Originally written for America’s Best Racing
Kentucky Derby week is the biggest week of the year in Louisville. When dining out you never know who you’ll see, as owners, trainers, jockeys and celebs alike all take in the unique flavors the Derby city has to offer. I decided to ask a couple of Kentucky Derby veterans what their favorite places were for this edition of Win, Place and Show dining in Louisville.
Win: Pat’s Steakhouse Louisville
Photo courtesy of Pat’s Steakhouse
Pat’s is about as good as it gets for Derby goers; you’ll immediately notice all the horse racing memorabilia that covers the walls upon walking in. You’re greeted with some of the best service I personally have ever experienced and the ambiance is unmatched. But don’t just take my word for it.
“Pat’s is the best restaurant in Louisville,” said Shug McGaughey, the trainer of 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb. “They’re known for their steaks, but the folks who own and operate it are some of the nicest people in the world. We went there after Orb won the Derby and it’s a night I’ll never forget.”
Photo courtesy of Varanase
From seafood specials to classic italian dishes, Varanese is a sure bet when dining out in the Louisville city. Named for owner Chef John Varanase, the restaurant is known for its culinary creativity as well as its dedication to local farmers, who provide Varanase with the freshest local ingredients.
“I already have a reservation there for Wednesday of Derby week,” said Larry Collmus, NBC Sports’ Kentucky Derby announcer. “I’m not sure if they will be doing it Wednesday of Derby week, but they usually do half-priced bottles of wine on Wednesdays when I was working at Churchill full-time.
“They always have great specials, but you’re always going to get an outstanding meal no matter what you order. The atmosphere is great too and it’s perfectly located close to downtown.”
Show: Havana Rumba
Photo courtesy of Havana Rumba
Havana Rumba has been in Louisville since 2000, showcasing authentic Caribbean cuisine in three locations throughout the city. This was a personal selection from yours truly, as Havana Rumba was one of the first places I ever ate in Louisville, and I’ve been going back ever since. It has a friendly atmosphere and is an affordable spot to grab lunch, dinner or a margarita with friends. They also do tapas, which are personal favorites of mine, especially the steak tacos!