"Surprising” destinations don’t just spring up out of nowhere. Chances are the city has been blossoming for some time, and the public has just started to take note. One of my favorite and most buzzed-about food cities du jour? Louisville. And this city has been earning its title for a long time now. Kentucky’s vibrant, largest city hums along with bourbon, a hot food scene and classic dishes too. Use this guide to soak up what this charming city has to offer.
Mrs. Potter’s Coffee Lounge and Café. This half restaurant, half café is a perfect place to spend an afternoon. I drank a delicious lavender vanilla latte at this shop. Cozy chairs and a hip atmosphere will make you want to savor every sip of your drink. Head next door to the café for more substantive food like egg and cheddar paninis.
Hillbilly Tea. Expect outstanding Southern cuisine like crumbly, buttery corn bread and catfish served on plates plucked straight from your grandmother’s kitchen on intentionally worn wooden tables. The fare is light, but delicious. The signature infused, whole leaf tea is served in a Ball jar (naturally) and is the perfect meal complement. Consider finishing your meal with the only-in-Kentucky bourbon bread pudding dessert.
Evan Williams. Even if you don’t like bourbon, touring a distillery in Kentucky is a must. If you don’t want to venture too far outside of Louisville, this is the place to visit. The most recent addition to the Bourbon Trail, Evan Williams offers a historical tour that uses filmed parts that are remarkable un-cheesy and a bourbon tasting at the end. But if you don’t like history or drinking, chances are you’ll love bourbon balls. These dark chocolate confections contain bourbon inside, and eating just one is a real struggle. After you’re done here, consider checking out the Louisville Slugger Museum. Or you could just snap a photo of the enormous bat outside the place.
The Brown Hotel. Plenty of places have their own signature cuisine. Chicago has deep-dish pizza. Philly has cheese steaks. And Louisville has the hot brown. A hot brown is an open-faced, broiled turkey sandwich that’s smothered in cheese and topped off with tomatoes and bacon. Translation? It’s Thanksgiving on a plate. You’ll have three bites and will have to stop. But it’s worth it once. Head to the historical Brown Hotel to taste the supposedly original iteration of the plate. Be sure to admire the opulent, dripping-with-historical-décor lobby before you leave. It does not disappoint. And get ready to take a nap after you’ve eaten this. You’ll be tripping on tryptophan, hard.
Proof on Main. One of the country’s hottest boutique hotel chain’s 21c is also home to one of the city’s most talked-about restaurants, Proof on Main. If you’re not hungry for a full meal, make your way to the bar. I’d recommend the old fashioned. I’m not the biggest bourbon fan, but the bartender here made me one that was so smooth with just the right amount of orange and bourbon that I’m still thinking about it. After your drink, don’t miss the impressive art displayed all throughout the lobby and first floor that these hotels are known for. Or better yet, carry your drink around and admire just how impressive Louisville really is as you savor it.
Teresa K. Tobat is a travel writer and editor. Check out her clips at teresaktobat.com. Follow her tweets @ttobat88.