Even in such a great foodie city, it’s easy to get into a rut about where to eat and shop.
In a neighborhood city like Louisville, when we find the places we are drawn to, we tend to cling to them. Pulling us out of these spheres usually takes something with a really strong pull. That said: Oldham County license plates are so often seen in the parking lot of Vietnam Kitchen in the South End.
This longtime icon of Louisville’s food scene is certainly a magnet, but it’s far from the only place in the Beechmont community and surrounding areas that can – and should – lure those of us on the Watterson Expressway for a bite.
For the past nearly two years I’ve become a “part-time citizen of Beechmont” as I commute a few miles down Third Street where I’m renovating a Victorian home with my best friend and business partner. Wearing my real estate entrepreneur’s hat, not my Courier Journal food columnist’s, to quick lunches and coffee breaks, it’s impossible not to notice the strong and vibrant food scene unfolding in this southern corner of the city.
Following the Beechmont area’s Instagram account has also given me a lot of inspiration for places to check out – and I wish I’d spent more time there.
To get a better look at the secret treasure hiding in the Beechmont neighborhood, I caught up with Amy Talbott, the avid neighborhood lover and foodie behind the popular social media account. Talbott is an artist specializing in house portraits, custom illustrations, and Louisville-inspired art prints. She moved here with her husband nine years ago and became an unofficial ambassador for the South Louisville community.
Maybe you like:Your 2022 guide to 25+ Louisville-area farmers’ markets not to be missed
Originally a kind of summer retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city, Talbott explained, Beechmont is now kind of a sleeper hit. And those who know it appreciate it. A diverse neighborhood with homes ranging from $500-a-month apartments to half a million dollars (or more) historic homes, attracts people looking for more than just a place to live.
How did Talbott and her husband end up there?
“We wanted an old house,” she says, but since there wasn’t anything affordable in the Highlands or Crescent Hill, “we started looking in that direction” and fell in love with a house. “I like to say we got a nice old house for the good price and stayed for the community.”
And that’s what draws people here now, she says.
“People are drawn to this neighborhood because they’re looking for a community,” Talbott added.
If you’re looking to explore Beechmont, here are some must-try restaurants, cafes, and experiences that Talbott recommends that might become your destinations as well.
5339 Mitscher Ave., vietnamkitchen.net
We couldn’t talk about the Beechmont neighborhood without the aforementioned love letter to Vietnam Kitchen.
“Vietnam Kitchen is one of those truly irreplaceable restaurants in this city. Long before many people began to recognize and appreciate cuisines from other parts of the world, this spot, tucked away in a South Louisville mall, was drawing Louisvilleans in droves for its absolutely irresistible taste of Southeast Asia,” I wrote in a previous article.
“They also bridged a gap between those of us who don’t leave the area inside the Watterson Expressway and people who live further out and stick to the eastern zip codes. Every Night at Vietnam Kitchen is a pretty decent statistical sample of Louisville’s population because if there’s one thing we all have in common, it’s a deep and enduring love of mock duck and crispy green beans,” I wrote.
And it’s true.
Background:This popular South Louisville Vietnamese restaurant is here to stay. Here’s what you should know
Speaking of which, can we swap out the boring “Where did you go to high school” question and replace it with the Louisville greeting/question “What’s your number in the Vietnam kitchen?” instead.
Incidentally, Talbott is there for the pho, which is washed down with Vietnamese coffee or an avocado milkshake.
Valu Market Iroquois Mansion
5301 Mitscher Ave., valumarket.com
In the same parking lot as Vietnam Kitchen at Iroquois Manor is a veritable mini version of Jungle Jim’s, Cincinnati’s massive international market. Valu Market is “probably the only major grocery store in town that has a durian freezer,” says Talbott.
The wide variety of ingredients from around the world available at this Valu Market location only makes sense. Finally, “in Beechmont, if you walk down the street, you’re very likely to hear people speaking a language other than English,” says Talbott.
Maybe you like:These 5 Latin American supermarkets (and restaurants!) in Louisville are worth visiting
Louisville’s South End is home to a wealth of international markets worth visiting, including La Piñata Grocery, 4028 S. 3rd St. for Mexican and Central American fare, and Foods World, 307 W. Woodlawn Ave., for specialties from Myanmar and other points throughout Asia, but if you’re short on time and head to Vietnam Kitchen, a stroll through the aisles here can inspire a feast from points around the world.
818 W. Kenwood Dr., Colonialgardenslouky.com
A few minutes’ drive south, a cluster of older buildings that once housed a dance hall have been revived as Colonial Gardens. Not in Beechmont proper (though the community likes to claim it is, Talbott says), the cluster of restaurants, including Biscuit Belly and El Taco Luchador, has breathed new life into the space across from Iroquois Park.
The pizza at Union 15 is an unsung hero on the Louisville pizza front, according to Talbott (and I can vouch for that, having recently poked at a delicious pie — the Sprout of this World, a white sauce pizza topped with roasted Brussels sprouts and caramelized onions, goat cheese and arugula).
your favorite? The Ballin’ Out, loaded with meatballs and fresh basil. And the burger at The BA Colonial is one of Talbott’s favorites in town.
Speaking of The BA Colonial, Courier Journal columnist Lennie Omalza recently wrote a column about the history of this restaurant.
“The restaurant’s name comes from BA Watson, who bought the property, closed the zoo and renamed the building Colonial Gardens Restaurant and Grill in the 1940s. The current logo — which features an ostrich — is a nod to the zoo,” Omalza wrote.
Maybe you like:This Louisville spot serves “food, drink, and historic good times,” as your mom recalls
306 W. Woodlawn Ave., sunergoscoffee.com
Follow the smell of freshly roasted coffee to Sunergos Coffee, one of the “OG Beechmont places,” says Talbott.
With a bohemian vibe thanks to the mismatched vintage furniture and fragrant roaster in the background, “Sunergos ruined me for coffee elsewhere,” she says.
My boyfriend and I often fill up there before heading to our job site, but I love the idea of hanging out in a comfy chair and observing the neighborhood over a latte. Seeing people gathered around tables again has been one of the happiest things, Talbott says, as life returns to our new normal.
Maybe you like:‘Not just coffee.’ How this Southwest Louisville spot serves coffee with a dose of love
Louisville Street Eatery
304 W. Woodlawn Ave., facebook.com/LouisvilleStreatery
Next door, a food hall – which I have serious envy from the neighborhood – is gaining in importance.
Louisville StrEatery, created by the folks behind Fresh Out the Box at Logan Street Market, is home to enticing Asian street food and is home to a variety of pop-ups, says Talbott. Think of everything from vegan nachos and Southern soul food to Sunday brunch.
“It’s nice to see that space being used again,” says Talbott.
The best way to keep up with deals, she says, is to keep an eye on her Instagram page.
Beechmont Open Air Market
300 block W. Wellington Ave., beechmont.org/open-air-market
We love farmers markets in Louisville, and the Beechmont Open Air Market on the corner of Southern Parkway and Wellington Ave. attracts a loyal crowd on Saturdays throughout the summer. Enthusiastically run by neighborhood volunteers, the market is packed with Kentucky Proud produce as well as goodies like artisan breads, plants and flowers, and crafts.
When I’ve strolled through the small but beautifully curated market before heading out to get some work done, the energy is welcoming and happy, and I want nothing more than to fill a basket with seasonal vegetables and something wonderful to cook.
Say Dana! Send your restaurant “Dish” to Dana McMahan at email@example.com and follow @bourbonbarbarella on Instagram.