Empowered women empower women, and I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by some of the best since I was a young tyke. My friend Morgan and I have known each other since we were 7 and getting red cards on the soccer field in Goshen, Kentucky. Not much has changed, really, save maybe an evolved fashion sense and slightly more booze. So when Morgan came home for a visit this week from her current home in South Africa (she’s an Adventure Program Coordinator at an environmental reserve — I know, she’s cool AF), I had to show her a good time. Morgan lives in the Drakensberg Mountains in the middle of South Africa, about 40 minutes away from the nearest town, 2.5 hours from larger Durban and 20 hours from Cape Town. So, she’s not often able to hit the trendy, new spot for happy hour, or get dolled up and see a drag show or some live music. Get dolled up we did, and I decided to roll the dice on not one, but two new spots in Louisville for our night to paint the town.
Bar Vetti is the new Italian spot from local restaurateur Ryan Rogers, in the recently overhauled 800 Tower City Club Apartments, and, although I hadn’t been there before, I decided to take a chance. Fresh pasta and wine, what could go wrong? Turns out, my intuition was right — my friends and I feasted on carbs, wine on tap, house Old Fashioneds and more. Morgan and I shared a carafe of sangiovese and perused the thoughtfully-curated libation list, which delightfully includes apertifs, a menu of varying spritzes and nightcaps. The nightcap list, which consists of a myriad of amaros and digestifs, includes quirky, yet accurate descriptive notes such as “toothpaste” and “Dr. Pepper.” We enjoyed Fernet Branca (of course) and Cardamaro, a wine-based amaro unlike the others. I’m highly anticipating my journey through this list of bitterness, fruits, herbs and spices. Aesthetically, Bar Vetti is a far cry from many other restaurants in Louisville, with slabs of white and grey marble covering its walls, a looming, pink neon sign boasting her namesake and modern furnishings. Finally, someone in Derby City decided to venture away from rustic farmhouse décor covered in string lights.
After Bar Vetti, we meandered down to South Seventh Street and back in time, into Jimmy Can’t Dance, the new jazz club from Dennie Humphrey (former owner of Highlands staple The Monkey Wrench) and Brian Goodwin. To get to Jimmy Can’t Dance, one must enter through Another Place Sandwich Shop, where the lights are on, yet the chairs are up, so we quickly realized the shop is closed, and the club is down below, as the faint sounds of a saxophone permeated from a staircase at the back corner of the shop. We began down the stairs and soon realized we were in the right place, and while the “speakeasy” concept is a bit played out (but perhaps not yet properly executed here in Louisville), the feel of exclusivity and secrecy upon entry at Jimmy Can’t Dance is something to behold.
Lit only by ambient candlelight and antique lamps beyond the stage draped in decadent curtains, the new club is soaked in New Orleans charm, right down to the alligator skull sitting atop the bar. Speaking of the bar, we were greeted by barkeep Katie, while reading the well-curated, jazz age-inspired cocktail list, and ordered a few various delights, including a delicious rum punch and a house Old Fashioned — both well executed and served in beautiful, antique glassware. While the live music ended just as we were arriving, that certainly didn’t stop us from enjoying some tunes, and we joked with Humphrey that this stage would be perfect for some karaoke. “Maybe karaoke with a live band at some point!” he replied, suggesting that Jimmy Can’t Dance isn’t exactly a karaoke bar, but more so a place for folks to showcase their musical talent. Morgan had an unyielding desire to perform “Gin & Juice” that evening, and, after all, she had traveled trans-continentally, so Humphrey sweetly obliged and queued up that song for her to have her shining moment. And it was glorious. Turns out, rolling the dice on both Bar Vetti and Jimmy Can’t Dance made for a stellar evening, topped off with some “Gin & Juice” — you really can’t beat that.