Kentucky Derby restaurants?

Old Jan 13th, 2004, 11:52 AM
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Kentucky Derby restaurants?

I'm heading to the Oaks and Derby this May with 5 friends. None of us have ever been before (in fact, I don't think any of us have even been in the state of Kentucky before, not counting CVG airport!)

Can anyone recommend a restaurant or two for while we're down there? Maybe one "special occasion" type place and one somewhat less expensive but still excellent place? I'd love to eat somewhere that is genuinely Kentuckian--maybe southern cuisine? We don't need anything we can find easily at home here in New York (Italian, sushi, etc.). But we are all food lovers and would appreciate any recommendations from natives or those who have been to L'ville before.

Thanks very much!!

Matt

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Old Jan 13th, 2004, 12:51 PM
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Loo-a-vul (remember the pronunciation please) should be a fun trip. At the Derby, also remember to dress up and the women should wear an otherwise foolish English-type hat. If you want to get psyched about the races, try to go to the Horse Museum first.

Special Kentucky things to sample include: burgoo, hot browns, kentucky cured ham, pork bbq, derby pie, and to say you've done it- a mint julep. Usually there is a fairgrounds setup the week of the Oaks and Derby which should have most of this food for you to sample.

If you have any extra time, (or just tire of horses) consider driving to Mammoth Cave, touring the Corvette plant, touring the bourbon distilleries. Note you won't be able to sample bourbon on most of the tours because most of KY is dry, meaning you can't legally drink alcohol there.
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Old Jan 13th, 2004, 01:39 PM
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The Oakroom at the Seelbach would be a great spot for the "special occasion" type place. Great food with some Southern dishes.
Club Grotto is another good place. Jack Fry's is a favorite of mine. Both of these are located on Bardstown Road-restraunt row-where you will find many good, non chain establishments.
Check out this web site for more information on dining in Louisville: http://www.louisvillescene.com/dining/dining.html
I hope you will enjoy your visit to Louisville. The two weeks leading up to Derby are filled with various Derby festival activities including a steamboat race, the Pegasus parade, baloon glow and race. The festivities start on April 17 with "Thunder Over Louisville" a gigantic fireworks display. Check out www.kdf.org.
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Old Jan 13th, 2004, 02:20 PM
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Thanks for the replies. Sadly we will only be in "Loo-a-vul" from Thursday through Sunday, but I assume we'll be able to get into the groove quickly enough!

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Old Jan 13th, 2004, 03:23 PM
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mattydale, I thought of another tip for you since I presume you will renting a car and driving to Churchill Downs. Parking is quite a challenge and one year we parked the vehicle in a valet-type parking lot - the kind where they cram 50 cars into 30 car spots. When we wanted to leave, we couldn't find an attendant. We ended up walking and trying to hail a cab but ended up taking a bus!
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Old Jan 13th, 2004, 06:26 PM
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Many of the Louisville restaurants are booked up far in advance of Derby Week; so you might consider calling them now to see if they are taking reservations yet.
The Oak Room at the Seelbach is a wonderful place to dine and so is The English Grill in The Brown Hotel .
There are a number of good restaurants along Bardstown Road. Lilly's is one of my personal favorites. The menu specializes in locally grown produce.
I also recommend Equus on Sears Avenue and Kentucky Cove on W. Main Street.
For casual dining try Ramsi's or Ditto's ( Bardstown Road) or Baxter Station on Payne Street.
Lynn's Paradise on Barret is good any time of day, but is especially fun and funky for big breakfasts.
If you have time for a 30 minute drive out of town, go to Shelbyville to Claudia Sanders. This restaurant is the former home of Colonel Sanders and his wife, Claudia. This is where you can find Kentucky country cooking.
Some Derby and Oaks tips: If you're not planning to stay at a friend's home be sure that you reserve hotel rooms ASAP..there is a 3 night minimum stay on Derby weekend .
Don't bother to try to find parking at Churchill Downs.. there are park and ride lots downtown, at the Fairgrounds, and at Papa John's Stadium.. The buses are efficient and will drop you off and pick you up at the Down's gates.
Everyone must pass through security . Bags and purses are inspected for contraband.
You can bring in food ( in clear plastic bags) but NO cans or bottles of ANY kind...that includes soft drinks , liquor, sunscreen, perfume , and hand lotion.
People do dress up for Oaks and Derby..frou frou hats and pretty dresses are the norm for women. Men wear suits or nice slacks and blazers and panama hats. However if you're sitting in the Infield area expect to see tube tops, shorts, and lots of drunk college kids.


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Old Jan 13th, 2004, 08:02 PM
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Ah, memories of the Derby's infield. One year we never even saw a horse.
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Old Jan 14th, 2004, 05:38 AM
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Thanks again for these responses--this is great info. I definitely have taken to heart the warnings I have heard about needing reservations early. So I have booked us rooms at a Super 8 (the most expensive Super 8 in the world I'd bet, based on the jacked-up Derby prices) which appears from a map to be within walking distance of Churchill Downs. It's at 101 Central Avenue. No idea if this is a good neighborhood or a bad neighborhood, but I picked it with the hope that I wouldn't need to touch the car the entire weekend (walk to the races, take cabs to restaurants).

We got grandstand tickets, so we'll be away from the infield mayhem that I've been reading about. Which is not to say that we won't imbibe a mint julep or a bourbon or two, another reason to leave the car parked at the hotel.

I'm going to call around to the restaurants that you folks have suggested today, see where I can book a party of six. It's still 5 months away, but I can feel the excitement already!



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Old Jan 14th, 2004, 06:23 AM
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From one New Yorker to another:

You should definitely go to Science Hill at the Wakefield-Scearce Galleries in Shelbyville, about 30 minutes east of Louisville in the middle of horse country.

www.wakefieldscearce.com

It's an excursion you'll never forget (and the hot brown is delicious). Be sure to call in advance for reservations (the Gill family runs the restaurant). The food is MUCH better than Claudia Sanders, which is mediocre at best. Science Hill is amazing and truly "genuine Kentucky."

In Louisville, I also suggest Lilly's. Kathy Cary, the executive chef, has actually won contests in New York City, so you'll feel right at home with the quality of the cuisine.

Ramsi's on Bardstown Road is a great neighborhood place, as is Baxter Station.

Avoid the big downtown eateries; they'll be a nightmare over Derby weekend.

Once again, call all your restaurant choices well in advance, particularly Science Hill. And plan to peruse the galleries for an hour or two before or after your lunch/dinner.

Enjoy Louisville & the Ky Derby!
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Old Jan 14th, 2004, 06:48 AM
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It could seem like a bit of a hike in warm weather but you will be able to walk to and from Churchill Downs from your motel. It's a straightforward walk ,no problem with getting lost. There are entrance gates on Central Avenue and on Fourth Street.
Your Motel 8 is at the intersection of Central Avenue and Crittenden Drive. The motel is across Crittenden Drive from the Kentucky Exposition Center and Six Flags Over Kentucky. It's about a mile from the airport. The area is full of chain hotel/motels ( which will all be full during Derby weekend.)
Just a suggestion: You might want to rethink calling for a taxi to get you to restaurants. The reason I say this is because after the Oaks and Derby are run, the cabs are mostly tied up at the track . Traffic is very heavy after the races and it takes the cabs and limos a while to leave the track area.
You can appoint a designated driver , walk back to your motel and have him/her drive your own car to restaurants. If you've made rez at one of the Bardstown Road eateries, driving there from your hotel is easy... Crittenden Drive > Eastern Parkway > Bardstown Road.
Have a great time at the Derby...and welcome ,in advance, to Louisville.
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Old Jan 14th, 2004, 06:54 AM
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P.S. I ditto the previous comment re: Science Hill, it's a lovely venue.
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Old Jan 14th, 2004, 10:19 AM
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As a follow-up question... A number of us are actually flying in and out of Covington/Cincinnati and driving from there to Louisville (it worked out to be cheaper and faster than flying into Louisville itself). Is there a sight or a restaurant that we should be sure to hit somewhere in between Covington and Louisville? Is that Science Hill restaurant on the way?

Thanks once again.
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Old Jan 14th, 2004, 10:49 AM
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The interstate between CVG and Louisville is I-71 and there's absolutely nothing to see or do over the 90 miles EXCEPT check a map and head south to Shelbyville (on I-64) where you'll find Science Hill. It's not exactly on the way, but it's close. (CVG is northeast of Louisville; Shelbyville is due east.)

My advice is to look at a map of KY and I'm sure there's a very easy way to jog south a bit to I-64 from I-71 somewhere in the vicinity of Shelbyville. (Then, from Shelbyville, Louisville is a quick 30 miles to the west.)

Enjoy!
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Old Jan 14th, 2004, 12:47 PM
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Unfortunately it seems that Science Hill is not an option because they only serve dinner Friday and Saturday nights. The only opportunity we will have to get out to the countryside is on the way to or from the airport (Thursday or Sunday evening). So maybe we'll just take a diversion to Shelbyville or somewhere else in horse country, just to get off the interstate for a while, even if we can't eat at Science Hill.

Can't wait to see that bluegrass.

Matt
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Old Jan 14th, 2004, 01:11 PM
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If you don't have any set plans for Thursday night in Louisville, why not tour one of the bourbon distilleries and then head back to Louisville and your hotel?thehttp://www.kybourbon.com/english/pages/trail.html
http://www.visitlex.com/quick/bourbon.html
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Old Jan 14th, 2004, 04:16 PM
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Or, if you have time, drive to Lexington from Cincinnati I-71 and then down I-64 to Louisville. It is further, but you will see something of the horse country-Bluegrass area. If you have *lots* of time, make a reservation and eat dinner at Pleasant Hill on the Lexington-Harrodsburg road. It is a restored Shaker village and has very good Kentucky-style food. Their lemon pie is wonderful, and the corn sticks, and the cole slaw, and, and . . .
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Old Jan 15th, 2004, 06:09 AM
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Louisville is full of good places to eat...for "real" KY cuisine you might want to go south a bit to Bardstown, E-town, or elsewhere in Central KY for more authenic "country" food rather than hoity-toity variations thereof.

South on I-65 in a town called Glendale...(which is neat in and of itself) are two restaurants called The Whistle Stop and the Depot. Both are excellent although eveyone has their favorite and I won't open that can of worms by suggesting which one I like better.

For a great resource of good Louisville restaurants check out
http://www.louisvillehotbytes.com/
It;s the best Louisville restaurant resource.
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Old Jan 15th, 2004, 02:38 PM
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That's great, thank you all once again.
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