I talk frequently about our town being replete with options for imbibing and how we Louisvillians are spoiled when it comes to watering holes of all kinds. We’re lucky, yes, but this vast number of choices will often leave my partner and I verbally sparring on which direction we’ll head once we leave our driveway. “Where do you want to go tonight?” and “Oh, god, not this again,” are phrases often heard inside my SUV. This leaves us both quite frustrated and ready to surrender to one of the mediocre bars at the end of our street. So I’ve laid out a “mini-choice awards” for various needs — whether you’re looking for a new, tasty craft-cocktail, or a place to watch the game, I’ve got you, boo. No need to argue with your lover, just reference The Barkeep’s (current) Favorites.
Current favorite cocktail list: Ciao Ristorante — When you walk into what used to be Baxter Station on Payne Street, chances are, you’ll only recognize the bones of the joint, as it’s now Ciao, an Italian eatery where the cocktail menu truly steals the show. It’s no secret that everything local bar maven Ashley Towning touches turns to delicious, as she’s curated this menu with a variety of Italian Amaris and aperitifs. Try the “From Naples With Love”: Chareau Aloe Vera Botanical Spirit, Lillet Blanc, fresh lemon, dried rosebud, fresh sangria syrup and Fever Tree Indian Tonic. Delicioso, y’all.
Current favorite boozy brunch: Superchefs — Darnell Ferguson’s Bardstown Road location (his newest spot, as the St. Matthews location was destroyed in a fire last year) is pure goodness, from the pancakes to the nine flavors of mimosas (yes, nine) and to the angel bartender, Chantal, who has now served me twice. While Ferguson makes beautiful food, Superchefs offers a full bar — and an affordable cocktail menu for day drinking, might I add. My friend, Jess and I enjoyed a boozy brunch a few weeks ago, and Chantal was kind enough to give us 15-percent-off coupons to use only while dining with one another the next time we come in. Mimosas and empowering female friendships? I’m sold.
Current favorite patio: Mussel & Burger Bar (Downtown location) — Admittedly, I’d been to M&BB’s downtown location several times before even knowing they had a patio. Thankfully, my friend Sam has shown me the light. Ensconced deeply between looming buildings, this urban paradise is drenched in ivy-covered exposed brick, string lights, plants and delightful ambiance. Their patio playlist? A satellite radio station called “Hipster Cocktail Party.”
Current favorite place to watch a game/award show/etc.: The Manhattan Project — tucked away behind Frankfort Avenue’s iconic Nancy’s Bagels is a self-proclaimed “bourbon and sports bar,” as the interior is covered in flat screens (there are even TV’s in the booths), and the shelves of bourbon peer high beyond the garage-style windows that open to a patio. My guy and I enjoyed watching the Grammy Awards on surround sound and sipping on bourbon last Sunday evening, whilst trying to evaluate the meaning of Beyoncé’s performance with cool, babely bartender, Chris.
Current favorite place to bring your dog: Old Louisville Brewery — Just past Central Park beyond the intersection of Sixth Street and Magnolia Avenue is the seven-month-old Old Louisville Brewery, owned by dog lover and beer aficionado, Wade Mattingly. Mattingly gutted and repurposed as much as possible for the brewery, which serves only house-made brews but welcomes patrons to bring or order outside food. Mattingly’s pit bull mix, Stella, is often behind the bar greeting new friends, as this dog-friendly establishment even pours its delectable Black Dog Stout, of which a portion of the proceeds for that drink are donated to local animal rescue groups. Drinking for charity is truly one of my favorite past times.
These fine establishments will surely be slinging goodness for the foreseeable future, as climate change catapults us into spring several weeks early. The next time you’re scrolling through Yelp, desperately hoping some image will jump out at you and determine your evening, I hope you and yours will reference this list and find the perfect fit for your ambitions. Be it a game broadcast or a Fido-friendly establishment, I’ve got your back. That is, until the real LEO Readers’ Choice Awards comes out later this year. •