Kentucky **** (Base information from Feb. 2014; Restaurants are open as of Feb. 2023)
Alexandria–Empress Chili-7934 Alexandria Pike (Chili) Closed Sun. Serves Cincinnati style chili either in a bowl or on a hot dog (also sandwiches & salads). (Dining room is open 3-3-23)
Bowling Green–Anna’s-1202 State St. (Greek) Open Tue-Sat (dinner only). Mixed reviews, but I think this is probably the real deal.
Corbin–Sanders Cafe (aka KFC)-688 US Hwy 25 E (Fast Food) The original Kentucky Fried Chicken. The food is like any other KFC, but there is a museum here about Col. Sanders.
Florence–Mai Thai-7710 US 42 (Thai) Closed Sun. One of the most popular Thai rests. in Cincinnati area.
Fort Wright–Walt’s Hitching Post-3300 Madison Pike (BBQ) Barbecue chicken is the specialty.
Frankfort–Thai Smile-1193 US 187 S (Thai) Good reviews, but comments indicate it is not as good as the one in Richmond.
Georgetown–Thai Garden-221 N. Broadway (Thai) One of several good Thai rests. in the Lexington area.
Henderson–Mr. D’s-1435 S. Green St. (Fast Food) Open Daily. Known for its hot fried chicken. (Drive-in is open 3-3-23)
Henderson–Thomason’s Barbecue-701 Atkinson Dr. (BBQ) Lunch only (closed Sun & Mon). The baked beans are said to be some of the best in the South. (Dining room is open 3-3-23)
Lexington–Jonathan-120 W. 2nd St. (American) Open Daily. Upscale & expensive. Very good reviews. Southern (Kentucky) style food. Sit in the bar if you want it less stuffy.
Lexington–Smashing Tomato-2200 War Admiral Way (Pizza) Open Daily. Serves authentic Neapolitan style pizza. (Dining room is open 3-3-23)
Louisville–J. Graham’s Cafe-335 W. Broadway (American) Breakfast & Lunch only (closed Sun.). Famous for the “hot brown” (open faced turkey sandwich on french toast tips, mornay sauce, bacon, grilled tomato wedges)-very rich food. Derby pie is the other famous dish here (but the pie did not originate here). Note: if you can share the hot brown, it will be easier to manage the pie (pie is chocolate chip walnut). English Grill is the more expensive sister restaurant (open dinner only) in the same building.
Louisville–Simply Thai-323 Wallace Ave. (Thai) Closed Sun. Good choice for Asian food.
Louisville–Vietnam Kitchen-5339 Mitscher Ave. (Vietnamese) Closed Wed. Large menu, authentic food. May be a really worthwhile Vietnamese experience (but some say it’s not as good as in California).
Newport–Hofbrauhaus-200 E. 3rd St. (German) Open Daily. Authentic German beer hall food & beer. Food is not gourmet, but the experience is like a German beer hall.
Owensboro–Old Hickory BBQ-338 Washington Ave. (BBQ) Open Daily. Specializes in mutton BBQ. Featured on “The Mind of a Chef”-Ed Lee thinks this is the quintessential Kentucky style BBQ restaurant (featuring lamb BBQ and a vinegar based sauce).
Paducah–Backwoods BBQ-5172 Hinkleville Rd. (BBQ) Closed Sun. Ribs, pulled pork, hashbrown casserole, chocolate or coconut pie.
Richmond–Thai Smile-525 Leighway Dr. (Thai) Seems to be the best Asian in KY outside of the metro areas.
- This is an Abbreviated List , compiled from a limited number of sources
- Original list came primarily from Urbanspoon.com in 2014
- Newer listings are indicated by the date of their latest update.
Jane & Michael Stern, “500 Things to Eat Before It’s Too Late”
This work by the Sterns, published in 2009, focuses on individual dishes and “the Very Best Places to Eat Them.” Although the list is dated by more than a decade, it is worth taking a look at the choices which include the following in Kentucky (partial list and edited for places that have closed–Bold for No. 1 recommendation in the U.S.)::
- Barbecue Beans—Thomason’s Barbecue (Henderson)
- Five-Way Chili–Empress Chili (Alexandria)
- Chess Pie, Dutch Apple Pie, and Red Velvet Cake–Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen (Louisville)
- Hot Fried Chicken–Mr. D’s (Henderson)
Jane & Michael Stern, “500 Things to Eat Before It’s Too Late,” 2009, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcort.
Urbanspoon.com (former web site which I used for preliminary research)