Traveling through Kentucky? These are the restaurants worth planning a stop for; the restaurants that define Kentucky’s dining scene as a tempting blend of local influences, regional traditions and exotic flavors.
Reserve at this cozy-yet-sleek Louisville spot to taste how Edward Lee fuses influences from Asia and the American South (imagine pork belly with red miso, or duck with golden Kabocha squash). In 2015, Chef Lee received his fifth nomination for Best Chef Southeast by the James Beard Foundation.
The portraits of local farmers hanging on the walls of this casual Louisville restaurant suggest what’s on the menu before it arrives. Expect artisanal cheese boards, seasonal vegetables in salads and atop pizzas, juicy hamburgers and Kentucky classics such as bowls of Burgoo stew, brimming with heirloom tomatoes.
Anthony Lamas, a three-time James Beard Foundation nominee for Best Chef Southeast, helms Seviche in Louisville. Here, he experiments with the Latin flavors he grew up with — try his empanadas filled with Kentucky bison or his Tuna Old Fashioned, a dish of tuna ceviche accented with Kentucky bourbon and soy sauce.
Inquire into special “chef series dinners” that highlight trending ingredients (past dinners have featured everything from local craft beer to country ham). The regular menu is sophisticated with plenty of local flavors — try salmon brushed with bourbon-infused barbecue sauce, served with sweet corn fritters and salsa of cucumber and sweet pepper.
The chefs behind this Lexington restaurant bring a dual heritage to the menu: one is a Kentucky native and the other hails from the Dominican Republic. The personalities of both chefs shine in dishes such as brisket braised in guava barbecue sauce although the menu emphasizes Caribbean — particularly Cuban — classics.
Holly Hill Inn
The restaurant at this historic inn, located just outside Lexington, is a longstanding Kentucky dining destination. Inquire into the popular “dinner club” series of themed meals, or make reservations for lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch, when the Bluegrass Red-Eye Benedict layers poached local eggs with country ham on a cake of fried grits.
The Blue Raven
Don’t be fooled by The Blue Raven’s pub-style casualness. This Pikeville haunt takes regional cuisine and the use of local ingredients seriously, creating stand-out “comfort” foods. Start with spoon bread, a soft cornbread served with whipped butter sweetened with local honey, and progress to the chef burger spread with beer cheese, a Kentucky favorite.