Kentucky is known for horses and bluegrass, but it’s also the home of bourbon and the hot brown, an open-face turkey sandwich covered with bacon, tomatoes and Mornay Sauce. One of the best places to experience Kentucky is in Louisville, following the Urban Bourbon Trail to sample drinks and many versions of this decadent sandwich.
The Urban Bourbon Trail highlights some of the top bars and restaurants in the area. Some are historic designations; others are newly constructed properties. All have a comprehensive selection of bourbon and signature cocktails along with their excellent dining experiences.
The hot brown was invented in Louisville in 1926 as an alternative to ham and eggs for hungry late-night crowds. Visit the birthplace of the hot brown at the Brown Hotel. The hotel’s restaurant serves their original hot brown dripping in the delicious sauce and fresh from the broiler. The rich dish can be eaten alone or is also perfect for sharing. Although the restaurant’s chef freely shares a make-at-home recipe, the true original concoction is a secret that can only be enjoyed in person.
Many Louisville eateries have their own hot brown versions while others have invented unique variations. The hot brown pizza at The Troll Pub Under the Bridge is one way to enjoy the same flavors in a different style. Sidebar at Whiskey Row serves their version atop French fries. Italian eatery Come Back Inn has a hot brown covered with Alfredo sauce over ciabatta bread.
Combine a tour of Louisville’s famous racetrack, Churchill Downs, with a stop at the Derby Café Express to try the hot brown panini. Or start the day at the racetrack soon after the sun rises with a special tour to see the horses warming up on the track, then visit the Derby Museum before enjoying lunch at this Kentucky institution.
Where to stay:
The historic Brown Hotel, built in 1923, has undergone many renovations including a notable one in 1993 demolishing every other wall between rooms in order to double the room size. The resulting space makes for a very comfortable and relaxing stay.
Along the Ohio River, the panoramic views at the Galt House Hotel are excellent for watching passing boats and cars traveling over the city’s several bridges. Many rooms overlook the Ohio, but the view can also be enjoyed by dining on the top floor restaurant, Swizzle.
The Embassy Suites Louisville Downtown is located within easy walking distance of most Urban Bourbon trail locations and right at the edge of Fourth Street Live. This downtown pedestrian-only area is filled with restaurants, activities and a stage for live music.
Urban Bourbon Trail link: