The Best Of Louisville In 2021, According To LEO’s Writers

You, the readers, have once again inspired the LEO Weekly staff to think — and write — about the things we love most about Louisville. So, as we were tallying your votes for Readers’ Choice, we spent the last few weeks making up some additional categories and anointing winners. Below, you’ll find the businesses and places that our staff frequents, complete with a lot of praise and a bit of snark. Whereas LEO usually dives into the most pressing local news and best area entertainment, this issue is a celebration of all of the spots that makes Louisville Louisville. We hope you find something new below.


Photo by Robin Garr

Best Small Park That (Almost) No One Knows About 

Arthur K. Draut Park
Tucked in alongside a long curve in busy Bowling Boulevard, near the St. Matthews Mall, Whole Foods and Shelbyville Road Plaza, one of the nicest small parks around lies almost out of sight of passing motorists. It’s worth a stop. Arthur K. Draut Park, a smallish (24.4 acres) St. Matthews park, is one of my favorite places to get in a quick power walk or leisurely nature stroll. Park on the long, narrow lot facing the boulevard, walk in past an antique-looking street clock and wisteria-covered pergolas, and leave those urban sights behind as you verge onto a three-fourths mile, figure-eight-shaped paved walking path that will lead you through a startling variety of environments for such a small park. You’ll cross the Middle Fork of Beargrass Creek three times on modern aluminum walking bridges as you wind through open meadows, dense forests, swamps and wetlands, patches of wildflowers, and, briefly, vistas of suburban homes and apartments on the far side of the property. A startling variety of birds, from ducks to red-winged blackbirds, make their homes here, and you’ll hear a choral fantasy of birdsong all along the way. Named after a longtime Waggener High School principal, who was later mayor of St. Matthews, Draut Park is a partner to that city’s Brown Park, a few blocks to the west along the boulevard.  —Robin Garr


Best New Public Art

Jeffrey’s Journey
Jeffrey’s Journey debuted in Jeffersonville on the 25th of September. These tiny sculptures, each is only four to six inches long, tell the story of Jeffrey, a small fish on a one-mile trip from the Ohio River to the NoCo Arts and Cultural district. The piece is more than just a series of sculptures. It also invites families to participate in a scavenger hunt along the way. The journey of Jeffrey begins at the Overlook (100 W. Riverside Drive). Jeffrey was designed and fabricated by local sculptor Amanda Hoback. For the story that accompanies Jeffrey on his trek to NoCo, the Jeffersonville Public Art Commission and the City of Jeffersonville hosted a writing contest and the work of high schooler Ava Gleitz that tells the story is mounted on plaques along the trail with Jeffrey. It’s cute. It’s fun. Get out of the house. —Erica Rucker=


The entrance to Cave Hill Cemetery | Photo by Kathryn Harrington

Favorite Place To Bring Out-Of-Towers

Cave Hill Cemetery
“Really, a cemetery?” “I hope you’re not shopping for a plot for us.” “Wait, he was real?” These are just some of the things you can hear out-of-towners groan and exclaim if you drag them to Cave Hill Cemetery as the first stop on your Louisville itinerary for them. Morbid? Sure. But Cave Hill also shows off Louisville’s natural beauty, its architecture, its history. It is a stunning and tranquil green oasis in the heart of the city. And to visitors, it shows off the final resting places of two of the most famous Kentuckians: Muhammad Ali and Colonel Harland Sanders (“Yep, he’s real,” you can quip to your visitors before telling them about how the string tie-wearing fried chicken magnate once shot a guy.) Getting lost on the labyrinth of small roads twisting through the graves is half the fun — up until you realize the gates get locked at 5 p.m. and you see the sun creeping towards the horizon. —Josh Wood


My Favorite Parking Garage

Photo by Scott Recker

The One At The KFC Yum! Center
Since a lot of the reporting I do for LEO and for J-school involves driving to and from big events — concerts, sports games and the like — I care very much about how easy it is (or isn’t) to park at a venue. A stadium’s biggest parking lot, for instance, is usually gravel; it’s hell to walk on after you’ve been standing up taking photos for 3 hours. A certain expo center’s parking lot is so expansive that you almost need an Uber to get to your own car — an especially uncomfortable situation if you’re a woman walking alone at night. But thank goodness for the KFC Yum! Center! Rather than acres and acres that you have to trudge across, the space inside the Yum! Center’s parking garage is basically vertical. Plus, you walk nearly right inside the Center as soon as you leave the well-lit garage. I’ve never paid more than $10 to park there, and the staff are always friendly. You don’t have to worry about getting rained, snowed or hailed on. Honestly, it’s just good all around. The parking garage at the airport, with its “cool” features like spiral ramps and digital displays that show open spots, is a seriously close contender for this title, too. But, I have to spotlight the Yum! Center solely because it’s made my life at LEO a heck of a lot easier. Yes, I have a favorite parking garage, and so should you. —Carolyn Brown


Smiling beatiful woman with curly hairstyle set with different gestures isolated

Best LEO Weekly Reader 

Chloe
And now the time has come for us to rank you, the readers of this somehow-still-in-print rag, to see who measures up. You think we’re just here to evaluate all the stuff that’s not you? That you’re immune from critique? You simpleton. You cretin. You pitiable, foolhardy Shropshire sheep. We are watching. We were always watching. Many of you are wonderful in your own ways, but this year’s Best Reader is Chloe. Chloe is good at lots of stuff but doesn’t think she can do anything right. She has a little bit of a drinking problem but doesn’t let it interfere with her work. She has a degree in English and likes complicated books by people you never heard of, but she’s not all stuck up about it. She’s smart enough to be depressed, and smart enough to take her meds. She doesn’t get paid enough and she complains about it. Loudly. She has a toy poodle. She’s a nice person. According to our evaluative software, which ranks readers according to hundreds of categories and subcategories and sub-subcategories, Chloe is fucking awesome. The rest of you are not as good as her. Try harder next year. —Dan Canon


Best Patio 

Sangria at ShopBar | Provided photo

ShopBar
Patio season is almost over, of course. But, unfortunately for humanity and fortunately for us COVID worrywarts who still don’t feel comfortable drinking inside of a bar, autumn no longer means the end of 80 degree days in Louisville since climate change has started. And the best place to suck down the remaining dregs of summer weather is at ShopBar. This lovely establishment is almost all patio — and what a patio it is. Half bar, half shop, hence the name, ShopBar is decorated with an assortment of thrifted finds, including a voyeuristic mannequin peering into the indoor area, that make for a delightfully mismatched vibe. The space is separated from Barrett Avenue with overflowing flower boxes. Within their embrace, you’ll find an assortment of seating options, including picnic tables and patterned couches that you and your grandma will love. It’s so nice, especially on a sunny afternoon, that the drinks almost don’t matter, but those are good too. I recommend the Hunter & Harlow, a sweet rum cocktail that’s tempered with an ever-so-slightly spicy chili salt rim. —Danielle Grady


The Snack That Perfected Kentucky Shakespeare

Froggy’s Popcorn
Sometimes you don’t know how much something hurts until the hurt is taken away. Look, yes, I’m being melodramatic, but Froggy’s does have excellent popcorn, and the first place I tasted Froggy’s bounty was in Central Park, watching a production from The Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, which made that popcorn mean everything and everything and everything. More on that later. Let’s talk pop. Operating out of a refinished old school “canned ham” style camper, Froggy’s is eye-grabbingly cute, packaged in little bags flashing bright colors and adorable line art of assorted cute animals. Froggy’s gives back to the animal community by donating 25 cents to a local animal charity for every bag of popcorn sold. But you want to hear about the actual popcorn. Hungry popoholics can choose between freshly-popped, movie-theatre-style popcorn, and an ever-changing cornucopia of artisanal and seasonal flavors. Some options are sweet, some are salty, some are spicy and some complex flavors are just down right interesting. The artisanal stuff runs the gamut from cinnamon bun, to beer cheese and pretzel. This fall’s special flavor is pumpkin spice cheesecake. Those artisanal flavors are popped off site, and covered with flavor by some witches brew of baking — and I know not what, nor care I to know. It tastes amazing. These many qualities are enough to secure a place for Froggy’s in my moist and swampy heart… But, while I’ve never advertised the fact, I have never been very happy with the food truck options at Kentucky Shakespeare’s summer shows in Central Park. The snacklackluster situation always took just a little bit of joy out of watching my fave playwright’s work. No more. With Froggy’s Popcorn now at the park most nights, it feels like I got a brand new Shakespeare Festival. It’s a whole different thing. Or to paraphrase William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, “O brave new world, that has such popcorn in‘t!” —Allie Fireel


Photo by Kathryn Harrington

My Favorite Place to Get My Dog Groomed

Wanda’s Pet Grooming Emporium
I never imagined myself becoming a dog owner this year, but here we are. I’m now the parent of a ditsy, black-haired Shih Tzu named after the model/actress and wife to Ice-T, Coco Austin. She doesn’t shed, but she does require a lot of “self-care.” And since there is no shortage of places to take your pet for grooming in the city, I like to patronize my neighborhood services first. As a proud resident of South Louisville, I’ve found Wanda’s Pet Grooming Emporium to be one of the best. You can’t beat the price. I will have my baby Shih Tzu fully groomed for only $40. I drop her off, maybe run errands and within a couple of hours she is ready to be retrieved and fully admired. Coco always looks great and smells fantastic after spending time with Joy (the business’ owner), who likes to add her special touch each time, fixing a colorful bow in my doggie’s hair for us to take home. And Coco is always pleased with the result. A family business of over ten years, Wanda’s Pet Grooming Emporium is open every week, Tuesday – Friday from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. They are closed on Sundays and Mondays. —Lara Kinne


The Local Record That I’d Like You To Go Back And Listen To

Melanchoir’s SYSTEM OVERLOAD
For me, one of the greatest ways to discover an incredible album is when I go into it with no expectations. Before receiving a forwarded email from our A&E editor with a link to Melanchoir’s SYSTEM OVERLOAD, I hadn’t heard of the band, but there are few better feelings in music discovery than when “I’ll check out a quick song from it” turns into “This is the third time I’ve listened to the entire album today.” It doesn’t happen often — when scanning a lot of music, most just registers as okay, some tilts toward bad — but when you find something incredible, from seemingly out of nowhere, it revitalizes that fire in you as a listener. With SYSTEM OVERLOAD, MELANCHOIR twists experimental post-punk and charged shoegaze into something powerful — sometimes it’s cinematic and beautiful, sometimes it’s chaotic and full of anger. It follows a long and storied traditional of weirdo indie without boundaries in Louisville. Listen to this record, and use it as a reminder to dig more into local music and always see the openers at shows. —Scott Recker


bourbon shortage
Bourbon bottles at Old Town. | Photo by Kathryn Harrington

Best Liquor Store

Old Town Wine and Spirits
There are many great liquor stores in town, but none satisfy more than Old Town. The gold standard, Old Town, always has a remarkable selection of, well, everything. Whether you need to find a good bottle of sake or a seasonal brew, Old Town almost certainly has it or something very like it. Old Town supports local businesses, not only in carrying some fantastic local beers or homegrown spirits, but in stocking snacks like dips or ice creams that perfectly complement the kinds of decisions you make after having a few pints of your favorite drink. They also have a great discount case selection of beers and a wonderfully handy drive-thru. As a longtime Highlands resident, Old Town has been my destination for decades. Throughout that time, the staff has always taken a moment to know my name, to joke with me, or to just ask how I’m doing with absolute sincerity. The reason that Old Town is truly superlative is their people. The staff there are always kind, knowledgeable and willing to give you a moment of their time. It doesn’t matter if you’re in there to commiserate whatever is eating you this week or if you’re just in a rush to grab something delicious while you’re out, they have you covered. —Syd Bishop 


Best Local Existential Crisis

New Albany’s Harvest Homecoming
This was a tough category in a year when so many entities, sentient and otherwise, are lined up to end your life. Mass shootings, megastorms, QAnon, cops, locusts and an airborne respiratory illness or two. The same quadripedestrians who’ve been voting Papa John’s as best pizza for years will probably say “duuuuh cLiMaTe cHaNgE,” but that’s not a truly local threat. The prospect of a couple of wildfires, some mild flooding or a little gentrification as eastern seaboard types flock to our geographical superiority? Big deal. Give me something hyperlocal, something that truly inspires fear, something that roasts and salts the almond of my amygdala. I’m going with New Albany’s Harvest Homecoming. I know what you’re thinking, but this isn’t about COVID. True, the festival is traditionally a “butts-to-nuts” affair anyway, writhing masses of sunburned bodies grinding past one another to grab all the Coors light and Masonic donuts they can, and therefore promises to be a superspreader event here in our steadfastly ascientific county. But the truth of the matter is that there have always been lots of ways to die at Harvest, from falling from the top of its rickety deathtrap ferris wheel, to choking on an ancient funnel cake, to nutmeg poisoning, to the family favorite “Wicker Basket Man” attraction. See you there next year! —Dan Canon


Cherokee Park | Photo by Allie Fireel

Best Place to Fight Your Demons

Olmsted Parks
Whether you’re a bipolar alcoholic like me, or just living through a regular-old world-wide pandemic, you need to fight back the demons of fear, shame, anger, anxiet, and your basic all around weltschmerz. Now, I battle the demons by running, or as I like to call it, socially-acceptable self-harm, but there is a litany of activities (including reciting the Litany Against Fear) that you can use when you need some self care. The best place I’ve found to take care of myself is at my friendly neighborhood Olmsted Park. For me, Shelby Park is literally closest to my heart, as it’s about a block from my house. But I have spent uncounted hours in Iroquois, Cherokee and Tyler Park as well. In the last year, I’ve started seeking out the Olmsted Parks that were new-to-me, like Shawnee Park and Churchill Park, so I can keep finding new places in which to box with Beelzebub and assault Asmodeus, as well as running from the ghosts I may not be quite ready to face. —Allie Fireel 


My Favorite Wings

Eden & Kissi (Honorable Mention To Kathmandu Kitchen For Keeping Nepalese Cuisine Tight In This City)
At a birthday party a few weeks ago, my friends and I decided to order Nepalese takeaway and raided the Kathmandu Kitchen menu for everything it had. It was transcendent… maybe this is a double plug. Go there. But my friend’s husband added two boxes of these heavenly, smoky-scented wings to the spread and said, “Oh, these are the Peri-Peri wings from Eden & Kissi.” You know that scene in a love story where time slows and the camera goes dreamy? A gentle breeze begins to blow and the eyes of two lovers meet? Well, wings don’t have eyes, but this was the start of a love affair. A deep, sensual romance, ordained by the heavens and ebony gods of quality chicken wings and seasoning. Yes, it was like that — and these wings are life-changing. Praises. Now that you know the origin story of how I began my deep adoration of the Peri-Peri wings at Eden & Kissi, you will know that when I saw their banner after leaving my nearby Korean class, there was absolutely zero chance that I was going to pass it up and come back another time. I mean, I am going back very soon, but at that moment, at that time, those wings were coming home with mama. And they did. Now my family feels exactly like I do, so we have a new favorite restaurant. You can go, but your ass better leave some wings for me. —Erica Rucker


Photo by Kathryn Harrington

Best Pickles Made Right Here In Louisville

Habagardil From Pop’s Pepper Patch
Come to think of it, in my opinion, Habagardil pickles from Pop’s Pepper Patch might be as good as any pickle made anywhere. You might have seen them — along with Pop’s Red Pepper Jelly, chutneys, barbecue sauces, hot sauces, salsas, bloody mary mixers, salad dressings and other spicy goodies — at local farmer’s markets, at Lotsa Pasta, on sandwiches at Wild Eggs and via a few other discerning vendors. So what’s a habagardil and why is it so good? Other than being handmade with care locally, that funny name tells the story. It’s not Hungarian, and it’s not Turkish either. It spells out the key ingredients in the pickling blend: HABAnero, GARlic, and DILl … habagardil. Thick, ripple-cut rounds of fresh cucumber luxuriate in baths of tasty spices until they’re just right, then they’re packed in tall glass bottles that range in fire all the way from green, gently piquant mild through spicy, extreme, OMG, and 15x, 30x, 50x and, finally, to the bright-red, possibly radioactive, 100x hot. I’m the guy who calls for four or five peppers at Indian and Thai joints, but with Habagardli, just-plain spicy is plenty for me, I love the balance of heat, gentle sweetness and aromatic pickling flavors; trust me, even this blend packs enough punch to get my attention. —Robin Garr

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Photo by Kathryn Harrington

My Favorite Place To Have Had An Awkward Date

Total Wine In The Paddock Shops
Once upon a time, I swiped right on a dude named “Brian.” We agreed to meet up at the Paddock Shops around 7 p.m. on a Saturday night in May. The idea was that we’d get a table at a restaurant, then maybe go for a walk afterwards. We had forgotten, though, what happens to restaurants at 7 p.m. on Saturdays: they fill up. We hadn’t gotten a reservation (yeah, I know), and we found out we’d have to wait a long time before a table at Carrabba’s would be available. So even though we were both starving, we decided we’d go to Total Wine and walk around. Nothing against Brian, but going to a liquor store with a stranger when you barely drink and know nothing about alcohol is… a tad awkward. He knew quite a bit, though, and was eager to share — which was interesting! — but the majority of this date was really just us walking up and down the aisles of Total Wine while we both grew increasingly hungry. Not to mention, we were both our own drivers, so we couldn’t even drink. After maybe an hour, we decided to try looking for a place to get food again, but Carrabba’s was still a non-starter and the nearby steakhouse was (shockingly) full. We parted ways not long after, and I ate ramen at home by myself. To Total Wine’s credit, it’s a nice spacious place with a lot of variety in its offerings. If I drank, I’d definitely go back there again. But I don’t need alcohol to speak in vino veritas: don’t go on a date in a wine store. —Carolyn Brown


Best Courtyard

Nulu Marketplace Courtyard
There are maybe three collective months in Louisville when the weather is so fantastic that the very idea of staying indoors feels tragic. Pre-pandemic, those outdoor public spaces — often patios associated with bars or restaurants — felt like an added bonus, although not wholly necessary. Since the pandemic though, outdoor space has become mission critical for the success of social distancing initiatives. Unfortunately, there are so many outdoor areas, usually food or business related, that are congested areas, too often plagued by sound and air pollution problems. Then there is the Nulu Marketplace courtyard. Tucked away in an alley, the courtyard is a large, open air space with tables, bike stands and options. Whether you’re getting a relaxing CBD balm at Hectare’s, a pint from West Sixth, or some coffee from Please & Thank You, you have plenty of space to do it. Because there are two stories, there is a balcony that provides additional shade or cover from inclement weather. There is a sound system outside for music that’s never too loud or distracting, and you can often find artwork. This month they have one of the biggest carved pumpkins I’ve seen in person. Even post-pandemic, this is a cool, shaded area ideal to just hang out and soak up the sun. —Syd Bishop 


My Favorite Kentucky Proud Grocery Items 

 

Multiple Winners
It is quite thrilling to find a new flavoring that levels up my usual homemade dishes. It’s even more thrilling when I check the label and discover it is made in Kentucky! Everyone is well aware that the pandemic inspired a lot more home cooking and, if you have the means, stocking up on essential pantry items. Two of my favorites for that purpose now are Dan-O’s Original Spicy Seasoning and Bold Badger Hot Sauce. Some may recall Dan-O’s latest marketing efforts, the television ads similar to what you’d see by an injury law firm — laughably ridiculous, but somewhat memorable. It did make me want to try the thing and, needless to say, I am now a Dan-O’s convert. Try this seasoning on raw vegetables during prep or with a marinade. With its savory combination of spices, it is appropriate for most traditional dishes calling for a kick. I love it on kale chips, grilled chicken and chopped potatoes (as a breakfast side). And it’s versatile enough to top on popcorn, if you wish. Dan-O’s Original can be found at most grocery stores. Bold Badger Hot Sauce is another spicy, Kentucky gem. With a line of eight flavors, my heart goes to the Yellow 7 Pot — spicy, citric and an exciting addition to poultry or fish. The key to Bold Badger’s signature, piquant flavor is through wild fermentation, made from peppers grown in Richmond, Kentucky. Find Bold Badger at the next Flea Off Market or order online, as this small-batch hot sauce tends to sell out swiftly. —Lara Kinne


Best New Music That I’ll Pretend Is Local

Fancy Hagood
OMG have you heard that new band? No. I haven’t heard that new band. For the past almost two years, my connection to music has been through the internet and not the regular live experience of pre-Covid life. Wait, I guess that means I still could have heard of the hot new local band. Ok, yeah, sure… how do I say this without being a betrayer to the “local-ness” that makes Louisville weirder or interesting or whatever? My favorite hot new local band is really just a hot new “local” singer. Have you listened to Fancy Hagood’s “Same Thing?” Since I don’t know anything about Hagood except that he’s Southern and a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, I’m just going to pretend he’s local and tell you that if you grew up a fan of the yacht rock or soft AM radio hits of yore, then this song will hit exactly right. Hagood offers a great work in his Southern Curiosity record, not only “Same Thing,” but a full album full of wonderful songs about love, pride and other encounters of the heart. Regardless, if he’s actually “local” or not, he feels that way because the people on his album and the situations are familiar. I mean, I can’t guarantee he’s “local” (he’s not) but I’ll just pretend he is for the sake of this blurb. Yep, now you go listen to “Same Thing” and thank me later. —Erica Rucker 


Best Place To Thrift Where Everything’s A Jewel 

Via Fleur De Flea/Instagram

Fleur De Flea Vintage Urban Market
Most of us have been to a Peddler’s Mall or Vendor’s Village. It’s a fun experience shifting through the junk to find an antique treasure. But sometimes you want to go to a flea market where almost everything you stumble upon is a possibility, and that’s the Fleur de Flea. It’s clear that the market’s vendors have been carefully selected for the quality of their goods. But, that doesn’t mean you’re going to find a bunch of stuffy colonial furniture and crystal chandeliers that cost thousands of dollars. The items are old, but they’ve obviously been plucked by people with modern sensibilities — those who have been looking at Instagram and Pinterest enough to know what past trends are current again. I’ve been on too many thrifting adventures where most of the time is spent gasping at price tags or laughing about some creepy doll. And while there are plenty of expensive items at the Fleur de Flea, you’ll also find clothing, furniture and decorations that you’ll actually want to (and can) take home with you. So, kick that Target habit and start shopping at the Flea. —Danielle Grady


My Favorite Meal In Louisville

Photo by Josh Wood

A2 + K6 + beer At Vietnam Kitchen
Blessed by the food gods, it’s hard to have a bad meal in Louisville. But to pick just one meal? Easy: An A2, a K6 and a few Saigon beers poured into frosty mugs. I understand that other people swear by different Vietnam Kitchen orders though I can’t say I understand why. And in the moments that I’m eating Vietnam Kitchen, I can’t understand why anybody would ever eat anything other than Vietnam Kitchen. As a somewhat recent transplant, my obsession with the spicy red broth of the K6 (real name Hủ tiếu cay Triề u Châu) began during the pandemic, when a ban on in-person dining meant plastic takeout containers and anticipation-filled 15 minute drives back to Schnitzelburg from the South End. Soon, getting an order of A2 (fried egg rolls) and K6 became a weekly habit. And soon, I stopped making lists of new restaurants to try, instead devoting that mental energy to figuring out when I could next get to Vietnam Kitchen again. In June, a panic set in when I learned the restaurant was being put up for sale by its owner. One night that month, we rushed to get there for a late dinner but arrived too late to order anything. Moping in the Iroquois Manor parking lot, I tried thinking of what else I might like to eat that night; I couldn’t think of anything. —Josh Wood


Photo by Scott Recker

Best Place To Watch The NFL Sunday Ticket 

BoomBozz in The Highlands
Setting the NFL Sunday Ticket up well at a bar is an art form. Every game has to be on, but each table of fans, fantasy football managers and gamblers are going to have requests of what they want on nearby. It’s a balancing act. There are a few places that do it pretty well in Louisville, but none better than BoomBozz in The Highlands, which is an open room with the right amount of TVs. You can park right in front of the TV with your team, but it’s also easy enough to scan around the room for other implications. Plus, BoomBozz has rock solid pizza and beer specials that won’t run up a Saturday night tab on a Sunday afternoon. It’s usually pretty packed, but you can generally still find a seat, which creates a nice atmosphere without a scramble. Louisville’s definitely a college sports town, but it doesn’t feel like it at BoomBozz on a Sunday. —Scott Recker


Photo by Kathryn Harrington

My Favorite Subject Of Meaningless Nextdoor Ire

The Flower Planter At The Entrance To Lake Forest
The neighborhood news app Nextdoor is a special beast. I get updates throughout the day about the various concerns and things going on in my “neighborhood,” which, according to the app, includes the entire East End. People use Nextdoor for questions and kvetches of varying levels of importance –– anything from political grandstanding to long lines at Kroger to where to find the best barbeque. It’s useful on some occasions and infuriating on others. But my favorite uproar came back in May when the Lake Forest HOA decided to install a feature that residents dubbed “the dog bowl,” which stands at the entrance to the neighborhood. Back then, it was basically a large, flattish brass cauldron, almost like a wok. It was so much of a non-issue that I never noticed it until I saw the irate comments about it on a Nextdoor post, which declared it to be a veritable plight upon the neighborhood and its image, something for which the heavens themselves ought to smite us for our tackiness. People really hated that thing! It has since been filled with a rather nice arrangement of flowers –– as it was always going to be –– and the ire has subsided. Now, every time I drive by, I don’t think about how much of a blight it was(n’t) before; I just think, wow, people really got angry over nothing. Nextdoor never changes. –– Carolyn Brown


The Putt-Putt Fun Center may be a tad rundown, but that’s what makes it fun. | Photo by Kathryn Harrington

Best Inexpensive Date Night 

Putt-Putt Fun Center and Dakshin
You could go to one side of Bardstown Road for date night and drop $100 on sushi or steak in The Highlands. Or, you could drive past the fancy restaurants and bumping clubs, past the Costco and up to Fern Creek, and spend an entire evening with your beau for half that. Start at the Putt-Putt Fun Center, where you can play three games for $9 a piece. The mini golf range’s animal statues and plastic rock formations are a little run down, but that’s part of their charm. Inside the building, you’ll find a collection of arcade games — including a palm reading stand and Crazy Taxi — that have probably been there since the 2000s, just waiting to spark whatever pocket of your brain nostalgia is stored in. The Fun Center is in a neighborhood surrounded by restaurants that represent practically the entire globe. I’m sure you could choose any of the available options for a satisfying end to date night, but I personally recommend heading to Dakshin, one of Louisville’s tastiest Indian restaurants where you’ll find entrees starting at $9.99. —Danielle Grady


A Food Critic’s Favorite Chain Restaurant

Photo by Robin Garr

White Castle
This may seem like an odd topic, because as a restaurant critic and food-and-drink writer of long standing, I rarely go to chain restaurants. Local, independent eateries are my jam, and with good reason: These restaurants typically reflect the soul and the passion of their owners and staffs, and every one stands out in some way. But, every now and then, I feel a strange, powerful attraction — call it a crave — for a trip to White Castle. Wait, what? I know this seems strange, but the WC lounge is distinctly different. I don’t think there’s anyone alive today too old to remember youthful nighttime ventures to pick up a sack of sliders — the chain has been around a full century this year — and the first outlet outside its native Wichita was just up the river in Cincinnati. That’s practically local! It’s hard not to love a venture that has inspired so many jokes. Gotta give ‘em credit for taking the snarky nickname “Slider” (they slide right down) and adopting it as an ad slogan. And maybe best of all, you can get a plant-based slider made with an Impossible burger now. Get it with the traditional grilled onions and pickle, and I doubt you can tell the difference. —Robin Garr


“Little Nis,” the first Bernheim Forest Giant. | Provided photo

Best Place To Socially Distance With Kids

Bernheim Arboretum And Research Forrest
Every parent with kids under the age of 12 knows all too well just how daunting the last two years have been, or at least challenging to people who have taken the virus seriously. Cabin fever has taken on epic proportions, especially since the Delta variant starting making waves this summer — a strain more dangerous to younger children. Throughout this, kids have been asked to miss out on a little fun and to mask for safety, all important protocols, but still a challenge to coordinate. So what do you do to keep your kids safe, secure and entertained without turning them into little couch potatoes? Go to the park. There are so many amazing parks in this city, from Iroquois to hidden gems like Hal Warheim tucked away in the Highlands. But, for my money, the best place to visit is Bernheim. It’s spacious, open and there are plenty of sites to see. Want your 5 year old to burn off some energy? Take them on a walk to see every Forest Giant in the park. Want something scenic? Take them to Big Prairie Overlook Path to give them the full scope of the park. There are so many beautiful, scenic and easily-accessible trails and plenty to spark young imaginations (and wear out that seemingly infinite energy). —Syd Bishop


Nintendo 64 games at Book & Music Exchange | Photo by Scott Recker

Best Place To Shop For Vintage Video Games

Book & Music Exchange
It’s not the greatest market to be a vintage video game collector in, because it’s red hot, with the prices of systems and games sometimes soaring into bank-busting territory. But, Book & Music Exchange in the Highlands is fair. Their selection might be smaller than it once was, but top end games for multiple systems find their way into the store — there’s a constant flow of new items. Plus, there’s everything else — the used books, records, movies, board games, etc. I can stop by on a Sunday afternoon and leave with a couple weeks of pop culture to burn. Stores like that are part of the reason I moved to a top 50 city. —Scott Recker   

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