With a diverse local dining scene that spans the globe in inspiration, it’s no wonder Louisville found a place on Bon Appetit’s Foodiest Small Towns list in recent years. For the city's inclusion on the list, the magazine cited Louisville’s strong local food traditions, which have been upheld largely by Louisville Originals, a group of chefs and restaurateurs who band together to encourage dining locally to keep the local food scene vibrant and strong.
An Originals Idea
Louisville Originals dates back to 2005 when the owners of five local restaurants – De La Torres, Baxter Station, Asiatique, Irish Rover & Cafe Lou Lou – united in an organization designed to support and promote independent restaurants in Louisville. They created a brand, the Louisville Originals, and have been successfully promoting it and the individual member restaurants ever since, says Mayan Cafe General Manager Anne Shadle, a member of the organizations's board of directors.
The organization’s impact on the city extends far beyond the culinary, reaching outlying communities as the demand for locally grown meats and produce has stirred the once dormant agricultural base.
From Farm to Table
During the summer, Mayan Cafe hosts Mayan Market Mondays, during which the restaurant features a different local farm and offers dishes that showcase that farm’s products.
Mayan Cafe’s owner and chef Bruce Ucan believes in the Louisville Originals’ motto “Globally Flavored, Locally Savored.” The Mexican born Ucan buys as much fresh, seasonal, locally grown fish and produce as possible for his ancient Mayan-inspired dishes, such as the signature Chile Relleno, a poblano chile stuffed with seasonal local vegetables, potatoes and mozzarella cheese in a light tomato sauce.
On any given Saturday, you’re likely to find Ucan at the Bardstown Road Farmers’ Market, which hosts some 30 vendors selling seasonal fruits and vegetables, beef, pork, bison and lamb as well as fresh eggs and farmstead cheeses. The Bardstown Road market is just one of two dozen farmers and fresh markets scattered across the city and serving local restaurants.
Local Star Chefs and Restaurants
Sullivan University recently recognized Corbett with its first Regional Distinguished Visiting Chef Award. He has been featured by publications such as Southern Living, Wine Spectator, Delta Sky, Chef and Esquire magazines, the latter honoring Corbett's as one of America's best new restaurants in 2008 (according to the magazine's food correspondent John Mariani). Another Louisville restaurant that's earned a "Best New Restaurant" nod from Esquire is Proof on Main, located in the 21c Museum Hotel downtown.
Two other local chefs, Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia, and Anthony Lamas of Seviche, were semifinalists for the Best Chef: Southeast award in the prestigious 2011 James Beard Foundation Restaurant and Chef Awards.
And yet another award-winner is RIVUE Restaurant and Lounge, an ultra-modern upscale eatery known for its breathtaking views. The restaurant has been locally recognized multiple times, winning awards at the annual Taste of Louisville and Louisville Magazine's Readers' Choice Award.
Even Louisville's most famous sandwich, the Hot Brown, has attained legendary status. The Hot Brown dates back to the roaring 20's and a chef at The Brown Hotel who sought to wow his customers. He did just that with an open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon and Mornay sauce, the sandwich that soon became the legendary Hot Brown. The Hot Brown has since been featured in Southern Living, NBC's Today Show, the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal.
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