Best New Late Night Spot: Rumplings
Rumplings is a late-night Ramen and dumpling shop located in the heart of the Highlands, which now inhabits the space that was once Baby D’s Bagels. This is great news for all of the folks out in the Highlands for late-night boozing: Rumplings serves up steaming Ramen and dumplings up to and past bar close, as late (or early?) as 5:00 AM. It’s much better than being stuck in the fast food drive-thru late night rush, with much less self-loathing the following morning.
Rumplings’ noodles are handmade right before your eyes, and the broth is also made in-house. The menu is directed and executed by entrepreneurial veterans of Louisville’s culinary scene, and is as creative as it is bold. The chefs at Rumplings are dedicated to sourcing their ingredients locally and not cutting corners or makin compromises in the kitchen. Their rotating menu features many favorites such as the Piggy, made with pork belly, pork broth and crispy pork, and many vegetarian options such as Miso Honey, made with red miso, enoki and seasonal mushrooms, red curry and almond milk. The broth is either rich, thick, and heavy “kotteri,” or “assari,” meaning light and easy.
Best New Coffee Shop: Gralehaus
Gralehaus is a modern comfort food experience of a quality no less than you would expect from the creators of Holy Grale and the Louisville Beer Store. This unique coffee house is a cozy place to get an artisanal coffee creation or have a leisurely brunch. In addition to its pour-over coffee and espresso concoctions, Gralehaus is renowned for its kombucha on tap and house-made soda. The menu offers unique breakfast choices such as lamb sausage and biscuit and duck gravy.
Gralehaus is now serving dinner Wednesday through Saturday, in addition to breakfast served all day. serving up Southern-inspired gastropub fare. Stop in for a malt, a Bavarian Pretzel and Beer Cheese, Panfried Catfish, or Pimento Cheese & Country Ham Tartine.
Best New Walk-Up Window: Hillbilly Tea Shack
Hillbilly Tea Shack, a satellite cafe of the ever-popular Hillbilly Tea, is a unique feature in the Highlands area. Not only does this cozy tea and coffee shop offer breakfast and brunch, it’s open 24 Hours on the weekends. That’s right, folks, the Highlands now features a 24 Hour walk-up window for made-to-order food – not only food, but locally sourced, artisanal, mountain-inspired comfort food fare. Craving Pulled Pork on Cornbread at 3:00 AM on Saturday night? Fear not, Hillbilly Tea is open for business.
Step inside and stay a while if you have the time, but if you don’t, get some delectable, hearty biscuits and gravy on the fly. Breakfast is served until 11:00 AM Monday through Friday, and until 2:00 PM on Saturday and Sunday.
Best New Burger Joint: Grind Burger Kitchen
Louisville’s favorite gourmet burger truck is now available in one convenient, stationary, brick-and-mortar location. Grind is there waiting for when you’re craving for locally-sourced, hormone and antibiotic free beef. These burgers are stacked sky-high and cut no corners when it comes to innovation, quality ingredients and taste. Build-your-own burger, or sample one of their creations, such as the B&B, served with brie cheese, bacon, habenero and apricot jam.
Grind offers a Veggie Burger and a Chopped Chicken Sandwich served with Smoked Habanero Honey Mustard and a Cuban Sandwich with Garlic Aoli. If you’re not in a sandwich kind of mood, the Kale Salad is phenomenal as well. Whatever Grind does, they do it right. We’re relieved to finally have them in one place.
Best New American Rotisserie: Loop 22
Carnivores will certainly be pleased with Loop 22’s menu, but vegetarians will not leave disappointed, either. From creators of Hammerheads and Game, this restaurant specializes in rotisserie cooking, Southern-inspired American cuisine, craft beers and cocktails. Appetizers and entrees are rich, original and dripping with Southern Comfort, such as the Lobster Chorizo Queso appetizer, the Chicken Livers or the Roasted Lamb Nachos, with queso, green chilies, sour cream and pico de gallo.
The Brussell Sprouts and Collard Greens are a must, and the Rotisserie Duck is cooked to perfection. Stop in on Sunday for a savory brunch. Loop 22’s Brunch menu offers an eclectic, yet delightful hearty blend of American fare. The Buttermilk Biscuits and Gravy with Chorizo or Sausage are a twist on a classic brunch staple. The Chorizo and Egg Tacos with pico de gallo, cilantro and ancho-ime crema and the Fried Green Tomato and Oyster Mushroom Tacos served with queso fresco, smoked horseradish aoli, and pickled cabbage add a little South-of-the-border flare to the menu. Loop 22’s house-made and decadently garnished Bloody Marys, crafted with seasonal tomatoes and peppers sourced from the Highlands Farmers’ Market.
Best New Italian Cuisine: Cena
Downstairs from the Museel & Burger Bar lies one of the city’s best kept secrets: Cena Italian Trattatoria. This Italian eatery gives the people an affordable Italian family-style dining experience. The dishes are designed to share, and although the menu says “fine dining,” the atmosphere says “casual.” The service is rivaled only by the quality of the food and drink. It’s a classy place to spend a romantic evening.
Cena has received only rave reviews since opening its doors, and it is still going strong. The gnocchi, served with ricotta cheese, fennel sausage and tomates, is worth the trip alone, but you will not want to stop there. Sample the fruits of the sea and the pasta prepared to perfection. You’ll want to save room for dessert – Cena serves up everything from a goat cheese pear dessert to homemade ice cream.
Best New Japanese-Inspired Menu: Atlantic No. 5
Atlantic No. 5 is an artisanal coffee, sundry, and sandwich shop by day, cocktail and Japanese Izakaya-style dining experience by night. This innovative breakfast, lunch and now dinner experience, features an original take on lunchtime classics and coffee creations featuring local roasters, Sunergos Coffee. Grab a quick locally-sourced baked good while you’re on the go or pull up a chair, plug in your laptop and stay a while. Join Atlantic No. 5 for breakfast, lunch, and after-work drinks – cocktail Happy Hour is from 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM. The decor is sleek and modern, yet quirky enough to have a display of vintage lunchboxes.
For the downtown breakfast and lunch crowd, there are fine savory soups and sandwiches offered for an above-and-beyond lunching experience. Locally sourced, quality ingredients go into these artisanal creations. Atlantic No. 5 now offers a pop-up Izakaya-style menu for the evening. Each weekend, a different menu overseen by Rye On Market’s executive chef features different Japanese-inspired dishes to accompany the curated soundtrack for the evening. The seafood-centered small plates menu gives the chefs creative lease and is a dining experience like no other in Louisville. Stop in to sample a few small plates with a few cocktails, or have one of each.
Best New Breakfast Spot: Eggs Over Frankfort
Eggs Over Frankfort is a no-frills mom-and-pop joint that serves hot, fresh, delightful breakfast food, with great service. Candied bacon pancakes, Belgian waffles, build-your-own omelets – it’s everything you could want for breakfast, hold the “new vintage” motif.
The homemade jams and homemade apple butter will keep you coming back for more. Eggs Over Frankfort quickly becoming a favorite of the Clifton area, If you want some old-fashioned eggs and hot browns for breakfast, head on down to your friendly local diner.
Best New Casual Far-East Cuisine: The Joy Luck
The Joy Luck’s menu offers a Far-East twist on comfort food. Choose from Taiwanese or American Chinese fare. The menu is as vegetarian friendly as you do or don’t want it to be – the menu is flexible and accomodating. The Joy Luck is a classy Bardstown Road dining experience, complete with adventurous signature craft cocktails. The ambiance is laid-back and quaint, yet sophisticated. The Pork Soup Dumplings, a rarity in Louisville, are an explosion of flavor, and the Beijing Roast Duck comes highly recommended.
Enjoy your meal on their outdoor patio, right alongside Bardstown Road. It’s a welcome addition to the Highlands culinary scene. The menu may offer familiar conventional dishes, such as Kung-Pao or Cashew Chicken, but it is far above the standard Americanized Chinese food chain.
Best New Creole Cuisine: Roux
This New Orleans-style restaurant pulls out all of the stops in serving the fine people of Louisville authentic creole dishes. The ambiance and decor are teeming with vibrant colors and Mardi Gras masks. Jazz bands are often featured to complete this experience of dining in the heart of NOLA (or as close as you can get here in Kentucky). The menu offers Po’ Boys, Oysters, Seafood Boils, Jambalaya and much more.
The walk-up beignet window opens at 7:00 AM, so you can start your day off right with fried, doughy treats, and coffee. The rest of the restaurant opens at 11:00 AM for lunch and them dinner, and the food and drink flows ’til well past midnight. Brunch is now available on Saturday and Sunday, featuring Po’ Boy French Toast, Scotch Eggs and many more breakfast offerings.
Best New Mexican (And Margarita): Wild Rita’s
From the creators of Wild Eggs, Wild Rita’s was conceived after its founders traveled the Mexican countryside, studying the cuisine of Mexico and their exceptional quality of service. Wild Rita’s serves authentic Mexican dishes such as Panza (crispy pork belly served with pickled jalapenos and cabbage), and Molcajeteso, a Mexican-style stew with chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, onions and peppers, spicy tomato chile sauce, cilantro and queso fresco. Happy hour is Monday through Friday, 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM! Stop in for 1/2 priced appetizers and tacos, as well as $4 margaritas.
Wild Rita’s is renowned for its fantastic margaritas. It would be a sin to stop in without trying one. These aren’t your grandmother’s margaritas – their margarita menu is creative, featuring margaritas crafted with ginger beer and other exciting ingredients – but you can’t go wrong with the house, either.
Best New Craft Beer Bar: Crescent Hill Craft House
Crescent Hill Craft House is a craft beer bar and gastropub and local new kid on the block. This bar is proud to be Kentucky proud, and only serves beer from local breweries in the Kentuckiana area, from over 40 taps. Here you will find beers from Apocalypse Brew Works, New Albanian Brewing Company, Flat 12 Bierworks, West Sixth Brewing Company, Country Boy Brewing Company, Bluegrass Brewing Company, Cumberland Brews, and Against The Grain Brewery.
The gastropub fare has been well-received by the locals and is generally been acclaimed as exceptional and delicious. Come in for some Southern-inspired comfort food (that not coincidentally goes great with beer). From the Shrimp and Grits, to the Beer Cheese, to the Crawfish Remoulade or the Smoked Eggplant Barley Burger, the menu has a little something for everyone.
Best New Wine Bar: Louvino
Louvino is a wine bar in the Highlands, which features several permanent wines and many rotating wines on their ever-changing wine list. There is always something new to try, and Louvino provides the full experience – the atmosphere is modern and sleek, yet welcoming and cozy, and their small plates are exquisite and exciting. Wine flights are Kentucky-themed, featuring an assortment of wines that represent the characteristics of the person the flights are named after.
A couple should expect to order 4 to 5 small plates to constitute a traditional-sized meal. Louvino’s plates are rich and savory, offering selections such as the Lamb Loin Chop with Truffle Mushroom Risotto, Demi-Glace or the Braised Short Rib Gruyere Mac and Cheese. You can’t go wrong with The Loaded Baked Potato Tots with Cheddar, Scallion and House Ranch or the Duck Fat Frites with White Truffle Aoli. Louvino is truly an experience for the palate, from start to finish.
What’s even more exciting is that this is a great spot to stop by for brunch. Mimosas are $10 and bottomless with the order of a small plate, and trust us – you’ll want to order a small plate (or several). Louvino’s Brunch menu offers such delicacies as Pancake Tacos filled with bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs and cheese served with spiced maple dipping sauce. The Crispy Potato Hash Browns are far from being standard hash browns, served with smoked salmon, creamy dill drizzle, roasted tomato caper relish and a sunny side quail egg.
Best New Steakhouse: Brazeiros Churrascuria
“A carnivore’s playground.” This modern, authentic interpretation of the traditional Brazilian churraascaria, or steakhouse, opened its Louisville location earlier this year. Brazeiros serves its meat on skewers which are brought to the table and as much as you wish is sliced at the temperature of your liking. Limitless sides and salads are provided in addition to the skewers.
Brazeiros is a unique and sophisticated dining experience. Pay a fixed price for as much as you can eat of the exquisitely seasoned meats and hot and cold sides. Flip a card from red to green when you would like the servers to replenish your plates. Choose from lamb, filet mignon, sausage, chicken and more.
Best New Bar: The Cure Lounge
One of Louisville’s, newest, hippest additions to the nightlife scene. The drink menu strives to adhere to dive bar pricing but without compromising quality. The interior and decor are unlike any other in Louisille, the attitude is laid-back and welcoming. The perogies alone are worth making the journey, or try one of their “sticks” – breadsticks stuffed with various delicious things. The Cure’s cocktail and signature drink list is exciting and original. Happy Hour is Tuesday through Friday from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM. $3 wells, $2 domestic bottles, $1 off drafts and 1/2 off appetizers during Happy Hour. Plus, there’s $6 Knob Creek every time a plane flies over.
The perogies alone are worth making the journey, or try one of their “sticks” – breadsticks stuffed with various delicious things. The beer cheese is spoken of highly as well. However, if you’re like most people and go to bars to drink, not to eat, you will not be disappointed by their service or drink selection.
Featured Image Credit: Geoff Peters