Top Places to Dine in Northern Kentucky

Story by Ashley Alt
June 20, 2018

When you think of Kentucky, you probably think horses, bourbon, Bluegrass music and college basketball. And you would be correct.

However, what you probably don’t know about the grand horse-racing and bourbon-brewing state is that it is an upcoming culinary destination. In fact, Bravo’s Top Chef will be filming its 16th season in Kentucky, with challenges in Louisville, Lexington and Lake Cumberland.

In preparation of Top Chef’s arrival in the Bluegrass state, we are providing you with the award-winning restaurants and their coinciding chefs who are determined to stamp Northern Kentucky as any great foodie’s highly sought-after destination.

Holy Hill Inn, Midway, KY

Holly Hill Inn

Holly Hill Inn in Midway Kentucky.
Photo Courtesy of Holly Hill Inn

Labeled “a gem of a restaurant” by the New York Times, this charming restaurant offers a fine dining twist on Southern food. Owned by Outia Michel, who has been honored with several nominations as Best Chef Southeast and Outstanding Restaurateur by the James Beard Foundation, has been welcoming guests to her historic restaurant from all over the world since 2001.

Michel also owns a slew of other excellent eateries in the area including Smithtown Seafood, Honeywood and Windy Corner Market restaurants in Lexington, Wallace Station Deli and Bakery in Versailles, and the Midway Bakery in Midway. She he is also the chef-in-residence at Woodford Reserve, a running favorite distillery to both locals and visitors of the infamous Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

610 Magnolia, Louisville, KY

610 Magnolia, Louisville KY
Photo courtesy of 610 Magnolia

610 Magnolia is a formal fixed-price eatery showcasing innovative Southern fare amid stylish, contemporary decor. Located in the historic Old Louisville neighborhood, this restaurant is as much rustic as it is elegant, equipped with wooden beams, mullioned windows and beautiful French doors that open seasonally to a welcoming outdoor garden patio.

610 Magnolia has been featured in Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, The New York Times Magazine, Saveur, Southern Living, Esquire, Wine Enthusiast and many other national publications.

The head chef at this cozy dining space is Chef Edward Lee, who was the culinary host of Season 3 of Mind of a Chef and was recently a guest judge on MasterChef. Lee has been with 610 Magnolia for over 14 years, earning street cred as a multiple-time finalist for the James Beard Foundation Best Chef Southeast. His cookbook, Smoke & Pickles, celebrates Southern cuisine with Asian flavors, honoring his Asian heritage.

Proof on Main, Louisville, KY

Proof on Main

Proof on Main, Louisville
Photo Courtesy of Proof on Main

If you’re looking for a bustling, big-city feel of a restaurant, you will not be disappointed with Proof on Main. This popular dinner and cocktail spot in downtown Louisville is one of the most unique restaurants in the entire state of Kentucky.

At Proof on Main, guests enjoy artfully crafted meals with rotating exhibitions of contemporary art and site-specific installations carried over from the adjoining 21C Museum hotel.

The executive chef at Proof, Michael Wajda, has worked alongside British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, whose restaurants have been awarded 16 Michelin stars in total. This eclectic restaurant made Esquire Magazine’s list of “Best New Restaurants” the first year it opened, and in 2015, Proof’s bar won the Best American Hotel Bar Award as part of “Tales of the Cocktails 9th Annual Spirited Awards.”

Merrick Inn, Lexington, KY

Merrick Inn, Lexington Kentucky
Photos Courtesy of Merrick Inn

Located smack in the middle of horse country, Merrick Inn provides that truly special dining experience you’re looking for when you want to celebrate something significant and meaningful. It has been synonymous with genteel, Southern style dining for more than 40 years, designed to create lasting memories with friends and family members.

With its stunning surroundings of gorgeous greenery, this large, covered patio located in an old manor house offers pristine dining options, and is perhaps most famous for its Southern classic dishes like mouth-watering fried chicken and fried green tomatoes.

Merrick Inn was recently featured in USA Today’s 10Best Guide to Lexington.

Bella Notte, Lexington, KY

Bella Notte

Bella Notte, Lexington KY
Photo Courtesy of Belle Notte

Bella Notte is a rustic Italian trattoria known for its wood-fire-grilled meats, freshly baked bread, delicious pastas and incredible wines. Featured in Sophisticated Living Magazine with a description opening of, “a bastion of independent dining building a reputation as a purveyor of fine, seasonal Italian-style cuisine,” this moderately fancy spot is infused with wholesome ingredients.

Offering some of the freshest and most authentic food, Bella Notte won the OpenTable Diner’s Choice Award in 2015, along with the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Readers’ Choice Award in 2016.

Seviche, Louisville, KY

Chef Anthony Lamas of Seviche in Louisville.
Photo Courtesy of Seviche.

Seviche is home to the best seafood in Louisville, according to derby-loving locals. A Latin-inspired restaurant located in the Highlands neighborhood, Seviche consistently delivers brightly colored and masterful dishes and cocktails that, you guessed it, taste as good as they look.

Seviche’s chef, Chef Anthony Lamas, has been a semi-finalist for Best Chef Southeast by the James Beard Foundation three times, and has been featured on the Food Network as well as in publications Bon Appetit and Southern Living. Chef Lamas changes his menu seasonally, offering guests the absolute freshest seafood dishes prepared with innovation in mind.

Seviche also won the Restaurant of the Year Award of Excellence by the American Culinary Foundation, in addition to multiple “Best of Louisville” awards.

Bon appetit, indeed, Kentucky.

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