The story behind Louisville’s culinary icon


Hot Brown | Photo by Joe Pearson

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Sure, Waffle House, Taco Bell + Spinelli’s are modern late-night favorites after an evening of merriment. But what if you could have a Hot Brown instead?

For guests of The Brown Hotel one fateful evening in 1926, that’s exactly what they got.

For those who don’t know, the Louisville delicacy is an open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon, tomato, and a creamy Mornay sauce topped with parmesan cheese.

It was first crafted by Fred K. Schmidt, a chef at The Brown Hotel. In the 1920s, The Brown Hotel regularly attracted 1,200 guests each night for its dinner dance. A band would play from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., with a break around midnight when guests would order food.

The Hot Brown sandwich — eaten best with a knife + fork — was created as an alternative to late-night ham-and-egg dinners when guests were drunk and ravenous to try something new.

So, Chef Fred took what was available in the kitchen and Louisville’s culinary icon was born, to the delight of the late-night dancers. I bet they went home and slept super well after that. The Hot Brown is now known internationally for its deliciousness, and has been featured in Southern Living, the “Los Angeles Times,” “The New York Times” + more.

Did you know? Chef Bobby Flay came to The Brown Hotel in 2013 for an episode of his show, “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” where he competed against local chefs John and Joe Castro in a Hot Brown throwdown. #SpoilerAlert: The Castro brothers win.

5 places you can get a Hot Brown around Louisville

📍The Brown Hotel

335 W. Broadway — Downtown

The English Grill is currently closed due to Covid-19, but this is the birthplace of the Hot Brown + a must-try for visitors and new transplants to the city alike.

📍The Village Anchor

11507 Park Rd. — Anchorage

This Anchorage restaurant’s take on the Hot Brown is slightly different because it features fried chicken instead of turkey, but we’re happy to make an exception for this one.

📍Goose Creek Diner

2923 Goose Creek Rd. — Goose Creek

A cult favorite in the Goose Creek neighborhood, Goose Creek Diner offers a Hot Brown as gooey and creamy as one could ask for.

📍Troll Pub Under the Bridge

150 W. Washington St. — Downtown

While the troll outside the pub is a little goofy, there’s nothing funny about how good the pub’s Hot Brown is.

📍Bristol Bar and Grille

1321 Bardstown Rd. — The Highlands

A Louisville dining institution, the Bristol’s Hot Brown comes in the perfect dish to eat the whole thing.


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