The Derby isn’t until Saturday, but your Airbnb is in… Germantown, or St. Matthews, or… and you are not sure what to do with your time. Don’t worry, gentle visitor. Take our LEO hand, and let us lead you on nine, two-hour, neighborhood-specific adventures of wonder, gluttony, imbibing, shopping and just plain fun in a few central Louisville neighborhoods where you may be staying, or where you will want to stay next year…
Clifton — Crescent Hill
Just east of NuLu and Bardstown Road are two eclectic neighborhoods that most out-of-towners probably won’t make it to. Which is why they’re perfect places for you, a savvy reader of our paper, to visit.
Let’s assume your hotel is downtown, so the first stop you should make in Clifton is Apocalypse Brew Works (1612 Mellwood Ave.). Louisville’s fallout shelter for beer lovers, where every beer is brewed using sustainable methods such “solar-heated water, grain reuse, material recycling and the reuse of found objects and equipment used to build our brewery.”
Once you’ve tasted a bit of our craft beer scene (and built up a decent buzz), make your way up Frankfort Avenue toward what I’ll call the “Clifton Cluster.” There you’ll find a couple of different options. You could eat at The Silver Dollar (1761 Frankfort Ave.), where Southern fare is served inside a renovated fire house; you could drink more beer and play arcade games, giant Connect Four, giant Jenga and foosball at Hilltop Tavern (1800 Frankfort Ave.); or scour a choice selection of CDs, vinyl and other music goodness at Guestroom Records (1806 Frankfort Ave.).
For those of you who decided to dominate your friends at arcade games (good choice, by the way) you’ve probably worked up an appetite, so head up Frankfort Avenue for more food options including BBQ at Frankfort Avenue Beer Depot (3204 Frankfort Ave.), Mexican cuisine at El Mundo (2345 Frankfort Ave.) or the most delicious bread you’ve ever tasted at Blue Dog Bakery and Cafe (2868 Frankfort Ave.).
Now for those who decided to eat earlier, you can find something unique to take home with you at Just Creations (2722 Frankfort Ave.), where there are “items from more than 45 countries” created by “craftspeople in the developing world” for fair wages. —Ethan Smith
Germantown & Schnitzelberg
If you have a couple of hours, you can experience the full charm of a perfect spring day or night in Germantown.
I start out with some great vintage finds and music shopping at Fat Rabbit (1000 E. Oak St.).
As the owner of cherryredevents, I am always on the lookout for great beer and cocktails, so I head towards Germantown’s neighboring Schnitzelberg, to Monnik Beer Co. (1036 E Burnett Ave.).This brewpub has an excellent overall menu and beer brewed on premise, and I choose a Voorjaar saison. This floral farmhouse-style ale is perfect for the season.
I then head a few blocks Northeast to Goss Avenue, for a bite.
If I’m in the mood for something casual, I grab a seat at the bar for a giant Slice of the Day at The Post (1045 Goss Ave.). As a former New Yorker, I can tell you that The Post does it right. Plus, the sandwiches and house-made salad dressings are a huge hit. It has a carefully-curated local and regional beer menu, and you may want an ice cold shot from its ever-popular Patron machine.
But, If I’m in the mood for something heartier, I head to Eiderdown (983 Goss Ave.). Now a neighborhood classic, Eiderdown is a rustic, German-influenced gastropub. I go for the locally-sourced brats on fresh bread served with their spicy beer mustards, accompanied by a side of potato soup, which tastes just like my German mama used to make. Along with having a strong German beer lineup, it offers tasty seasonal cocktails.
After dinner, I head up the hill to to my favorite G-Town haunt, The Nachbar (969 Charles St.).
Nach is the quintessential neighborhood corner bar, with an excellent, international beer selection. Its killer outside patios are basically community centers, and you will have 10 new friends by the time you leave.
For a nightcap, I head back down the hill to Mr. Lee’s Lounge (935 Goss Ave.). Modeled after a Tokyo salaryman-style bar, the smell of leather permeates this small and dark space.
I grab one of my favorite drinks in town, its whiskey sour. It’s made the old-school way, with frothy egg whites, and is the near-perfect cocktail.
Most important, take in the beautiful dogwoods. And don’t forgot to say hi to the neighbors on your stroll through Germantown, as our colorful cast of characters is our biggest asset.
Two hours allows you to see about half of central Bardstown Road, if you hustle and choose wisely. So, here’s a choose-your-own-adventure road map, where you start by eating at one of two next-door restaurants, and then walk one of two ways.
Choice One: Where do you want to eat?
Of the dozens of places to get food on Bardstown Road, I narrowed the choice to two staples that are less than a block apart from each other.
Option 1: Ramsi’s Cafe On The World (1293 Bardstown Road).
With a menu of around 100 options — half of them vegetarian and a third of those vegan — Ramsi’s is the place to go if you like hearty, spicy, layered meals that are nods to fare from around the world. With selections such as Moroccan Lamb Chops, Spicy Jamaican Tofu and the Shanghai Stir-Fry, it’s a great place to try something new.
Option 2: The Bristol Bar & Grille (1321 Bardstown Road)
If want a burger, steak, pasta, salad or a hot brown, choose The Bristol, which is celebrating it’s 40th year in Louisville. A white tablecloth place with solid and straightforward food that also has a casual atmosphere, you can’t go wrong with The Bristol.
Choice Two: Which direction do you walk after eating?
If you turn right or left, you’ll find clothing stores, novelty shops, booze and a few other gems. Here are a few places to help determine your path.
Option 1: Take an immediate right after walking out of either restaurant.
Walk six blocks to Holy Grale (1034 Bardstown Road), a craft beer mecca in a renovated church, complete with a loft and a garden. At the end of that block, you’ll run into Highland Avenue. Take a right, walk about 50 feet and on your left side you’ll find the record store Underground Sounds (2003 Highland Ave.). Backtrack to Bardstown, walk another two and a half blocks to find the Louisville Game Shop (925 Baxter Ave.), full of board games that you’d normally have to order online. Tell the staff what you’re looking for, and they’ll get you on track. If you still have time to kill, go into one of the Irish bars that you’re now surrounded by.
Option 2: Turn left. Walk six short blocks to Eastern Parkway, where you can get ice cream at the Comfy Cow (1449 Bardstown Road) or frozen yogurt at Lula’s (1501 Bardstown Road). Or continue another three blocks to grab a pint of the Moonbow Wit or Pale Ale at Cumberland Brews (1576 Bardstown Road). The next few blocks are dense with places to find books, records, video games and clothes. My suggestions are the Book & Music Exchange (1616 Bardstown Road), where you can hunt for old Sega, NES, Super and 64 games, or Acorn Apparel (1602 Bardstown Road), a selective thrift store. If you still have time to kill, and it’s past 4 p.m., head to The Hideaway Saloon (1607 Bardstown Road) for a cheap beer and a game of Mario Kart. — Scott Recker
NuLu & Butchertown
Ah, every city has to have an arts district, and NuLu is ours. Lucky for you,, the galleries will be open to 9 p.m. Derby Eve, Friday, May 5.
Garner Narrative (642 E. Market St.) has Caleb Weintraub’s “Fear No Paint II” — large format paintings, digital works and hybrids. Paul Paletti Gallery (713 E. Market St.) will be showing “Recent Acquisitions and Other Treasures” — some of the owner’s collection of famous photos. PYRO Gallery (909 E. Market St.) has “ENID, Generations of Women Sculptors” — works by a collective of 18 local women. Revelry Boutique Gallery (742. E. Market St.) will show Alyson Thiel’s “Fresh Cut,” celebrating the season with handmade paper flowers, fascinators and terrariums. St. John’s Art Spot (637 E. Market St.) has jewelry by MaeVon Gutekunst and landscapes by Ben Stivers. Swanson Contemporary (638 E. Market St.) is showing “Americans” by Ross Gordon — large-format photographs of Muslims in U.S. Zephyr Gallery (610 E. Market St.) has “Project 17: Ritual Geography,” curated by Eileen Yanoviak, featuring Mary Carothers, Sarah McCart-Jackson, Adrienne Miller and Joyce Ogden.
And when you are done with art, or need a break, there are several restaurants on Market Street. They all are great, so do some menu browsing at Decca (812 E. Market St.), Harvest (624 E. Market St.), Garage Bar (700 E. Market St.,) Rye (900 E. Market St.) and Wiltshire On Market (636 E. Market St.).
Personally, I lean toward the excellent barbecue and signature bourbon slushies at Feast BBQ (909 E. Market St.). If you want just a drink in between art, the Louisville Beer Store (746 E. Market St.) has hundreds of beers and many on tap, or hit the Akasha Brewing Company (909 E. Market St.). And for wine and bourbon by the glass: Taste Fine Wines and Bourbons (634 E. Market St.).
When you are done with that, one of the oldest sections of the city, Butchertown, is a nice place to while away a few hours. Alas, the only butcher there is the JBS Swift & Co., which accounts for the occasional, but overwhelming smell.
Don’t let that scare you, though. Copper & Kings American Brandy distillery (1121 E. Washington St.) is also there, and it will be giving tours during Derby. Buy a bottle and try a meat pie while you are there.
Then, off to Hi-Five Doughnuts (1011 E. Main St.), which bills itself as “Louisville’s first female owned and operated doughnut food truck and storefront.” Oh, and really, really good gut bombs. After that, roll over to The Butchertown Market (1201 Story Ave.) for shopping at a range of stores, including Work the Metal, treats you simply cannot resist eating before you bring them home at Cellar Door Chocolates and tasty, ingenious uses for bourbon barrel flavors at Bourbon Barrel Foods. Finally, dinner at Pho Ba Luu (1019 E. Main St.), an upstart Vietnamese restaurant that is becoming a centrally-located place for pho.
That should be enough. —Keith Stone
Old Louisville, the neighborhood that sits between Churchill Downs and the downtown hotel you’re probably staying in, contains one of the largest collections of Victorian houses in the U.S., making it a walkable stretch. While it’s not as business heavy as say, The Highlands, Old Louisville is filled with places to drink, eat and explore. Here’re your best options:
If you’re looking to drink, Magnolia Bar (1398 S. Second St.) is a comfortable dive bar with cheap drinks and a pretty good selection, or you can head to Old Louisville Brewery (625 W. Magnolia Ave.), one of the newer breweries in town, that has a solid and growing selection, plus a patio.
If you’re hungry, and have ever thought, “I could set a $100 bill on fire, and it wouldn’t really matter that much,” go to 610 Magnolia (610 W. Magnolia Ave.), which I’m told has some of the best food in town, but I chose to go to journalism school, so I don’t have an opinion to back that up. The Seafood Lady (103 W. Oak St.) slings cajun-style seafood and it’s something that you shouldn’t miss when you’re in town.
When you’ve loaded up on food and booze, walk it off by exploring Central Park (1340 S. Fourth St.), ending with heading to St. James Court, a scenic street off of the Magnolia Street side of the park. If you’re left with more time than 15 minutes to stroll through a park, head to the Speed Art Museum (2035 S. Third St.) located on the campus of the UofL.
It is easy to lose yourself in the South Louisville, one of the oldest, most-diverse sections of Louisville. Churchill Downs is the first thing people think of when they mention the area, but even if gambling isn’t your thing, it’s worth a visit for the Kentucky Derby Museum (704 Central Ave.). It celebrates the tradition, history, hospitality and pride of the Derby. And it’s across the street from Wagner’s Pharmacy (3113 S. Fourth St.). There is an actually pharmacy in the back, but Wagner’s is also an iconic meeting spot for track workers that has served hearty breakfasts and lunches since 1922. The place is full of racing memorabilia.
If racing is not your thing, there is the Little Loomhouse (328 Kenwood Hill Road). The Loomhouse is on the National Register of Historic Places for its three cabins constructed between 1870 and 1896. Since the 1930s, the Loomhouse has offered weaving, spinning, and dyeing classes and exhibitions. It has the biggest repository of original and classic textile patterns in the United States. The Loomhouse also happens to be the place where Mildred and Patty Hill were living when they wrote the song that would become “Happy Birthday to You.”
Nature lovers might want to spend a few hours hiking at Jefferson Memorial Forest (11311 Mitchell Hill Road) off New Cut Road. At 6,500 acres, Jefferson Memorial is the largest, municipal, urban forest in the nation.
Another popular South Louisville attraction is riverside, the Farnsley-Moreman Landing (7410 Moorman Road). The Farnsley-Moreman House is the centerpiece of a 300-acre historic site. Riverside preserves and interprets farm life on the Ohio River in the 19th century. It is also close to Mike Linnig’s Restaurant (9308 Cane Run Road). Since 1925, Mike Linnig’s serves some of the best seafood in town right on the Ohio River. —Michael L. Jones
It’s that part of town where you can throw darts, catch live music, sports on TV and find pizza by the slice, an intimate dinner and a lot in between. And while I’m not the best resource for boutique fashion shops… it’s got that too.
Assuming you are trying to get a nice start to your Oaks/Derby day, dressed in the fun-formal Derby attire, try running over to Equus Jack’s Lounge (122 Sears Ave.). It’s casual, cool but also can offer a good food and an array of cocktails to get you track-ready.
The other strategy would be to head out Shelbyville Road to Oriental House (4302 Shelbyville Road). The kitschy exterior belies that this is the real deal for Chinese food. It also would provide amazing leftovers that you’ll be grateful to find when you get home in the wee-hours of the morning.
Now, If you’re running behind, don’t make the mistake of forgetting to eat before diving into the Mint Juleps. Hit Plehn’s Bakery (3940 Shelbyville Road), one of the institutional bakeries in Louisville.
After brunch, head down Lexington Road to a row of shops in a place locals fondly remember as the Vogue Theatre (3727 Lexington Road). It’s a way to get a nice little post-brunch walk in, while shops like Clodhoppers, Dandelion and From the Vault could help with any last minute Derby outfits and custom jewelry, or just offer unique eclectic shopping
If you’re looking for a longer walk — trying to hit that step goal to feel better about yourself before all the bourbon — Seneca Park (3151 Pee Wee Reese Road) is where Louisville goes for outdoor activities.
On the other hand — if you’re not looking for anything healthy, and want to chomp on a favorite Derby accessory, for some — head over to Oxmoor Mall to the Oxmoor Smoke Shoppe (7900 Shelbyville Road).
Be sure to take note of the several bars on your way. Head back to Saints (131 Breckenridge Lane) to grab drinks outdoors — always a good, seasonal craft beer selection — on the back patio. Take note of Gerstle’s Place (3801 Frankfort Ave.), which will be rocking live music later that night. —Aaron Yarmuth
West Louisville has a number of options for people with a few hours to kill. The area’s newest attraction is the Muhammad Ali Childhood Home Museum (3302 Grand Ave.). The family of the greatest boxer of all time lived in the home from 1947 until 1961. The home has been restored to the exact condition it was in at the time when Ali (then Cassius Clay Jr.) lived there. It features documentaries and recorded interviews. Cultural lovers can also visit the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage (1701 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd.). The center features an archive and rotating exhibitions focused on the history of African-Americans in Louisville. There is also the Portland Museum (2308 Portland Ave.) and Tim Faulkner Gallery (1512 Portland Ave.). The Portland Museum is located in Beech Grove, an 1852 Italianate residence with vintage gardens. The institution celebrates Louisville’s river heritage through vivid dioramas, special exhibits, and seminars. Faulkner Gallery features art exhibitions, live music and McQuixote Books & Coffee. Better Days Records West, in Lyles Mall (671 S. 28th St.), offers a range, from the latest major label releases to the hottest local mixtapes. After shopping you can head down to Big Momma’s Soul Kitchen (4532 W. Broadway) near Shawnee Park. The smothered pork chops with yams and mac and cheese is to die for. But Big Momma’s is getting a little competition from the newly opened Irma Dee’s Restaurant (1213 S. 28th St.) which opened in February. It is one of the few sit-down restaurants in The West End. The new restaurant was started by the children of Irma Turner who operated several restaurants in West Louisville from 1960 to the early 2000s. —Michael L. Jones
If you are fortunate enough — meaning, you have a fortune — then you may be staying at the 21c Museum Hotel Louisville (700 W. Main St.), which puts you on Museum Row. Start your two hours at the 21c, which features world-class art guaranteed to make you think. Make sure to get a cocktail to go at the hotel’s bar, Proof, for your tour of the museum there.
Step outside on to Main Street, and you have several museums and attractions to choose from, each of which could take two hours: The Frazier History Museum (829 W. Main St.), KMAC (715 W. Main St.), Slugger Museum & Factory (800 W. Main St.), Kentucky Science Center (727 W. Main St.) and Evan Williams Bourbon Experience (528 W. Main St.).
But I recommend the Muhammad Ali Center (144 N. Sixth St.), off Main Street. Learn about The Greatest through interactive exhibits, historical video and photographs and artifacts.
Keep an eye on the time, though, because two hours will slip by fast, and you will miss a favorite meal: Mussel & Burger Bar (113 S. Seventh St.). Burger and mussels! Genius! I go for the mussels with white wine, shallots, garlic and parsley. And then a burger — the Southern Bell: fried green tomatoes, rémoulade sauce, pimento cheese; and sweet potato fries with smoked pineapple dipping sauce.
Now, back to your hotel to sleep it off, you knuckleheads. —Keith Stone