It’s no secret that Kentuckians know what good food is. We have terrific restaurants all across the state, but did you know that several have won some impressive awards? It’s true that many of them are located in or around Louisville and Lexington, but how cool is it that our two largest cities are both pretty big players in the culinary world? It was hard to limit this list to just 15, but if you’re looking for food and chefs that get some pretty widespread recognition, check out these award-winning Kentucky restaurants.
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
1. Holly Hill Inn, Midway
This charming restaurant is located in a rural 1845 inn, and the New York Times has called it "a gem of a restaurant." Owner and Chef Ouita Michel has been nominated several times as Best Chef Southeast and Outstanding Restauranteur by the James Beard Foundation. If you're in Kentucky, you must come to Holly Hill Inn to try this fine dining twist on Southern food. Ouita Michel owns a few other great restaurants in the area, including Smithtown Seafood in Lexington, Wallace Station Deli and Bakery in Versailles, the Midway Bakery in Midway, Windy Corner Market in Lexington, and she's also the chef-in-residence at Woodford Reserve. Holly Hill Inn is located at 426 N. Winter Street, Midway, KY 40347.
2. 610 Magnolia, Louisville
610 Magnolia is located in the historic and beautiful Old Louisville neighborhood. They serve traditional Southern food with a modern twist, and Chef Edward Lee has been a finalist for Best Chef Southeast by the James Beard Foundation multiple times. He is also known for brilliantly blending Southern and Asian cuisines. He was featured on Season 3 of the show "Mind of a Chef." Reservations are required at this fixed-price eatery, which is located at 610 W. Magnolia Avenue, Louisville, KY 40208.
3. Lilly's Bistro, Louisville
Lilly's Bistro has been considered one of the best restaurants in Louisville since it opened in 1988. One of the original farm-to-table eateries in the city, Lilly's takes pride in serving fresh and local produce and meats. Owner and chef Kathy Cary has been nominated for Best Chef Southeast by the James Beard Foundation six times. Come try the seasonal dishes at this restaurant in Louisville's popular Highlands neighborhood. Lilly's Bistro is located at 1147 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40204.
4. Bella Notte, Lexington
You will get some of the freshest and most authentic Italian food here. Like so many other wonderful restaurants in the Bluegrass State, Bella Notte believes in supporting their community, and therefore offer an abundance of locally grown food. They won the OpenTable Diners' Choice Award in 2015, and the Lexington Herald-Leader's Readers' Choice Award in 2016. Bella Notte is located at 3715 Nicholasville Road, Lexington, KY 40503.
5. Seviche, Louisville
The best seafood in Louisville is at this Latin-inspired restaurant in the Highlands neighborhood. Chef Anthony Lamas has been a semi-finalist for Best Chef Southeast by the James Beard Foundation three times, and has been featured on the Food Network, and in Bon Appetit and Southern Living Magazine. He changes his menu seasonally, meaning you will get the freshest seafood prepared in a genius way. Seviche has also won the Restaurant of the Year Award of Excellence by the American Culinary Federation, as well many local "Best of Louisville" awards. Seviche is located at 1538 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40205.
6. Harvest, Louisville
Harvest champions the farm-to-table movement by artfully crafting local ingredients into a five-star meal. 80 percent of their ingredients come from within a 100 mile radius of the restaurant, and pictures of the farmers who grew the food hang on the walls. Harvest won the 2011 OpenTable Diners' Choice Award the first year it opened, and the following year was semi-finalist for Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation. Harvest is located at 624 E. Market Street, Louisville, KY 40202.
7. Beaumont Inn, Harrodsburg
The Beaumont Inn is Kentucky's oldest family-operated bed and breakfast country inn. This historic building in Kentucky's oldest town serves wonderful country cooking and excels in hospitality. In 2015, they won America's Classic Award from the James Beard Foundation. Pick up a copy of the Beaumont Inn Classic Recipes Cookbook to try your hand at gourmet cooking, or go dine with them at 638 Beaumont Inn Drive, Harrodsburg, KY 40330.
8. Proof on Main, Louisville
Proof on Main is one of the most unique restaurants in the state. Attached to 21C Museum Hotel, you can eat an artfully crafted meal while sipping on a signature cocktail, and then go explore an art museum without even stepping outside. The executive chef at Proof, Michael Wajda, has worked alongside celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. Proof on Main was named to Esquire Magazine list of Best New Restaurants the first year it opened. In 2015, the bar at Proof won the Best American Hotel Bar Award as part of Tales of the Cocktails 9th Annual Spirited Awards. Proof on Main is located at 702 W. Main Street, Louisville, KY 40202.
9. Tousey House Tavern, Burlington
Enjoy Southern hospitality and cooking in this historic federal-style home that was built in 1822. Cincinnati Magazine dubbed them as having the best friend green tomatoes in the area, and over the years, their cod sandwich and hot brown have earned some local accolades as well. The Tousey House Tavern is located at 5962 N. Jefferson Street, Burlington, KY41005.
10. Jack Fry's, Louisville
Jack Fry's is storied in history. Established in 1933, Jack Fry's has earned itself a reputation of being a much-loved Louisville landmark. Several national publications have recognized the restaurant, including The New York Times, Southern Living Magazine, and Bon Appetit. On a more local level, Louisville Magazine has awarded them with various "Best of Louisville" recognitions for more than 25 years, including "Best Special Occasion Restaurant," "Best Fine Dining," and "Favorite Restaurant," among others. Jack Fry's is located at 1007 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40204.
11. Mayan Cafe, Louisville
Eat some truly authentic Mayan cuisine that is arranged beautifully, and almost exclusively with local products. They are so dedicated to the farm-to-table movement that they even got rid of Coke products. Every month, they have a feature menu in addition to their regular menu, which highlights produce that is in season. If you're a fan of sweet potatoes, you're in luck, because it's their feature for December 2016. Recently, Chef Bruce Ucan won Edible Magazine's Local Hero Award, which goes to a chef or restaurant doing wonderful things for the local food movement. The Mayan Cafe is located at 813 E. Market Street, Louisville, KY 40206.
12. Merrick Inn, Lexington
Located in the heart of horse country, the Merrick Inn has absolutely gorgeous surroundings, and is one of Lexington's favorite restaurants. It's located in an old manor house with a large covered patio, and a famous thoroughbred named Merrick (the restaurant's namesake) is buried on the property. They're famous for classic Southern dishes such as fried chicken and fried green tomatoes. They were recently featured in USA Today's 10Best Guide to Lexington. Merrick Inn is located at 1074 Merrick Drive, Lexington, KY 40502.
13. Boone Tavern Hotel and Restaurant, Berea
This historic tavern in downtown Berea has earned accolades both for their hotel service and for their food-- all the more reason to take a trip to the quaint town of Berea! Most of their ingredients come from the nearby Berea College Farm. In 2003, they won the Duncan Hines Excellence in Hospitality Award, and they've also been honored with the 2010 Berea Business of the Year Award, and the 2009 People's Choice Award Taste of the Bluegrass, among others.
14. Greyhound Tavern, Fort Mitchell
Greyhound Tavern is the sister restaurant of the Tousey House Tavern. It's also located in a historic building and serves delicious Southern fare such as fried chicken, pork chops, and fried cod. They are known as Northern Kentucky's "most award-winning restaurant," and have been recognized by several local publications. They have the "Best Traditional American Cuisine" according to Cincinnati Magazine, "Best Fish Sandwich" from the Cincinnati Enquirer, and "Best Family Brunch" from Cin Weekly. Greyhound Tavern is located at 2500 Dixie Highway, Fort Mitchell, KY 41017.
15. Moonlite Bar-B-Q, Owensboro
You may find it odd that a barbecue joint is on this list, but hey, they're a big deal! They have been recognized by The Wall Street Journal, The LA Times, USA Today, Southern Living, and various other publications. They have been featured on the Food Network, and were voted in the Top 10 of must-stop Kentucky restaurants by Travelocity.com. Kentucky Monthly Magazine readers say they have the best barbecue in the whole state. Stop in and try some of their famous mutton and you won't be sorry. Moonlite Bar-B-Q is located at 2840 W. Parrish Avenue, Owensboro, KY 42301.
Are you hungry yet? These 15 award-winning restaurants are sure to make your mouth water, and make you proud to be from Kentucky.