Connected by an asphalt web of highways, state roads, and thoroughfares, blocky yellow signs gleam nonstop, casting a dandelion glow from the words “Waffle House.” The booths at the eateries fill 24 hours each day with the aromas of sizzling pork chops, Jimmy Dean sausage, and endless mugs of coffee. Line cooks brown shredded potatoes on a grill as waiters shout back in a language all their own for hash browns “smothered,” “covered,” or “topped”—served with onions, cheese, or chili, respectively. Angus burgers and steak melts share space on the rippling-hot surface at all times of day, allowing tired drivers to stop for food when they are on a long journey or just listening to an 11-hour drum solo on the radio. The first Waffle House switched on its lights in 1955, and some menu items still bear the names of Waffle House staff of the past, including Bert's chili from Dallas and Alice's iced tea.
For more than 20 years, Juanita's Place has been supplying Louisville locals with pregame and postgame grazing grounds a stone’s throw from nearby Papa John’s Cardinal stadium and the historic Churchill Downs. Barflies can buzz mesothoraxes over to a table, pausing to admire the hand-carved, Tiger Oak bar, before indulging in half and full servings of appetizers such as mild or hot chicken wings (12 for $6.50). Breaded mushrooms facilitate the tapping-into of inner herbivores (10 for $3; 20 for $5.50), while 12-inch pepperoni or sausage pizzas satisfy bellies without exposing mouths to the jagged dangers of angular cuisine ($7). Feast on succulent, six-pound slabs of tender barbecue ribs (quarter-slab for $7, half-slab for $13, full slab for $24), only available every other Saturday. With the purchase of tasty fare, this Groupon can be used toward Juanita’s Place’s daily selection of cocktails and brews, with drink specials offered seven nights a week.
The menu at Sister Bean's Coffee House offers customers a variety of flavorful gourmet coffees, with a rotation of fresh-baked delicacies rolling in daily. Purists can opt for a large portion of fresh-brewed bean juice in its plainest form ($2). However, a small white mocha—concocted from white chocolate, espresso, and steamed milk ($3.30)—is a far better way to subdue a ravaging sweet tooth, especially when paired with a hunk of cake or a tasty pastry. Regular-sized frozen chai lattes irrigate overheated palates ($3.70), and organic sencha, a delicate Japanese green tea (regular $1.85, large $2.25), is a great brew to serve when meeting the environment's ambassador.
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 community-centered chefs at Papalinos hand-toss a menu of fresh, New York–style pizzas, crafted from house-made dough and locally sourced cheeses and veggies. Crown an expansive 18-inch pie with a decadent dusting of artisan toppings such as house-cured bacon and local mushrooms, or opt for classic NYC toppings, which include fresh-cut pineapple, house-made fennel-and-sage sausage, and crinkle-cut back issues of the New Yorker. Swirls of italian plum-tomato sauce and whole-milk mozzarella cheese smother each slice in rich and colorful flavors and spicy hints of oregano and basil, inviting diners to wash down each savory slice with bubbly sips of iced tea or fountain or bottled soda.
Devoted to the emerging farm-to-table agricultural movement, 610 Magnolia uses local and sustainable foodstuffs to create artful and innovative three-course prix fixe ($50/person) and four-course prix fixe ($60/person) meals. Chef Edward Lee, who was recently named a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast and featured in Southern Living, harnesses international techniques to infuse southern cuisine with eclectic flavors. The variability of local and seasonal pickings makes dishes change as often as a carousel, but past offerings have included Angus beef tartar with pequillo peppers, wax beans, and heirloom tomatoes picked just miles away, and a mosaic of grilled octopus slices with red pepper, cucumber, and feta in tomato-water gelée drizzled in kalamata olive vinaigrette and oregano oil. 610 Magnolia’s skilled kitchen crew can accommodate vegetarian preferences if they’re noted at the time the reservation is made.
The founders of Buck's Restaurant and Bar approached their restaurant's design as would a landscape artist: by starting with the flowers. Inspired by "moon gardens"—collections of all-white blooms meant to reflect moonlight—they set their stage with slate-gray walls, dark wood wainscoting, and, of course, fresh white blossoms on every table. Deliberately mismatched china, sumptuous leather wingbacks, and gilt accent pieces complete this elegant Victorian tableau, which pairs seamlessly with the restaurant's home in the historic Mayflower Building.
Buck's menu of continental cuisine extends the elegance of the table to the plate itself, with entrees of grilled swordfish, cocoa-encrusted rack of lamb, and a daily risotto. The staff oversees an extensive wine list that catalogs reds and whites, domestics and imports. More than 60 bourbons go down smooth accompanied by live piano music performed by Rick Bartlett.