Dana McMahan Special to Courier Journal
Published 12:01 PM EDT Apr 29, 2019
So the 145th Kentucky Derby is here and you haven’t made dinner plans for the big day. Don’t fret. Sure, you may not be sitting down at any of the hot spots people booked weeks (or months!) ago, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck.
First, it’s still possible to snag a prime spot at one of Louisville’s many restaurants. People are in cancel mode now as plans change, so if you have your heart set on a top restaurant, you have nothing to lose by calling to see if they have an opening.
If that doesn’t pan out, there are plenty of other options as long as you have an open mind.
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217 St. Catherine St.; Dizzywhiz.com
Look, I went to Dizzy Whizz for my post-Derby meal last year. By the late hour, we got out of the hordes and back to our neighborhood of Old Louisville, sopping wet from the rainiest Kentucky Derby on record and nothing sounded better than a greasy spoon diner, and let me tell you, it hit the spot.
1396 S 2nd St.; Pizzadonisi.com
Now you don’t have to go quite that low-brow, but as late as Kentucky Derby post-time runs now — it’s set for 6:50 p.m. — honestly, Saturday night après-track seems more suited to delivery than fine dining. (Hopefully you’re checking that box earlier in the week!) For my own Airbnb-ers, I’ve suggested Pizza Donisi. It’s always a hit among our guests, and I think they’ll be happy with that call when they realize how spent they are after a decadent few days.
But if you want to continue the fun and go out to eat, we’ve got you covered whether you’re in the urban core or the ‘burbs.
909 E. Market St.; FeastBBQ.com
If you’ve tossed back a few mint juleps, nothing will fit the bill like a heaping plate of BBQ and all the fixings. Make it counter service so you can get in and out quickly for the win. In NuLu, head to Feast BBQ where you can grab a bourbon slushie if you’re not quite finished with the revelry, and a pile of tots. If you’re staying near Jeffersontown, hit their J-town outpost at 10318 Taylorsville Road.
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Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint
984 Barret Ave.; Martinsbbqjoint.com
In the Highlands or Germantown, make for Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint (in the former Lynn’s Paradise Cafe for any nostalgic types) and get your veggies in the form of some seriously legit green beans; in the East End you can go to their 3408 Indian Lake Dr. location.
Momma’s Mustard, Pickles & BBQ
102 Bauer Ave.; Mommasbbq.com
If you’re ready to cool your heels with table service, go for the amazing wings at Momma’s Mustard, Pickles & BBQ in St. Matthews or at 119 S. Hurstbourne Pkwy. Seriously, nothing beats their wings or the burnt ends.
639 E. Broadway; chickenkinglouisville.com
Let’s talk about fried chicken. Is it a cliché to eat fried chicken #wheninkentucky? Of course. But so is drinking mint juleps, and they’re downed by the thousands this weekend, so why not cap off your Kentucky Derby experience with some serious fried chicken? You could totally swing through the drive-thru at Chicken King downtown and get some of everything for less than you probably spent on a couple juleps.
Chick’n & Mi
2319 Brownsboro Road; chiknandmi.com
Or head to either of my favorites, polar opposites but both off the charts delicious. Chick’n & Mi serves up the most irresistible fried chicken with flair. Don’t pass up the jeaw bong, which is spicy chicken made with a traditional Laotian sauce of Thai chilies, roasted garlic and shallots. And finished with mixed herbs and pickled radish.
More: Chick’n & Mi gives spicy new meaning to fried chicken and noodles
Shirley Mae’s Cafe
802 S. Clay St.; shirleymaescafe.com
Nothing, and I mean nothing, beats Shirley Mae’s (literally) finger-licking good wings fried up in her ancient cast iron skillets at her tiny Smoketown place where, heads up, the wait might be longer than those wagering lines at the track, but it’s worth it.
Read this: 13 facts you didn’t know about the running of the Kentucky Derby
Butchertown Pizza Hall
1301 Story Ave.; butchertownpizzahall.com
You don’t have to go to a restaurant helmed by a celebrity chef to dine amazing well in this town. Much like we’re spoiled when it comes to bourbon selection around here, we’re brimming with restaurants low-key enough for everyday dining but at the top of their game. Don’t let the casual vibes fool you: we take our food as seriously as we do our bourbon.
Here are a few more favorites of the type that any Louisvillian worth their bourbon-smoked salt might be found on any given weeknight: Fill up on awesomely cheesy New York-style pies at Butchertown Pizza Hall and if you still have energy, burn it off upstairs at the Cabel Street Bar speakeasy.
Red Hog Restaurant & Butcher Shop
2622 Frankfort Ave.; redhogartisameat.com
If the weather is nice, get to Crescent Hill for the communal patio seating at Red Hog Restaurant and Butcher Shop. Dishes here star the whole animal butcher shop’s goodies and the owner’s artisanal bakery up the street for the ultimate win.
Derby Day weather: After 3 straight rainy Kentucky Derbys, can we catch a break already?
Oskar’s Slider Bar
3799 Poplar Level Road; Oskarssliderbar.com
And not too far from the track, slide into Oskar’s Slider Bar for a choose-your-own-adventure assortment of Scandi-influenced sliders you can swing even if you emptied your pockets at the track.
Happy Derby, everyone!
Tell Dana! Send your restaurant “Dish” to Dana McMahan at [email protected] and follow @danamac on Twitter.
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