Often known as the Gateway to the South, Louisville, Kentucky is also sometimes referred to as the River City and Derby City due to its proximity to the famous Ohio River and its annual Kentucky Derby races. A bustling city with a strong baseball culture, this unassuming Southern town just so happens to also have a vibrant food culture.
From delicious Bourbon bars to mouth-watering steak houses, private dining and restaurant dining, in general, have expanded in Louisville over the last ten years.
While brunch has begun to make a name for itself with locals and tourists alike, Louisville’s dinner options are the stars of its culinary scene due to their sophisticated ambiance and deliciously flavorful butter-heavy entree offerings.
Proof On Main
702 W Main St, Louisville, KY 40202
Proof On Main is located in a beautiful historic building with more than 10,500 square feet of art and restaurant space. Conveniently located inside the 21c Museum Hotel Louisville, this location is available for reception dinners, gatherings, charitable events, and weddings in addition to private dining.
Proof On Main is celebrated for its upscale aura with an art gallery twist, exposing its guests to vibrant colors and decor that brighten up any occasion. With a rotating menu specially curated by the restaurant’s Proof Chef Team, Proof On Main delivers seasonally-themed meals, including private dining availability on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Currently offering private dining, public dining, and take-out, Proof On Main specializes in high-end cocktail service, signature whiskey, and bourbon beverages, delicious roasts, and fun breakfast-for-dinner menu items like their egg and English muffin sandwich.
Whether you prefer something casual like a burger and fries or are in the mood for something a little more special, Proof On Main has something for you. With over 1,000 five-star Google reviews from locals and Louisville visitors alike, an undisputed favorite (myself included) is the Pork Belly Tortellini served with root vegetables and mushrooms which will also be available on their Christmas Eve Specials menu.
425 W Ormsby Ave, Louisville, KY 40203
Embellished with the overflowing decor of fresh flowers against a unique 1950’s era checkered floor, Buck’s Restaurant is a staple in the historic downtown Louisville area. Buck’s is conveniently located within walking distance to many nearby attractions, including the Old Louisville Dog Run, Saint James Court Art Show, Conrad-Caldwell House Museum, and the Witches’ Tree historical landmark.
Its classy, upscale vibe, complete with candles, white linens, and an ambient ‘moon garden’ make Buck’s Restaurant the perfect venue for a romantic private dinner. Buck’s Restaurant’s chef, Allen Sims, is known for his unique use of bourbon in his dishes and his use of local Kentucky ingredients.
He made my dreams as a meat lover come true, providing the most delectable dishes on the menu by locals and tourists alike. Such dishes included the Kentucky Lawyer, a pan-seared lobster served with asparagus, the Prosciutto-wrapped Lamb Chops, and the decadent butter asiago New York Strip.
2255 Frankfort Ave, Louisville, KY 40206
Bourbons Bistro lives up to its name! Located in the historic Clifton district, this private dining option is famous for its bourbon bar. Boasting over 130 different types of bourbon, Bourbon Bar is located in an old 1870’s era building and has an authentic classic laid-back speakeasy feel.
Their covered patio is perfect for large and small events alike, while their front-of-house manager Margot McMillen will cater to your every need. Bourbons Bistro Executive Chef Jereme McFarland and his sous chefs Justin Shewell and SamV Varju pride themselves on offering relatable fares with an elevated edge.
My favorite (and their most highly reviewed) starters include the Garlic and Goat Cheese Spread and Southern Salmon Cakes. At the same time, the most popular entrees on their menu are the Bourbon’s Burger served with bacon jam and the pappardelle Mushroom Bolognese.
3608 Brownsboro Rd, Louisville, KY 40207
A modern oasis in the heart of Louisville, Kentucky, Mesh Louisville is a contemporary restaurant offering elegant and innovative food with an air of comfort. It’s easily made it onto my list of the top restaurants in the area. It is situated in a large contemporary building with glass windows and an open concept dining room featuring a sleek fireplace and upscale cocktail vibe.
Winner of awards including the Open Table Diner’s Choice Award and Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence, Mesh Louisville and its sister restaurant Mesh Indy are frequented by a roster of international clientele.
Focused on serving locally sourced vegetables and meats, the Mesh Louisville menu holds a wide variety of options from seafood and salad to sandwiches and short ribs. With something for everyone, including meat-eaters and vegetarians alike, I can’t recommend the White Cheddar Bacon Burger, Garden Pasta, and Brussel Sprouts Gratin enough!
Bristol Bar & Grille
Bristol Bar & Grille is the home of one of Louisville, Kentucky’s most beloved guilty pleasures. Its Green Chili Wontons, a staple in the historic West Main Street district of Kentucky, have been around since 1977.
Though it has three main locations throughout Louisville, its casual main restaurant, which is open for private dining, is within walking distance of the Seneca Gardens, Beargrass Creek Greenway, and Cherokee Park.
Located just off the 150 freeway, Brol Bar & Grille is easy to get to and offers free parking for its guests. Pork Dijonnaise and Theresa’s Sweet Chilli Linguine were two dishes I could not miss when I privately dined at Bristol Bar & Grille.
With locally sourced ingredients from local partner farms, everything from seasoned carrots to burgers stands out for their quality. Along with excellent food, Master Sommelier Scott Harper features an indulgent wine menu to accompany your meal, along with the twenty Certified Bourbon Stewards to help you mix and match your drink choices.
335 W Broadway, Louisville, KY 40202
Located in the Louisville Brown Hotel, this historic grill has been a landmark since 1923. Upscale and classy, the English Grill is the perfect place for intimate private dining for a special occasion like a birthday, wedding anniversary, or graduation. Reminiscent of a large English landmark, the English Grill is home to high ceilings, lush carpets, and a host of international guests.
The “Hot Brown” is the dish I could not get enough of on the English Grill’s menu. Developed by the Executive Chef in 1926, it has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal for its perfect bake time and matching bourbon signature cocktail.
Volare Italian Ristorante
2300 Frankfort Ave, Louisville, KY 40206
Louisville’s Volare Italian Ristorante is named after the Italian word for ‘to fly’. Originally opened in 2004, Volare is decked out with Italian art, a floor-to-ceiling wine rack, locally commissioned glasswork art, and its custom mural, making it a unique and upscale experience for traditional Italian fares.
With a private dining room just off the sprawling main dining area, it can host private dinners of up to 65 guests for any event or occasion. Known for its family-sized Italian dinners, longtime patrons of Volare recommend the Beef Carpaccio and Ravioli Pasta paired with a hefty bottle of Italian wine.
With an extensive wine list ranging from California wines to French basics, every pasta, and wine pairing I sampled left me highly satisfied.
150 N Hurstbourne Pkwy, Louisville, KY 40222
A laid-back French brasserie restaurant, Brasserie Provence brings the magic of the French countryside to Louisville. Known for its 5-Course Champagne Dinner and beautiful modern meets country-chic interior atmosphere, Brasserie Provence is conveniently located within minutes of the Hurstbourne Country Club and the ShelbyHurst University campus.
The sprawling courtyard patio and private dining accommodations can fit up to 40 guests for your private event. Offering wines by the bottle, by the glass, and an extensive cocktail menu, Brasserie Provence has a lighter menu for lunch and a heavier menu for dinner.
With French favorites like Cast Iron Mushrooms, Tomato Goat Cheese Tarts, Melange, Chateaubriand, and Le Puy Lentil Ragout, you’ll be able to expand your palate into traditional French cuisine. For dessert, I indulged in a Pistachio Strawberry Macaron Cake while dreaming of the French countryside – I can’t recommend it enough!
150 S 5th St, Louisville, KY 40202
Another authentic Italian option in the heart of Louisville, Kentucky, is Vincenzo’s, located near the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, Kentucky Science Center, and Jefferson Square Park. With dining options in the outdoor courtyard patio, eclectic dining room, and Chef’s Table Room, this upscale Italian joint offers lunch, dinner, and wine menus in addition to fares in its authentic theater room.
Vincenzo’s is co-owned by founder Vincenzo Gabriele in collaboration with his brother, co-owner, and chef Agostino Gabrielle. Co-owner Chef Agostino Gabrielle puts quality above all in this family-run restaurant. His impeccable Italian lunch dishes include the celebrated Toasted Ravioli Diavolo, Sicilian Calamari, signature Cobb Salad, and pasta entrees like Linguine Meatballs.
For dinner, I enjoyed Crepes Agostino served with veggies and potato of the day or mushroom Sirloin Bordelaise, a dish I can’t help but find myself recommending to everyone else.
Brendon’s Catch 23
505 S 4th St, Louisville, KY 40202
Brendon’s Catch 23 served surf and turf, including steak, seafood, and low country fares. Located on Louisville, Kentucky’s 4th Street Downtown area, it is only a few minutes away from the waterfront. When dining privately at Brendon’s Catch 23, expect an upscale vibe with dining rooms featuring red leather chairs, marble floors, sleek modern fireplaces, chandeliers, and traditional greek columns throughout.
Serving surf and turf with a twist, Brendon’s Catch 23 has an oyster bar beloved by locals and visitors. My recommended starters include the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake and Lobster Mac and Cheese, although the most popular entrees – the USDA Prime Sirloin, Seared Sea Scallops, and Brenden’s Bistro Steak – are not to be ignored either.
While they do serve salads and vegetarian sides, this is a sophisticated place best for those who love a meat-heavy diet.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House
6100 Dutchmans Ln Kaden, Tower – 16th Floor, Louisville, KY 40205
A national chain staple across the United States, Ruth’s Chris Steak House is a semi-upscale eatery with a homely vibe, perfect for celebrating holidays with the family. Louisville’s Ruth Chris Streak House is the ideal stop when in the mood for dinner with a view. Its 16th-floor location offers sprawling views of the city, including Big Spring Country Club and Brown Park.
Serving steak, seafood, pasta, and sides, the most highly rated Ruth’s Chris meals include the Petite Filet and Shrimp, Buttered Lobster Tail, Tuna Stack, Shrimp Cocktail, Creamed Spinach, and Grilled Asparagus side served with Hollandaise Sauce – scrumptious! For dessert, I gave the Chocolate Sin Cake, Bread Pudding, and Nola Mule Cocktail a try and only dream of the days I’ll get to have it again.