But do outsiders really recognize the River City for its excellent cuisine?
Thatâ€™s what Southern Living magazine has been asking its readers to decide in an online contest that pits Louisville against several others in a quest to be crowned The Southâ€™s Tastiest Town.
The competition is essentially a popularity contest, not to mention a savvy way to beef up the publicationâ€™s online presence, since fans have been able to return to the website and vote once a day.
But what itâ€™s also become is the fuel for a feisty debate by some of Louisvilleâ€™s most notable culinary experts.
And for good reason: the cityâ€™s cuisine is no stranger to the national spotlight.
Winstonâ€™s Executive Chef John Castro whipped Bobby Flay on Food Networkâ€™s â€œThrowdownâ€ in 2008 with his perfectly constructed Hot Brown.
Seviche chef Anthony Lamas has captured the attention of the James Beard accolade â€“ five timesÂ â€“ and he won the â€œExtreme Chefâ€Â competition of Food Network in 2011.
And donâ€™t forget 610 Magnolia Owner and Chef Edward Lee, who remains one of the competitors on Bravoâ€™s â€œTop Chef: Texas,â€ which airs Wednesday nights.
So is Louisville really The Southâ€™s tastiest town?
Mayor Greg Fischer certainly thinks so.
â€œWhat other city can claim Bourbon as a food group like we do in Louisville?â€Â he gibed, though heâ€™s serious about the city producing amazing food, particularly when itâ€™s a part of local supporting local.
Fischer has put much time and effort into plugging the farm to table movement (the act of delivering locally produced food to the consumer), an agenda that more â€œfoodiesâ€ would like to see implemented.
Since Louisville consumes $3 billion worth of food yearly, itâ€™s understandable why Fischer wants to see that money stay within the state, never mind that itâ€™s healthier or educates the public about what goes into the process of cultivating what we consume.
Volare Chef Joshua Moore and his wife have taken their passion for using local to the extremes: they live on a ten-acre farm.Â â€œFor me, itâ€™s a no-brainer,â€ Moore explains.Â â€œThe guest response (at Volare) is overwhelming. They want to know, â€˜What are you planting for fall crops?â€™ If you can stay with your food from start to finish, you have no question as to how fresh it is.â€
Geoffrey Heyde, executive chef at The Village Anchor, agrees, though â€œitâ€™s just so expensive,â€ he said. â€œI wish more restaurants would incorporate it, but I understand that a lot of them canâ€™t afford to.â€
Both chefs concurred that farm to table is what makes Louisville a great competitor for the Southâ€™s tastiest town.Â â€œOf course I think Louisville should win,â€ Moore said. â€œTo me, Louisvilleâ€™s culinary scene is so diverse. Itâ€™s a melting pot of cultures.Â Weâ€™re really a small city, but with a huge culinary scene.â€
Edward Lee, owner and chef of 610 Magnolia, considers Louisvilleâ€™s diverse gastronomy to be an essential part of why Louisville was recognized in Southern Livingâ€™s contest in the first place. â€œThereâ€™s everything from high-end restaurants to hole-in-the-walls to ethnic foods. Itâ€™s a great education in cuisine.â€
Lee believes many locals are committed to the food scene at present, which, in turn, fosters hope in future chefs to want to bring their skill to Louisville.Â â€œIt speaks a lot when you can have people from all over the country feel welcome to open up a restaurant here in Louisville. It means that people are open-minded, that they want new things.â€
Sevicheâ€™s Anthony Lamas, however, disagrees.
â€œWe donâ€™t have the diversity of ethnic backgrounds and people. Louisville is nowhere near close to the food scene of Charlestown or New Orleans,â€ he said.
â€œI think weâ€™re one of the best (food cities), definitely,â€ he explained, â€œ(But) we lack the history and the influence of the type of cuisine from the French, the African â€¦ the history of Charleston, their heirloom grains and beans and livestock â€“ itâ€™s so much more evolved.â€
When pressed to declare who should win the contest, Lamas didnâ€™t miss a beat.Â â€œCharleston. So much has happened there in the last 5 years.Â (In Charleston), chefs are actually being their own farmers. A lot of us are doing it (now in Louisville), but I think they have really started it.â€
So what is Louisville missing that will catapult it into the company of superior food cities?Â â€œWe (need to) get some major food events here, like the Charlestown Wine Festival,â€ Lamas said.Â â€œThese awesome, major festivals bring people from all over. We havenâ€™t had that big draw focusing on food yet.â€
Andrew â€œAndyâ€ Myers, chef at The Anchorage CafÃ© agreed.Â â€œThere are just more well-known chefs in Charleston and New Orleans.Â Theyâ€™re more established.Â Look at what New Orleans did with Cajun cuisine â€“ itâ€™s a major style!â€ he said. â€œLouisville still deserves to win. Our style is more representative of American food in general.â€
As of press time, Louisville was in second place â€“ with over 130,000 votes â€“ in the contest.
That loyalty to the cityâ€™s food scene is much appreciated. Ryan Rogers, chef de cuisine at The Anchorage CafÃ©, will open his own restaurant called Feast BBQ in April â€œPeople are really proud of their city here. It makes me feel more confident to go out and try my own thing.â€
Jared Schubert hasnâ€™t even opened his bar The Boiler Room â€“ at The Pointe in Butchertown â€“ yet (itâ€™s slated to open in April), but heâ€™s already been pegged one of the â€œTop 10 mixologists to watchâ€ by Beverage Network, an industry magazine.
With such obvious talent, Schubert could go anywhere, yet he insists that heâ€™s right at home.
â€œLouisville is in the center of one of the largest distillation capitals in the world, so why would I want to go anywhere else?â€
Schubert perfected the cocktail line-up at the now-defunct 732 Social, a restaurant that also executed the farm to table movement beautifully. He considers the experience a serious influence in his quest to make drinks using quality ingredients.
So, too, is the cityâ€™s food scene and its people.
â€œIf Louisville keeps being unique and very centered on their people and their flavor, people will notice.â€
Is Louisville The Southâ€™s Tastiest Town?
Vote online at www.southernliving.com. Polls close January 31.
Contact writer Kellie Denton at YourVoice@voice-tribune.com.