“What is your favorite place to eat?”
That’s invariably the first question people ask when they find out that I am writing about the Louisville food scene.
And not to evade the question but the answer is: it depends. On the occasion, the day and the mood.
However, a question that is easier to answer is: “Where do you like to go for lunch?”
I’m a creature of habit, and recently it occurred to me that I have a lunch rotation, visiting the same handful of places in Louisville over and over again. Lunch, especially during the workweek, should check a couple of boxes: always be good.
Well, actually, that’s the only box you should check.
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And my favorite places, the places that I returned to week after week last year and will continue to frequent this year, they meet that requirement and something else. Maybe I’ll mix it up and add a new place or two to the list in 2022; There’s always something new to try on the Louisville food scene, but if you’re looking for your new favorite spot, you can’t go wrong with any of these.
1126 Bardstown Road, Louisville; 129 W. Market St., New Albany, Indiana; dragonkingsdaughter.com
Sushi is one of my main food groups, and I can’t get enough of the bento box at Dragon King’s Daughter. The cosmopolitan lounge at the New Albany location is my favorite place to try a Son of Jade (tuna, salmon and avocado roll) and little bites of goodies like whatever tempura they are frying that day, and fries with salsa de ginger. .
The roll is always perfect and the eternal elementary school kid in me loves the compartments of the sweet bento tray. And they have plenty of other fun options, like ramen, teriyaki dishes, and stir-fry veggies, if you’re having lunch with someone who somehow doesn’t want to eat raw salmon every day of their life.
(And the gadgets in their fancy bidet toilets are just a bonus!)
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1001 Baxter Ave., thegrales.com
Look, no one who knows me will be surprised that I can be a bit of a snob when it comes to anything that professes to be European. In my mind, I want the real or nothing at all.
But the first time I walked into the newly remodeled Gralehaus (about a week before going to Paris for over a month) I knew I would go back and forth.
It’s perfectly, in a way that seems effortless but actually requires incredible thought, it achieved the atmosphere of the small bistro or cafe type atmosphere in Paris where you want to stay all day with a coffee and your sketch pad or journal.
It was one of the first places I went for lunch after returning from a few weeks in Europe, and instead of making me nostalgic for Paris, the golden light seeping into space was a balm to my soul of passion for the trips.
And the food!
I am currently stuck in the smashed avocado. Forget Your Basic Avocado Toast – This is a simple bowl of perfectly ripe avocado drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and pumpkin seeds, served with the most irresistible buttered grilled rye toast. (I have a Pavlovian answer just thinking about it!)
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1001 Logan St., loganstmarket.com
You probably spend more time at Logan Street Market than anywhere else on this combined list. Even though I rent a studio around the corner, whenever I need to meet someone, that’s my first choice.
There’s a lunch for every mood – on indulgence days, I go for sticky toast at Harvey’s Cheese, and on days when we’re feeling healthy, it’s an acai bowl from Pure Blendz. If I’m starving, there’s Foko’s Electro Bowl, and if I haven’t met my sashimi quota for the week, it’s Fresh Out The Box’s salmon bowl.
Supervised the night before? Cold smoke bagels. And always, coffee from Safai Coffee Shop.
If I work late enough in the afternoon, the coffee gives way to a splash from The Breeze Wine Bar. You can retreat to the couches in the back lounge, or on sunny days grab a picnic table.
The only thing that could make this one stop shop even better is if it were open on Mondays so I could go every day!
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1987 S Hurstbourne Pkwy, shreejiindianrestaurant.com
Honestly, it probably wouldn’t have occurred to me to go to this little mainly vegetarian restaurant tucked away in a strip mall in the suburbs. That is a bit pricey for someone who lives in Old Louisville.
But my best friend and business partner in my real estate projects introduced it to me the day we closed the purchase of an old Victorian that we are renovating. We brought bags of aromatic food home along with some celebratory champagne and had a picnic on the ground, where it blew my mind.
The. Food. It was. Incredible.
I thought I had my favorite Indian food in Louisville … and now I knew there was something even more tempting. We go back at least every two weeks, and when I was quarantined last year during a COVID scare, that’s what I wanted brought to me.
You can eat at home, of course, but I prefer the picnic style. Don’t miss the samosa talk washed down with a mango lassi.
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Tell Dana! Submit your restaurant “plate” to Dana McMahan at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @bourbonbarbarella on Instagram.
This article originally appeared in the Louisville Courier Journal: Popular Louisville Lunch Restaurants – Try These 4 Favorite Places to Eat