LEO Readers’ Choice Awards 2023: Staff Picks

Oct 11, 2023 at 8:45 am
No Comply 2.
No Comply 2. Photo by Carolyn Brown

Best Place For Fruitarians

Paul’s Fruit Market

Four Locations: St. Matthews, Taylorsville Road, Brownsboro Road, Middletown

I love fruit and know I can find whatever I crave at the cornucopia that is Paul’s Fruit Market. After all, it has “fruit” in its name.

I tend to choose fruit by the season. Now that the weather has turned into autumn, I’m craving Honeycrisp apples and Bartlett pears (Red if I can find them). In the cold months, I’ll add blood oranges. Spring’s harvest starts the bounty, with strawberries coming in. Summer — ah, summer. It’s the all-you-can-eat buffet time. Peaches are high on my list, as are black plums, blackberries and watermelons.

Paul’s Fruit Market is also a specialty grocery store with prepared food, bread, and a deli. It carries Gethsemani Farms Bourbon Fruitcake made by the Trappist monks of the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. As well it should, because, fruit. Don’t wait for mid-Christmas to buy it — it’s a local holiday staple and hard to keep in stock.

And in case you didn’t know, tomatoes are fruit, too. Paul’s carries a good assortment of heirloom tomatoes, including the crowd-pleaser Cherokee Purple. —Jo Anne Triplett

Best Place To Imagine You’re Swimming At A Warm-Water Beach

The Warm Pool at Mary T. Meagher Aquatic Center

201 Reservoir Ave.

You’re at the beach, looking up at the blue cloudless sky, reveling in the warm sand and even warmer water. Except, sadly, you’re not. How to get at least part of that feeling of a beach vacation? Go to the Warm Pool at the Mary T. Meagher Aquatic Center.

The pool has a job: It exists as therapy for people after surgery and injuries. Most swimming is done in the big Olympic-sized cold-water pool. The Warm Pool, tucked off to the side, is smaller and generally not used for recreation. But it turns out it’s not restricted — anyone can swim in this pool.

I discovered it because I’m perpetually cold. I usually have to find an outdoor pool with water warmed by the sun if I want to swim. That all changed when I heard that I could use the Warm Pool.

Don’t mistake this for a hot tub. Although the water is warmer than regular pool water, it’s not so hot (or small) that all you will want to do is soak. It’s large enough for swimming short laps, exercising, or “water walking” from one end to the next.

It’s not a beach, but it may be the next best thing to being there. —Jo Anne Triplett

Best Guitar Strap

Guitar Pro-Strap™ Designed by Nick Boone at Leatherhead

Louisville’s Nick Boone is a self-taught leather artisan. For decades, he has owned and operated the iconic Leatherhead Shop (along with his wife Lynn) in the Highlands district of Bardstown Road. Remarkably, from that inauspicious business base, Boone has quietly designed countless one-of-a-kind productions for everyday passersby and A-list patrons alike. Special orders have included a whip for gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and a horse saddle for the “Father of Bluegrass Music,” Bill Monroe. Boone’s most significant construction to date, however, was first conceived at a blues concert, when Boone was watching from the audience as master musician B.B. King reached the point where he could no longer conceal his agitation with the discomfort that the weight of his trusty electric guitar “Lucille” was causing him during the set. After some creative thinking and some experimentation in the shop, Boone eventually arrived at a solution that was subsequently crafted and patented as the Guitar Pro-Strap™. Each highly coveted strap is cut from one single piece of leather in such a way that it really does shift the stress point away from certain otherwise vulnerable vertebrae. And it’s not just the old guitar heroes that are lining up for relief. Young guns like Marcus King, Seth Avett, and Dan Auerbach have also been making use of Boone’s clever creation in recent years. If you’re interested in picking one up one of the best damn guitar straps ever for yourself, Boone’s Guitar Pro-Strap™ can always be customized with unique designs or ornamentation. For more information, visit www.theleatherhead.com. —Kevin Murphy Wilson

Best Coffee Table Book For Deadheads

“Jerry Garcia: Secret Space of Dreams” by Jay Blakesberg

Although he has created imaginative images of many era-defining musical acts over the years, including megastars like U2, the Rolling Stones, and Madonna, rock photographer Jay Blakesberg has become somewhat synonymous with the jam band scene, and he is perhaps best known for his distinctive work with the Grateful Dead. It is his long, strange history with the Dead, in fact, that inspired Blakesberg’s book, “Jerry Garcia: Secret Space of Dreams.” The San Francisco-based photojournalist and visual anthropologist has had a rather unique and important role to play in both promoting worthwhile products and preserving cultural history since he first fell into this line of work in 1978. However, Blakesberg put this book together purely as a labor of love and because he wanted to celebrate Jerry Garcia in a meaningful way around what would have been the late bandleader’s 75th birthday. However, Blakesberg wanted there to also be some real thought and depth to it, so he took his time assembling the photographs into a gorgeous collection that tells a story of its own. Then, in what could have been considered a controversial move, Blakesberg enlisted Dead & Company member and guitar virtuoso John Mayer to write the thoughtful foreword to this lovely volume. To order a copy for yourself, visit www.blakesberg.com —Kevin Murphy Wilson

The Nationwide Trend Hitting Louisville That’s Actually Good


Pickleball has exploded, there’s no question about that. And while it’s low-hanging fruit to make fun of new trends that rich people are scrambling to make money off of, the rise of pickleball, from where I’m sitting, is a great thing to happen. First of all, even though new businesses are popping up with pricey memberships, there are also plenty of courts in public parks, making for a low cost of entry. Just buy a set of paddles and balls for around $30, and you can play. It’s also accessible for all ages and levels of athleticism since it’s a slower-moving game than something similar, like tennis. It feels like a bar game that takes place (mostly) outside of a bar atmosphere, which, of course, has its advantages. That being said, it’s also a great workout, one where you sort of forget you’re actually exercising. It’s tough to find activities or things to do that don’t siphon money straight out of your pocket, but there are not many hidden costs associated with pickleball. Sometimes — especially in a town known for bourbon, breweries, and great restaurants — it’s hard to find something to do outside of drinking culture. Markets with local vendors have done a nice job of creating that space on a communal level, but in terms of a non-intimidating active way to hang with friends and family, pickleball is great. I’m here for it. —Scott Recker

The Best Street For Unique Shops

Barret Avenue Corridor

For several years, Barret Avenue has been steadily adding more and more cool and unique shops, morphing into the best shop-local zone in Louisville. Within a few short blocks, you have the vintage clothing store Nitty Gritty, Fat Rabbit Thrift & Vintage, Butcher Cabin Books, Derby City Market, Sis Got Tea, Froggy’s Popcorn, Imperial Tattoos, Barret Babes, Unorthodox, Ultra Pop, and ShopBar, just to name a few places. It’s a great way to spend half a day sorting through interesting clothing, pop culture, and oddities, every time finding a few new treasures that you never knew you needed. Browsing around these shops that have so much character is just a reminder that purchasing things on major online outlets like Amazon is a stale experience. Sure, sometimes you need a quick, convenient, and effective way to purchase something that might not be readily available — and online shopping is great for that — but if you’re looking for some retail therapy, and just want to spend a little money for the sake of spending money, there’s no better place in Louisville than Barret Avenue Corridor. And it’s worth pouring some cash into places like these. These little indie shops that sparkle with weirdness are the lifeblood of a cool city. —Scott Recker

Best Unsung Hero Of The Louisville Music Scene

Señor Diablo (Beau Kaelin)

When he’s not throwing trash at you as Belushi Speed Ball’s manager Señor Diablo, you can find him at local shows, sometimes multiple days a week, camera in hand, filming every band’s set on the bill (and at 6’6” tall, he’s kinda hard to miss). He is Beau Kaelin, and he has been documenting the Louisville music scene on film consistently since 2017, amassing a collection of almost 700 individual band sets, comprising more than 400 hours of footage, and growing! All of it is readily available on his YouTube channel: youtube.com/@SenorDiablo. In doing so, Kaelin has created not just a snapshot in time of our current music scene, but an invaluable treasure trove of local music for future generations to discover and explore. When asked why, Kaelin said, “I appreciate the work and creativity that goes into what so many bands do, and documenting is the least I can do as thanks for what they do for myself and others. In the end, we document what we want to remember, as well as what we hope others will learn from or be inspired by. I believe that if one values a community, one should find a way to contribute to that community which it will value.” —Jeff Polk

Best Reason To Drink Beer In Louisville On A Tuesday Night (Or Any Night, Really)

Louisville Craft Beer Breweries

Although we are known for bourbon, Louisville has a very rich history with beer. (Just read the book “Louisville Beer” by LEO contributor Kevin Gibson!) But arguably, there has never been a better time for local beer than right now. By my count, currently there are over 30 individual craft beer breweries in Louisville and Southern Indiana, some with multiple locations. With the majority of these breweries springing up in the past 10 years, the growth in the local craft beer industry has been tremendous. According to the Brewers Association, Kentucky’s craft beer industry gave the state an economic impact of $708 million in 2022 — and Louisville obviously accounted for a large chunk of that. In fact, earlier this year, the website Real Estate Witch did a data-driven analysis to rank the best beer cities in America and placed Louisville sixth overall. And thanks to the efforts of organizations who advocate for and promote Louisville craft beer, such as the Kentucky Guild of Brewers and the Louisville Ale Trail, Louisville has become a “beercation” destination for craft beer fans worldwide. Bourbon still reigns king in Louisville, but its monarchy may yet be challenged! —Jeff Polk

Best Candy Shop

Chocolate & Nut Kingdom/Melt Munch

3731 Bardstown Rd.

If you have never tried Turkish delight or Jordan almonds, or if you’re looking for an amazing spot for a date night, then Chocolate & Nut Kingdom should be on your radar. The varieties of treats are almost overwhelming, with an insane assortment of Turkish delight, a gel-based candy that’s made from a blend of starch and sugar and either mixed or dusted with different flavors, including nuts, cherries, and seeds. When you visit Chocolate & Nut Kingdom, you can sample the flavors free, then leave with a containerful. The choose-your-own-assortment wall of attractive foil-wrapped chocolates will blow your mind and break your budget, so be careful — but also, ignore this warning, because it’s all so good. Melt Munch serves snacks, coffees, and specialty drinks, which makes it a perfect place to take a date. You can have desserts together and leave with treats for later. —Erica Rucker

Best Hotel Design

Hotel Genevieve

730 E. Market St.

The pictures don’t do justice to the beautiful interior of Hotel Genevieve. Rosettes, the Parisian-style cafe with food rooted in African American cuisine, makes a visually pleasing atmosphere also a cozy one. Hotel Genevieve also features a rooftop bar and a hidden speakeasy for late-night fun. The beauty of Genevieve doesn’t stop with the design of the amenities; the rooms, down to the robes, are gorgeously appointed. Hotel Genevieve makes the perfect place to visit on a day when you’re feeling gloomy. The space is able to take any frown and turn it upside down with rich jewel tones and cozy corners. Did I mention the pop-art-themed Mini Marché, which is the hotel’s small market? It’s not the most inexpensive place, but it has some nicely appointed snacks and drinks that are open to the public, not just hotel guests. If you haven’t yet, be sure to visit Hotel Genevieve ASAP. —Erica Rucker

Most-Missed Restaurant

Allo Spiedo

2309 Frankfort Ave.

I can’t recall the first time I ate at Allo Spiedo (housed in the space where Heine Bros took over Vint), but of all the restaurants that have come and gone in this city, this one hurt the most when it closed. Allo Spiedo was one of the first places in Louisville to offer wood-fired pizzas and rustic Italian fare, which felt very different from the usual pasta-based Italian food. Their roasted chicken was dreamy, and it’s the dish I miss most. If anyone knows how to make it, please open a restaurant immediately on that dish alone. My memories of Allo Spiedo aren’t just the food, but the atmosphere, the black-and-white design and the time spent with good friends. It was a splurge for us in our early college years before we made enough money to visit the highbrow dining establishments we do now, but it always made us feel just a bit fancy, and the food was always worth the price. If there are restaurant gods, then Allo Spiedo deserves reincarnation. —Erica Rucker

Best Produce At An Asian Market

Viet Hoa Food Market

7100 Preston Hwy #107

Louisville doesn’t have a lot of Asian markets, but the ones we have are pretty wonderful, and each of them wins my heart for different reasons. Viet Hoa is a market that I’ve only recently begun visiting — it’s far from my house — but the selection of seafood and produce might be the best in the city. It offers fresh seafood and meats as well as a large selection of frozen fare from a host of Asian countries. It is on the larger side of the Asian markets in the city; it might actually be the largest. If you are new to Asian cuisine, it’s one of the best markets to sample unique foods, and I think its shining star is the produce section, which runs the length of the store and has items that aren’t commonly found in the average Western-style grocery. There are scores of good leafy greens, legumes, tubers, radishes, and a ton of mushroom varieties. The selection of Asian drinks and soups is divine. Don’t miss a visit to Viet Hoa. Try something you’ve maybe never tried before, and find the favorites you already have. —Erica Rucker

Best Local Gift Shop

Grady Goods

620 Baxter Ave.

Louisville has a plethora of local gift shops, but one of the best-curated, and certainly the one where I spend the most money, is the recently opened Grady Goods. Created by husband-and-wife team Jae and Jane Grady, Grady Goods took what Jae learned in his work as the buyer for the Speed Art Museum gift shop and translated that into a wonderful collection of local art, local and regional goods, and other unique offerings that you won’t find anywhere else in the city. It also helps that sometimes their sons Arlo and Ronin (and sometimes dog Lobo) join them in the shop. In addition to the great finds at Grady Goods, the shop hosts a mix of solo and group art shows. Whenever you visit Grady Goods, you feel like you’re meeting good friends, even if, unlike me, you haven’t known the Gradys for years. —Erica Rucker

Best Asian Grocery If You’re Looking For Inspiration Or Something Obscure

Choi’s Asian Food Market

607 Lyndon Ln.

When the television K-drama “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” sent me out on the town in desperate search of kimbap rolls just like the ones that Woo loves, naturally I ended up at Choi’s in Lyndon. While we’re lucky these days to have an excellent Asian market in just about every corner of Louisville Metro, from Okolona to Buechel to Clarksville, Indiana, I like Choi’s best, and not just because it’s relatively convenient for me. I give Choi’s high marks for its broad selection of canned and packaged foods from all over Asia. Signs painted on the front window proclaim the presence of fare from China, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines, and that’s not counting the owners’ own heritage in Korea. I’m pretty sure you can find delights from other Asian nations here, too, but maybe they just ran out of window space. Choi’s is packed with freezers loaded with just every kind of of noodles, and there’s a full wall of produce, a garden of obscure but tasty-looking Asian greens that I’m more than willing to try. Hot sauces? I lost count, but it’s my go-to spot for Lao Gan Ma Hot Chili Crisp. Not only did Choi’s have the kimbap that I wanted, they make it fresh daily for sale from a cooler right next to the cash register, and there are lots more fresh-made Korean items, too. Want some gai lan (Chinese broccoli)? You’ll find it here. Bok choy? Napa cabbage? Yes, and at affordable prices that undersell the big groceries. Fresh live crabs in season? Check. And if you get lost among all the mysterious goods in the rows of towering shelves, fear not: I’ve always found the staff here friendly and helpful. —Robin Garr

Best Vegan Comfort Food That Everyone Can Love

V-Grits at Logan Street Market

1101 S. Logan St.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a hard-core vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, veggie-conscious, or even a hardcore carnivore with an open mind, you have every reason to love V-Grits, Chef Kristina Addington’s all-plant-based eatery. All it takes is an appetite to enjoy V-Grits’ creative meat-free versions of chicken, beef, pork sausage, mac and cheese, and more. After starting as a food truck in 2014 and moving four years later into the Barret Avenue spot that had housed Monkey Wrench, it looked like V-Grits had settled in to stay. That’s why it came as a shock when the chef made a tough announcement on social media last February: “[A] lot of small businesses are struggling right now and many are shutting down entirely, especially in the restaurant industry,” she wrote. “Sales have gone way down for this industry and the cost of everything we purchase has gone up. The only way we can continue to exist is to shrink down and focus on one thing - vegan comfort food.” To make that happen, V-Grits closed at the oversized Barret location. Was it the end? Nope! Within just a few weeks, the popular vegan spot was open again, somewhat smaller but just as appetizing, at a booth inside Logan Street Market. We dropped in the other day and enjoyed a hefty, crunchy Nashville hot vegan chicken sandwich – oh, so hot! Oh, so crunchy – and a seasonal plate, an all-vegan German Oktoberfest platter with a plant-based brat, sauerkraut-like slaw, potato salad, and a big, soft pretzel. It’s all delicious, affordably priced, and no animals were harmed in the production of our meal. —Robin Garr

Best Music Festival (That Isn’t Louder Than Life Or Bourbon & Beyond)

No Comply

Honestly, 2022 Carolyn might be surprised, even offended, that I’m including this given that, one, I nearly passed out at last year’s No Comply because it was 97 fucking degrees in a gigantic concrete bowl filled with people; and two, my camera bag got doused with colored powder, orange Jell-O, and all sorts of substances that absolutely did not come out completely, despite my many attempts at scrubbing and soaking it.

Still, it’s absolutely undeniable that the organizers, all locals, put on a hell of an amazing homegrown second-year festival. The turnout was incredible, the vibes were immaculate, and it was an event that the Louisville punk community will remember fondly for a long time. And they didn’t even need a Danny Wimmer-sized budget to make it happen!

I’m excited for No Comply 3, which will be on Saturday, Oct. 21. The weather will be cooler, thank goodness. and the all-local lineup will be new (to the festival), with an as-yet-surprise headliner I happen to have heard about and know will make for an awesome night.

Yes, I may have had my issues with No Comply 2 at the time, but it has grown on me since then — I say that sincerely. I miss it. All I wanted at the end of No Comply 2 was to get out of that concrete bowl, but now I can’t wait to get back in it again. —Carolyn Brown

Dining Venue I Most Strongly Want To Find An Excuse To Eat At

The igLOUs at 8UP

Every year, the downtown rooftop restaurant 8UP decorates plastic “igLOUs” in various themes (“The Disco Room,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Paris Nights,” etc.) I’ve photographed them before for a LEO gallery, and doing so made me really, really want to go back there to eat.

The problem: I don’t really have a good opportunity to do so. Date? Nope, currently single. Friend date? My friends aren’t really spenders. Family thing? Even my immediate family is spread out across the East Coast. Office party? Hahahahahahahaha our parent company doesn’t even give me health insurance.

That pretty much leaves me with having to go by myself, which would be very much a waste of the $250-$500 food/drink minimum. Maybe now that sports betting is a thing, I can strike it big on some UofL game and be able to afford to get an igLOU for a night. Otherwise, I’m gonna have to keep thinking. —Carolyn Brown

Best Place To Build A Table

Ted Harlan Woodworking School

930 Mason Ave., Ste. A

Want all your fantasies about being a woodworker to come true, but have no idea where to start? Get thee to the Ted Harlan Woodworking School! Come spend a night a week for a month or so learning the basics, all while hanging out in a giant repurposed warehouse in Smoketown. Start by making a Shaker-style table that is sure to become a family heirloom. From there, you can challenge yourself to more difficult projects, from jewelry boxes and workbenches, to the Ur-level project: a guitar. Berea graduate Ted Harlan has been running his woodworking studio since 1987, and his staff has expanded to include more local woodworkers, all of whom lead small, project-oriented classes with plenty of individual attention. This woodworking school is “guided by respect for classical woodworking techniques, respect for the materials, and the dignity of labor,” all of which fosters a deeper understanding of what is takes to create and build with wood. Classes are set based on the interest and availability of students, so fill out an interest form on the website and learn a new skill. —Tracy Heightchew

Best Video Store

Louisville Free Public Library


Streaming film is very convenient (as long as the Wi-Fi is working), but not a week goes by that I don’t wish that a video store were still part of my life. Browsing store shelves with strangers, comparing notes with my local movie nerds, anxiously waiting for new-release Tuesday — these things created a sense of community around the love of movies, and the loss of that feeling is something I just won’t be getting over anytime soon. As the streaming wars continue, and more and more titles disappear from Netflix and beyond, the reliance on tech bros to curate the future of our film and TV selections is more and more foreboding. This is where your local library steps up! LFPL has a vast collection of more than 30,000 DVDs and Blu-Rays in circulation, with more added every week. These titles run a huge gamut, from the latest hits and classic cinema to cult films and challenging documentaries. There is even a large collection for kids. So dust off the DVD player and return to browsing the shelves instead of flipping through your queue. And it costs you nothing! Not even late fees — LFPL is fine-free. —Tracy Heightchew