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For the Record

At Lynn's Paradise Cafe, food is only part of the attraction. Their motto is "Eat and Be Happy!" New this year are a giant working kaleidoscope and vegetable cut-outs in the parking lot fun zone, hand-made by staff members.

Photo/Caryn Westmeier, Lynn's Paradise Cafe.

by David Rodger
Louisville Conference Promotion Coordinator


Good Eats in Louisville

When I visit a new city, my first preoccupation is finding good places to eat. For me, food really makes the difference between having a memorable experience and just spending time in a new place. The USITT Conference & Stage Expo will be in Louisville, Kentucky, March 29 to April 1, 2006, so for everyone thinking about visiting my hometown next year and who may be feeling apprehensive about meals, I want to share some of my favorite eateries.

Louisville has an abundance of really good, independently owned restaurants. We have our share of chain restaurants, too, but if you like to experience the artistry of trained chefs, many of whom have been invited to showcase their skills at the famous James Beard House in New York City, you'll want to save room on your conference "plate" for a really nice meal or two.

I'll single out some of my favorites, but I know everyone has their own tastes, and I recommend two local food critics. Susan Reigler writes for the local newspaper, the Louisville Courier-Journal. Her 2004-2005 Dining Guide is a good place to start. Also, Robin Garr is an independent food critic who has both good taste and a good web site. If micro-brewed beer is your ideal fine cuisine, Louisville will not disappoint, especially since two very good brew pubs are within walking distance and two more are just five minutes from the conference center.

Since this article is for conference attendees, I'll focus on restaurants within walking distance of the convention center, but toss in a few special places that need mentioning, even if they aren't particularly convenient to get to.

Within walking distance are:

Artemisia, 620 E. Market St., between Hancock and Clay Sts., 502-583-4177; Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Continental cuisine with a California flavor, fine art by local artists on the walls, and jazz on the weekends; cool, but not so trendy as to be obnoxious. (A 15 to 20 minute walk.)

Bristol Bar & Grille, 614 W. Main St., between 6th & 7th Sts., 502-582-1995; Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Thurday and Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Moderately priced, well-prepared A.m.erican cuisine.

Bearno's by the Bridge, 131 W Main St., at 2nd St., 502-584-7437; Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Satuday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Inexpensive, delicious pizza; locally owned and operated.

Blu Italian Mediterranean Grille, Marriott Louisville Downtown, 280 W. Jefferson St., between 2nd & 3rd Sts., 502- 627-5045. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Can't get any more convenient than the conference hotel! I haven't eaten there (yet) but the chef, Jay Denham, has a good pedigree. He is a Louisville native who recently served as executive chef at Viand Bar & Kitchen in Chicago and before that was a sous chef at one of Louisville's finest restaurants, the Oakroom.

Deke's Marketplace Grill, 301 W Market St., at 3rd St., 502-584-8337; Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Good, friendly food; great for a quick bite between sessions because it's right across the street from the convention center.

Jarfi's Bistro, 501 W. Main St., in the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, 502-589-5060; Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Traditional Kentucky cuisine with lots of international flair.

Makers Mark Bourbon House and Lounge, in "4th Street Live" 4th Street between Liberty and Muhammad Ali Blvd., 502-568-9009; Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 a.m., and Sunday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Late night libations for the sophisticated palate. The food is tasty, but the focus is on good beverages and good conversation.

Mayan Gypsy, 624 E. Market St., between Hancock and Clay Sts., 502-583-3300; Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. When I want to celebrate a special occasion or entertain out-of-town guests, I think of Mayan Gypsy first. Not only is the food unique and delicious (think Central America, not Mexico), but the story of how Rosendo and Laura Ucàn got started by selling tacos out of a big blue van to Spanish-speaking roofers gives this special place a spot close to my heart. (15-20 minute walk; right next to Artemisia.)

The Oakroom at The Seelbach Hilton, 500 S. Fourth St., at Muhammad Ali Blvd., 502-807-3463; Lunch: Frday, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; Dinner: every day, 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday brunch: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Traditional, Kentucky-oriented menu with such ingredients as braised rabbit, lamb sausage, venison and wild-harvested mushrooms, and papaws. The Oakroom's wine cellar is the largest and finest in the region. (No denim or "athletic wear.")

Old Spaghetti Factory, 235 W. Market St., at 3rd St., 502-581-1070; Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m.. 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday. 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Filling Italian food; too convenient to ignore.

Vincenzo's, 150 S. 5th St., at Market St., 502-580-1350; Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Fridays, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.; and Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 11p.m. Upscale Italian ("Eurospa") cuisine; great food matched by great service.

Other notable eateries include:

Buck's, 425 W. Ormsby Ave., 502-637-5284; Lunch: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Dinner: Monday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 11p.m. Pretty décor smothered with Southern charm (the monthly florist bill is rumored to be over $1,000); and the food is great, too.

Dizzy Whizz Drive-In, 217 W. St. Catherine, 502-583-3828; Monday through Thuursday, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 6 a.m. to midnight, Sunday, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. A classic drive-in burger joint, yes, still offering curb service. Get a Whizz Burger (doubledecker with cheese, lettuce and special sauce) and a milk shake. Yum!

Le Relais, Taylorsville Road at Bowman Field, 502-451-9020; Tuesday through Thursday, 5:30 p.m.10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 11p.m.; Sunday, 5:30 p.m. to 9p.m. Fine French cooking by Chef Daniel Stage, tucked into the historic air terminal at Bowman Field. Don't hesitate to ask the expert staff for their recommendations.

Lilly's, 1147 Bardstown Rd., 502-451-0447; Lunch: Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Dinner: Tuesday through Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Owned by Kathy Cary, one of Louisville's more celebrated chefs, who has been nominated several times for the James Beard Awards in the category of "Best Chef of the Southeast."

Lynn's Paradise Cafe, 984 Barret Ave., 502- 583-3447; Monday Breakfast and Lunch only 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Tuesday through Friday breakfast, lunch, and dinner, 7a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday breakfast, lunch, and dinner, 8 a.m. to 10p.m. It's a Louisville landmark known for its "ugly" lamps and kitschy décor. I go back again and again for the really good meals, especially breakfasts.

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