Ed Lee’s Top Picks for Louisville
You may recognize chef Edward Lee from his television appearances—Top Chef, Mind of a Chef (for which he earned an Emmy nomination), Iron Chef America, to name a few—but he’s more than a TV star. His brilliant cooking at 610 Magnolia has landed him four nominations for Best Chef: Southeast from the James Beard Foundation. Lee’s second Louisville restaurant, MilkWood, looks at Southern comfort food through an Asian lens. And his latest venture in the D.C. area, Succotash, showcases Lee’s favorite Southern dishes, think country ham with peach butter and pickles, and fried chicken with waffles and bourbon maple syrup. And while he’s an amazing chef, he’s an even better steward of his community. Just last month, he introduced the first in a series of Smoke & Soul pop-up dinners, part of a restaurant internship program staffed by underprivileged kids that includes lessons in recipe development, cooking, marketing and inventory. He sees the so-called chef shortage in this country as shortsightedness on the part of employers and an opportunity to usher in a new generation of teaching. Below, Lee shares a few of his favorites in his adopted hometown, including the best barbecue, fried chicken and beer garden.
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Credit: Dan Dry
It’s cool, it’s hip, it’s got a great bourbon list and a huge ass American Flag on the wall. Places like this often fall short when it comes to the food but this place breaks the mold, the BBQ is top notch and dishes like the BBQ Tater Tots tell you the chef has a sense of humor as well as a nuanced palate.
Feast BBQ / 909 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40206 / 502.749.9900
Indi’s Fried Chicken
I love this place and I recommend it all the time. Firstly, it’s not in the ghetto. If you think Broadway and 11th in downtown Louisville is the ghetto, then you are going to miss out on some of the best fried chicken around because of your fear and ignorance. Having said that, please don’t go at 1 am. I go just before the lunchtime rush, get the spicy fried chicken thighs, a potato wedge, collards and hot sauce.
Indi’s / 1033 W Broadway, Louisville, KY 40203 / 502.589.7985
Credit: Jessica Fey Photography
An artisan beer bar housed in a former church run by a couple who knows more and cares more about beer than you will ever hope to understand. It’s loud and crammed and the beer garden in summer makes you feel like someone brought a little bit of Belgium to Louisville. The beer cheese and burgers are fine but I love things like fried broccoli in fish sauce or Semolina Spatzle that really push the envelope of what a beer menu can be.
Holy Grale / 1034 Bardstown Rd, Louisville, KY 40204 / 502.459.9939
From the team that brought you Holy Grale comes the GraleHaus, which is a bed and breakfast devoted to people who want a little luxury and a lot of beer. It’s only got 3 rooms so it may be hard to get a room but it’s worth the effort. Craft beers in your room, walking distance to a lot of cool shops and the feeling that you aren’t in a tourist hotel, but in the heart of the city.
GraleHaus / 1001 Baxter Ave, Louisville, KY 40204 / 502.454.7075
The best way to spend a Saturday afternoon in Louisville
Walk across Big Four Pedestrian Bridge, then make your way down to Whiskey Row and sample some bourbon. Check out the city’s numerous farmers markets on Bardstown Road. Go to Cherokee Park and find a nice tree to sleep off your buzz.
An attraction you shouldn’t miss in Louisville
If it is racing season, you have to go to Churchill Downs and bet on the races. The horses are simply incredible to watch. Grab a bite at the historic Wagner’s Pharmacy and take in the history. And don’t forget to walk through the Derby Museum while you are there. You’ll learn more about horse racing in 30 minutes than you ever really need to know, but it’s fascinating.
Churchill Downs / 700 Central Ave, Louisville, KY 40208 / 502.636.4400
About Edward Lee
Chef Edward Lee’s culinary story could only happen in America. One part Southern soul, one part Asian spice, and one part New York attitude, Lee is a Korean‐American who grew up in Brooklyn, trained in NYC kitchens, and has spent over a decade honing his vision at 610 Magnolia in Louisville, KY.
Lee’s culinary style draws inspiration from his Asian heritage, his New York training, and his embrace of the American South, coupled with the best ingredients from local farms. Lee’s innovative cuisine has earned him multiple finalist nominations for the James Beard Foundation Awards Best Chef: Southeast. He has been featured in Esquire, Bon Appétit, GQ, Gourmet among many other publications; won on Food Network’s“Iron Chef America,” “Top Chef: Texas, Season 9”; and has appeared on Cooking Channel’s “Foodography,” CBS “Early Show” and NBC “The Today Show.” Most recently, he was nominated for a daytime Emmy for his role as host of the Emmy-winning series, Mind of Chef on PBS.
Lee’s career extends to writing credits as well, with articles published in Gastronomica, Esquire, Organic Gardening and many other journals. Lee’s self-authored best-selling cookbook, Smoke & Pickles, (Artisan Books, May 2013) chronicles his unconventional journey from the kitchens of Brooklyn to becoming a lauded Southern chef.
In addition to 610 Magnolia, Lee operates a special events dining room called The Wine Studio, which features cooking classes, wine tastings and guest chef dinners. MilkWood is Chef Lee’s restaurant located in the locally revered Actor’s Theater in downtown Louisville. MilkWood interprets the traditions of Southern comfort food with an Asian Pantry.
Chef Lee’s newest venture is Succotash, a playful homage to all of Chef Lee’s favorite Southern dishes, which opened in National Harbor in the D.C. area in Sept of 2015.
When he is not in his kitchen, Lee spends the rest of his time on his numerous collaborations. His signature blend with Jefferson’s Reserve called Chef’s Collaboration Blend is a luxury small batch bourbon he developed with Master Blender Trey Zoeller. Lee approaches his professional and culinary life with candor, humor, and—most importantly—the same spirit of adventure that was the original impetus for his success.
Feature image: 610 Magnolia by Dan Dry.