We know your attention span is limited this time of year to about two minutes long… So here is a quick list of what all y’all need to know to make your visit to Louisville, the River City… Derby City… the most fun and memorable… before and after the Big Event on Saturday.
YOU’VE ARRIVED THE DAY BEFORE DERBY. WHAT’S THERE TO DO?
Get out of downtown. On Saturday, you’re going to eat breakfast downtown, you’ll probably get a rushed drink before heading to the track downtown, and you’ll find your way back downtown after Derby, so use Friday night to explore a little bit. Bar hop on Bardstown Road. Go to Germantown, and hit The Nachbar. Go see the Old 97s at Headliners Music Hall. Read LEO’s Staff Picks in this issue. Saturday is going to be a lot of go-go-go and crowd following, so see a different side of Louisville the night before.
969 Charles St.
Search Facebook for Nachbar Charles
Headliners Music Hall
1386 Lexington Road
You should probably study The Daily Racing Form. But if you’re not up for that, you’ll need a laugh before losing your bankroll at the Derby. Check out a comedy show. Tim Northern is the headliner at The Caravan Comedy Club. After that, have a beer and a burger at The Back Door on the other side of the Mid-City Mall for a true Louisville neighborhood bar experience. It is known for its wings, stiff drinks and colorful characters, among them Rusty The Beef Jerky Guy.
[Ed. note: Creig Ewing sometimes shows up The Caravan to make people laugh, sort of.]
The Caravan Comedy Club
1250 Bardstown Road
The Back Door
1250 Bardstown Road
Rusty The Beef Jerky Guy
At A Bar Near You
Your best bet is to head to The Butchertown Social. Dranks by beverage director Brih and bites by the Butcher Babe aka Chef Loreal Gavin. And knowing the owner, Isaiah, he’ll have a skilled DJ on deck or something equally amusing happening in the front room. And no cover ‘cause we know you’re here to blow your budget at the track.
The Butchertown Social
1601 Story Ave.
Any townie will tell you that the best thing to do if you’re in Louisville for Derby is to avoid high traffic areas like the South Louisville neighborhood (near Churchill Downs) or The Highlands. We love our lack of traffic and easy parking situations, and figure the rest of y’all do, too. But we have a big and awesome city full of righteous things to do. One of the coolest things is right under your feet in the Louisville Mega Cavern. Under the Louisville Zoo, the Mega Cavern has zip lining, which is awesome, and a tour that shows off the multiple uses, from storage to a secure bunker in case of nuclear fallout.
Louisville Mega Cavern
1841 Taylor Ave.
1100 Trevilian Way
WHERE LOCALS EAT AND WHAT THEY ORDER
Seviche — A Latin Restaurant is stylish and cool, featuring amazing pan-Latino dishes from top chef Anthony Lamas. It is one of the city’s top restaurants all year around. Of course it’s a top apres-Derby destination. Be sure to get one of the signature seviches, knowing that all the fish and seafood is sustainable and wild-caught.
Seviche — A Latin Restaurant
1538 Bardstown Road
It doesn’t get much more Louisville than Jack Fry’s, a Highlands staple that was established in 1933. Chill out to some live jazz while you chow down on local staples like the scrumptious shrimp and grits or the legendary spicy fried oysters. Eat up.
1007 Bardstown Road
The Post has made itself a Louisville institution in just a few years, as on any given night Germantown residents (and more) can be found clamoring for a bar stool. Most of us never miss the “pizza of the month,” which can range from the unique delights of mac and cheese to chicken and waffles on their signature pie.
1045 Goss Ave.
Momentum is growing for vegetarian and vegan options in Louisville, and I don’t mean an iceberg salad and side of beans. I am an inveterate carnivore, but trust me — the Heart & Soy and Roots restaurants (they are side by side) offer the tastiest, flavor-layered dishes that do not require meat. Roots is the sit-down side, and H&S is sit down or take out. The food often, but not necessarily, is centered on tofu (which is made on premises). This is not your crunchy, hippy uncle’s tofu, by golly. Try the BBQ tofu and rice, but stay for the Korean Rice Bowl with Fried Egg or the Yellow Curry Soup. If you want something a bit more calorific, get yourself to Morels Cafe, “vegan food that does not suck.” Witness The Farby™ Meal (a faux Arby’s sandwich) and the Chick-Faux-Le. For breakfast or lunch, stop by Flora Kitchenette (Avocado Toast!).
Heart & Soy / Roots
1216 Bardstown Road
619 Baxter Ave.
1004 Barret Ave.
BEST PLACE TO EAT THE MORNING BEFORE DERBY
Some folks will tell you that you have to go to Wagner’s Pharmacy. No, you don’t. It’s a Denny’s that sells aspirin. Can you imagine it? Great, it’s like you’ve been there. Instead, drop by El Molcajete, just a few blocks from the track, for some of the best authentic tacos and gorditas in town, plus beer that’s half the price of anything at Churchill Downs. Another great option? If you’ve got cash, you can get home cooked barbecue in Any Number Of Front Yards in the surrounding neighborhood, where folks make up for losing their parking spots by hustling some delicious food and drink.
—Michael C. Powell
3113 S. Fourth St.
2932 S. Fourth St.
Any Number Of Front Yards
from Taylor Boulevard to South Third Street
Enjoy a taste of Louisville’s Vietnamese community with a visit to Annie’s Café Vietnamese and Vegetarian for lunch before the Derby. Daily Double pick: Beef pho and coconut chicken clay pot. Annie’s is about two miles south of the race track in Beechmont. Drive north toward the track on Southern Parkway, watching for neighbors hawking parking spaces as you go.
Annie’s Café Vietnamese and Vegetarian
308 W. Woodlawn Ave.
Before you head to the track, you’ll want to fill your belly with something to help soak up the mint juleps, and the place to do that is Wild Eggs. It has four locations that offer hearty stuff such as eggs (duh), pancakes, biscuits and more to get you through the long day. Maybe choose the downtown restaurant for proximity to the track.
Wild Eggs, downtown
121 S. Floyd St.
Make no doubt that pretty much the entire area is a mess with tourists during the Derby, which is equal parts frustrating and awesome, and always weird. If you’re in the mood for something truly spectacular, Coconut Beach Tacos & Cerveza is a quiet alternative to all the Derby madness. Just across the street from Papa John’s stadium, the Carnitas Burritos con Mojado with a 22-ounce Dos Equis Amber to wash it down is one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever eat.
Coconut Beach Tacos & Cerveza
2787 S. Floyd St.
WHERE TO GET THE MOST UNUSUAL DRINK
You’re probably thinking I’m going to describe some sort of swanky cocktail bar that barrel ages brandy inside a smoked shoyu egg. While I guarantee some talented mixologist of our community is dreaming this up as I write, the most unusual drink, for me, is the $2.50 wells at Air Devil’s Inn. Come for the gritty history and banter, stay for the $10 bar tab.
Air Devil’s Inn
2802 Taylorsville Road
The Blue Majik from LueBerry Acai in NuLu is tasty and unexpected. Somehow our boy Lue has made blue-green algae and cilantro — with the help of your fave fruits and almond milk — taste like bliss. I guess it really is magic. This summer, he plans on doing late night hours, so you can cop one on your drunken stroll home from Galaxie.
808 E. Market St.
732 E. Market St.
Just east of downtown, the Red Herring Cocktail Lounge & Kitchen has great atmosphere, traditional drinks and more out-there house concoctions. For a twist on the traditional mint julep, try the Maker’s Julep with Maker’s Mark bacon washed bourbon and mint. Or try the Strawberry Pickle-Back: A shot of Fernet Branca served with a pickled strawberry and strawberry pickle juice. On Sunday you may want to drink your way through brunch.
Red Herring Cocktail Lounge & Kitchen
1757 Frankfort Ave.
WHAT IN LOUISVILLE TO SEE SO YOU CAN TELL YOUR FRIENDS YOU SAW IT
For many years, the old Big Four railroad bridge stood abandoned and stupid, both ends removed, rusting and useless over the Ohio. Now, it’s one of the city’s favorite walking and biking spots, approachable via easy ramps in Louisville and Jeffersonville, Indiana. Crossing is about a mile, so a round trip is a long walk. Take it easy and enjoy.
Big Four Bridge
1101 River Road
For a true Louisville experience to brag about, assuming you make it back home to tell anyone, visit The Waverly Hills Sanatorium. Hundreds of patients died in the first half of the 20th century at the Gothic, former tuberculosis hospital. It is considered by the paranormal crowd to be one of the most haunted places in the world. Overnight and two-hour tours are available. Maybe stick to the two-hour tour. The overnight stay is scarier than the Derby infield when it rains. Proceeds help to restore the building.
The Waverly Hills Sanatorium
4400 Paralee Drive
You’re in Louisville for the horse racing, but there’s more to experience here than just equines and bourbon. Seek ye Cave Hill Cemetery, the gorgeous, park-like, final resting place for many of Kentucky’s celebrities from Col. Harlan Sanders to Muhammad Ali. It’s a beautiful place for an afternoon stroll.
Cave Hill Cemetery
701 Baxter Ave.
WHERE TO BUY CHEAP PBR, LISTEN TO A BAND AND READ BATHROOM WALLS AFTER MIDNIGHT
I’m not sure what Fourth Street Live! looks like after the Derby, and I don’t really intend to find out, but if you’re staying downtown and you wander in, you’ll know within the first five minutes if it’s your scene or not. If you need an escape plan, go one street over to Third Street Dive, where the Jim Beam and a shitty beer for $5 special is always good. PBR is one of those beers. But, the Mickey’s malt liquor grenades will be tempting after a day at the track.
Fourth Street Live!
West Muhammad Ali Boulevard and West Liberty Street
Third Street Dive
442 S. Third St.
So you’re out late, it’s Derby time, and you’re on a budget. Mint Juleps are gross and nowhere near as easy to drink as a nice, shitty domestic beer, which can’t be beat. Kaiju is your place. Located just a little outside of The Highlands, Kaiju has cheap beer and decent beer, free video games to play, a wild as hell bathroom, and the weirdest bands on the block.
1004 E. Oak St.
Zanzabar has a killer Thurby show. Post Animal, who is now label-mates with Louisville’s own White Reaper, will play a kick-ass show with local fuzzy rock band White Woolly. Town Criers and Quality Cable fill out the bill. Cheap drinks, a staple selection of pinball and four bands for $12? How can you go wrong?
2100 S. Preston St.
WHERE TO SOAK UP A HANGOVER
I’m a bougie bish. So, the best place to stunt in my sunglasses and soothe my booze-addled tummy is River House. Chef John Varanese’s dishes are nearly upstaged by your view of the river. You can even get a bucket of beer and head down to the Adirondack chairs to bask in the sunshine and the epic memories of the night before with your besties.
3015 River Road
MozzaPi is the place to go. Good sourdough bread heals the achy head. Sourdough English muffin sandwiches go down easily. House-roasted coffee in an endless cup. Come for bread, stay for pizza. The long drive out to Anchorage with the windows open clears the brain. Still desperate? They have wine and beer.
12102 La Grange Road
I have a multifaceted system for soaking up hangovers. But since I’m short on space, I’ll leave you with my favorite restaurant for recovery. Highland Morning is the perfect hole-in-the-wall breakfast spot to commiserate with hungover friends (and piece together the previous night). I recommend the biscuits and gravy omelet.
Highland Morning, Highlands
1416 Bardstown Road
WHERE TO TAKE THE ONE SELFIE YOU’LL SHOW FROM DERBY WEEKEND
Instagram doesn’t lie: the Skystar Observational Wheel is a magical selfie backdrop. You think you’re better than us, London and Chicago? Suck it, because we’ve got a Ferris wheel, too, and the Louisville waterfront is so bomb that locals actually enjoy hanging there. Pro Tip: skip the selfie from inside the pod and get the whole wheel in all its electric glory.
Skystar Observational Wheel
Big Four Bridge
1101 River Road
In front of the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory downtown is a 120-foot bat sculpture, but that is hell on selfies. Instead, walk Main Street and pick out your favorite player from the mile-long Louisville Walk of Fame. Each sculpture includes a bronze model of the bat the player used. You can pick from Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth to Cal Ripken Jr. and softball star Dot Richardson. But leave the bat. We’ve had some trouble. This isn’t Camelot. You don’t get to be a Hall of Famer if you pull the bat from the sidewalk.
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory
800 W. Main St.
WHERE TO END UP FOR A BOURBON IF SEPARATED FROM FRIENDS AND YOUR PHONE HAS DIED
There was a night last year when my girlfriends and I went to a fancy event at Actors Theatre and had to pretend like we didn’t chug wine out of a bag the previous weekend. We ended up at The Outlook Inn, the best possible scenario when you’re too intoxicated to figure out the Uber app. They’re good people — they may even charge your phone.
The Outlook Inn
916 Baxter Ave.
Actors Theatre of Louisville
316 W. Main St.
If you’re fancy, you could go to Bourbons Bistro or Brown Hotel Lobby Bar for a vast selection of quality bourbons. But what’s the point of getting slizzard on bourbon if you can’t dance the night away afterwards!? That’s where The Pearl of Germantown shines: It has plenty of bourbon and a great music selection and the crowd is always fun.
2255 Frankfort Ave.
Brown Hotel, Lobby Bar
335 W. Broadway
The Pearl of Germantown
1151 Goss Ave.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE STUCK IN THE INFIELD AFTER THE BIG RACE
Face it. You’re drunk and either muddy or sunburned. Things aren’t looking up. So, spend some time Looking Down. People toss winning tickets away all the time, and maybe you’ll finally get lucky. This practice is called “stooping.” No one is proud to do it, but if you’re stuck in the infield after the Derby, you’ve already thrown away your pride. You might just find enough to afford an Uber ride home.
So, you watched the big race from the infield, and now you’re ready to leave. Here’s the thing: so is everyone else. And it’s not easy to get out of that prison-yard shaped party pit, so instead of getting into one of the bottlenecked lines, grab a drink and People Watch. Dance Parties. Fist Fights. It devolves into a frat party at 3 a.m. Watch from a distance and enjoy the show in all its stupid, drunken glory.
Huzzah! You’ve experienced the most exciting two minutes in horses running in circles, and now you’re stuck in the infield while all the rich and fancy folk go about their way. It might seem like the right time to start the Class War, but that’s just the booze talking. Look For Free Stuff! The infield is filthy with corporate sponsors looking to hip out-of-towners and partying locals to how rad their stuff is, so why not lean into it and see what you can get?
THE BEST PLACE TO GO IF YOU WANT TO GET OUT OF THE CHAOS FOR A WHILE
Grab the kiddos and head out to your favorite comic book store for Free Comic Book Day. Held every year on Derby Day, Free Comic Book Day is the holiday that we need in these bleak times, replete with stories of colorful heroes punching and lasering their problems away. Not only are there comics from virtually every publisher available, but most stores have deals that day on their merchandise, which includes comics, art and, in some cases, music, video games and merch.
Free Comic Book Day
WHERE TO FIND THAT SOUVENIR THAT SAYS LOUISVILLE OR DERBY
Souvenir shopping isn’t really something Minda Honey does, unless it’s for my mama, but if it’s your thing, the classiest, least time intensive way to do it is to hit up the gift shop in the lobby of the 21c Museum Hotel. They’re open 24/7, they’ve got a selection of local gems, and you can tack on dinner, cocktails and a walk through the exhibit. – Minda Honey
21c Museum Hotel, Louisville
700 W. Main St.
NuLu’s Revelry Boutique Gallery has the goods. Right now I’m digging Candace Cato’s “Pegasus Specimens,” a nod to Derby that’s also quirky enough for any local’s wunderkammer.
Revelry Boutique Gallery
742 E. Market St.
You can get Louisville swag at the Kentuck Derby Museum’s Gift Shop, or even across the street at Wagner’s Pharmacy, but they’ll be swarmed. Swing by 5-0-Lou, a store in the Clifton neighborhood that focuses on local, local, local — cool stuff from clothing to candles to crafts, made with local materials by local people.
Kentuck Derby Museum’s Gift Shop
704 Central Ave.
3113 S. Fourth St.
2235 Frankfort Ave., No. 104
For the best Kentucky-centric souvenir bar none go to the Frazier Kentucky History Museum. Kentucky-made foods (such as bourbon-infused barbecue, Worcestershire, and teriyaki sauces; barn-bottled honey, triple berry marmalade and biscuit mix), knickknacks (including coonskin hats, limestone-scented candles and mint julep bath bombs), books (Sacagawea, Speed family recipes, secret cocktails, bourbon barons and bloody battles) and toys (slingshots, Union dollars, toy trains, gliders, bug bingo boards and much, much more). Oh, and the exhibits are pretty keen. •
Frazier Kentucky History Museum
829 W. Main St.