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A Louisville Legacy: Celebrating the Iconic Pat's Steak House

Updated: Jan 31

By: Mckenna Graham

Photos by: Matt Johnson

A Louisville Legacy: Celebrating the Iconic Pat’s Steak House

By McKenna GrahamPhotos by Matt JohnsonWalking through the heavy wooden doors into the cozy space of Pat’s Steak House at 2437 Brownsboro Road feels a bit like coming home. Chances are if you’re a born and raised Louisville native, you may have memories of special nights with families and friends here — and in every way Pat’s not only brings the class, history and prestige of an old school fine dining experience but also the warmth and comfort of a family establishment. Of course, Pat’s also sees its fair share of out of towners over the course of the year, especially at Derby time, not even taking reservations each year until April 1st because of high demand. Since 1958, Pat’s Steak House has been serving classic American fare with some Irish favorites in a fascinating historic building.

Owner Pat Francis is a friendly and personable gentleman. No stranger to hard work, he is often seen wearing an apron, coming straight from trimming the hand cut high-quality steaks for which his restaurant is best known. He is not the kind of owner to let others do the heavy lifting and credits his father Michael Francis, who previously owned the restaurant, for teaching him everything he knows about this admirable work ethic saying, “My dad worked day and night and that’s what he taught us. He said hard work never hurt anybody.” But Francis also credits the restaurant’s crew of equally dependable friends and family, many who have been working side by side for years or even decades. “It’s a lot of teamwork,” he says, “I got a great group of people who have been helping me for a long time. I’m very fortunate.”

This Louisville establishment comes from humble beginnings, a true American success story. His father’s mother was originally from Galway, Ireland, arriving in America when she was only 14 and later dying in childbirth leaving behind two young sons and a daughter. The children were sent to live at St. Joseph’s orphanage while their father worked on the railroads. During their younger years, Francis’s uncle and his father, Michael, learned to cut meat by working at the Fischer Packing Plant, before opening the restaurant known as Min’s Steak House in 1958. After Pat Francis purchased the restaurant from his father in the late 1970’s he changed the name to Pat’s Steak House and for several years faithful patrons referred to it interchangeably as both Min’s and Pat’s

These days the restaurant with the iconic green Z-shaped sign emblazoned with shamrocks has settled nicely into its not-so-new name, and though the 1800’s era building has gradually expanded to accommodate its successes not much else has changed over the years. The walls of the establishment are completely covered with artwork and old photographs, some of the Louisville area, some from Ireland and many gifted by customers. A person could spend hours lingering over the fascinating imagery here and all untold stories these photos might hold. The building, which was originally a stagecoach stop built in the 1800’s, has been expanded from a single dining area and bar to nine dining areas and three bars, seamlessly integrated into the original building. Francis comments it was important that the additions capture the historic feel of the original structure. 

The menu too has held steady with the Lady Fillet continuing to be the best seller, alongside other favorites such as oysters, shrimp cocktail, baby frog legs and his grandmother’s own recipe for Irish meatloaf. As far as dessert, Francis points to the Irish Whisky Cake as being a favorite. More “recent” menu additions such as steak sliders, seafood platters and baked salmon are still cause for surprise in loyal patrons, though it’s been nearly 25 years since they were added “You’ll have customers asking ‘Pat when’d you put salmon on there?’ because a lot of them don’t look at the menu. They know what they want when they come in here,” explains Francis. 

One notable change occurred about 14 years ago when the restaurant switched from its cash only policy to accepting credit cards. It was Michael Francis’s belief that credit cards would ruin this country that kept the policy in place for so long, encouraging customers to spend only within their means. In more recent years Pat Francis was urged by his children to open up other payment options because of the inconvenience it caused for large parties and conferences visiting the city. So after many years the ATM that sat by the doorway was removed — though many customers still prefer to pay cash. 

Francis is often asked by families if it is alright to bring their children and he says, “Before we’re a steakhouse, we’re a family restaurant. Without a doubt they’re more than welcome here. They’re the next generation. We need them!” He has seen four generations walk through his front door, and no doubt his establishment will be around for many more. 


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