What Louisville, Kentucky probably brings to mind first is big hats, fast horses, and mint juleps, but while you’re there for the Derby, you’ll probably get hungry – and then you’ll discover that at its heart, Louisville is great for foodies. Barbecue has always been a big part of Kentucky’s local culture, and here are our picks for the 10 best places to get it in the state’s largest city.
Mark’s Feed Store
To say that Mark’s Feed Store is a Louisville legend would be an understatement. Since they opened in 1988, they’ve been voted to have the best barbecue and ribs in Louisville nine times in Louisville Magazine, in addition to being featured in numerous national press outlets like Southern Living and Saveur Magazine. You’ll come for the meat – the delicious ribs, barbecue sandwiches, or the Kentucky classic burgoo (a spicy stew) – but you’ll stay for the sides, which are amazing. This is a place where you’ll definitely leave wanting more, but no fear – you can buy some of their sauce on your way out.
Momma’s Mustard, Pickles, & BBQ
Momma’s owner draws his roots not from Kentucky, but from Kansas City, where he grew up with a mother who inspired both his career choice and the name of his restaurant. He and the restaurant’s chef went to Kansas City to be trained by the best in the field, and the result is the simple goodness that Momma’s offers. The menu isn’t long, but it’s got all you need for a truly satisfying meal. For meat options, you’ve got ribs, pulled pork and chicken, smoked turkey, and spicy sausage, and you can get all of these by themselves or as sandwiches. They’ve got all your favorite sides – green beans and mac and cheese included – and if you’re still looking for something a little heartier, go for the chili.
Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse and Raw Bar
Kentucky isn’t just known for its barbecue – people around the world connect it with something else entirely – whiskey. Doc Crow’s, which is located on Louisville’s historic Whiskey Row, is the perfect place to put these two Kentucky classics together. And it’s not just Kentucky, either. You can come to Doc Crow’s to get barbecue all the way from Texas to North Carolina, and everywhere else in between. Don’t feel like barbecue? Their menu also includes fresh salads, seafood, and some classic southern specialties like po’ boy sandwiches, shrimp and grits, and fried catfish. Have a look through their whiskey menu, and don’t forget to save room for some delicious bread pudding or pecan pie for dessert.
River Road BBQ
Located right on the mighty Ohio River, River Road BBQ embraces the true spirit of the city. As soon as you open your car door, the smell of smoked meat drifting out from the smoker will embrace your senses and pull you in. They are most famous for their brisket, which is tender and flavorful. The most popular sides are the coleslaw, baked beans, and especially the potato salad, but you really can’t go wrong. This is a no-frills sort of a place and the amount of seating inside is limited, but once you taste the food, you’ll see that they’ve spent their energy on perfecting that.
Ditto’s isn’t your typical barbecue joint, but that doesn’t mean that their food is any less delicious. Barbecue is just one of the styles of cuisine that influences their menu, so you’ll find the southern dishes you know and love with completely new and exciting twists. Assuming you’re coming for some meat, their burgers really show off their grilling skills and creativity, but their beef and pork chops are also excellent. Other barbecue-themed options include sweet potato fries, Buffalo wings, and some classic sides, like the loaded baked potato and the mac and cheese. When you can’t quite decide whether you want some ‘cue or not, this is the place to come.
A relative newcomer on the scene after their 2012 opening, Feast BBQ has made a name for itself as the trendiest ‘cue place around. However, they can back up that trendiness with some seriously good smoked meat and sides. Their menu is only a page long, but it’ll still take you a while to make a decision – will it be a sandwich? A platter? Or—wait for it—tacos? This is a great place to come with your vegetarian friends, as they’ve even got crispy smoked tofu as one of their main dishes. They also have an excellent beer list and a great dessert menu (s’mores chocolate chess pie, anyone?) for anyone who can stomach a little more.
Ole Hickory Pit Bar-B-Que
Bar, Restaurant, $$
You’ll recognize the down home Ole Hickory Pit Bar-B-Que joint when you pull up because of the pink pig sign out front. Once you step inside, you’ll find quality food in an informal, comfortable location. The service is famously friendly, and the meat is delicious and smoky. Try the smoked mutton specifically – it’s a Kentucky specialty, and it can be difficult to find elsewhere. Their fried cornbread is another unique item on the menu that is definitely worth checking out, and you can wash everything down with a tall glass of their refreshing sweet tea. This is a perfect stop for a quick, tasty meal that’s guaranteed to please you.
You’ll feel like you’re walking into a fire station when you walk into FDKY – which is exactly what the owners of this feisty barbecue joint want. They’ve got their own particular flavor, which comes from their three unique sauces that you’ll find on every table – KY Sweet (sweet, tomato-based), KY Rain (tangy, vinegar-based), and Chicago Fire (spicy). They’re especially well known for their award-winning pulled pork and their spicy sausages, which are really not for the faint of heart. Another very popular option is their weekly Fryday Fish, but come early – the fish won’t last forever.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.