Louisville Southern Living's Tastiest Town?

If you live in Louisville and have been on Facebook lately, you’ve likely had pleas from your local foodie friends encouraging you to vote for Louisville on Southern Living’s website as the “Tastiest Southern Town.” The Derby City right now ranks a close second place to – of all towns – LaFayette! We’re way ahead of the rest of the pack, including cities better known for their restaurant scene, like New Orleans, Charlestown, Raleigh, and Birmingham. But LaFayette? Most of us born and bred here are scratching our heads and saying, “Are you kidding me?”

Nothing against LaFayette, of course, but we all know what an amazing town Louisville is for lovers of fine cuisine, unique fare, and eclectic dining experiences. And this year marks a big anniversary for a key player in the restaurant renaissance downtown and the revival of the East Market Distract, known to locals as NuLu. The Mayan Café, at 813 East Market Street, which traces its roots to the food truck that Chef Ucan started in 1997 and then became a brick-and-mortar restaurant called The Myan Gypsie, features authentic Mayan cuisine and is celebrating its birthday with a special menu that runs from now until February 18. Having recently added liquor to its beer and wine offerings, the Café is featuring tequilas during this time as well as some inventive ceviches. But Café regulars, take heart! Many traditional favorites, like the ever-popular Tok-sel, made with Great Northern beans instead of the usual limas, will be on the menu as well.

By offering its Mayan Market Mondays the past three years, the Mayan Café has become a central restaurant in the local food movement. Featuring genuine far-to-table meals every Monday night from June through August, the Café highlights a different local farm each week by preparing its meats, cheeses, or vegetables. Chef Bruce Ucan, who learned growing up in the Yucatan that the best food is that which grows outside your door, is at the Famers’ Market every weekend. Creative and always ready for a challenge, he looks for “the vegetable that no one wants to buy” and invents amazing dishes with it.

In the humble opinion of those of us who call Louisville home, our city is definitely the “tastiest southern town,” whether or not someone else unjustly wrests the distinction from our grasp (or just wins with more votes). And one of the reasons for this is the Mayan Café, now celebrating five wonderful years of authentic Mayan cuisine, a farm-to-table approach to dining, and an atmosphere of fun and clever invention. With any luck, the Mayan Café will be around for many more years to make sure that there’s never any doubt in anyone’s mind which southern town is the tastiest.

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