the mood for something casual or a bit more upscale, the city has something to offer every palate. Dubbed one of the “South’s Best Food Cities” by Southern Living, Louisville’s lunch scene is not to be missed.

Top Lunch Restaurants

When it comes to the best lunch spots in Louisville, a few names consistently come up. For those craving fried chicken, Royal’s Hot Chicken in the heart of NuLu is a must-visit. If you’re looking for a more traditional experience, the historic Brown Hotel offers the iconic Kentucky Hot Brown. Other notable mentions include Jack Fry’s, Mussel & Burger Bar, and Wild Eggs.

Signature Dishes to Order

Each restaurant in Louisville has its own signature dish that you simply must try. At Royal’s Hot Chicken, the spicy fried chicken is a crowd favorite. Over at Jack Fry’s, the shrimp and grits are a standout. Mussel & Burger Bar offers a variety of gourmet burgers that are sure to satisfy any craving.

Local Favorites

Locals have their own hidden gems that they swear by. Feast BBQ is a popular spot for barbecue lovers, while Havana Rumba on Bardstown Rd. offers delicious Cuban cuisine. For a more eclectic menu, Buck’s Restaurant is a local favorite that never disappoints.

Louisville’s lunch scene is a blend of traditional Southern flavors and innovative culinary creations, making it a must-visit for any foodie.

Sweet Treats: Bourbon Balls and Beyond

For those looking to try something truly unique, look no further than bourbon-infused desserts. As we all know, bourbon is king in Kentucky so it’s no surprise that it finds its way into many sweet treats. From bourbon balls – bite-sized chocolate candies infused with bourbon – to bourbon bread pudding or even bourbon ice cream sundaes; there are endless options for those craving something sweet on their journey along the trail.

Dinner Destinations: High-End Culinary Experiences

Louisville’s fine-dining scene is a treasure trove for food enthusiasts. Whether you’re in the mood for a high-end steak dinner or a unique culinary experience, the city has something to offer. Taste the best of Southern cuisine and cocktails on an exclusive culinary experience. Explore how top Louisville chefs and bartenders put Kentucky on the map with tasting dinners, chef’s table experiences, or mixology classes.

Louisville’s Barbecue Scene

Louisville may not be a BBQ capital of the country, but that doesn’t mean we don’t do it well. Hello, we invented pulled pork. Some credit, please?!

Unique Louisville Food Tours

What to Expect on a Food Tour

Embarking on a food tour in Louisville is a delightful way to explore the city’s rich culinary landscape. You’ll get to taste a variety of local dishes while learning about the history and culture that shape Louisville’s food scene. Expect to walk through some of the most beautiful neighborhoods, guided by knowledgeable locals who share fascinating stories and insights.

Popular Food Tour Routes

Louisville offers several popular food tour routes, each highlighting different aspects of the city’s cuisine:

  • Downtown Louisville: Explore the heart of the city with stops at iconic eateries and hidden gems.
  • The Highlands: Known for its eclectic vibe, this area offers a mix of historic and contemporary culinary experiences.
  • NuLu (New Louisville): A trendy neighborhood featuring innovative restaurants and artisanal shops.

Booking Your Food Tour

Booking a food tour in Louisville is easy and convenient. Here are some options to consider:

Tour NameDurationPriceRatings
3-Hour Private Food & History Guided Walking Tour3 hoursFrom $1894.9 (12 Ratings)
Louisville Highlands Tour: Culinary Historic Kentucky Journey3 hoursFrom $1354.9 (119 Ratings)
Downtown Louisville: Smartphone-Guided Walking TourFlexibleFrom $153.5 (6 Ratings)
Louisville Scavenger Hunt: Explore Downtown FunFlexibleFrom $10N/A

Local Travel Tip: The best way to taste the finest food in Louisville is on a food and history walking tour with Louisville Food Tours! Explore the story of Louisville and Kentucky while savoring culinary classics like bourbon balls, biscuits, fried chicken, and – of course – bourbon!

Local Favorites: Hidden Gems of Louisville

Off-the-Beaten-Path Restaurants

Louisville is brimming with hidden gems that only the locals know about. From cozy diners to eclectic bistros, these off-the-beaten-path restaurants offer unique dining experiences that you won’t find in the tourist guides. One must-visit spot is Hammerheads, a small eatery known for its inventive menu and laid-back atmosphere.

Dishes Loved by Locals

When it comes to local favorites, Louisville residents have a few dishes they swear by. At the top of the list is the Burgoo, a hearty stew that’s perfect for any season. Another beloved dish is the Benedictine Spread, a cucumber and cream cheese concoction that’s both refreshing and flavorful.

Insider Tips for Foodies

To truly experience Louisville like a local, here are some insider tips:

  1. Visit during off-peak hours to avoid long waits.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations from the staff; they often know the best dishes.
  3. Explore neighborhoods like NuLu and Germantown for a variety of hidden culinary treasures.

Louisville’s hidden gems offer a culinary adventure that’s both diverse and delicious. Whether you’re a foodie or just looking for a great meal, these local favorites won’t disappoint.

Bourbon Pairing Dinners

Bourbon pairing dinner in Louisville

A bourbon pairing dinner is a unique culinary experience where each course is paired with a specific bourbon to enhance the flavors of both the food and the drink. The concept of food meeting bourbon is a frequent one at Louisville-area restaurants, often featuring a distiller teaming up with the chef to lead diners through various pairings.

  • Watch Hill Proper: Located in the Norton Commons neighborhood, this combination bourbon bar and dinner club offers monthly dinners featuring bourbon expert Fred Minnick leading the tastings.
  • Swizzle Dinner + Drinks: Frequently hosts bourbon pairing dinners.
  • Bourbons Bistro: The original bourbon-themed restaurant with a menu packed with dishes that go well with bourbon, from steaks and chops to bourbon bread pudding for dessert.
  • North of Bourbon: Part bourbon bar, part restaurant.
  • Steak & Bourbon: The name speaks for itself.
  • Down One Bourbon Bar
  • Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen
  • Levee Bourbon Lounge
  1. Start with an open mind: Be ready to explore new flavors and combinations.
  2. Listen to the experts: Chefs and distillers often provide insights into why certain bourbons are paired with specific dishes.
  3. Savor each course: Take your time to enjoy the culinary delights and the bourbon that accompanies them.
  4. Ask questions: Don’t hesitate to engage with the staff to learn more about the pairings.

A bourbon pairing dinner is more than just a meal; it’s the ultimate guide to the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, featuring pre-race events, culinary delights, Churchill Downs history, food festivals, and hidden gems beyond the racetrack.

Seasonal Food Festivals in Louisville

If you can’t make up your mind about a restaurant, you can always come for one of the many food-centric events that happen regularly in Louisville. The annual Taste of Louisville has been around for nearly 50 years and always has more than 50 local restaurants and chefs presenting samples of their wares. The Louisville Wine & Food Festival brings a similar culinary experience to Waterfront Park. Meanwhile, The Bluegrass VegFest focuses on plant-based cuisines, and the Taste of West Louisville event focuses on restaurants and chefs from the city’s west side. And don’t miss WorldFest, which blends culinary delights with international diversity. That is an event not to be missed.

  • Taste of Louisville: Sample dishes from over 50 local restaurants and chefs.
  • Louisville Wine & Food Festival: Enjoy a variety of wines paired with gourmet food at Waterfront Park.
  • Bluegrass VegFest: Discover delicious plant-based cuisines.
  • Taste of West Louisville: Savor dishes from the city’s west side.
  • WorldFest: Experience a blend of culinary delights with international diversity.

The best time to visit Louisville is in the spring (April to May) or fall (September to October) when the weather is mild, and there are many festivals and events, including the Kentucky Derby in early May. Make sure to check the festival dates in advance and plan your visit accordingly. Many festivals offer VIP experiences, so consider booking early to secure your spot.

The Best Places for Derby Pie™

Derby Pie™ is a legally protected trademark, but you can find Chocolate Pecan Horse Racing Themed Seasonal Pie and its equivalents all over Louisville. It’s a famous – and quirky – food from Louisville, Kentucky!

History of Derby Pie™

The original Derby Pie™ is both delicious and easy to find: you’ll see it frozen in most local grocery store aisles. But if you know what to ask for, you can find freshly baked knockoff Derby Pie™ all over Louisville during Derby season. Just ask for something like “Chocolate Pecan Pie” and wink a lot. You might get a few suspicious looks and some loud disclaimers like “we don’t serve Derby Pie™ here but we do serve Chocolate Pecan Horse Racing Pie, which is completely unrelated.”

Top Spots to Try Derby Pie™

If you’re here at the right time of year, you’ll find Chocolate Pecan Horse Racing Themed Pie (or whatever they’re calling it that definitely isn’t Derby Pie, wink wink). You absolutely must try this classic Louisville dessert. Other faves? Chocolate cherry pie, Italian Cream Cake, and Chocolate Chess Pie. Yum.

  • Homemade Ice Cream & Pie Kitchen | Address: There are many Louisville locations! Find one near you.
  • Jack Fry’s | Address: 1007 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY (The Highlands)

Making Derby Pie™ at Home

Derby Pie™ is a very specific kind of pie: it’s a pecan pie with a layer of chocolate, for delicious melty chocolate/pecan perfection. As you can see, Derby Pie™ is trademarked: its original inventors are notoriously obsessed with guarding their original creation, and seem to spend as much time selling tasty pie as they do suing the pants off anyone who dares write “Derby Pie” on their menu or online recipe.


Dubbed one of the “South’s Best Food Cities” by Southern Living, Louisville offers a culinary adventure like no other. From the iconic Kentucky Hot Brown at the historic Brown Hotel to the myriad of bourbon-infused dishes that grace the menus of local eateries, every bite tells a story of tradition and innovation. Whether you’re navigating the Urban Bourbon Trail with your digital passport or savoring the unique flavors on a food and history walking tour, Louisville promises an unforgettable gastronomic journey. So, come along and discover why this city is a food lover’s paradise. Your taste buds will thank you!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Kentucky Hot Brown?

The Kentucky Hot Brown is an open-faced turkey sandwich topped with bacon, tomatoes, and Mornay sauce, first created at the historic Brown Hotel in Louisville.

How do I use the digital Urban Bourbon Trail passport?

The digital Urban Bourbon Trail passport can be downloaded to your smartphone. Use it to check in at participating locations and track your progress to earn rewards.

What are some must-visit stops on the Urban Bourbon Trail?

Must-visit stops include the Brown Hotel, Bourbons Bistro, and the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience. Each offers unique bourbon-infused dishes and drinks.

Where can I find the best bourbon balls in Louisville?

Muth’s Candies and Art Eatables are renowned for their delicious bourbon balls. Both offer a variety of flavors and packaging options.

What is a bourbon pairing dinner?

A bourbon pairing dinner is a curated dining experience where each course is paired with a specific bourbon to enhance the flavors of both the food and the drink.

When is the best time to visit Louisville for food festivals?

The best time to visit Louisville for food festivals is in the spring and fall. Popular events include the Kentucky Bourbon Festival in September and the Louisville BBQ Festival in May.

What are some hidden gem restaurants in Louisville?

Hidden gems include Hammerheads, known for its unique barbecue dishes, and The Cafe, a local favorite for breakfast and brunch.

How can I book a food tour in Louisville?

You can book a food tour through companies like Louisville Food Tours on platforms like FareHarbor or Viator. These tours offer a mix of culinary and historical experiences.

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