Eat a Hot Brown at the Brown Hotel | News
“Older people shouldn’t eat healthy foods – they need all the preservatives they can get.” – Herodotus
This is the quote listed under number 22 of the Kentucky Bucket List authored by Michael Crisp, which contains 100 experiments throughout the state of Kentucky.
Item number 22 on the Kentucky Bucket List is eating a Hot Brown at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Brown Hotel
Built by wealthy Louisville businessman J. Graham Brown, the Brown Hotel opened in downtown Louisville at the corner of Fourth and Broadway on October 25, 1923. That year, Louisville was the 34th largest city in the country with a population of 235,000. Fourth Street was already an established promenade, and The Brown Hotel became the cornerstone of “The Magic Corner,” according to the hotel’s history described on their website. In the decades that followed, the Brown Hotel would have played a prominent role in the life of Louisville.
The Brown Hotel opened in 1923, just 10 months after construction began, at a cost of $4 million (over $60 million today). David Lloyd George, former Prime Minister of Great Britain, became the first person to sign the guest register. Literature indicates that the 16-story concrete and steel hotel was built in the Georgian Revival style, clad in brick and trimmed in stone and terracotta. The interior design of the Brown Hotel is mostly English Renaissance style with details from the Adams period, according to hotel brochures.
The hotel was known as the business and social center of the city, bringing new energy to downtown Louisville. A theatre, church, large medical and professional building opened next to the hotel and in 1925 J. Graham Brown built the Brown Office Building just east of the hotel, which included the Brown Theater recently renovated.
According to the hotel’s website, Lily Pons, while performing at the Brown Theater, let her pet cub roam free in her suite. Al Jolson, who also plays in the theatre, argued at the hotel’s English Grill but said it was fine – his makeup would cover the minnow. Queen Marie of Romania visited in 1926 and was entertained in the Crystal Ballroom, complete with a red carpet and a golden throne on a dais. Victor Mature had a brief career as a hotel elevator operator before achieving fame in Hollywood.
The Brown Hotel ran into trouble when Prohibition was in effect from the hotel’s opening until 1933, and the Great Depression of the 1930s brought Brown’s businesses to a standstill. In 1931, Brown defaulted on the loan that had funded the hotel and the bank threatened foreclosure, according to historical records. Funding was rearranged and Brown kept the hotel, but not without painful steps, including a humble appeal to employees to work temporarily without pay.
In January 1937, the Ohio River rose, invading Louisville. Nearly a thousand people from the lower areas took refuge in the hotel and found themselves stranded for 10 days. According to the website’s story, one witness recalled, “We were rowing down Broadway and there was the Brown Hotel. The doors were open and the place was full of water, so we rowed our boat in one door, crossed the hall and rowed out another.” Spirits remained high, however. Charcoal barbecues in makeshift kitchens fed those seeking help, and bucket brigades carried water up the 15 flights of stairs to flush the toilet. During the flood, the bell captain caught a fish in the second floor lobby, according to the website.
Historical literature also indicates that the Brown Hotel boom began with World War II. While awaiting news from the front, soldiers from Fort Knox and Louisville residents sought relief from wartime anxieties at the Brown Hotel. A bell captain recalls: “We were the busiest during the war. The 5 p.m. check-in was the worst. Two or three trains a day came from Fort Knox – soldiers lined up for hours waiting for a room .” One bartender noted: “Everyone had more money than they had ever seen before. Business was booming and you couldn’t have bartenders. We were hiring anything that could walk and breathe. “
Over the years, the public rooms at the Brown Hotel have provided exceptional visibility and customer loyalty to the hotel. Some say more business has been done at the English Grill than at any office in town. Countless couples have enjoyed a generation of excellent entertainers in the Bluegrass Room, and accomplished men and women have been toasted in the Crystal Ballroom. In fact, many celebrities first made their names in the Brown Hotel’s Bluegrass Room, including George Gobel, Gene Krupa, Clyde McCoy, Dan Rowan, and Dick Martin.
Despite the hotel’s enduring year-round popularity, no event could compare to the days leading up to the Kentucky Derby, with Derby night being the most important social holiday of the year – as you might say, it remains the same today.
“The hotel was more or less like lodges at Churchill Downs – the same people every year and always the best,” one employee recalled. According to the website, among the many well-known guests of the Brown Hotel’s superior accommodations are the Duke of Windsor, Harry Truman, Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Young, Joan Crawford, Muhammad Ali, Jimmy Carter, George H. Bush and Barack. Obama to name a few.
The warm brown
The hotel is not only known for the history behind its structure, but also for its signature dish: the Hot Brown.
In the 1920s, the Brown Hotel drew over 1,200 guests each night for its dinner dance.
“In the wee hours, guests would tire of dancing and head to the restaurant for a bite to eat. Sensing their desire for something more glamorous than the traditional ham and eggs, chef Fred Schmidt decided to create something something new. to tempt the palates of his guests. His unique dish? An open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon and a delicate Mornay sauce. The Hot Brown was born,” the site shares.
Available in all three restaurants, in the bar and in the dining room, the Hot Brown continues to satisfy hungry customers. The Hot Brown – a Louisville tradition with worldwide appeal – has been featured on Southern Living, The Los Angeles Times, NBC’s Today Show, ABC News with Diane Sawyer, Travel Channel’s Man v. Food and The Wall Street Journal, and is a regular entry in many of the world’s top cookbooks.
The official recipe can be found online at the Brown Hotel website.
All I can say is “Wow!” The Brown Hotel was as elegant as I had imagined. While eating at J. Graham’s Cafe and only seeing a small portion of the hotel, I felt really great being there.
Myself and my best friend Destinee (formerly a reporter here at The Register) arrived in Louisville around 12:45 for our reservation and were seated immediately in the dining room. There were few others there to finish meals, but I was amazed at how lax they were about dining there. We were dressed to perfection and I honestly felt out of place as I don’t normally venture into a fine dining restaurant.
Soon there was only Destiny and myself in the restaurant. I ordered the Hot Brown as directed and she ate from the buffet which included all sorts of great food including grilled salmon, chicken, scalloped potatoes and some of my other favorites.
To be honest, I was excited to try the Hot Brown, but I really didn’t expect to be so impressed with an open sandwich. Boy hi, was I completely wrong. I had the “small version” of the sandwich (which was still very large) and was so happy with every bite. The sauce, meat, cheese and bread ratio was so good. I could immediately taste the paprika and pepper (two of my favorites) and the food was definitely comforting. I was very pleasantly surprised at how good it was and how good we had a good time. Now one of my goals is to get through the night and feel very high and powerful.
To top it off, the restaurant chef and staff knew it was my birthday, and the chef personally brought me a slice of Derby-Pie with frozen fruit to my table. I truly felt like royalty that day and it will be a hard experience to top. I know I’ve said this about many of my experiences, but this Brown Hotel adventure was definitely my favorite yet.
Go there as soon as you can! I completed 38 items on the bucket list and there are 62 left!
Editor’s Note: This column is an ongoing series inspired by the book Kentucky Bucket List written by Michael Crisp. You can buy the book online at Amazon.