Cooks at Home Run Burgers & Fries' four locations grill up 100% Black Angus beef patties and twice-cooked, hand-cut fries made from idaho potatoes, with a dedication to classic flavor that earned the eatery the Best 2012 Burger award on the Louisville A List. For edibles other than the eponymous burger and fries, the cooks dunk beer-battered onion rings in bubbling fryers alongside baskets brimming with hand-breaded north atlantic cod, as well as chicken strips for the kids' menu or building poultry scale replicas of a Lincoln Log cabin. Bakery buns hug quarter-pound patties cooked to order with a choice of 26 different complimentary toppings, including sauteed mushrooms, grilled onions, and roasted red peppers..
The menu at Funmi’s Café swims with the names of West African dishes, tangles of unfamiliar syllables. Kachumbari, asaro, and kelewele may sound intimidating initially, but they conceal a cuisine characterized by warmth and gentle spice. Kachumbari is an African spin on coleslaw, asaro is a goldenrod-hued yam porridge, and kelewele is a snack of fried plantains.
In the kitchen, chefs stir pots of stew and sauce, often eschewing meat and dairy to fill Funmi’s menu with vegan options. Beneath murals of circular huts on a colorful savannah, fair-trade organic coffee imported from Africa pours forth steam like a robot trying to understand the end of Of Mice and Men.
Emily Peters, of Emma Lou's Cafe, transformed a historic 100-year-old home into a café and vintage boutique. Inside the first floor's dining room, servers deliver a rotating menu of café fare which has included mixed-greens salads tossed with mandarin oranges, fresh strawberries, and pecans and warm ham-and-brie sandwiches nestled between slices of ciabatta bread. Patrons may peruse vintage finds including jewelry, furniture, and postcards in the boutique area or meander out to the back courtyard on sunny days.
Every day at all of El Nopal’s locations, cooks whip up fresh batches of salsa, chips, and beans. The sauces and sides accent chicken or beef chimichangas, handmade tamales, and nachos smothered in cheese. All El Nopal locations offer complimentary chips and salsa with every meal, and some locations have outdoor seating areas. Performances by live bands at select locations serve as a pleasant distraction from meals, unlike a judge with highfalutin ideas about not eating in court.
At CiCi’s Pizza, feasters can sample hearty slices of pizza and a wide selection of buffet fare ($4.99 per person 11 and older, $2.99 for kids 10 and under. Drinks are extra.) Offering endless helpings of fresh salads, tantalizing pastas, tasty desserts, and oven-fresh pizzas, CiCi’s tames the most voracious hunger attacks via all-you-can-eat tactics. Pizza dough is made fresh daily and doused in a savory sauce crafted from vine-ripened tomatoes and prescience-instilling spices, while salads are hand-tossed with the freshest ingredients delivered hourly via teleportation.
Southern-Inspired Food | Local Ingredients | Food Network–Lauded Grits | Acclaimed Chef
What to Drink: Befitting of a place that’s a stone’s throw from Bourbon Country, there's a lengthy list of authentic bourbons to indulge in. If bourbon's not your thing, there’s also an award-winning wine list and a selection of cocktails to whet your whistle. Whatever you order, be thankful for it; back in 1988, Lilly's opened without so much as a wine license.
When to Go: If you’re not in the mood for a big entree, head in on Wednesday evening to take advantage of the Small Plate Wednesday menu, which showcases a rotating selection of shareable farm-to-table dishes. You’ll also likely be treated to a 50% discount on selected bottles of fine wine.
Who's in the Kitchen? Since opening Lilly's, chef-owner Kathy Cary has become something of a regional icon, garnering acclaim for her creative use of organic veggies, free-range beef, and artisanal cheeses. She even landed a feature spot on Food Network's FoodNation with Bobby Flay, where she touted her creamy Kentucky grits and gourmet fried-green tomatoes. Recognized as a pioneer in the farm-to-table movement, Chef Cary prides herself on an unbending loyalty to local purveyors within a 90-minute drive of the city.
While You're Waiting
If You Can’t Stick Around: When a full meal just doesn't fit into your schedule, stop into La Peche, a gourmet to-go café that operates in what used to be one of Lilly's private rooms. Chef Cary opened the original La Peche in 1979, and she serves up some old-time favorites such as the strawberry pie.