Narrowing this list down to just 15 was extremely difficult. Honestly, this list could have hundreds of restaurants on it that are iconic in Kentucky. But these 15 are some of the most loved places to eat in the state, and once you visit them, it’s easy to understand why. If you have any guests from other states coming to visit, you’ll definitely want to consider taking them to one of these great restaurants.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life. While we continue to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, please take proper precautions or add them to your bucket list to see at a later date. If you know of a local business that could use some extra support during these times, please nominate them here:
1. The Brown Hotel, Louisville
The Brown Hotel in Louisville is not only an iconic hotel, but it also created what is perhaps the most popular dish in Kentucky: The Hot Brown. This open-faced sandwich consists of turkey, bacon, and Mornay sauce piled on top of thick pieces of toast, and then baked until golden brown. It was invented in the Brown Hotel's kitchen in 1926 by Fred K. Schmidt. A trip to Kentucky is not complete without eating a Hot Brown! The Brown Hotel is located at 335 W. Broadway, Louisville, KY 40202.
2. Beaumont Inn, Harrodsburg
The Beaumont Inn has been around since 1919 in Kentucky's oldest town, Harrodsburg. This charming inn has a wonderful restaurant with classic Southern cooking that is so good that they were honored with the James Beard Foundation America's Class Foundation in 2015. The Beaumont Inn is located at 638 Beaumont Inn Drive, Harrodsburg, KY, 40330.
3. Holly Hill Inn, Midway
This incredible place in Midway is one of the many restaurants in Kentucky owned by Chef Ouita Michel. She is one of the best chefs in the culinary world, and has been nominated by the James Beard Foundation as Best Chef Southeast and Outstanding Restaurateur several times. At Holly Hill Inn, you will get to eat the freshest local foods prepared by some of the most talented chefs in the state. Holly Hill Inn is located at 426 N. Winter Street, Midway, KY 40347.
4. Claudia Sanders Dinner House, Shelbyville
When outsiders think of Kentucky, one of the first things that comes to their minds is probably KFC. Instead of taking your out-of-state guests to a fast-food chain that has stores all over the world, take them here, to Claudia Sanders Dinner House. Colonel Harland Sanders and his wife, Claudia, moved from southeastern Kentucky to Shelbyville in 1959, and opened this restaurant a few years later. This family restaurant serves home cooking and has a friendly atmosphere. Claudia Sanders Dinner House is located at 3202 Shelbyville Road, Shelbyville, KY 40065.
5. Moonlite Bar-B-Q, Owensboro
Owensboro is famous for its barbecue, and Moonlite is one of the places to sample authentic Western Kentucky BBQ. Be sure to try the smoked mutton, or pile your plate high from the lunch or dinner buffet! Moonlite Bar-B-Q is located at 2840 W. Parrish Avenue, Owensboro, KY 42301.
6. Jack Fry's, Louisville
Jack Fry's is definitely one of the most popular spots in Louisville. This historic eatery has been around since 1933, and has garnered national attention from publications like The New York Times and Southern Living Magazine. Enjoy a favorite Southern dish with a gourmet twist accompanied by a signature cocktail. Jack Fry's is located at 1007 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY 40204.
7. Patti's 1880's Settlement, Grand Rivers
If you're visiting the Land Between the Lakes area, a stop at Patti's is a must. People drive from all over the region to sample one of their famous 2-inch pork chops and Mile-High Meringue Pie. Patti's is located in an incredible setting, and is so much more than just a restaurant. During your stop at Patti's, you can also shop, play a round of mini golf, or make new furry friends at the petting zoo. Patti's is located at 1793 J H O'Bryan Avenue, Grand Rivers, KY 42045.
8. The Blue Raven, Pikeville
The Blue Raven is a culinary gem in the eastern Kentucky town of Pikeville. This restaurant specializes in turning classic Appalachian dishes into culinary masterpieces. The Blue Raven is located at 211 Main Street, Pikeville, KY 41501.
9. Boone Tavern, Berea
The Boone Tavern in Berea has been standing for 105 years now. They use mainly local products, many of which came from the nearby Berea College farm. You're guaranteed to have an excellent experience in their cozy dining room, while eating your favorite Southern dishes with a glass of Kentucky bourbon, wine. or beer. The Boone Tavern has been recognized for their excellence service, winning the Duncan Hines Excellence in Hospitality Award in 2003. They are located at 100 Main Street North, Berea, KY 40403.
10. Dudley's on Short, Lexington
Located in downtown Lexington, Dudley's is a nice place to go before a University of Kentucky basketball game at nearby Rupp Arena. Eat American fare made with primarily local ingredients in this restaurant located in the circa-1889 Northern Bank Building. Dudley's is located at 259 W. Short Street #125, Lexington, KY 40507.
11. Miguel's Pizza, Slade
Miguel's Pizza may be off the beaten path, but it so so worth the journey. Its proximity to Natural Bridge State Resort Park and the Red River Gorge make it a popular spot for rock climbers and hikers to refuel. This casual build-your-own-pizza spot has become a Kentucky icon. Miguel's is located at 1890 Natural Bridge Road, Slade, KY 40376.
12. Bill's Restaurant, Owensboro
If you're in Owensboro, you definitely need to try this place. You'll get big portions of hearty dishes such as shrimp and grits, seafood shepherd's pie, and beef tenderloin. Don't forget to get a dessert while you're here. They have excellent options ranging from creme brulee to various kinds of pie. Bill's Restaurant is located at 420 Frederica Street, Owensboro, KY 42301.
13. The Whistle Stop, Glendale
The Whistle Stop has some quirky decor, and is located in historic Glendale. You can get all your Southern favorites here like fried green tomatoes, catfish, and fried chicken, but their speciality is country ham. The Whistle Stop is located at 216 E. Main Street, Glendale, KY 42740.
14. Otto's, Covington
If you find yourself looking for the perfect brunch spot, Otto's is the place to go. Not only is their brunch food good, but they make a mean Bloody Mary. Otto's is located at 521 Main Street, Covington, KY 41011.
15. Harper House, Hopkinsville (soon to be located in Cadiz)
This upscale restaurant serving American cuisine has been a favorite in Hopkinsville since its opening in 2009. You can still eat at the historic Hopkinsville location at 914 S. Main Street until March 15, and then they will be moving to Cadiz.
We know there are dozens more iconic Kentucky restaurants other than just these 15, so let us know your favorites in the comments!