Louisville: The Original Hot Brown at the Brown Hotel’s English Grill
Few things are more uniquely Kentucky than the Hot Brown. Not only is the dish virtually impossible to find outside of Kentucky, you rarely find anyone beyond the Commonwealth who even knows what a Hot Brown is.
I’m a particular fan of the Hot Brown, in fact I don’t know if there’s really anything better than its cheesy meaty goodness. And since most any traditional Kentucky restaurant worth its salt will have a hot brown on the menu, I try them and write about them regularly.
But I had never had the Hot Brown.
The Hot Brown was created as a house dish at Louisville’s iconic Brown Hotel after a night of partying during the Roaring Twenties. It was a stroke of genius, and Hot Brown creator Chef Fred Schmidt should be on the foodie Mount Rushmore.
My lovely wife and I visited the Brown’s English Grill for our recent wedding anniversary. Having arrived at the font of all Hot Browns I would have to try The Original. There is inherent danger in a pilgrimage to Hot Brown Mecca—would it live up to expectations? I had eaten some good Hot Browns, but surely one from the Brown itself would trump them all.
The baked concoction arrived appropriately hot and alluring. I found one of the interesting features of the Brown’s Hot Brown to be the toast points. Rather than simply baking the usual pieces of bread into the Hot Brown, this bread was toasted and left exposed from the baptismal flood of the Mornay sauce. What results is a crunch to the Hot Brown that was unique in my experience. The Mornay sauce and Pecorino Romano cheese also provided the most, for lack of a better word, sophisticated cheese flavor I’ve had in a Hot Brown.
Few places are associated with a truly iconic flagship dish. The Brown Hotel and restaurants have a ninety year old classic, and it’s encouraging to see that they aren’t resting on their laurels. The Hot Brown at the Brown’s English Grill is the best and most memorable I’ve had. It truly is Kentucky’s flagship Hot Brown (you can make your own with the Brown Hotel’s Hot Brown recipe).
But The English Grill is more than simply the home of the Hot Brown. The seared Scallop Benedict with lamb bacon and quail egg was a beautiful appetizer. We concluded the meal with the flaming chocolate striptease for dessert, finally beaten into submission by the glorious richness of it all.
The English Grill is a beautiful dining experience, with dark wood paneling and horse portraits throughout. Their service was impeccable and friendly. It is perfect special event dining.
I’m all for Hot Brown diversity. It has become the perfect Kentucky dish, and should be interpreted by chefs and home cooks throughout the Commonwealth. But I discovered all Hot Brown roads ultimately lead to Louisville’s Brown Hotel.
The English Grill
335 West Broadway
Monday-Thursday: 6 PM- 9 PM
Friday-Saturday: 5 PM-10 PM