The University of Kentucky men's basketball team plays in the NCAA tournament in Louisville on Thursday and hopefully again Saturday. Convening on the River City en masse, the Big Blue Nation will be hungry for a win — and good food.
We asked longtime restaurant critic Robin Garr, the man behind the popular site LouisvilleHotBytes.com, to give us his recommendations for the best restaurants within easy reach of the arena (and a few farther out).
ROBIN GARR'S PICKS
Here are Garr's top 10 picks for places close to the Yum Center, along with his commentary. Find links to his full reviews at LexGo.com or LouisvilleHotBytes.com.
The Blind Pig: Around the corner from the up-and-coming NuLu district in the Butchertown neighborhood, this casual, exciting eatery is a shrine to all things pork, and more, plus it has an impressive beverage program. (1076 East Washington Street. (502) 618-0600. Theblindpiglouisville.com.)
Doc Crow's Southern Smokehouse and Raw Bar: It bills its culinary niche as "the freshest flavors of the American South." Its venue, in a restored historical whiskey warehouse around the corner from the Yum Center, only adds to its appeal. (127 West Main Street. (502) 587-1626. Doccrows.com.)
Garage Bar: The city's trendy, hopping gallery and dining district east of downtown is studded with attractive new eateries. Walk along East Market Street and take your pick. Garage Bar would make a fine start, with its tongue-in-cheek 1930s service-station décor and creative fare, including a ham bar. (700 East Market Street. (502) 749-7100. Garageonmarket.com.)
Harvest Restaurant: Run by a farmer, Harvest expresses the farm-to-table movement with a serious commitment to local meats and produce all year. (624 East Market Street. (502) 384-9090. Harvestlouisville.com.)
Jack Fry's: Long a saloon named after its innkeeper, Jack Fry's is perhaps the most iconic Louisville eatery. This spot on Bardstown Road's Restaurant Row has become one of the city's most popular bistros. Expect it to be packed. Try the signature dish, shrimp and grits. (1007 Bardstown Road. (502) 452-9244. Jackfrys.com.)
Seviche, A Latin Restaurant: Louisville is not only about down-home "Southern" fare. Chef Anthony Lamas is building a national reputation with fine nuevo Latino fare in an upscale venue. (1538 Bardstown Road. (502) 473-8560. Sevicherestaurant.com.)
The Silver Dollar: Who knew that a dark and noisy Bakersfield-style honky-tonk would emerge as the hottest new hipster destination in Louisville? The Silver Dollar proudly resides in the historic Albert A. Stoll firehouse in the urban Clifton neighborhood. (1761 Frankfort Avenue. (502) 259-9540. On.fb.me/thesilverdollar.)
610 Magnolia: Another chef with national aspirations, recent Top Chef contestant Edward Lee carries on a long tradition with inspired creative cuisine in a lovely Old Louisville setting. (610 Magnolia Avenue. (502) 636-0783. 610magnolia.com.)
Theater Square Marketplace: Chef Dallas McGarity, a frequent invitee at New York's James Beard House, presides over an eclectic bill of fare in this impressive remake of an old theater. (651 South Fourth Street, Theater Square. (502) 625-3001. Theatersquaremarketplace.com.)
Wiltshire on Market: Comfortably upscale, with an exciting menu that changes weekly, this is another can't-miss NuLu entry. (636 East Market Street. (502) 589-5224. Wiltshirepantry.com/wiltshire-on-market.)
Here are a few noteworthy spots that require more of a hike from the Yum Center.
Coals Artisan Pizza: This relatively recent arrival in the Vogue Center in St. Matthews, an older suburb, jumped to the top of a highly competitive artisanal pizza scene, elevated by serious chef skills in the kitchen and a coal-fired oven that brings the humble pie to lofty perfection at 1,000 degrees. (3724 Frankfort Avenue. (502) 742-8200. Coalsartisanpizza.com.)
Corbett's, An American Place: Chef Dean Corbett (also of Equus and Jack's Lounge) plays host here with fine, upscale American fare in a lovely historical farmhouse now surrounded by suburbs — Costco is its back-fence neighbor — just off the Gene Snyder Freeway at Ky. 22. (5050 Norton Healthcare Boulevard. (502) 327-5058. Corbettsrestaurant.com.)
Annie Café: Louisville's South End is home to a variety of immigrant communities, with the good food that attends them. A popular choice among several Vietnamese spots is Annie Café, offering a fine selection of authentic dishes with friendly service in the Beechmont neighborhood. (308 West Woodlawn Avenue. (502) 363-4847. Anniecafe.com.)