Kentucky is famous for its bourbon, but in this state, bourbon is more than just a drink; it’s part of Kentucky’s culture and heritage. Bourbon is America’s only native spirit, and 95% of it is made in Kentucky!
Since 2008, the city of Louisville invented a unique way to celebrate the unofficial state beverage by creating the Urban Bourbon Trail. If you haven’t picked up your passport and hit Trail, you’re in for a treat! There were only five original stops on the trail, but it has since grown to include 35 excellent restaurants and bars in Louisville, each one showcasing Kentucky bourbon in both their food and beverages.
All of these locations are Louisville favorites, not only for their bourbon collection, but also for their food, atmosphere, and knowledgeable staff. You should visit all 35 of them if you can, but we picked 20 favorites to feature here! You will find information for the additional 15 spots at the end of this list.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
You can pick up a free Urban Bourbon passport at the Visitors’ Center, or download the Urban Bourbon app. When you visit at one of these delicious stops, you can have your passport stamped; hit six stops and you are officially a citizen of Bourbon Country!
20. Momma’s Mustard, Pickles, and BBQ
This Kanas City-style barbecue joint was recently named one of the Top 100 BBQ restaurants in the country! The atmosphere is more casual than some of the other stops, so enjoy your bourbon while relaxing and filling up on Momma’s outrageous wings.
19. Troll Pub Under the Bridge
Under the Second Street Bridge, on the corner of Washington Street, you will find Louie the Troll pointing to the Troll Pub. This underground pub is a unique place to eat traditional pub grub along with some excellent drinks. The hickory bar, concrete floor, brick walls, and dining room (which is hidden behind a bookshelf) add to the cozy, low-key atmosphere.
18. Manny & Merle
Located in downtown Louisville’s historic Whiskey Row, Manny and Merle is a honky-tonk bar that often features live music, and is a popular spot before any event at the KFC Yum! Center. They have great specialty bourbon cocktails and the best pork tacos on the planet.
17. North End Café
North End Cafe has been a Louisville favorite for over a decade, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They feature traditional meals with a healthy spin, so do not feel guilty about ordering that second (or third) drink. They also have an awesome patio that overlooks historic Frankfort Avenue!
Located in the historic Whiskey Row Lofts, Sidebar is a great place to go not only for bourbon, but for the gourmet burgers. Located downtown on Main Street, tucked underneath the ramp for the 2nd Street Bridge, you will feel like you have been transported back in time when you enter this 1800s limestone building.
15. Derby Cafe at the Kentucky Derby Museum
You could make a full day out of this stop on the Urban Bourbon Trail! The Derby Cafe is located within the Kentucky Derby Museum, so after grabbing lunch and getting that stamp on your passport, do some exploring around the exhibits. Be sure to catch a showing of “The Greatest
Race,” which is an immersive recap of the most exciting two minutes in sports in one of the only 360-degree 4K theaters in the world. Head next door to Churchill Downs to watch the live horse races!
14. Doc Crow’s
Doc Crow’s is also located within Whiskey Row, so you know they have a great collection of bourbon. Pair your drink with their delicious Southern cuisine, which ranges from raw oysters and shrimp po-boys, to barbecue classics like beef brisket or a rack of ribs.
13. Dish On Market
Dish On Market serves locally sourced food and has a list of over 70 bourbons. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and have a brunch buffet on weekends. They won the Leo Reader’s Choice Award in 2014 for Best Bourbon List, as well as Best Burger and Best All You Can Eat Brunch, so you really can’t go wrong here.
An award winning farm-to-table restaurant, Harvest has amazing locally grown food to accompany their bourbon collection. They put a gourmet twist on simple ingredients, 80 % of which are acquired within 100 miles of Louisville! Try their bourbon queso, which is made with Old Forester, and you will discover what heaven tastes like.
11. Ramsi’s Cafe On The World
Ramsi’s has been a popular Highlands destination for over two decades. They stay open late and have an extensive bar collection to accompany international meals that range from Moroccan lamb chomps to East Indian paella.
Seviche is another culinary gem in Louisville. Chef Anthony Lamas has been a semifinalist in the James Beard Foundation Best Chef Southeast awards three times! Have your bourbon with their skirt steak and you will be the happiest person alive.
Asiatique is a truly unique award-winning restaurant in the Highlands. It blends Asian cuisine with Western techniques, and the food is artfully presented on the plate. The atmosphere is very stylish and modern, so this spot is a great place to order a glass of top-shelf bourbon, and enjoy the surroundings while you eat the most out-of-this-world gourmet ramen. Yes, ramen can be gourmet.
8. Haymarket Whiskey Bar
Haymarket is known as one of the best bourbon bars in the country. They are a classic “dive bar” and they do not serve food, but this allows them to turn all of their attention to their bourbon collection, which exceeds 75 different kinds! Located on Market Street, the Haymarket building was once an outdoor farmers market in the 1800s. Catch some live music or just hang out and enjoy your bourbon in this historical building that’s full of character.
7. Silver Dollar
An ode to the “Bakersfield Sound,” the Silver Dollar serves up modern remakes of traditional 1950s Californian meals popular during the Dust Bowl. Their chicken and waffles and beer can hen are some of their most popular dishes. The restaurant was named one of the ten best whiskey bars in the country by GQ, and they serve up whiskeys that cannot be found anywhere else.
6. Lilly’s Bistro
Lilly’s is a Southern bistro with a farm-to-table food menu and a long bourbon list. The restaurants owner and founder, Kathy Cary, is a well-known name in the culinary world. She has been nominated for the James Beard Foundations Best Chef Southeast several times, so you’re going to be eating some of the best food in the country at this stop.
5. The Bar at Blu
One of the originals on the Urban Bourbon Trail, The Bar at Blu is located within Blu Italian Grille. They have over 60 bourbons to choose from on their Wall of Bourbon, and they make some delectable specialty cocktails— like a chocolate julep martini!
4. Bourbon’s Bistro
Obviously, a place called “Bourbon’s” is going to know their stuff, and Bourbon’s Bistro is the most well-known bourbon bar in Louisville. With over 130 bourbons available, they won a Gold
Medal from Whiskey Magazine’s, “Whiskey Bars of the World.” Try their bourbon balls for dessert, but don’t share with anyone who is under 21!
3. Proof on Main
If you want to sip your drink in a truly unique atmosphere, head to Proof on Main, located within the 21C Museum Hotel. You will know you are in the right place if there are red penguins on the roof, a gold replica of the David statue out front, and a red bedazzled limousine parked near the entrance (it’s hard to miss).
Proof on Main offers breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner, so you can pair this stop on the Urban Bourbon Trail with any meal. Take a walk around the museum and check out the contemporary art!
2. Brown Hotel Lobby Bar
You will be transported back to the 1920s in this iconic Louisville landmark, which is also one of the original Urban Bourbon Trail stops.
Sip your bourbon with Louisville’s most famous dish—the Hot Brown— which was invented at the Brown Hotel!
1. Old Seelbach Bar
If you want to go even further back in time, the Old Seelbach Bar, located in the Seelbach Hotel, is on the National Registry of Historic Places. Built in 1905, the Hotel was the inspiration for The Great Gatsby!
The Seelbach Bar is also an original Urban Bourbon Trail stop, and is home to the Seelbach Cocktail, which was originally crafted in 1917. It includes bourbon, Cointreau, Angostura bitters, Peychaud’s bitters, and champagne. Yum!
Are you bourbon-ed out yet? We hope not – there are 15 more stops on the Urban Bourbon Trail! We love the top 20 featured here, but check out the other 15 Urban Bourbon Trail stops for the
full Louisville bourbon experience:
Bistro 301, Bourbon Row, Bristol Bar and Grille Downtown , Bristol Bar and Grille Highlands, Buck’s, Charr’d Bourbon Kitchen and Lounge, Down One Bourbon Bar, Jockey Silks Bourbon Bar, Marketplace Restaurante, O’Shea’s Downtown, Rye, Sway at the Hyatt Regency Louisville, Varanese, Vincenzo’s Italian Restaurant, Volare.