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Hometown Hungers: Best Hot Browns Outside of Kentucky

No need to book a trip to the Bluegrass State to bite into Kentucky's signature dish. These hopping spots across the country are turning out their own spins on the sauce-drenched turkey sandwich.

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A Stepped-Up Sandwich

Few sandwiches boast such an alluring history as the Hot Brown. This culinary creation tumbled out of a prestigious hotel kitchen in the midst of the Roaring '20s as a way to satiate the appetites of the party set. Chef Fred Schmidt of the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, created the indulgent dish as a practical solution for feeding the hundreds of attendees who flocked to the legendary dance parties held there. He concocted the hot, open-faced sandwich with just a handful of ingredients (brioche bread, turkey, bacon and tomatoes), then cloaked the creation in a silky Mornay sauce made from Pecorino Romano, butter, cream and nutmeg. Ninety years later, the Brown Hotel is still turning out the sandwich, which is now a menu mainstay at restaurants across the country. Read on to find out where to score the most-coveted spins on Kentucky’s signature sandwich. Photography courtesy of Noble Crust

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Rebellion, Washington, D.C.

Rebellion, a cozy bar in the heart of Washington, D.C., draws the crowds with its dazzling selection of 300-plus whiskies and Southern-inflected food menu to match. But until he had a chef and a smoker in place, Travis Weiss, Rebellion’s director of culinary concepts, refused to serve a Hot Brown. Taking the time to do it right has most definitely paid off, as the wait is over and the resulting sandwich is a stunner. The star of Rebellion’s hand-held, multinapkin sandwich is undoubtedly the turkey. Locally sourced birds are brined in beer and herbs for 48 hours, coated with a house BBQ rub, smoked low and slow, then thinly sliced and piled onto griddled Lyon Bakery sourdough bread. The dish gets next-level gourmet treatment with a supporting cast of toppings, including heirloom tomatoes, North Country Smokehouse bacon and a triple-cheese, jalapeno-spiked Mornay sauce. Photography courtesy of Rebellion
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Dram, Birmingham, Alabama

Dram may be a bourbon bar located in Alabama, but its soul belongs to Kentucky. The rough-hewn beams are from an old Kentucky tobacco barn, there are photos of Churchill Downs lining the wall, and the menu is chock-full of classics from the Bluegrass State … including the Hot Brown, of course. As a Kentucky native and Hot Brown purist, owner Tom Shaffer has kept the original recipe intact, which means his version is made with house-roasted turkey, toast points, smoky Broadbent country bacon (shipped in from western Kentucky), fresh tomatoes and house Mornay sauce. Shaffer holds true to tradition right down to the dish’s preparation and presentation. “The whole thing is then browned in the oven and served truly piping hot in a distinctive shallow bowl with a long handle like a skillet,” he says. “The presentation does the dish justice, as we use that vessel for the Hot Brown and nothing else.” Photography courtesy of Allison Sheffer
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Artisan, Paso Robles, California

When Chef/Co-Owner Chris Kobayashi started locally sourcing turkey from Sonoma County at his farm-to-fork restaurant, he contemplated the addition of a new menu item that would showcase the bird. After his cousin raved about a must-have dish he tried at The Brown Hotel, Chef Kobayashi was inspired to expand Artisan’s brunch offerings to include a Hot Brown. True to Chef Kobayashi’s ethos, the knife-and-fork sandwich features impeccably sourced ingredients. Along with the house-roasted turkey, there’s nitrate-free bacon from cult purveyor Vande Rose, griddled local beefsteak tomatoes, organic-cheddar Mornay sauce and a farm-fresh sunny-side-up egg, all tucked into a house-baked croissant. “Being a Sunday brunch dish, this is a real hangover cure,” says Chef Kobayashi. “Depending on how much fun you had last night, it pairs really well with a Bloody Mary; however, for more civilized folk, a nice mimosa pairs well too.” Photography courtesy of Artisan
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