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    For the 23rd straight year Louisville Magazine presents its readers’ choices for the city's top restaurants, retail stores, personalities and services — this time complemented by an even beefier (except for the Un-Beef Burger) selection of 18 Critics’ Choice picks.

    Photos by John Nation & Courtney Novak

    2008 Readers’ Choice Winners

    FOOD & DRINK CATEGORIES

    Asian Restaurant

    1 August Moon

    Past BOLs: 2 (1994, 1995)

    It’s been more than a decade since this Lexington Road establishment won a Best of — and those were in the no-longer-quite-politically-correct “Oriental Restaurant” category. But I doubt that chef/proprietor Peng Looi has fretted too much. In the intervening years the most frequent winner in the “Asian” category has been August Moon’s sibling restaurant, Asiatique.

    2 Asiatique

    3 Basa Modern Vietnamese

    Bargain Restaurant

    1 Ramsi’s Cafe on the World

    Past BOL’s: 2 (1997, 2001)

    This Bardstown Road mainstay is a triple-threat: past BOLs were in Middle Eastern Food and Vegetarian categories. Turns out good food doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.

    2 J. Gumbo’s

    3 Mark’s Feed Store 

    Indian Restaurant

    1 Shalimar

    Past BOLs: 0

    We couldn’t have had this category five years ago — it’s a good sign for fans of tikka masala that the city has enough Indian restaurants to make it competitive.

    2 Kashmir

    3 India Palace

    Irish Pub

    1 Irish Rover

    Past BOLs: 1 (1998)

    Owners Siobhan and Michael Reidy have been serving up the best Irish fare in town — including their incomparable smoked salmon and potato gratin — at their Frankfort Avenue pub for more than 15 years.

    2 Molly Malone’s

    3 O’Shea’s

    Italian Restaurant

    1 Vincenzo’s

    Past BOL’s: 22 (1990-2007)

    Since Vincenzo’s opened in 1986, the Gabriele brothers, chef Agostino and front-man Vincenzo, have staked a solid claim as the best fine-dining restaurant in the city, winning previous Bests for service, wine list, romantic dining, power lunch, downtown restaurant and, for the last six times we’ve included the category, Italian restaurant.

    2 Volare

    3 Porcini 

    Martinis

    1 Proof on Main

    Past BOLs: 4 (2006, 2007)

    This classy restaurant in West Main Street’s 21c Museum Hotel is probably the hottest dining and drinking spot in town right now. Whether you go for the stunning artwork, the fancifully named cocktails or the creative cuisine, you can’t go wrong.

    2 (tie) Martini Italian Bistro 

    2 (tie) 60 West Bistro & Martini Bar

    Middle Eastern Restaurant

    1 Shiraz

    Past BOLs: 0

    In just its second year of operation, this tiny Frankfort Avenue shop (which now has a Holiday manor sibling) has vaulted to the top of the Middle Eastern list with succulent kabobs and falafel.

    2 Grape Leaf

    3 Saffron’s

    New Restaurant (since 2007)

    1 Corbett’s Restaurant

    Past BOL’s: 0

    Oddly enough, for all its excellence, Dean Corbett’s 22-year-old Equus has never won a Best of Louisville. The BOL for his new venture in the midst of the eastern suburbs feels richly deserved, and then some.

    2 Mojito

    3 Varanese

    Sports Bar

    1 Buffalo Wild Wings

    Past BOLs: 2 (2004, 2007)

    Big TVs, hot wings, cheap beer — what else does a guy need?

    2 Champions

    3 Dundee Tavern

    Restaurant for Desserts

    1 Cafe Metro/Uptown Cafe

    Past BOLs: 5 (1986, ’87, ’90, ’91, 2004)

    Each time we’ve combined the words “dessert” and “restaurant” in a category name, Cafe Metro and it’s adjacent-corner sibling Uptown Cafe have finished on top. Enough said.

    2 Cheesecake Factory

    3 Vincenzo’s

    Restaurant for a Splurge

    1 Jack Fry’s

    Past BOLs: 10 (1998-2007)

    This one was a bit of a surprise, given the cost (and splurgability) gap between the second-place finisher and the winner.

    2 Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse

    3 Le Relais

    South-of-the-Border Restaurant

    1 El Mundo

    Past BOLs: 1 (2005)

    Local chain Tumbleweed dominated the Mexican Restaurant category in the 1990s, but it looks like there’s a new big enchilada in town.

    2 Los Aztecas

    3 El Nopal/Nopalito

    Sushi Restaurant

    1 Sapporo Japanese Grill and Sushi

    Past BOLs: 3 (2002, ’03, ’06)

    This stylish Bardstown Road spot won a Critics’ Choice BOL for Best- Designed Restaurant in 2002, but it’s the always-fresh sushi and sashimi that vaults it to the top among our readers.

    2 Maido

    3 Raw Sushi Lounge

     

    Swanky Bar

    1 Proof on Main

    Past BOLs: 4 (2006, 2007)

    It only makes sense that the place that has the best martinis would also win the Swanky Bar category. This is the place James Bond would hang out if he ever made it to Louisville.

    2 Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse

    3 Maker’s Mark Bourbon House & Lounge

    Wine by the Glass

    1 L&N Wine Bar and Bistro

    Past BOLs: 1 (2005)

    This cozy little inn at the corner of Mellwood and Frankfort avenues has quickly established itself as the go-to place for local oenophiles.

    2 Napa River Grill

    3 Bristol Bar & Grille

    Restaurant for Side Dishes

    1 Pat’s Steak House

    Past BOLs: 7 (1994, ’98, ’99, 2000, ’02, ’04, ’07)

    This beloved Brownsboro Road institution has ruled the Best Steak category for practically ever. But even the best hunk of beef needs a righteous baked potato and some creamed cauliflower.

    2 Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse

    3 Mayan Cafe

    Restaurant With a View

    1 Rivue

    Past BOLs: 0

    This new Galt House topper would also have been a shoo-in for Best Restaurant Makeover. Its predecessor, the Flagship, had the same great bird’s-eye view of the river, but now there’s some eye-pleasing decor on the inside to go with the stunning view.

    2 Ruth’s Chris Steak House

    3 Captain’s Quarters

    Private Dining Rooms

    1 Vincenzo’s

    Past BOLs: 22 (1990-2007)

    With private rooms that can accommodate groups from six to 150 in high style, Vincenzo’s was the obvious choice in this first-time category.

    2 Bristol Bar & Grille

    3 Morton’s, The Steakhouse

    Restaurant Atmosphere

    1 Jack Fry’s

    Past BOLs: 10 (1998-2007)

    Is it the ancient dark-oak bar, the framed photos of Jack Fry and vintage celebrities that fill the walls or the charm of the live music? Whatever it is, Jack Fry’s, a perennial winner of the Favorite Restaurant BOL, has it.

    2 Proof on Main

    3 Vincenzo’s 

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