City Dozen: Michael Paley’s Louisville

Whether you think of it as the northernmost city in the South, or the southernmost city in the North, the fact remains that Louisville, Kentucky, is a place where the best parts of the Midwest and the South fuse. It’s the home of Louisville Slugger baseball bats, KFC, and the Kentucky Derby, but there’s also a rich culinary heritage: the city is the birthplace of both the Hot Brown sandwich and the Old Fashioned cocktail, and the source of much of the region’s Bourbon. Thanks to the city’s location at the intersection of numerous growing regions, the produce is plentiful and beautiful, and food culture has flourished.

Chef Michael Paley moved to Louisville from Palm Beach, Florida, in 2005. He runs the show at Proof on Main, an art-filled, Italian-Southern restaurant that’s been at the vanguard of Louisville’s revitalization over the last decade into a vibrant, exciting city where the historic brushes right up against the cutting-edge. This is his Louisville Dozen.

Nord’s Bakery
Nord’s is an old-school, family owned bakery that’s been in the neighborhood for over 65 years. Their donuts are hands down some of the best I’ve ever had. The Maple Bacon and apple fritters are legendary everywhere around town.

Nord’s Bakery
2118 South Preston Street
tel: 502.634.0931

Sunergos Coffee
Sunergos is conveniently located next to Nord’s Bakery (and my house). It’s a Sunday morning tradition in my family to make a run to Nord’s and Sunergos before sitting down with the Sunday paper. (We also serve their espresso at my restaurant.)

Sunergos Coffee
2122 South Preston Street
tel: 502.634.1243

Blue Dog Bakery and Cafe
If everyone in Louisville doesn’t know this spot, they should. Blue Dog is one of the best artisan bread bakers in the country, and it’s the first place I recommend to any guests coming into town. They have a rare Llopis brick oven from Spain, which gives the bread a moister crumb and a crisper and more golden brown crust – you can count on one hand the number of bakeries in the U.S. that have these.

Blue Dog Bakery and Cafe
2868 Frankfort Avenue
tel: 502.899.9800

Bourbon Barrel Foods
As a chef, two of the things I have always looked to do are reinvent the classics, and see the importance of utilizing all the things around me that I can. Matt Jamie of Bourbon Barrel Foods did both and came up with something genius: soy sauce aged and fermented in used bourbon barrels, made right here in Louisville.

Bourbon Barrel Foods
tel: 502-333-6103

Mayan Cafe
Chef Bruce Ucan has a great thing going here: authentic, expertly prepared food, utilizing locally sourced products that speaks to the foods of his childhood on the Yucatan peninsula. The lima beans in particular are spectacular.

Mayan Cafe
813 E. Market St.
tel: 502.566.0651

Creation Gardens
We’ve been working with Creation Gardens since we opened Proof on Main five years ago. They source great produce, cheeses, and dry goods and are always ahead of the curve on what chefs are looking for. They also have a great cult following for their small retail market, where you can get virtually anything from their catalog for home use.

Creation Gardens
609 East Main Street
tel: 502.587.9012

Nachbar
Located in Germantown, one of Louisville’s coolest and most diverse neighborhoods, this is simply my favorite dive bar in Louisville. There are a lot of hidden gem restaurants, taverns, and bakeries in the neighborhood – it’s worth wandering around.

Nachbar
969 Charles St.
tel: 502.637.4377

Louisville Beer Store
This is like a wine shop for beer… with open taps! They have an unbelievable selection of beers from around the world.

Louisville Beer Store
746 East Market
tel: 502.569.2337

Havana Rumba
This has always been one of my go to restaurants in Louisville, with great Cuban food and drinks in a fun and kid friendly environment.

Havana Rumba
4115 Oechsli Avenue
tel: 502.897.1959

Perfetto Pizza
Perfetto is the pizzeria I have been waiting for in Louisville. It reminds me of the pie I ate growing up outside New York City, something I’ve truly missed since moving away. Owned and operated by a couple from Wisconsin, their pies are a Sunday night ritual in my house.

Perfetto Pizza
9910 Linn Station Road
tel: 502.426.4644

Hammerheads
This is a great new spot on the border of the Germantown and Smoketown neighborhoods on the outskirts of downtown. It’s a pork-friendly late night spot with awesome munchies prepared in very serious ways.

Hammerheads
921 Swan Street
tel: 502.365.1112

Bardstown Road Farmers’ Market
This market is just the greatest community farmers market in Louisville, and a wonderful Saturday morning tradition for the Highlands. Great vendors: meats, cheeses, veggies, flowers, herbs, jarred items. Also music, hot food and coffee… an ideal place to start the weekend.

Bardstown Road Farmers’ Market
1722 Bardstown Road

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