The Best Food and Drink in Kentucky for 2018 from The Best Food and Drink in Kentucky for 2018 Gallery

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The Best Food and Drink in Kentucky for 2018

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The Best Food and Drink in Kentucky for 2018

Kentucky is known as the Bluegrass State, a name that references the grass found in many of its lush pastures due to the fertile soil. The landscape is diverse, with mountains, hills, and broad river valleys, the world’s longest cave system (Mammoth Cave National Park), and the greatest length of navigable waterways and streams in the U.S. all found within the state. Natural beauty aside, the Kentucky is also home to many culinary attractions (it is the birth place of the old fashioned and home to the hot brownafter all). To celebrate all the great food and drink Kentucky has to offer, we’ve rounded up some of its claims to culinary fame as part of our first annual guide to the best food and drink in every state.

Horseracing, moonshine, bourbon distilleries, mint juleps and Kentucky Fried Chicken are all synonymous with the picturesque Southern state, but there’s more to the culinary landscape of Kentucky than one might assume. From The Old Seelbach bar where F. Scott Fitzgerald may have begun writing The Great Gatsby to one of the best cupcake bakeries in the country, there’s certainly more to this state than the Kentucky Derby and fried chicken — not that those aren’t exciting and delicious reasons to visit as well.

Over the course of the past year we’ve honored everything from the state’s best beer and farmers market to its best dive bar, Chinese restaurant (and of course fried chicken) in our comprehensive and wide-ranging lists and rankings, compiled through extensive research and with input from a wide network of site contributors, bloggers, journalists, and chefs. We’ve compiled these into individual slideshows celebrating the best food and drink in every state.

Best Bar: The Old Seelbach Bar, Louisville

Seelbach Bar Hilton

Best Bar: The Old Seelbach Bar, Louisville

It’s said that F. Scott Fitzgerald first started writing his masterpiece, The Great Gatsby, on cocktail napkins at the Old Seelbach Bar at the historic Seelbach Hilton. Whether or not that’s true, the place has still seen many celebrities, Grammy-winning artists, gangsters, and even presidents in the years since it opened back in 1905. Try the signature Seelbach cocktail (Old Forester bourbon, triple sec, Angostura bitters, Peychaud’s bitters, and Champagne, served in a fluted glass adorned with fresh orange), which was created in 1917, disappeared during Prohibition, and was rediscovered by a hotel manager in 1995. Located off the hotel lobby, the turn-of-the-century bar also offers more than 70 bourbons and a comforting, warm bourbon chocolate pecan pie. The bar food menu features a variety of Kentucky-accented dishes like Kentucky bison sliders with Kenny’s horseradish Cheddar and mini brioche buns, “cheese fries” (beer-battered fries with chorizo, sriracha, and warm Cheddar sauce), and funnel cake fries with powdered sugar and bourbon caramel.

The Best Bar in Every State

Best Beer: 70k, Against the Grain Brewing Company, Louisville

Courtesy of Against the Grain

Best Beer: 70k, Against the Grain Brewing Company, Louisville

Against the Grain Brewing Company took its popular 35K stout and doubled it. The result was — you guessed it — the 70k. Double the roasted deliciousness, double the creaminess, this imperial milk stout has scored the elusive 100 on RateBeer.

The Best Beer in Every State

Best Chinese Restaurant: Oriental House, Louisville

Photo by Suzanne B. via Yelp

Best Chinese Restaurant: Oriental House, Louisville

If you thought you couldn’t find authentic Cantonese fare in Louisville, guess again and head straight to Oriental House in Louisville. Just flip through the menu until you reach the “Authentic Chinese” section, and have at it.

Beef stew hot pot, stir-fried fresh lobster with ginger and green onion, whole Hong Kong-style roast duck, wok-seared whole flounder, duck wings, Peking-style pork chop… the list goes on. One visit to Oriental House will change your impression of Chinese food for good.

The Best Chinese Restaurant in Every State

Best Cupcakes: BabyCakes Cupcakes, Lexington

Best Cupcakes: BabyCakes Cupcakes, Lexington

This bakery is run by a husband-and-wife team that has a thing for cupcakes almost as much as for each other! Drizzled and prepped to look like a cupcake right out of a dream, they offer a variety of adorably named cupcakes that steal your breath away. Our favorite easily has to be the A Rose for Mr. Darcy — white chocolate cupcakes topped with rosewater butter cream. Though the Georgia on My Mind — fresh peach cupcakes with peach butter cream — would also be thoroughly enjoyed.

The Best Cupcakes in Every State

Best Dive Bar: Magnolia Bar & Grille, Louisville

Kasen M./Yelp

Best Dive Bar: Magnolia Bar & Grille, Louisville

Better known as “Mag Bar,” the Magnolia Bar & Grille offers all the dive bar essentials: pinball machines, pool tables, a jukebox, and cheap drinks. With a notorious (and arguably disturbing) bathroom that’s rarely cleaned, a pole on the dance floor, and a dance party offered every Wednesday, this is the place for wild nights you’ll never remember and never forget.

The Best Dive Bar in Every State

Best Doughnuts: Nord’s Bakery, Louisville

Best Doughnuts: Nord’s Bakery, Louisville

If you find yourself in Louisville, head to Nord’s Bakery to try its signature maple bacon doughnut. This Midwest specialty consists of a long, yeasted doughnut topped with a creamy maple frosting and a crisp strip of maple bacon: Fluffy, flavored doughnuts don’t get much better than this.

The Best Doughnuts in Every State

Best Fried Chicken Place: Shirley Mae's Cafe, Louisville

Best Fried Chicken Place: Shirley Mae's Cafe, Louisville

The large pieces of Southern fried chicken wings at Shirley Mae’s Café prove that the restaurant doesn’t fool around when it comes to providing you with soul food that really fills you up. No item here is complete without a side of their hot water cornbread. According to a customer review, it is a true family-run business: Shirley Mae and her older daughter cook, her son waits, and Mae’s other daughter handles the music. Feels like home? You bet.

The 75 Best Fried Chicken Places in America

Best Grocery Store: Lucky’s Market

Photo by Emily H. via Yelp

Best Grocery Store: Lucky’s Market

Lucky’s Market is located in Louisville — the state’s largest city. Lucky’s is definitely a crowd-pleaser, and its logo boasts “Organic for the 99%.” One Google reviewer said of the store, “Lucky's is one of my favorite spots to visit! A market with specialty items you can't find elsewhere, an awesome meat department & deli, handmade sushi & pizza and you can buy a pint of beer to drink while you shop for $2!”

The Best Grocery Store in Every State

Best Italian Restaurant: Vincenzo’s, Louisville

Vincenzo’s /Yelp

Best Italian Restaurant: Vincenzo’s, Louisville

Vincenzo’s Palermo-born chef Agostino Gabriele has been cooking professionally since 1963, and has been at the helm here since the restaurant opened in 1986. To say he’s learned a thing or two in the past 54 years is an understatement, and he’s turned Vincenzo’s into a venerable Louisville institution and certified standout. His skills are on full display in dishes like risotto with fresh seafood in a spicy red clam sauce; mascarpone ravioli filled with grilled chicken, spinach, and mushrooms; a thick veal chop stuffed with prosciutto and fresh mozzarella ; and made-to-order soufflés. Be sure to try the Fettucine Patricia: fettucine with scallops, shrimp, tomatoes, and scallions tossed in homemade red clam sauce, and our choice for the best single pasta dish in the state.

The Best Italian Restaurant in Every State

Best Mexican Restaurant: El Mariachi, Louisville

Matt R./Yelp

Best Mexican Restaurant: El Mariachi, Louisville

Going strong since 1998, this casual and unassuming downtown Louisville spot is spoiling locals with its wide variety of authentic Mexican street food, like tacos, tortas, gorditas, huaraches, tamales, and sopesitos, as well as homemade soups and entrées like carne asada and mojarra frita (whole fried tilapia). Customers can choose from 11 taco fillings, including carne asada, chorizo, lengua, pastor, carnitas, and rib-eye.

The Best Mexican Restaurant in Every State

Most Expensive Restaurant: Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse, Louisville

Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse/Yelp

Most Expensive Restaurant: Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse, Louisville

This high-end Louisville steakhouse is a must-visit for high rollers, who drop $23 on oysters Rockefeller, $25 per king crab leg, and $75 on bone-in filet mignons and rib-eyes. If you want to pair your fillet with an herb-roasted lobster tail, it’ll cost you 92 bucks.

The Most Expensive Restaurant in Every State

Best Pizza: Garage Bar, Louisville

Garage Bar

Best Pizza: Garage Bar, Louisville

Housed in a former auto service garage in downtown Louisville, Garage Bar features Chef Michael Paley’s wood-fired pizzas that emphasize local ingredients. Highlighting the region’s specialties and tastes, Chef Paley serves brick oven pizzas with toppings that include house-made pepperoni and pancetta, local Prayer Mountain mushrooms, shaved country ham, and Broadbent bacon.

The Best Pizza in Every State

Best Sandwich: Hot Brown at the Brown Hotel, Louisville

Best Sandwich: Hot Brown at the Brown Hotel, Louisville

The Hot Brown is Kentucky’s most legendary culinary contribution, invented in 1926 by Fred K. Schmidt, chef at Louisville’s luxurious Brown Hotel. The hotel is still going strong, and the best place to enjoy this renowned open-faced sandwich is at its point of origin. (It’s served at the hotel’s three restaurants and in-room dining.) To make the definitive version of this classic dish, toast is topped with sliced turkey and doused in a creamy pecorino-based Mornay sauce before being browned in the broiler. Crispy bacon and sliced tomatoes round it out.

The Best Sandwich in Every State

Best Soup: Stella’s Kentucky Deli, Lexington: Burgoo

Yelp/ Brent R.

Best Soup: Stella’s Kentucky Deli, Lexington: Burgoo

You might not have heard of burgoo, probably because it’s still a regional Kentucky specialty that you’d be hard pressed to find outside of the state. So when you’re there, make sure you eat some of this thick, hearty soup loaded with meat and vegetables. The best place for burgoo is Lexington’s homey Stella’s, where it’s made with beef, pork, chicken, and lamb with corn, beans, and other veggies, and is served with four mini corn muffins for sopping.

The Best Soup in Every State

Best Steakhouse: Malone’s, Lexington

Facebook/Malone's

Best Steakhouse: Malone’s, Lexington

When restaurateur Brian McCarty realized that nowhere in the Lexington area could he get a steak as good as the USDA Prime ones he’d eaten in Chicago, he decided to singlehandedly change that. Today Malone’s is one of the city’s best restaurants, and they’re even selling their own line of steaks (purchased from those same Chicago butchers) online. At the restaurant, a wide variety of steaks are cooked under an infrared broiler including 12-ounce prime sirloin, filet mignon with king crab legs or crispy fried lobster tail, and rib-eye, and prime rib is also a standout. Make sure you start with their famous steak and potato soup.

The Best Steakhouse in Every State

Best Taco: Mahi Mahi at Seviche, Louisville

Photo by Zee R. via Yelp

Best Taco: Mahi Mahi at Seviche, Louisville

One of Louisville’s finest restaurants, Seviche also serves what’s most likely the city’s best taco. The mahi mahi in the taco at chef Anthony Lamas’ shrine to Latin cuisine is marinated and grilled before being topped with a cumin-lime aïoli, cabbage, and a cilantro-flecked pico de gallo and placed atop two grilled corn tortillas. You might as well order two when you sit down, because you’re not going to want to stop eating these. For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2018.

The Best Taco in Every State

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The Best Food and Drink in Kentucky for 2018 Gallery

The Best Food and Drink in Kentucky for 2018 Gallery