Writers' Choice 2010

LEO staffers weigh in on best of Louisville

Sep 22, 2010 at 5:00 am

Best Place to Take a Romantic Stroll: St. James Court

The T-shirt slogan “Louisville is for Lovers” rings truest when you and the person you love take a stroll through Old Louisville’s St. James Court. For maximum romantic impact without spending any money whatsoever (aside from the GHB you scored from your friend’s friend), nothing can beat the court’s ornate, Gilded Age-era architecture, bucolic landscaping and gas-fired street lamps, all of which perfectly set the mood for a night of sweet nothings, accidental conception and a potential lawsuit that can only bring the two of you closer together. There’s also a naked lady statue in the court’s fountain, which is hot. —Jonathan Meador

Best Use for Whiskey Row: Indiana Museum

Who will have the money for these proposed bridge tolls to make a trip to Indiana? That’s why we’re going to bring a taste of Indiana to Whiskey Row — “The Museum of Little Indiana” will feature everything Louisvillians will miss about the Sunny Side, including a food court offering selections from Sportstime Pizza, Rocky’s Italian Grill, The Widows Walk, Kobe Japanese Steakhouse and La Rosita, plus a beer garden with brew from New Albanian Brewing Co. There will be fossils on the wall from Falls of the Ohio, and the tour guides are promised to be authentic Hoosiers. —Sara Havens

Best City Nickname: City of Beautiful Churches

While “Falls City” is pretty popular now — what with the return of the (OK, New Albany-brewed) Louisville beer and all — “The ’Ville” sounds like a focus group’s failed attempt at edginess, and “Drunk Town” hits a little too close to the bone, I’d say “The City of Beautiful Churches” does us justice. Spend any time downtown, in west Louisville or Old Louisville, and the plethora of urban cathedrals and their place-marking spires should easily remind you that we’re of a God-fearing stock, and have the beautiful architecture to prove it. —Jonathan Meador

Best Place to Watch Frat Boys Vomit: St. Matthews Bar Row

Fraternity brothers: They can’t be stopped. Hell, they can’t even be contained. But there is one refreshing moment when their extraordinary sense of entitlement is temporarily incapacitated, and that’s when they step outside the bar to hurl their hefeweizen onto their Hush Puppies. Prime viewing spots include the alley between Gerstle’s and Molly’s or the parking lot between BBC and Brendan’s. Bring your splash guard and your flip-cam and capture those moments for posterity, just before they wipe their mouths on their sleeves and go on to become patriarchs of the plutocracy. (Runner Up: Cards Football Tailgating) —Jim Welp

Best Place to Spot a Lesbian: Monkey Wrench Deck

Other than the obvious sale at Dick’s Sporting Goods or Home Depot, the best place to spot a lesbian is on the top deck of the Monkey Wrench. The gay-girl bar scene in Louisville is lacking, so they’ve gotten accustomed to commandeering straight bars, wielding Birkenstocks, boy shorts and Bieber cuts. Feed them beer, keep them happy. —Sara Havens

Best Spot to View Thunder Over Louisville: Hull Street

While many will (erroneously) claim that theirs is the perfect perch upon which to view the city of Louisville’s annual aerial pyrotechnical orgy, my money’s on Hull Street, located just off Baxter Avenue. Hull is a cramped, almost claustrophobic residential street that overlooks a precipice facing east downtown, but its elevation affords the onlooker a perfect view of the city’s skyline and the aforementioned fireworks without having to sully one’s self with close proximity to the common rabble or endure the headache of Thunder’s nightmare traffic. Just make sure the cop who lives around there isn’t at home if you plan on, uh, celebrating … —Jonathan Meador

Best Pseudo-Private Place to Act Like a Fool: Magnolia Photo Booth

My refrigerator is covered with festive photos from Magnolia Photo Booths, which are popping up with increasing frequency at social events around town. There are merry photos of my friends and me wearing an assortment of props, from feather boas and Viking helmets to sombreros and fake mustaches. Then there are the photo booth pictures that have been relegated to the junk drawer due to their unfortunate content: me singing into a Newcastle, me doing my best KISS impersonation, me being held upside down by an unidentified tall person. Thank god for the curtain on that photo booth. —Sarah Kelley

Best Place for a Gin and Tonic: Proof

I thought I knew what a gin and tonic should taste like — Christmastime on party bubbles, right? Wrong. Very wrong. One sip of Proof’s gin and tonic, procured with New Amsterdam gin and the restaurant’s house-made tonic, and I thought I was sucking Santa Claus through a straw. It was happy, delicious and robust. Hooked on tonics worked for me. —Sara Havens

Best Place to Joust: Zanzabar

Zanzabar is turning into a time warp back to the ’80s — I wouldn’t be surprised to find Brian Bloom sipping an Oberon at the bar. Their collection of ’80s arcade game classics is quite impressive — “Tron,” “Popeye,” “Donkey Kong Jr.” to name a few. I was awestruck to find, however, my favorite videogame of all time during my last visit — “Joust.” Although I wasn’t quite as nimble as I was when I was 7, I managed to do well enough to put my initials in for the high score — ASS, of course. —Sara Havens


Best Ironically Named City Amenity: The McConnell Trail at Jefferson Memorial Forest

Thoughts to ponder while hiking the spectacular 5.4-mile McConnell Trail: 1) Is Mitch McConnell trying to kill us? 2) As a top gubment tool for Big Oil, Big Coal, Big War, Big Fructose and Big Global-Warming Denial, why on earth is this rock-blocker bringing home parks pork? 3) Boy, all this hiking sure does work up a big thirst for iffy water and an appetite for tainted eggs. 4) Ha, ha, I guess all that poison in the environment doesn’t hurt us if we don’t aggressively ingest it. 5) Doh! (Runner Up: KFC Yum! Center) —Jim Welp

Best Band You Need To Hear: The Rebaba Group

Bad Blood bassist and E.C. Ball collaborator David Bird can do it all: bluegrass, folk, punk, rock, you name it. But his membership in this ensemble is a musical experience nothing short of otherworldly. Bird is the only member of The Rebaba Group who isn’t a Lost Boy from Sudan. They were shot at and managed to cheat death by lying in ditches and rivers, sometimes among the corpses of friends and relatives. Their MySpace page consists of an ominous 2:38 song called “Rebaba Test,” wherein they strum their handmade instruments as if their lives depended on it. Once upon a time, maybe they did. —Mat Herron

Best Place to Hear an Institution: Jack Fry’s

Pianist Ray Johnson has been tickling the ivories at 1007 Bardstown Road on Thursday nights going on 25 years now. According to the Louisville Jazz Society, it might be the longest-running weekly gig in our city. Given Louisville’s tumultuous history of sustaining jazz clubs, and despite cuisine being the main draw at Jack Fry’s, Johnson represents a consistent attempt to keep the genre alive and thriving, literally with his bare hands. Next time you stop in, either buy him a drink or tip well. He deserves it. —Mat Herron


Best Place Not to Build 23 Lanes of Interstate: Louisville’s Waterfront

Every once in awhile, an urban plan comes along that’s so backward you have to tip your bike helmet and slow-clap the collective lunacy. In an era of economic chaos, green flashmobbing and a worldwide claw back to the native sod, Louisville plans to build two new bridges and entomb its waterfront under 23 lanes of concrete. But take heart: If it actually happens, it will wrap up just in time for some future society to retool it into garages for flying cars or a million post-apocalyptic George Foreman Grills or, god forbid, public transportation. —Jim Welp

Best Place to Get Arrested for Public Intoxication: Phoenix Hill Tavern

Missing a day of work for picking up a PI charge at, say, the Bristol will get you fired, but if you get one at Phoenix Hill instead, why, you’re getting a promotion. Even by Louisville’s debauched standards, there are few places where you can watch two (or more) grown men beat the shit out of each other on the street at 3 a.m. on a Wednesday over the affections of a 200-pound woman who’s already going home with the cab driver anyway. —Jonathan Meador

Best Place to Hear Great, Non-English-Speaking Music: WFPK Friday Night Soundclash

From his booth, DJ and visual artist Matt Anthony serves as the unheralded link between the timeless work of foreign artists then and now and Louisville’s record-buying public. Raised on military bases and a DJ since he was 13, Anthony’s tastes cover the world: Kingston, Rio de Janeiro, West Africa, just to name a few. “Soundclash” is named after a competition among Jamaican DJs who would compete head to head for listeners. Here, Anthony has no competition. In an age where American “indie” bands like Antibalas and Fool’s Gold are discovering and adopting international methods, the three hours of choice renditions every Friday night from 8 to 11 are your excuse to take a night off from the bars. —Mat Herron

Best Place to Dance Off Those Pounds: Cosa Seria Salsa Nights at Sky Bar

On Thursdays, the second floor of Saints — better known as Sky Bar — turns into a less suburban, more multicultural version of itself. Few tend to think about salsa when driving through tony St. Matthews unless it’s referring to the tomato-based appetizer. But for the musicians in Cosa Seria, salsa is a movement, a way to sweat out your troubles through the carefree and uncontrollable power of dance. As a genre, salsa combines African and Spanish rhythms that are hundreds of years old, filtered through a Cuban lens and adopted by Puerto Rican musicians over time. So, in a sense, you’re getting a history lesson in every beat, minus the boring lecture. —Mat Herron

Best Public Housing Complex: None

None. No seriously, the sooner the Metro Housing Authority can get enough federal dollars to rev up the bulldozers the better. It’s no secret that tearing down the remaining barracks-style complexes is the plan, and only the worst sort of poverty pimp wants to keep human beings living in those conditions. What we’re really looking forward to is a public discussion about creating affordable housing in its place without rampant mismanagement or heartless displacement. —Phillip M. Bailey

Best What-The-Hell-Happened-Last-Night Bar: Harley’s Main Street Tavern

There’s a place downtown/Where the freaks all come around/It’s a hole in the wall/It’s a dirty free for all — I had no idea Ke$ha had been to Louisville, because she’s obviously referencing the nightly shenanigans at Harley’s Main Street Tavern in her song “Take It Off.” Every time I enter Harley’s I come out a changed person — a little rougher around the edges. Could be the dancing on the bar. Could be the female porn wrestling video game. Could be the pint o’ Jagerbombs. Enter at your own risk. —Sara Havens

Best Anti-Gay Mecca to Boycott: Target

Target stores are so inviting. Stylish, clean and luminous, Target always seems to have just what you need, plus plenty you don’t. It’s like Wal-Mart’s hip, gay, mentally able cousin. In fact, it seems impossible that mere heterosexuals alone could have come up with anything as fabulous as Target. So it was a shock when corporate HQ donated $150,000 to an anti-gay gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota. Now there’s a nationwide boycott under way and, unless you’re a hater, you’re going to have to take your plastic-jones to … um, K-Mart? Uh-oh. (Runner Up: Catholic Church.) —Jim Welp and Laura Rose Welp

Best Weatherman We’re Going to Miss: John Belski

I first became smitten with the weather-predicting ways of John Belski during the winter storm of 1994. With more than a week off of school due to the massive (by Louisville standards) blizzard, I spent my days eating junk food and alternating channels between MTV (Danzig and Counting Crows were all the rage) and Belski, whose snowstorm-induced, childlike merriment might actually have exceeded mine. Earlier this month, the meteorological maestro retired after 23 years at WAVE 3, with U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth making an on-air appearance to bid him farewell. I’d say Belski’s protégé, Kevin Harned, has some big galoshes to fill. —Sarah Kelley

Best Bus Routes: 12th and 22nd Street Lines

The 12th and 22nd Street bus lines are two routes that connect west Louisville to several main thoroughfares as well as Southern Indiana. A variety of passengers use these buses, from elderly residents picking up medicine to students heading to and from school. They aren’t the most scenic or popular lines, but when the Transit Authority of River City announced another round of service cuts that included those two key routes, concerned citizens — particularly in Portland — spoke up. It reminded us that the best public transit is what provides regular people with the means to connect with their jobs, family, neighborhood or the city-at-large. —Phillip M. Bailey

Best Thing About the St. James Art Fair: The UnFair

The first full weekend in October floods Old Louisville with peculiar art pieces and a lot of folks who have enough spare cash to buy something they really don’t understand. But it’s the unsanctioned side venues that have popped up around the art fair’s perimeter — from the UnFair to nearby residents hawking wares to make a side buck — that bring out the best of this annual event. It’s that strange mix of local entrepreneurial spirit and strange artistic taste that in a small way balances out the annual fear and loathing of Derby. —Phillip M. Bailey


Best Way to Remember Mayor Jerry: Silly Band

Unfortunately, Louisville doesn’t have its own currency, or we’d definitely put Jerry’s head on a 21-cent coin, marking the number of years he’s led our fair city. Instead, I propose the head of Jer be made into a Silly Band for all to remember his dedication, passion and, umm, well-endowed cranium. Colors will include Smoketown gray, Ohio River brown, and, of course, Cardinal red. —Sara Havens


Best Southern Indiana City: New Albany

There’s plenty to love about the set of triplet towns to the north, but as of late, New Albany stands out. There’s the fact that the city council there was the first local governing body to condemn tolling as a means to pay for the $4.1 billion Ohio River Bridges Project. Then there’s New Albany’s downtown renaissance, namely a second location for the New Albanian Brewing Co. and the tasty La Rosita, along with a number of other dining and drinking options in the city’s historic enclave. And hey, if tolls come we can just convince them to start a river taxi service. —Phillip M. Bailey

Best Life-Threatening Local Habit for Newcomers to Learn About: Refusal to Use Turn Signals

If you’re new to Louisville, you’ve probably noticed some self-destructive behavior among the locals, such as our deep fondness for Marlboro Gold, free-market capitalism and synthetic cheese. But none of these has an immediate impact on your safety like our refusal to use turn signals. Maybe we forget. Maybe we’re just that lazy. Maybe we’re too busy shaving. Maybe we just enjoy fucking with your head. But we aren’t signaling, and we might be coming over. Consider yourself warned. (Runner Up: Hillbilly Heroin) —Jim Welp


Best Place to Stroll Among Self-Actualized White People: Market Street

It’s not hard to find white people to stroll among in America. Gosh, we’re everywhere! But sometimes you’ll want to stroll among self-actualized white people, the kind who like their salbutes goat-cheesed, their trust funds irrevocable and their glass blown. Squint your eyes at Market Street’s galleries, restaurants and boutiques and you’ll think you’re on Aspen’s Main Street or Boston’s Newbury Street (minus the pesky Eurotrash and Middle Eastern oil heiresses). Just try to make yourself presentable. You might want to stroll among them but that doesn’t mean they want to stroll among you. (Runner Up: Westport Village) —Jim Welp


Best Louisville Export: Disco Balls

OK, so you’re proud of your bourbon and your horse racing and your Hal Sparks … but did you know Louisville produces the vast majority of the United States’ disco balls, which are featured in places like dance clubs, middle school mixers, awkward church socials and Justin Timberlake album covers? You did? Well, marvel anyway at this fun factoid: National Products Inc., which primarily manufactures kitchen cabinets, also produces 90 percent of America’s most well-known groove-aids, aside from ecstasy and penis pumps. —Jonathan Meador

Best Place to Find Cheap Wax: Underground Sounds

It’s not that we don’t love ear X-tacy — far from it. But as much love as we show for the institution, there’s another whose wooden shelves boast vital gems for any record collection: Underground Sounds. Case in point: Peter Gabriel’s self-titled LP for $4.99, some Townes Van Zandt and much in the way of psych folk, acid jazz and experimental sounds. Now, if they can just procure my copy of Dr. John’s Gris Gris, we’ll be golden. A wax museum if there ever was one. Respect. —Mat Herron