Writers’ Choice Awards 2013

Random praises from a few deranged writers

Best Place to Listen to AC/DC

MegaCavern — 1841 Taylor Ave.

My aural intake of classic rock songs is usually reserved for drunken karaoke bar sing-alongs and pretentious hipster covers on “The Voice.” I make an exception for MegaCavern, where attendants put on “Highway to Hell” right before the longest, darkest stretch of the six-zipline underground attraction. For anyone with nerves — and that didn’t include me, because I am a big brave dog … I am a big brave dog … I am a big brave dog — it offers a silly touch that reminds you you’re supposed to be having fun. Oh, and the acoustics inside are solid as a rock. —April Corbin


Best Place to Drink Your Fruits and Vegetables

Big Bar — 1202 Bardstown Road

My mom worries I don’t get enough fruits and vegetables in my diet. Little does she know I stockpile them all for the week within three hours. On Sundays, from 2-5 p.m., you will most likely find me at Big Bar, rotating between unlimited bloody marys and mimosas, and popping a few Tums in between. Tomatoes, oranges, olives (are those vegetables?) … I couldn’t be healthier unless they installed a treadmill or elliptical machine on the patio. (Don’t get any ideas, owner Kevin.) And the best part — it’s only $12 and you don’t have to deal with mushy, rotten leftovers stinkin’ up your fridge (I swear I’d eat more fruits and veggies if they didn’t go bad so quick!). —Sara Havens


Best Local to Follow on Twitter if You Like Twitterbeef

Phillip M. Bailey — @phillipmbailey

WFPL political editor (and former LEO staff writer) Phillip M. Bailey knows his stuff, and he’s not afraid to tell the world about it, 140 characters at a time. Follow him on Twitter and you’ll get news, information and a healthy spattering of snappy comebacks about whatever the topic of the day is. Sometimes it’s about what it will take to revitalize the West End. Other times it’s comparing the merits of U of L football coaches. Once, it was defending his reporting to a Southern Indiana journo who accused him of liberal bias. (That one somehow wound up being about the difference between democrat and Democrat. Oh, Twitter.) Usually, though, Bailey is just calling out our politicians when he sees fit. Who can’t get behind that? —April Corbin


Best Business Most Needed in NuLu

A Dive Bar

NuLu didn’t exactly start from the bottom — the Mayan Café, for one, has been there since before it was “NuLu,” going back to when it was the Mayan Gypsy. But today’s NuLu is filled with delicious, well-crafted and, often, expensive dining options. So what if you just want a drink? Yes, Decca has a fun bar area, but it’s not the same. We don’t need to set the clock back to a smoke-filled Dedden’s scenario, but how about some place we can sit around with friends and drink for $2-$6? Is that unreasonable? Meat didn’t work out, but Freddie’s sure knows how to last for decades, and I’ve never known anyone who’s reported having a bad time there. —Peter Berkowitz


Best Reason to Watch Local Sportscasts

Adam Lefkoe — WHAS

On Sept. 15, in less than four minutes, WHAS sports anchor Adam Lefkoe dropped 46 mentions of hip-hop artists and lyrics in a newscast about local sports. Before that, on Sept. 8, he squeezed in more than 41 classic “Seinfeld” lines during the same spot, and on Sept. 2, he mentioned 31 famous wrestlers. Lefkoe became an instant YouTube sensation — his “RapCast” has received more than 402,585 views as of press time. Lefkoe says he dabbled with theme reporting before and decided to commit full time, when the mood strikes him. In an effort to make his sportscast interactive, Lefkoe turns to Twitter (@WHAS11Lefkoe) for theme ideas and references. “I thought it would be fun if Louisville was in on the joke,” he says. “I’m proud the community came together to create these sportscasts.” We wait with bated breath for the next one. Give us more, Adam, give us more! —Sara Havens


Best Place to Mix Bourbon with Root Beer and Cinnamon

Manny & Merle — 122 W. Main St.

People look at you funny around here for two reasons: Because you mispronounced Louisville, and because you mixed bourbon with Coke. The first one, you’ll just have to learn on your own. The second one, well, we’ll forgive you if you can’t handle bourbon’s heat, but we will encourage you to be creative about what you mix it with. If you want a suggestion, stop by Manny & Merle for a Sarsparilla, which merges bourbon (Buffalo Trace, to be exact) with root beer and cinnamon schnapps. It may sound strange, but it’s delicious, especially poured over their oversized ice cubes and served in a mason jar. Trust me on this one. —Sara Havens


Best Place To Hoodwink A Carnivore

Heart & Soy — 1216 Bardstown Road

I have two friends, unacquainted with one another, who took their unsuspecting partners to this delicious little restaurant and successfully tricked them into eating a vegan meal. Both of my friends knew it was an entirely vegetarian menu. Their partners did not. My friends also knew their partner would not willingly eat at a vegetarian restaurant, so they “forgot” to tell them. It worked. Neither partner realized they were at a vegetarian restaurant until the food arrived. This is because Heart & Soy does not have any descriptions of their entrees. None. Not one. The minimalist menu simply reads “Singapore Noodles” or “Vietnamese Noodle Salad” followed by a refreshingly low calorie count and a reasonable price. The restaurant only has counter service, so rather than hold up the line with dozens of questions, most people just blurt something out and wait to see what it is. Which works, because everything on the menu is delicious. —Sarah Duncan


Best Reason to Walk Your Dog

Castlewood Dragon Tree — Castlewood/Barret intersection

Sometimes I wish my dog was potty trained — especially if it’s cold out or raining. I don’t have a yard, so I have to walk my mutt on a daily basis. I often take him up to Tyler Park, and I was on my way there the other day when I noticed something out of place. It was a dragon … climbing up a castle … carved into a tree. The next day I saw a buff young man touching up the dragon, so I inquired. Turns out it was sculptor Joe Autry, and he had been working on it for more than 70 hours, he said. The neighborhood commissioned him to carve the tree, so he kindly obliged. Autry has been sculpting ice, wood, metals and glass since he was 17, and now he works with tree art when called upon. It’s unclear whether the dragon of Castlewood is friendly or fire-breathing. —Sara Havens


Best Place to Score a Screw Anchor and a Lesson on Objectivist Individualism for Under 10 Cents

St. Matthews Hardware — 3919 Shelbyville Road

Some years ago during a Buddha-mural-hanging emergency, I dashed to St. Matthews Hardware to pick up a screw anchor or some thumbtacks or some weed-whacker line or some sandpaper or … well, the point is, it was something both incredibly important and incredibly cheap. Like, under a dime. When I got $20 out of the ATM to pay, the gentleman behind the counter placed the item in my hand, waved off my $20, and said, “Get me next time.” I’ve been going back ever since, and I always get what I want, plus some philosophy, some politics and usually a couple of jokes. Try that shit at Home Depot! —Jim Welp


Best Soup to Hear Sloshing in Your Stomach While Jumping on a Bed After Eating It

Seafood Rice Noodle Soup at Vietnam Kitchen — 5339 Mitscher Ave.

The perfect date — Step one: Go to Vietnam Kitchen and order the seafood noodle soup, or as it’s known in Vietnam, C5. Step two: When it comes, admire its glory: shrimp, squid, fish cake and noodles in a glorious star anise and love broth. Step three: Spice it up with the chili sauce and toppings. Step four: Feast. There is no finer bowl of soup in the city. Step five: Pay. Step six: With a giant bowl of broth in your belly, rush home and jump on the bed. Admire the sloshing sound. Dinner and a show! —Jim Welp


Best Place To Buy A White Elephant Gift

Tickled Pink Memorabilia — 3268 Taylor Blvd.

I love gag gifts. Last year we scored a framed print that looks like a Mona Lisa/Pocahontas mash-up at a gift-swap party. If you are having a white elephant party this year, you have to check out Tickled Pink Memorabilia. They’ve got thousands of bizarrely wonderful gifts, and they’re almost all under $10. Plus, they are some of the friendliest people you could ever meet. You can easily spend an hour combing through three floors of bobble heads, salt shakers, ashtrays and tchotchkes until you find the perfect horse head herb planter for old Uncle Albert. Or you can wait until you are on your way to the party, walk in with a $5 bill, grab the first ceramic photo frame shaped like a rottweiler you see, and be back en route in under three minutes. Just don’t forget that Tickled Pink is closed on Fridays and Saturdays. —Sarah Duncan


Most Entertaining Trip to the Commode

Nachbar — 969 Charles St.

The Declaration of Independence may have decided that all men are created equal, but I’ll tell you right here and now what those men (and women) create on the walls of bar bathrooms after a night of drinking is not. If you are of legal drinking age and cannot think of anything better to write than your name followed by “loves Timmy,” don’t bother uncapping that Sharpie. Odds are it will only be met with eye rolls and, hopefully, a paint roller. Fortunately, the Nachbar seems to foster the right environment for entertaining bathroom scrawls. Some of the content may be R-rated, but there’s always enough humorous quips, doodles of robots or philosophical musings to keep you captivated. It seems libations make passions run high for the novice graffiti artist. Plus, they paint over it about twice a year, so there’s always the bi-annual bathroom refresh to look forward to. —Sarah Duncan


Best Place to Eat a Pupusa

Pupuseria y Taqueria Santa Rosa — 4231 Taylor Blvd.

I miss the plethora of pupuserias in my neighborhood from the time I lived in Little El Salvador in Washington, D.C., but fortunately this hidden South End treasure is able to let me continue my love affair with this tasty Salvadoran treat. Pupusas are circular flatbreads stuffed with fillings such as beans, pork and cheese, then fried to crispy, golden perfection and topped with cabbage slaw and salsa. Pupusas are also without a doubt the most fun Latin American cuisine to pronounce, so they have that going for them. Santa Rosa also has an array of strange and delicious beverages and desserts to complement your pupusa experience, where you can eat a feast for under $10, but it’s cash only, so hit up your ATM on the way … well worth the South End excursion. —Joe Sonka


Best Next Redevelopment Project

Churchill Downs area

Louisville might be the best-kept secret in the country, but it doesn’t have to be. Between our dining and drinking, music and theater, low cost of living, minimal traffic and plenty of natural beauty, we should never have to face a brain drain again. But most folks still have to be dragged here. If they’re coming for a conference downtown, OK — many fine folks have been working hard to bring downtown back up, and beyond, where it needs to be. But what about the oh-so-many who come visit for our two minutes of horseracing? When they drive in any direction toward Churchill Downs, are they seeing some of the most beautiful houses? Can they walk over to a great restaurant or go shopping? Those who live around there might like those things, too. —Peter Berkowitz


Best Place to Watch a Hipster Try to Look Dispassionate While Eating Pork Ribs Braised in Sauerkraut

Eiderdown — 983 Goss Ave.

Ah, the disaffected hipster, so sullen and skinny, so in the motherfucking know! When you’re in the mood to watch a hipster lose his sangfroid after discovering pickled cabbage in his beard, you might be tempted to head to NuLu. But head instead for the liberal-arts bastion of Germantown and pull up a stool at Eiderdown, where the spaetzle will stick to your ribs and the Belgian Tripel Karmeliet will have you giggling at those who giggle at culturally ignorant noobs. Come for the Dijon Dunkel Gravy, stay for the androgynous, bohemian irony. —Jim Welp


Best Bar to Play Shuffleboard

Tim Tam — 1022 Clarks Lane

Though pool, darts and nudie Photo Hunt may be considered the dive bar Sports of Kings, I’ll take a game of shuffleboard any day. Across from St. X on the outskirts of Germantown/Schnitzelburg is Tim Tam, the cozy neighborhood bar that features an ancient-looking antique shuffleboard table, one of the few places you’ll find one of its kind in Louisville. If you’re unfamiliar with the rules, there’s a handy guide on the wall by the table next to their Hall of Fame board — where you’ll aspire to see your name — though the locals and frustrated St. X teachers drinking away their day’s troubles will be happy to give you pointers. There’s no food, but the drinks are dirt cheap. —Joe Sonka


Best Alternate Will Russell Festivals

When Lebowski Fest began back in 1984 or whenever, it wasn’t created as a long-running, money-earning festival. But the small gathering of a handful of pals in a bowling alley sharing an enjoyment of a then-overlooked movie has turned into such, and co-founder Will Russell eventually had another idea for a gathering of nerdists: Pee-Wee Over Louisville. Planned as a Saturday in Tyler Park, featuring more costumers and a movie screening, the idea quickly caught on locally and even internationally. But then lawyers got involved, and the dream was brutally murdered. As Louisvillians constantly need new festivals, may we propose a “Saved by the Bellstival” on the Belle? Or at least the inevitable “Breaking Bad” fest at the Science Center, with blue rock candy, Pollos Hermanos chicken, Heisenburgers and Schraderbrau beer? —Peter Berkowitz


Best Place to Accidentally Start Day Drinking

Douglass Loop Farmers Market — 2005 Douglass Blvd.

A wise refrigerator magnet once said, “You can’t drink all day without starting in the morning.” So there I was, moseying about the Douglass Loop Farmers Market, taking in some tunes and chatting with neighbors while my dog sniffed butts and licked toes. I came upon the booth for Old 502 Winery, and they motioned me over and said they’d let me sample all their wines for one whole dollar. I couldn’t say no. After nine hefty swallows, I was smitten. I had to buy my favorite — the Bourbon Barrel Red. Next, as if fate had a guiding hand, I was summoned over to the cheese booth, where I purchased a block of Boone Creek’s Kentucky Derby, which is a delicious bourbon-infused cheddar. Wine, cheese and a free afternoon? Sounds like the perfect ingredients to the perfect day. I found a buddy to share the cheese with, and she bought a bottle of 502’s White Noise. We had a party that lasted until the sun went down. I now have an appreciation for farmers markets. —Sara Havens


Best Place to Play Board Games that Are Terrible, Awesome and Terribly Awesome

Hilltop Tavern — 1800 Frankfort Ave.

My favorite bar game used to be “Which one of you am I going home with tonight?” Unfortunately, those days are over. Now, I’m a classy(ish) lady who must resort to more traditional entertainment, which is why I adore Hilltop Tavern. The Frankfort Avenue neighborhood bar offers a ton of entertainment options, including brotastic foosball and ping-pong tables, as well as shelves of board games tucked away in the back next to the restrooms. Some people opt for surefire crowd-pleasers like the twisted Cards Against Humanity. I say go wild. Opt for an obscure choice like the “Sex and the City” or “Carmen Sandiego” board games. I find bonding over bad board games is a great lead in to my second favorite game, “just the tip.” —April Corbin


Best Reason to Visit the Highlands

You know what? I don’t know if I can give you one today. Nostalgia? What was once the epicenter of all things hip, cool, rad, phat and otherwise weird about this city has devolved over the past decade into a blander and more corporate version of what you remember. There’s a Panera where ear X-tacy lived for many years. Twice Told Books is now the home of Philly Steak & Burger. But wait — there’s Puff Puff Pass, which is simultaneously the greatest and worst business name ever. For a now-gritty nabe that has recently seen robberies at Lil Cheezers and Hey Tiger, this seems like the perfect place for today’s Highlands. But if you want to buy some music or used books, go to Clifton. —Peter Berkowitz


Best Place to Buy Kevlar Bike Tires from Keanu Reeves and/or Emilio Estevez

Parkside Bikes — 1377 Bardstown Road

OK, they’re not really Keanu and Emilio, but when Parkside Bikes is made into a movie, those are the actors who will play the parts of Ben and Jef, Parkside’s informative and helpful proprietors. Flat tires are a way of life for bike commuters, and they always happen to me at the worst possible time. Or at least they used to, before the Parkside guys turned me onto Kevlar tires. Yes, that Kevlar: the shit that stops bullets. And yes, they’re expensive, but you’re saving a fortune by biking instead of driving: Why not splurge on Kevlar? They should make the whole plane out of that stuff! —Jim Welp


Best Mascot

Red Penguin at 21c Museum Hotel — 700 W. Main St.

It started innocently. I like the red penguin, the mascot of my wonderful local art hotel. There’s a penguin figurine for sale in the gift shop. It’s a little pricey, but hey, I’ll get plenty of enjoyment glancing over at a shelf and seeing that cutie watching over me, keeping me safe from Mitch McConnell. But then, like the crack epidemic, it quickly grew: New hotels were built in Cincinnati and Bentonville, Ark., and they both have penguins — but with their own city-specific colors. Cinci is yellow; Bentonville is green. Pretty! What an adorable trio they make, but wait — what’s this? A blue one? What’s that for? Oh, of course, the all-but-abandoned Lexington location. They’re pretty popular, the lady at the desk tells me. OK, one more … —Peter Berkowitz


Best Tool to Help You Forget You Live in a State that Requires Its Office of Homeland Security To “Depend on Almighty God” to Keep Its Citizens Safe From Terrorists

The dirty martini at Seviche — 1538 Bardstown Road

There’s nothing like Seviche to make you feel you’re in another land: the spectacular apertivos, the beautiful bar, the inventive seafood dishes, servers so pretentious you kind of want to smack them … But if you like your martinis like you like your significant others (dirty and full of gin), there’s none better than Seviche’s. Drink two and you’ll cackle instead of crying when you remember you live in a state whose legislators don’t believe in climate change, evolution or our ability to take care of our most basic needs without divine intervention. —Jim Welp


Best Place to Board Your Dog Without Feeling Guilty

The Highland Dog — 1962 Roanoke Ave.

Yelp lists it as a pet boarder, but The Highland Dog should be considered a canine bed and breakfast. Here, there are no rows of rectangular wire kennels. Instead, the four bedrooms of this converted Highlands home have been transformed into eight mini-rooms, all of which feature natural light and space to stretch out in the sunlight. Outside those luxurious suites is ample indoor and outdoor play space and a staff that loves sending personal text updates and posting playtime photos on Facebook. All these personal touches keep my travels guilt-free, which is great, because if I’d wanted to feel guilt, I’d have had real children. —April Corbin