Louisville Restaurants

Louisville Steakhouses

One thing that Louisville has no shortage of is good places to celebrate a special occasion dinner.  Just in the past week, my family celebrated four birthdays and each birthday was spent at a different restaurant around town.  Not every member of my family wanted to spend their special day eating at a high-end restaurant, but everyone got exactly what they wanted.  My dad had a small get together at his favorite pizza joint, Luigi’s Pizza on Main Street, my sister and her husband spent the night in Nulu with a meal at La Coop and drinks at Meat, and my mom spent her 60th birthday filling the “Pope Room” at Buca Di Beppo with family and friends.  My husband however, is a little more high maintenance and the two of us always look for any excuse to dine out in style.
If there is one thing my husband wants for his birthday every year it is a properly cooked, melt in your mouth, steak and Louisville is filled with excellent steakhouses that never fail to deliver exactly what he wants. Over the eight years of celebrating birthdays and anniversaries with my husband, we have sampled almost every steak in Louisville and have our opinions of which steakhouses rank the best.

With local steakhouses and chains both thriving in Louisville it’s hard to choose where to go for your special night. I always prefer to support our local steakhouses over the chains. Jack Fry’s, Pat’s Steakhouse, and Rivue at the top of the Galt House are all some of our favorite places to go for a great meal.

Jack Fry’s has a comfortable, quaint atmosphere  with one of the best steaks in the city.

Although many people find Pat’s Steakhouse a romantic setting, I never have.  The steak at Pat’s is delicious, but the atmosphere is more homey than romantic.

Rivue screams romance. With sweeping views of the river and modern decor, Rivue not only has wonderful steak, but a menu filled with entrees to please any diner.

The chain steakhouses in Louisville never disappoint.  Morton's, Ruth Chris, and Jeff Ruby’s are all steakhouses we have thoroughly enjoyed for our special occasions. Morton’s has a wonderful ambiance, delicious drinks, and top notch service, just what you would expect from any Morton’s. Louisville Morton's is one of my favorites however because of it’s small size and basement feel. It is intimate and cozy. 

As long as you are okay with heights Ruth Chris is a great place to go. The butter crackling on your steak as it comes to your table makes your mouth water before you can even see your steak. The steak at Ruth Chris truly melts in your mouth. 

Jeff Ruby’s is by far my favorite steakhouse in the city. Serving my favorite steak in the city as well as fresh sushi, Jeff Ruby’s serves the best of both worlds. The atmosphere in Jeff Ruby’s is always lively and sophisticated at the same time and puts you in the mood to have a good time. I have eaten at Jeff Ruby’s over ten times and have never had one complaint about service.

Of course steak isn't the only way to go if you want to have a nice dinner. Louisville has amazing options in vegetarian and vegan food as well as food from most cultures. If you really want to go all out, 610 Magnolia is one of the hottest restaurants for special occasions, but make sure you make a reservation at least a week in advance.

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Appetizer and Drink Date Night

With so many great dining options in Louisville I often find myself having trouble deciding where to go for a night out on the town. My favorite solution to this problem is the “appetizer and drink date night.” This past weekend my husband and I decided to try out several different places that we had never been before. At each stop we limited ourselves to appetizers and one cocktail a piece. This was a great way to become familiar with the restaurants while being able to visit several in one night.

The first stop of the night was Wiltshire on Market. The quaint restaurant took us in right away without reservations at the bar. We decided to order two bourbon cocktails off of the menu, that kicked off our night with a bang. Our first appetizer was a warm kale, feta, and artichoke dip that was served with homemade pita chips. The dish came out piping hot and was made with the freshest ingredients. The star of our “light meal” was what came next; the potato, leek, and truffle soup. Each bite sent a powerful punch of flavor over my taste buds causing my husband and I to fight over each bite. Wiltshire on Market’s menu changes weekly based on seasonal ingredients and the full menu reflected this farm to table approach. I will definitely be revisiting Wiltshire on Market soon for a full meal.

Our next stop was a restaurant we had both been wanting to try for a while, Basa, a modern Vietnamese restaurant on Frankfort Avenue. Basa was packed, but there were two seats at the bar with our names on them. This time we stuck with cocktails we knew well, simple bourbon and cokes. Basa has an extensive bourbon list that we were happy to choose from. This restaurant is an excellent place to go if you are looking for a place for appetizers and drinks because of their small plates menu. We decided to choose four out of seven of the options on the small plates menu, and let me tell you it was not an easy task. All of the options on the menu looked delicious and before I tasted one dish I was planning my return trip to try the options I did not get to order. The appetizers we decided on were the grilled beef scewers, garlic noodles, shrimp spring rolls, and crab tempura. The portion sizes were generous and the flavors were spot on. I wouldn’t order the noodles again because although the taste was delicious, the angel hair pasta was hard to eat and underwhelming. A big negative of Basa was the long wait for the food. I had a clear view of the kitchen from my seat and it was a mess. Servers, managers, and bartenders were lined up in the kitchen waiting for their orders to come out, only causing more disarray. Hopefully Basa can get there stuff together.

Our last stop was just down the street at Sweet Surrender. After all these wonderful savory dishes I was ready for something sweet. Even at Sweet Surrender, where my piece of red velvet cake was bigger then my head, I wouldn’t let my husband have a bite (I did take half of it home though where I think he snuck some). My husband got a piece of cheesecake, and of course he finished the whole thing. I have no complaints whatsoever about Sweet Surrender. Delicious cake served in a cute little house turned restaurant, whats not to like?

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Avalon Space to become 'El Camino' Tiki Bar and Restaurant

Residents of the Highlands and foodies from all over the Louisville area were stunned when one of the most popular and seemingly successful Bardstown Road restaurants abruptly closed it’s doors.  Avalon turned off it’s lights and employees walked out at the end of dinner service, never to return, after business owner Steve Clements decided to cease operations back in July.  Clements pulled the plug on Avalon after suffering financial problems stemming from a law suit connected to his Catering Company; Clements Catering.  

For those die hard Avalon fans that were hoping the restaurant would re-open, that unfortunately doesn’t seem to be the future for the restaurant.  There is however, an exciting new plan for a quirky and unique restaurant to move in to the space.  

After many phone calls and bids on the property over the past several months, there has been some speculation that the investors of the new and popular restaurant, The Silver Dollar have a sincere interest in the space. Now we can confirm that Larry Rice, part owner of The Silver Dollar and past owner of 732 Social and his team of Silver Dollar partners, are in the final stages of acquiring the Avalon property. Just a few final pieces of financial paperwork stand in the way of the Silver Dollar Team taking over the Avalon Restaurant and putting in it’s place, the “El Camino” Restaurant.

El Camino is going to have three aspects to it’s vibe, it will serve Mexican street food from East Los Angeles and Mexico City, have a Tiki Bar, and will have an overall laid back “California surf hangout” vibe  complete with California surf music.  The tiki bar will serve the over the top cocktails that you would expect from a traditional tiki bar. Drinks serves in pineapples, scorpion bowls, and tiki idol mugs will all be available for your enjoyment at the bar. The restaurant is going to have more entertainment and be more social than most restaurants, but Rice assures that guests will have the choice to sit close to “the show” or away from the entertainment for a quieter dining experience.  

The Executive Chef of El Camino will be Jonathan Shwartz, Head Chef of the Silver Dollar.  Shwartz will prepare to cook Mexican Street food by leaning on his Mexican wife and consulting with his Mother-in Law who runs a business in Cancun but will be spending several months in Louisville to help the business get off  to a good start. 

El Camino is going to be nothing like anything we have seen on Bardstown Road to date.  It is going to be interesting to see how they balance the “cheese factor” with true entertainment.  As long as the food and the drinks are high quality and the service is excellent, I think they will be a success. I am excited for a fun restaurant to enter the dining stratosphere that doesn’t sound too stuffy!

From an Earlier Blog:

Highlanders have found themselves wrapped up in yet another mystery, the sudden and unforeseen closing of the Avalon restaurant.  Avalon abruptly closed it’s doors last week, posting white paper signs in the windows stating their closure was due to “unforeseen circumstances.”  Avalon opened it’s doors in 2002 and was one of the most popular hot spots on Bardstown Road’s Restaurant Row.  Avalon has won numerous award and accolades over it’s ten years of service. Most recently it won Metromix Louisville’s Best Date and Special Occasion Spot, Best of Louisville Award for Best Patio Dining, and was given over ten published reviews and write-ups in the last year. he Lobster Mac and Cheese, signature cocktails, and lively patio were all staples of Avalon that will surely be missed by many. 

I walked by the front of the restaurant yesterday, and I peeked inside the large windows to see what shape it was in.  It was rather odd, as if someone came in and told everyone to drop what they were doing, mid sweep, and leave.  Dust pans are still by the bathrooms, tables are still set, and nothing seems to be touched from the end of dinner service.  Something didn’t seem right.  Avalon was a hip restaurant, a place to be and be seen, nearly always busy.  So what could force them to close their doors, and so suddenly at that?     

In just the past couple of days, information has started to surface, that is helping us understand why Avalon had to shut down.  Steve Clements, owner of Avalon, is also the operator of Clements Catering. Clements Catering was headquartered at the Kentucky Derby Museum up until a week before the mysterious closing of Avalon.  Apparently, Clements was let go by the Kentucky Derby Museum, and is now being sued by the Museum, citing “unresolved conflicts.” There is speculation that for the past few years, Clements has been defrauding the Kentucky Derby Museum with “creative accounting.” Neither side has come out and said that this is the case, but the Kentucky Derby Museum is asking for compensation plus punitive damages.  Clements is the owner of Luna Boutique as well. Luna Boutique offers jewelry, accessories, and spa treatments. Luna Boutique is still open and having a 50% off sale, but their future is still unknown.  

It is really a shame to lose a great restaurant like Avalon, especially so suddenly.  In time we will see what happens with this story, if Avalon will ever re-open, or if it is gone for good.  The good news is that in Louisville we are not lacking in the great food department. We will survive without Avalon’s Lobster Mac and Cheese, it might be hard for a while, but we will find a way.    

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St. Matthews and Highlands Restaurants Square Off

The battle has raged for years. For Louisville Home owners that prefer an area that offers older homes with classic architecture should it be St. Matthews or the Highlands.  They both have beautiful old homes featuring diverse architecture on tree-lined streets. They both provide easy access to parks, the expressways, and downtown. And they are both home to some of Louisville’s best eateries and shops. Comparing these legendary neighborhoods point by point would take volumes, so let’s take a look at just one criterion for measuring the charm and appeal of a neighborhood – its restaurants. Which neighborhood do Louisville home owners prefer when it comes to dining out?

In one corner, we have St. Matthews, with its young professional vibe and eclectic ethnic cuisine. Simply Thai lets gue sts order the exact spiciness of their dishes on a scale of 1-5, and Mojitos take tapas to new levels of fun and sophistication. Café Lou Lou provides its clever mix of Italian and Cajun dishes, and Der Gasthaus offers classic Old World German dishes including everything from Wiener Schnitzel to potato pancakes. NamNam Café serves great Vietnamese fare in its tiny eatery, Sakura Blue fits the bill when you are in the mood for shushi, and Havana Rumba provides a delicious taste of Cuban cuisine.

Of course, less global, more American fare is all the rage in St. Matthews too. Equus continues to provide an amazing fine dining experience, and its sister restaurant/bar, Jack’s Lounge, right next door, is an ideal place to unwind after work. For the meat and potatoes lover, nothing is more classic than a steak from Del Frisco’s, and 60 West Bistro and Martini Bar provides locals with upscale casual dining in a fun atmosphere. Cafes are another unique feature of the St. Matthews dining scene. If quaint and cozy appeal to you, then the Kayrouz Café and Meridian Café are the places to be.

In the opposite corner, we have the Highlands, with its award-winning chefs and contemporary hipster vibe. Bardstown Road restaurants have an eclectic flair with even more history than some of their St. Matthew’s counterparts. Ramsi’s boasts a menu of international dishes so long it practically needs chapters, and Palermo Viejo is the only Argentinian restaurant within three states. Lee’s Korean restaurant and Kashmir Indian restaurant add some spice to the mix.

Fine dining is easy to find in the Highlands. Bistro Les Relais has inventive dishes set against the backdrop of Bowman Field, Winston’s showcases the best work of Sullivan’s Culinary School chefs, Lilly’s continues to get national attention, and Jack Fry’s becomes a perennial favorite of anyone who has ever visited. But even less highbrow dining has a unique flavor in the Highlands. Louisville “originals” like the Bristol Bar and Grille, the Uptown Café, and Ditto’s are consistent winners with locals and visitors alike.

In the tightly contested Louisville restaurant wars, who comes out on top? St. Matthews? The Highlands? Or maybe the real winner is any Louisville home owner smart enough to make the most out of living in a city with such a great dining culture.

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And on to Le Gallo Rosso...

I want to preface my review of Le Gallo Rosso by saying that this is the first time I have will be writing on a negative experience at a restaurant. I will only say this once and then whatever your opinions may be, I will accept as part of my job. I will always be honest, to a fault, on my experiences. It is harder for me, especially with locally owned places such as Le Gallo Rosso, as I never wish to dislike any place or pass on any negative words. If I am going in to a restaurant planning on reviewing it I will follow through regardless of my experience, positive or negative.

Last Saturday night’s date night started off with amazing dinner and drinks at St. Charles Exchange. My husband and I wanted to sample a new Louisville restaurant and then wanted to get dinner somewhere that we have been wanting to go for a long time but have never had the chance, Le Gallo Rosso. Le Gallo Rosso is a rustic Italian restaurant in the heart of Bardstown Road’s Restaurant Row. Located in an old Victorian home, Le Gallo Rosso opened it’s doors six years ago and shares it’s building with the Roost Inn, a Bed and Breakfast that has two suits.

 Our reservations were for 8:30, so we arrived shortly before. Our table wasn’t ready so we directed ourselves toward the unmanned bar. The restaurant is in a converted Victorian house so there are several small rooms to maneuver through. The atmosphere is immediately quaint and warm. The walls are painted with murals of waiters adding to the old school Italian restaurant feel. After waiting several minutes at the bar, our server came over and introduced himself to us. We ordered a bottle of wine and shortly after were directed to our table. At first I am a little thrown off, as I was told it was a romantic setting, and it is anything but. The plastic tablecloths and loud server meetings in the middle of the dining room are anything but romantic. Our appetizer was great, a Margareta Pizza that was crisp on the bottom and made with fresh tomatoes and basil. Simple, delicious Italian food, just what I wanted. Our salads were next, I had a Mediterranean and my husband a house salad with blue cheese. The salads were simple and fresh. Our entrees were extremely disappointing. I ordered the chicken parmesan, wanting to see Le Gallo Rosso’s take on a staple Italian dish, and my husband ordered the sea bass and mushroom risotto special.   The chicken parmesan was overwhelming on the plate. The large breasts of chicken were covered in an inch of tasteless mozzarella cheese which was not only unappetizing, but made the fried chicken underneath soggy. The red sauce or “gravy” was practically non-existent, and the capellini noodles were bare and right out of the box. My husband’s fish was cooked to perfection but was lacking in the taste department. The real problem with his dish was the risotto, the Italian elements of the dish. Risotto is supposed to spread on the plate and you could build a wall with his because the consistency was so think. Needless to say, we didn’t order dessert.

There were aspects to our meal that were good, but the bad definitely outweighed the good. When Le Gallo Rosso opened, they made their own pasta. Although making homemade pasta for the masses is very difficult, other restaurants like Palermo Viejo are doing it, and it makes all the difference. Le Gallo Rosso is still doing well, they were very busy Saturday night while I was there, and there are many people that enjoy their food. I personally would not recommend Le Gallo Rosso.     

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