Though most people only think of bourbon when they think of Kentucky cuisine, the state actually has some unique and tasty signature dishes that are worth seeking out. Food in Kentucky is a fusion of southern and Midwestern cooking, best known for the hot brown, an open-face turkey sandwich, and the tangy barbecue found in the western region. Nightlife is relatively mellow by big city standards, but locals certainly enjoy their drinking, whether it’s whiskey on the rocks or a mint julep at the race track. The highlight here is live music, especially bluegrass and country.

Bars and Pubbing in Kentucky

There is a bar or two in every Kentucky town, but to really experience the nightlife of the Bluegrass State, head to Louisville or Lexington. Louisville loves showing off the depth of the bourbon scene along its Urban Bourbon Trail where over 50 variations can be tried. Visit the Maker’s Mark Bourbon House & Lounge (446 S. Fourth Street, Louisville) for an upscale drinking atmosphere. There are also dozens of interesting local bars around the Highlands district downtown like Highlands Taproom (1279 Bardstown Rd, Louisville) and Dublin’s Cellar (942 Baxter Ave, Louisville). Live music is common at most city pubs.

In Lexington, you can dance at Forte (102 Euclid Ave, Lexington) or enjoy nightly live music at Tin Roof (303 S. Limestone Ave, Lexington). Paducah and Covington are also known for having decent bars for such small towns. Check out Mother Duncan’s (225 Broadway, Paducah) or the Columbia Street Tap Room (434 N. Columbia Street, Covington) for a cool local scene with diverse beers on tap and live music most nights. There is no smoking in any bar in Kentucky and last call is usually around 4:00 a.m..

Dining and Cuisine in Kentucky

While Louisville and Lexington have the most variety of restaurants, travelers can find delicious comfort food wherever they go in Kentucky. The western corner of the state is legendary for its pork barbecue, often served up in humble shacks along country roads after being smoked over hickory pits for a day or two. Brothers Bar-B-Que (1055 N. Main Street, Madisonville) is a frequent award winner.

In Louisville, you can find down home food at Lynn’s Paradise Café (984 Barrett Ave, Louisville), a hot spot for breakfast, or creative fine dining at Lilly’s Lapeche (1147 Bardstown Rd, Louisville). Stop by the Brown Hotel (335 W. Broadway, Louisville) where the hot brown sandwich was created decades ago, then grab a slice of Derby pie (similar to pecan pie) for dessert.

If it’s a race day, you can bet the Kentucky burgoo (a meat and veggie stew) will be on all the menus. Any time of year, be sure to try local dishes like spoonbread (a savory pudding), a hot brown sandwich, corn pudding, and of course, barbecue. It’s worth traveling to Berea’s Boone Tavern (100 S. Main Street, Berea) just for the spoonbread or to Patti’s 1880s Restaurant (J H O’Bryan Ave, Grand Rivers) for the homemade pies. Kentucky cured ham is a treat wherever you can find it and you can even taste the original Kentucky Fried Chicken from the shrine at Sanders Café and Museum (688 US Hwy 25, Corbin).