LEO’s Choice: Our staff’s picks for the best of 2017

You’ve seen LEO Weekly’s Readers’ Choices here, but below are our staff’s choices:

Best Alley

Near Bonnycastle Terrace between Bonnycastle and Alta avenues
If you’re like me, you never really grew up. That manifests itself in a lot of different ways, least of which is always wanting to explore and get off the beaten path. Maybe you’ll find a cave with lost treasure; hell you never know. Fortunately, I live in The Highlands where there are no shortage of alleys, marked or otherwise, often loaded with weird treasures and sweet nooks and crannies to explore. One such alley, located just across from Bonnycastle Terrace at the end of Bonnycastle, features cobblestone hikes, and all sorts of twists and turns. There are mysterious cottage houses that make you wonder who lives there and what it is that they do for fun? Shaded, it’s a great place to lose an afternoons saunter with the kiddos, quietly toddling along and pointing out the weird knickknacks, animals and colorful graffiti that we stroll past. Taking a walk there this last weekend after a household bout of some kind of heinous plague, soaking in the mildness of these leisurely hours with the kids asking questions or napping quietly, only enhances the tranquility in a sea of noise and clutter. —Syd Bishop

Best grilled cheese and tomato bisque

The Main Eatery
643 W. Main St., 589-3354
Cheese. Goat, beer, pimento — I’ve tried them all. But you had me at Stilton and farmhouse Cheddar.  With my cheese fetish, it’s no surprise I’ve fallen for the panini grilled cheese sandwich at The Main Eatery. It’s gooey perfection, made with Wisconsin cheese on mild sourdough bread that’s softly toasted, which allows the cheese to ooze out ever so slowly. The Main Eatery owners David Henning and Floyd Huebner opened the lunch spot in 2000. “Our whole shtick is fresh, fresh, fresh,” said Henning. “Every blue plate [special] is a family tradition we’ve made our own. The way we cook takes a lot of time; it isn’t magic, just patience.” And speaking of the blue plate specials, Friday’s is the grilled cheese with a choice of chips or soup. The soup of the day is tomato bisque (Henning’s grandmother’s recipe), described as “fresh tomatoes, simmered forever with dairy cream, our secret seasonings and finished with diced tomatoes.” Be sure to dip your sandwich in the bisque for another sublime gastronomical moment. Our office flocks to The Main Eatery on Fridays. Just sayin’. —Jo Anne Triplett

Best place for a public cry

Corner Restaurant & Bar at Aloft Louisville Downtown
We joked about 2016 being a dumpster fire because a bunch of celebrities died. Folks, that was just the trial run. 2017 is viscerally horrifying. Storms wiping entire nations off the map. Calling our dipshit senators asking them not to kill us every few weeks. Our governor fighting the opioid epidemic by painting rocks. The fate of the entire world hinging on the wisdom of, uh, Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump. Shit is very dicey out there in 2017, and emotionally overwhelming. Sometimes you just gotta cry. Now, crying at home is great. I like a good bawl in the shower, sometimes with my clothes on. But I also enjoy a change of scenery. Despair still appreciates variety, and there are few places sadder than a hotel bar (maybe the DMV, though I’ve gotten better service there than at a number of bars, if we’re being honest). As far as a public weeping, there are some strategic advantages to paying a visit to the Corner Bar downtown on the first floor of Aloft. First, it’s very clean. God bless the Mag Bar, but sometimes wallowing in actual scuzz and filth while lamenting the spiritual scuzz and filth of 2017 can feel a little too demoralizing. I may have hit a rock bottom, and I may have seen the abyss stare back at me, but I can still enjoy strong aesthetic and architecturally clean lines. Secondly, totally inoffensive food. You don’t want to waste a truly great meal with splashes of saline, but the desolation of a Rally’s parking lot is simply crushing. Corner cuts the difference. Third, it’s a hotel bar, so it’s unlikely you’ll know anyone. Hurrah! But also, and the final point, if someone does ask about your public breakdown, you can either come clean and possibly share a tender moment with a stranger, or you can lie and say you were really moved by the Don Henley concert, or whatever was across the street at the Yum Center. Given the unfortunate news about our Cardy Birds this week, I might catch a few of you all down at the Corner. You can borrow my hanky.  —Michael C. Powell

Best place for a public cry

Best thing that gives you hope for the future

Girls Rock Louisville
Every day, the doomsday clock ticks a little closer to oblivion, certainly made worse by the gaggle of brittle-ego boobs running the show in The Big House, but that doesn’t mean the world is all dark and heinous. Yeah, you’ve got that Dorito-skinned idiot starting Twitter beefs with nuclear powers and his VP who looks like he’s about to outlaw the “X-Men” at any moment, but you’ve also got such things as Girls Rock Louisville, which is a bright spot in the darkness. A community effort for girls, women, trans-folk and the non-gender conforming, GRL is a training camp to make 55 percent or more of the Earth’s population that aren’t just cis-dudes awesome stewards of the future. As a musician with a few decades under my belt, I’ve encountered plenty of ladies and non-gender conforming folk who were into the scene, but for whatever reason were not active participants. For me, as I raise my own daughter, GRL represents an opportunity to reverse that trend and give her the tools necessary to kick out the fucking jams, if that’s the path she chooses to rock. Not only do the teachers, mostly scene luminaries including Carrie Neumayer, Salena Filichia and Tari O’Bannon (to name but a few), know their way around an amp, but they make you feel welcome. And damn, they put on a good show — this year with the amazing Shannon Wright kicking things off to show not only the girls in the crowd how to rock, but everyone else, too. —Syd Bishop

Best place to buy halal meat

The International Halal Supermarket
5057 Poplar Level Road: 10 a.m.-7 p.m., every day
The influx of immigrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa has led to a large Muslim population in the city of Louisville. Islam comes with some strict dietary restrictions that are set out in the Koran. Food prepared by Islamic law is called halal, Arabic for permissible. Animals must be alive and healthy at the time of slaughter, and all blood is drained from the carcass. They are killed through a cut to the jugular vein, carotid artery and windpipe. A Muslim will recite a dedication during the process. Living near Beechmont, with its large foreign-born population, I frequent a lot of Middle-Eastern and African restaurants that use halal meat. There are also a number of halal stores in the neighborhood. But when I asked a Muslim friend for the best place to get goat meat, he sent me to the International Halal Supermarket. Owner Aysar Hanbali offers fresh goat, chicken, lamb and beef. He gets deliveries from slaughterhouses in Indiana and Detroit twice a week. The store also carries frozen, halal dinners. In addition, Hanbali’s store also stocks drinks and food items from all over the world. When I visited the store, which has been around since 2009, Hanbali even threw in a Lebanese soft drink for me to try. —Michael L. Jones

Photo by Kathryn Harrington

Best place to get happy

Big Four Bridge
When I am looking for motivation or inspiration, often I need some James Brown. “Take it to the bridge! Huh!” So I do that… I take it to the Big Four Bridge, unarguably the happiest, free-for-now place in Louisville. Where else in the city can you get out high above the Ohio River, take in the sweeping vistas of Louisville and Southern Indiana and mingle with people outside of your usual, workaday, coffee shop, cubicle, Kroger, club routine? Once you get to the middle of the bridge, with the sun glinting off your Ray-Bans, the cooling wind and John Sousa marching music — how can you not smile? Watch coal-filled barges, flotsam and jetsam shark through the chocolaty water… eavesdrop on families chatting and taking photos… As the Big Four Sign of Rules notes, “Kids — Fun!” and “Dates — Romance!” are “allowed.” (Doges are banned, but this writer won’t miss the puddles and poo.) Sure, bad things have happened on the bridge, but think of walking it as you might flying — the odds are way in your favor you will arrive safely. And speaking of destinations, Jeffersonville has become one. It has stepped into the batting box with great, new restaurants and things to do for when you get there. Think about walking to dinner and back on a summer evening. We hope Louisville works on that part of the equation. The spiral approach from the Louisville side provides great anticipation and fanfare: As you promenade around to the top, you catch glimpses of the iron skeleton, and finally you summit and enter the tunnel in the sky. The bridge is open 24 hours, so experience changes with time. Ultimately, a walk on the Big Four offers a different perspective on where we live, with whom we live and how we live. Go now — before those idjits begin charging for parking. —Keith Stone

Best Time to Shop at Clifton Kroger

Sunday mornings
I have very little patience with certain drivers on the roadways. You know who I’m talking about: People who drive 10 mph under the speed limit, refuse to use their turn signals (the knob is right by your hand!), sit at green lights too long while they stare into the abyss of nothingness they find in their phone, or refuse to drive anywhere without constantly being in a conversation on said phone, assuring they’re not paying attention to their driving. I’m similarly impatient in a grocery store, because I walk in knowing exactly what I want, usually uber-prepared to grab it, fill up my cart and get out. I shop at Clifton Kroger on lower Brownsboro Road, and if you go there any weekday in late afternoon, it’s packed with people who stop to look at, say, some orange juice and position their cart so that it’s completely blocking the aisle. Or people who block an entire end cap of on-sale Cheerios and force me to reach over their shoulder to grab a box, and then throw me the stink-eye for being so rude. Or people who pick up every last steak in the beef section, trying to figure out which one has the least amount of fat on it. (Just pick one! It’s probably the same damn cow!) So I do my shopping on Sunday mornings, when everyone else is either hung over or at church. Or at The Silver Dollar, being cooler than me. On Sunday morning, Kroger is typically peaceful, devoid of most shoppers, and convenient enough that I can make my mad dash in plenty of time to get home and catch the NFL pre-game show.—Kevin Gibson

Best place to get into a fight

Derby City MMA
As someone with zero experience in mixed martial arts, I was both excited and nervous to enter a gym where people train to punch, kick and choke out opponents with vicious efficiency. My first class there was boxing, and my head was filled with clichés about what to expect. But what I found was coach Charlie Harp, a man covered in tattoos and sporting a pink-dyed beard (in support of “Pinky,” an amateur fighter there with an upcoming bout). More important, he has a number of Muay Thai and boxing bouts under his belt. Charlie is but one of the many coaches at Derby City MMA who embody this paradox: Everyone is learning how to inflict damage with their bodies, and, at the same time, everyone is incredibly friendly, nonjudgmental and always happy to help you learn. It’s a hard vibe to explain, but it’s one informed by the disciplines taught there and the character of the coaching staff. You can get a glimpse of it on the YouTube channel Chewjitsu, where head Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA coach, Nick “Chewy” Albin, makes videos on “how to improve your training and lifestyle on and off the mat.” Or, you could do what I did — try out a free class. To get the ball rolling all you have to do is send the gym a message on Facebook. Since my first boxing class, I have mixed in a few kickboxing and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes, because once you join, you can take as many classes, in as many disciplines, as you want at no extra cost. So whether you want to train for a fight, learn how to defend yourself or just need some variety in your workout routine, all are welcome at Derby City MMA. Just be ready to push yourself. Better a tough day in the gym than a tough day in the ring. —Ethan Smith

Best ways to protest Sen. Mitch McConnell

Gene Snyder Federal Courthouse, 601 W. Broadway
Who makes us most embarrassed to be from Louisville: Rick Pitino or Mitch McConnell? Rick is on his way out, but Mitch just won’t go away, so this is an easy call. Even without carrying Louisville or even his own Highlands neighborhood, Mitch rode the 2014 midterm elections to his lifelong dream, as told in his long bio, The Long Game, of becoming Senate Majority Leader. President Trump doesn’t seem to like Mitch much, having suggested in a recent Tweetstorm that the senator can’t get things done. Nevertheless, we’re worried that Mitch can still do a lot of damage before his term ends in 2020. Is there any way we can protest this mumbling windbag and actually be heard? It would probably help to be one of his major funders, but that won’t work for most of us. So here’s the best practical way: Go down to his Louisville office and tell his staff what you think. You might get involved with IndivisibleKY (facebook.com/indivisibleky), a local link in a national chain that aims to capture back Congress and the White House. Indivisible often holds demonstrations out front of the Gene Snyder Federal Building to carry signs, chant and yell, and also organizes similar protests when Mitch, Trump or Mike Pence appear around the area. That’s fun, but he probably can’t hear us. So, while you’re there, or any other time, go down to the senator’s office — entry is limited to two at a time — and politely express your opinion on a hot topic. You might not change his mind, unless you’re a Koch brother, but your thoughts will be assembled and sent his way. This may not be much, but it beats ranting on his Facebook page. That’s fun too, though. —Robin Garr

Best piece of shit

Kentucky Science Center
On a recent jaunt down to The Kentucky Science Center, where kids and adults can learn about and participate in science ranging from physics to biology, the physics of my biology struck, and I needed to use the little scientist’s room. Then, I found a delightful piece of “only in Louisville” awesome. Inset next to the sink in one of the downstairs restrooms, just high enough to hit your line of sight when sitting, you are treated to a location-appropriate specimen from the Center’s Natural History Collection. Labeled “coprolites-fossilized dinosaur droppings,” the display was installed as part of the KidZone remodel in 1998 and remains in the area now known as Science in Play. It features what appears to be a rock nestled in that stringy moss (like you’d find in a fake flower arrangement) with a tiny 2D dinosaur running in the background. It’s poop. It’s Dinosaur Poop. There is no part of me that is not thrilled that this exists, and the process of researching and pitching this idea has allowed me to squeeze out a load of poop puns. But I’ll refrain from dumping them on you. From a scientific perspective “coprolites,” or fossilized feces, are valuable clues to history that may reflect the shape of the internal surface of the intestines (notably the spiral valve of sharks) and the diet of the animal that produced them. “Although it outdates any current Science Center employee, the intention behind its presence is clear and consistent with the Science Center’s values,” said Senior Manager of External Affairs Gil Reyes. “It’s playful and makes a ‘real world’ connection for kids to science/natural history.” It’s also a reminder that anyone who thinks they are too old or too cool for the thrill of science should remember that learning about the world is a shit ton of fun. —Eli Keel

“coprolites-fossilized dinosaur droppings” at the Kentucky Science Center


Best spot for tea, witchcraft and plotting the downfall of the patriarchy

Wild Dog Rose
Now, my faithful readers (Hi Mom!) know I’m ‘bout ‘dat bean, and my drink of choice is coffee, even though certain shops stopped carrying the LEO because they are offended by our content. But when I’m looking for a more enlightened brew, or even just in the mood for something a little lighter,  or I wanna talk feminism or horoscopes, I like to stop by this little tea shop on Bardstown Road. Co-owners Margaret Hamilton and Emily Gibson opened up Wild Dog Rose last summer. The duo offer a huge array of teas, and are incredibly knowledgeable about their wares. Frequently, I find the process of picking my tea almost as enjoyable as drinking my tea. Sniffing each leaf, considering the aroma of un-brewed tisanes, and often thinking about how different flavors might taste with a pastry is always a really lovely part of the experience. Then, after I pick my beverage, while it steeps I roam around the shop and check out their other goods. It’s a great place to pick up tea supplies if you need them, but I thinks it’s even more fun to plot the downfall of global misogyny, and since Wild Dog Rose doubles as a feminist bookstore, I can bone up on an ever-changing and well-curated selection of feminist books. These tomes run the gamut. I picked up my copy of the kids’ book “Rad Feminist Women A-Z,” there, but if I need something more adult, they can generally hook you up with a feminist guide to sex, too. If you’re mystically inclined, there is an excellent array of crystals and books on magic. While I don’t necessarily believe in that stuff, it never hurts to pick up a little something to enhance your chi, or ward off the evil eye. Kinda like Pascal’s wager, but with witchcraft. Anyhoo. Go check it out. My favorite drink is the blueberry tisane. And hey, if you don’t know the difference between a tea and a tisane, they can help you out with that too. — Eli Keel

Best social media to follow

It should be noted that I despise Twitter. Even before the Russian troll farms and the bots… It just seems like a big piece of dangerous machinery that we’ll all use as a toy — more specifically a Rubik’s cube, something colorful and fun by outward appearance, but which most people have no clue how to use. The two prime examples of that being President Trump and mini-T, Gov. Matt Bevin, who each use it exclusively as a vanity-propaganda weapon. That being said, there are a few individuals who can be wildly entertaining, and incredibly effective in delivering important messages 140 characters at a time. Of course, I’m biased… @LEOWeekly is great, and so is @RepJohnYarmuth. @CardChronicle is the best place to get the latest UofL news and insights. I’m a fan of any fake Bevin accounts, because… well… shared distaste for that narcissistic megalomaniac. State Rep. Attica Scott, D-Louisville, is a powerful voice and advocate for social justice. Yet, my No. 1, favorite local Twitter follow is has to be The Courier-Journal political cartoonist Marc Murphy. Simply put, Marc is out of fu — patience to give… plus he provides art. Sure, his artistic talents and use of political cartoonery sets him apart from other commentators. But it’s Marc’s legal education and career as an attorney that gives him an intellectual advantage over others — most notably, Trump and Bevin, both of whom like to pretend they know the law, but are really just con men. It’s also funny when people attack Marc for being unpatriotic. For instance, when Marc, rightfully pointed out that soldiers, veterans fought for Americans’ right to protest the flag and national anthem. One person’s foolish challenge: “Spend a lot of time in military, Marc?” In fact, Marc replied, “Yeah. Four years. As did my father in WW II. And my son the Ranger. Your point?” Just know you’re probably going to be outmanned when you get into a Twitter fight with this guy. That goes for you, too, Bevin. —Aaron Yarmuth

Best underground restaurant

M&M Bar-B-Q
1401 Bluegrass Ave.: 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m., Tuesday-Friday
M&M Bar-B-Q is located in the basement of Ekklesia Christian Life Ministries, next to Hazelwood Elementary School. The name refers to the restaurant’s owners, Melanya Harris and her fiancé Marcus Reed. Harris moved to Louisville from Texas three years ago because her mother and sister were living here. She had always wanted to have a restaurant but didn’t have the funds to start one, so she started one. She and Reed started vending on the street. Six months ago their pastor, Stephan Kirby Sr., offered them the church’s cafeteria since it wasn’t being used during the week. M&M doesn’t have a banner or logo letting customers know where it is located. There are a few homemade signs around the church, but people in the know just look for Reed who is usually sitting under a canopy grilling hamburgers, chicken, pork and fall-off-the-bone ribs. Sandwiches are two for $6. Dinners are $10 and include two sides. The $15 combo consists of your choice of two meats and two sides. South Louisville residents have embraced M&M. Neighbors donated warmers, fans, an extra grill and even the tent that Reed uses. One business owner even offered Harris and Reed space in his building, but they are content in the basement for now. “I’ve even given away meals to hungry folks and even prayed with them. God put me here for a reason,” Harris said. —Michael L. Jones

Best place to buy vintage video games

Book & Music Exchange
I’ve been buying Nintendo 64 games on and off for the last two decades, but never with the frequency that I have since moving within walking distance of the Book & Music Exchange, a place that’s littered with books, records, board games and a room full of vintage video games — shelves of NES, Super Nintendo, Sega, 64, Xbox, Playstation and Wii games. I usually stop by every Sunday to see what they’ve recently purchased from people offloading old collections, and, however they make it known that they buy games, they do it well, because stock is different every week. Sometimes the selection is slim, and there’s nothing of note. Other times you stumble upon something on the harder-to-find side of things. It also makes it more fun that way, since the internet ruined the hunting aspect of collecting. Luckily, or vice versa, depending on how you look at it, there’s a heavy chance people on the internet are going to be dirtbags, dramatically overpricing a game, or sending it in questionable condition, so it’s better to search for a copy of something in person if possible. The prices at Book & Music are fair. The staff knows what they’re talking about. I’ve found “Zelda: Majora’s Mask,” “Bomberman Hero,” “Paper Mario,” “Command & Conquer” and a bunch of other favorites. If you’re into any sort of gaming from the last 30 years, you need to check this place out. And, if anyone from the store is reading this, I’ll pay you an extra $20 to hold “Worms Armageddon” or “Mario Party 3” for me the next time either comes through. —Scott Recker

Best place to get your yogi ass kicked

Yoga on Baxter: 7:15 p.m. Mondays
“Yes you can!” This exhortation from yoga instructor Abby Mudd means probably that no you can’t. Or maybe you will. But then — yes, you did! And your arms are about to fall off, while your legs shake, as you flow through another masochistic, but satisfying series of yoga moves with 30 or more other sweating, focused yogis. It has become a weekly tradition for me, a way to clear my head of all that LEO clutter and jet-boost the week ahead. Hard exercise is like taking your 1972, eight-cylinder Plymouth Duster out on the highway, stomping on the gas pedal and watching a trail of carbon-black smoke shoot out the back. Abby has built a loyal following of yogic exercise nuts by combining just the right instructions for each pose with just the right tempo of exertion vs. stretching vs. creative expression — what she calls “dafodilling.” That means, take the yoga pose to whatever insane level you want until you find the edge and fall off. It might be some stress position straight out of the CIA Interrogation Handbook, or it might be an inversion — handstand, headstand or…? Maybe you want to try the elusive Parsva Bakasana, or side crow. If you fall out and crumple on the floor, don’t worry: No one is watching. OK. Everyone is watching, but no one cares because, hey — yoga is called a “practice” for a reason. And her name isn’t Abby for nothing, so be prepared for ab work, a new torture every week. This all goes on for a sumptuous 75 minutes. Oh, did I mention that the room is at 85 degrees or more, and her playlist is even hotter? —Keith Stone