The Brown Hotel

Restaurant review of The Brown Hotel in Louisville KY, Kentucky restaurant review of The Brown Hotel,

Review guidelines:

1 Fork = I would rather eat dog food.
2 Forks = I would eat there if I was starving.
3 Forks = Not bad; someplace I would occasionally consider eating.
4 Forks = A good place to eat; I will put it into my rotation of places I dine frequently.
5 Forks = One of my all time favorites!

One caveat to note – I am allergic to fish and seafood, so if you are looking for those recommendations, you will have to consult someone else.

Because I have a daughter-in-law with Celiac and a really good friend who is Vegetarian, I will try to point out whether those options are present when I review a restaurant.

April 21, 2016

The Brown Hotel

335 W Broadway
Louisville, KY 40202
Restaurant review of The Brown Hotel in Louisville KY, Kentucky restaurant review of The Brown Hotel,
Actually, 4.5 Forks = I will put it into my rotation of places I dine at when in Louisville.

Being a Lexington, KY native, I am embarrassed to say that, prior to this trip, I had never eaten an original Hot Brown from the Brown Hotel! The occasion of our road trip was a visit with my friend, Jane to the Filson Club in Louisville to discuss family papers with the special collections curator. As an added bonus, we planned a side excursion to the Brown, for the sole purpose of getting a Hot Brown for lunch! We were not disappointed. The Brown is a historical landmark in downtown Louisville. Built in 1923, the hotel recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation. The story goes that during the 1937 flood, a bellman caught a fish in the second floor lobby. The origin of the famous Hot Brown itself is almost as legendary. It was invented at the Brown in 1926. The story goes that after a night of partying, the guests were hungry, so the chef at the time went in the kitchen and scrounged around for ingredients to prepare a snack, and the Hot Brown was born.

The elements of the quintessential Hot Brown are: a foundation of toasted bread, layered with turkey, Mornay sauce, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese or a dusting of cheddar, a sliced tomato, topped with two crisp slices of bacon. The sandwich is heated in the broiler until the Mornay/cheese sauce is bubbly and served open-faced with a knife and fork. Sounds simple- right? Many restaurants in KY have attempted to recreate this classic – and many have failed dismally. So what are the keys to success? First, the foundation should be a dense white bread, toasted. Many restaurants substitute other kinds of bread or do not toast at all. The bread will not stand up well to the Mornay without toasting! The Brown Hotel actually lightly buttered their thickly sliced white bread before toasting which added another layer of flavor to the dish. Next, real turkey must be used…not that wiggly, water laden deli sliced stuff – roasted turkey commonly served at Thanksgiving. The Brown Hotel did use roasted turkey and it was delicious – just as though the head of the family carved it from the bird at the holidays. The next step is subject to interpretation. Purists insist that the only meat on a Hot Brown should be turkey, but many restaurants add ham. The Brown Hotel did not use ham – which was fine with us! Many restaurants use a variety of ham, but in cases where it is used – country ham works best. Again, using thinly sliced deli ham does not count! The Mornay sauce topping is difficult for sauce-challenged chefs to accomplish. I have seen everything from nacho cheese sauce to wallpaper paste used for this step. Of course, the Brown Hotel’s sauce was perfect with just a light sprinkling of cheese on top. Too much cheese in the sauce will overpower the turkey layer. The sliced tomato topping is always hotly debated. The restaurant delivered one with tomato for my friend Jane and one without tomato for me, as I have never been a big fan of tomatoes heated up. Either way, most restaurants will accommodate this preference. Finally, two crispy strips of bacon (crisscrossed for effect) adorn the top of every good Hot Brown and ours was no exception. I have seen cheap imitations with limp bacon strips or heaven forbid – bacon bits!! If you are up to the task, the Brown publishes the recipe: Good luck to you, it is more difficult than it sounds.

I am sure the rest of the menu at the Brown Hotel is perfectly adequate, maybe even 5-star, but I will probably never find out. If I am going to drive an hour to Louisville to eat there, I am only inclined to order the star of the menu! Our service was excellent and the ambiance in the English Grill was lovely. Lunch for two with tax and tip was $44.37.

Parking is available at the Brown’s adjacent garage and the restaurant will validate your ticket.

Gluten Free Options – none advertised.
Vegetarian Options – none advertised.

Check out the menu, hours of operation, or make a lodging reservation at:

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