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    Eat & Swig

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    During my last year of middle school, I desperately wanted one of those black and white bumper stickers that read “Keep Louisville Weird.” 

    I’d first seen a set of the stickers—six of them, actually— plastered onto a tangerine Volkswagen microbus that was perpetually parked off of Frankfort Avenue. I didn’t really know what it meant; I didn’t even have a car yet. 

    But the sentiment was provocative, slightly angsty, and read as countercultural. Everything my 12-year-old heart desired.

    Fast forward to now. My desire for “weird” hasn’t changed too much, though I do have a firmer intellectual and ethical grasp on why supporting local businesses is important for our city’s culture and economy—the crux of the Louisville Independent Business Alliance’s  “Keep Louisville Weird” campaign. 

    So I propose a simple step toward supporting the local movement in which all Louisvillians can participate: Eat. 

    You are surrounded by a plethora of delicious local eateries, with a multiplicity of culinary options. Restaurants that are not only unique to Louisville, but employ our friends and neighbors, while also reducing our carbon footprint as a city— buying from a local business conserves energy and resources in the form of less fuel for transportation and less packaging.

    Below is a guide of some chain restaurant favorites, side-by-side with delectable local equivalents. This list can help you get the food-fix you’re craving, while also supporting Louisville. 

    So, let’s raise our forks in support of “Keeping Louisville Weird!”

    Biscuits and Gravy

    Eat This: Wagner’s Pharmacy Biscuits and Gravy 

    Not That: Hardee’s Biscuits ‘N’ Gravy

    Breakfast somehow looks dismal when served up in a Styrofoam box. 

    Compare that to the homey atmosphere of Wagner’s—founded in 1922, complete with cozy booths and diner stools. Located across from Churchill Downs, it’s a standby for locals and Derby visitors alike. Not to mention they have the flakiest biscuits, and the creamiest gravy around (all for only $2.99.)

    Breakfast Sandwich 

    Eat This: Highland Morning’s “The Loop’s” Fried Egg Sandwich with Skillet Potatoes 

    Not That: Wendy’s Artisan Egg Sandwich with Breakfast Potatoes

    The Loop’s Fried Egg Sandwich is the quintessential breakfast sandwich— a fried egg with melted cheddar cheese, two crisp slices of bacon and mayonnaise on a toasted English muffin. It’s crispy, smooth, salty, cheesy and yolky all in one bite, which is complemented perfectly by classic breakfast potatoes.  

    Breakfast Tacos

    Eat This: Taco Punk’s Egg and Chorizo Tacos 

    Not That: Taco Bell’s Waffle Taco

    If you’re going to have Mexican for breakfast, Taco Punk is the way to go. They are now serving up egg and chorizo tacos for Sunday brunch. Simple and delicious.

    Whereas the folded waffle (with a packet of syrup included) just left me feeling a bit confused. 


    Eat This: Nord’s Bakery

    Not That: Dunkin’ Donuts 

    Slightly stale convenience store donuts marked the beginning of so many early-morning road trips throughout my childhood. I’d open the waxy brown bag, demolish my donut (which, let’s face it, is mostly air) within the first 50 seconds, then spend the next 8 hours of the trip feeling vaguely let down and unsatisfied. 

    I can’t promise that you’ll be satisfied with only one Nord’s Bakery donut, as they are so delicious, but you definitely won’t be left down. Especially by the Maple Bacon Donut. 

    Coffee Treats

    Eat This: Heine Brothers’ Chaiberg

    Not That: Starbuck’s Frappucino

    If you’ve ever had a Chaiburg, this needs no explanation. If you haven’t—go try one now. 

    Potato Appetizers

    Eat This: Feast BBQ’s Pulled Pork Tater Tots

    Not That: Outback Steakhouse’s Cheese Fries

    Alright, so cheese fries are my guilty pleasure, and the ones from Outback are pretty darn good with the combination of the crunchy fries, the oozy cheese, the zesty ranch and the bacon crumbles. 

    But the tater tots from Feast take the cheese fry concept and elevate it to a whole new plain of deliciousness. Tater tots covered in shredded barbequed pork, creamy Cole slaw and green onions. It’s a dish that makes the short hike to Southern Indiana totally worth the drive. 

    Hot Dog and Milkshake

    Eat This: Dairy Kastle’s Chili Dog and a Black Cow

    Not That: Sonic’s Chili Dog and Chocolate Shake

    I mark the advent of spring based on when lines begin forming outside of Dairy Kastle, and my go-to order is a chili dog and a Black Cow—a root beer float-chocolate milk shake hybrid. 


    Eat This: Bunz’s Lexington Roadhouse Burger

    Not That: Red Robin’s Whiskey River BBQ Burger

    On paper these burgers are relatively similar: both are a one all-beef patty burger, covered with cheese, fried onions and BBQ sauce. But Bunz prides themselves on having a secret blend of seasonings that make their burgers and sides “Pop!”, and it’s all served up on a butter-toasted bun. 

    Fried Rice

    Eat This: Cafe Mimosa’s Rice in Clay Pot

    Not That: P.F. Chang’s Fried Rice Combo

    Cafe Mimosa’s Rice in Clay Pot is probably one of my favorite Louisville dishes. The spiced mix of ham, shrimp and chicken, fried with vegetables and rice is to die for—and the presentation is killer. 


    Eat This: Loui Loui’s Hot Brown Pizza 

    Not That: Papa John’s Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza

    Why not combine a Louisville favorite with pizza? Seems like a natural combo to me. 


    Ashlie Danielle Stevens's picture

    About Ashlie Danielle Stevens

    I am a freelance food, arts and culture writer. Among other publications, my work has appeared at The Atlantic’s CityLab, Eater, Slate, Salon, The Guardian, Hyperallergic and National Geographic’s food blog, The Plate.

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