Readers' Choice 2019 Staff Choices

Oct 2, 2019 at 11:16 am
North Overlook in Iroquois Park.  |  Photo courtesy of the Olmsted Conservancy.
North Overlook in Iroquois Park. | Photo courtesy of the Olmsted Conservancy.

LEO’s readers voted in the Readers’ Choice Awards, but we didn’t want you to have all of the fun. Here are LEO’s Staff Favorites Awards.

click to enlarge J.D. Yarmuth causing trouble.
J.D. Yarmuth causing trouble.

My Favorite Way To Avoid A Screaming Baby

Running errands... to Costco

I wish I could claim the gym (maybe I’ll start next week). Obviously, the golf course is great for avoiding the screams of your 8-week-old baby boy. However, several hours of outdoor leisure can lead to a disgruntled co-parent — which is worse than the screaming baby! That is why the best thing to do is run errands… offer to do your partner favors, lots of favors. With that in mind, the grocery, dry cleaner and even the mall are all viable options. Yet, if forced to name a best? Costco. Not only can you do all the favors — food, clothes, house and cleaning supplies — the massive store offers plenty of real estate to stroll at a leisurely pace. There are always major crowds to battle, slowing down your progress. Most important, they offer food samples. You can turn this selfless quest to help your spouse into a full, free meal! And, you’ll have a full car of bulk supplies to load and unload, stealing at least another 10 minutes of non-screaming baby time. Once home — or if confined to the house — unquestionably, the best place is the bathroom. During peak screaming, meticulous shaving, cutting nails and grooming can amount to as much as an hour of peace and quiet. Life-hack: After you’ve unloaded the car from Costco, if the boy is still screaming, tell your spouse you need to shower… —Aaron Yarmuth

Chasing a loose ball in an early tournament game in the 2019 Dirt Bowl.  |  Photo by Nik Vechery. - Nik Vechery
Nik Vechery
Chasing a loose ball in an early tournament game in the 2019 Dirt Bowl. | Photo by Nik Vechery.

My Favorite Local Sports Tournament

Dirt Bowl

Outdoor basketball is dying. That’s not a secret— it has been for a long time. Decades ago, people sat on the rooftops to watch Julius Erving fly at Rucker Park in Harlem. Even this century, top recruits such as Kevin Durant cut their teeth playing street ball. While such forces as AAU and violence have pushed the game indoors nationwide, Louisville still has a crown jewel of playground basketball, the Dirt Bowl in Shawnee Park. The series marked its 50th year this summer, making it the second-longest running outdoor tournament in the nation. Artis Gilmore and Darrell Griffith once did battle in the Dirt Bowl, creating legendary tales of dunks and blocks that are still told today. Now, a new generation of talent competes in the summer-long event, and it feels like a trip back to another era. It’s an electric atmosphere, with high-level basketball and good food, especially when the championship game rolls around. —Scott Recker

Atticus makes a friend at Champions Park.  |  Photo by Kevin Gibson. - Kevin Gibson
Kevin Gibson
Atticus makes a friend at Champions Park. | Photo by Kevin Gibson.

My Favorite Dog Park

Champions Park

When you have a dog that is brimming with energy, sometimes a long walk or even a backyard just won’t cut it. I’ve had my dog Atticus for just over two years and have only experienced dog park culture in that time, but boy, oh boy, am I thankful for it. You know, because sometimes you just need your dog to calm down and take a nap already. Admittedly, I’ve only been to three of the local dog parks, but I think that’s largely because our “home” park, Champions on River Road, fits the bill so readily: It’s close to home, and since we’ve become regulars, about half the people I see there know Atticus by name. Heck, most of them don’t know my name. (But that’s dog park culture, and most of those I meet laugh about the fact that everyone memorizes the dogs’ names, but most of us don’t remember each others’.) So magical is Champions, it’s a place where a bichon frise named Zooey can be Queen of the Park, ruling all who come through the gate, and a corgi named Wendy can be dubbed The Park Enforcer (although sometimes she’s also called The Fun Police) because she frantically barks at any dogs who start wrestling. Atticus is the Kissing Bandit because he seems to think people welcome having his giant tongue on their faces. If I have a nickname there other than Atticus’ Dad, I don’t know it, but it might be Guy Who Spends Too Much Time With His Dog. I really don’t need to know. —Kevin Gibson

Photo by Nik Vechery. - Nik Vechery
Nik Vechery
Photo by Nik Vechery.

My Favorite Place To Forget The Planet Is On Fire

Louisville Salt Cave

Ever wish you could put five tons of 250 million-year-old Himalayan salt slabs between yourself and the outside world? The Louisville Salt Cave, on Shelbyville Road, offers the opportunity to lock yourself in a cozy, dark cave with ambient music, fairy lights and relaxing recliners. In this cave, you’ll wrap yourself in a blanket and for 45 minutes engage in halotherapy (think about old-timey doctors prescribing “sea air” for respiratory issues, which we all suffer here in the Ohio River Valley). You’ll relax, breathe the salt air and feel 100% set apart from the outside world. It’s not just a hobbyist’s escape: According to the staff, halotherapy can help with respiratory issues, asthma, allergies, sinusitis, congestion, ear infections, skin disorders, eczema, psoriasis, acne, cystic fibrosis, depression, anxiety and sleep disorders. While some in the medical community feel that it’s pseudoscience, others say that halotherapy has positive health benefits. The facility itself is pretty crunchy, so you can expect to be gently ushered in and out by soft-spoken staff who may try to sell you crystals, oils and inspirational fare.

I don’t know if it actually helps with my allergies, but some of my friends swear by it, and at the very least, it’s the chance to lock yourself away long enough to soothe your senses and emerge on the other side saying, “President who?” —Deena Lilygren

My Favorite Rye Whiskey... and Bourbon, too

Old Forester

George Garvin Brown, the patriarch of Louisville’s Brown-Forman Corp., had the right idea when he came up with the idea of selling bourbon in bottles in 1870 and called the product Old Forester. The brand has been a local favorite ever since — right through Prohibition, when it was one of the few brands permitted to make whiskey for, you know, medicinal purposes. Now, 149 years later, in this age of trophy bourbons and $100-plus bottles, Old Forester’s basic 86 proof is still good enough for me. I like its sweet caramel and maple aroma and flavor. It’s mellow enough for sipping straight or with a splash of water, and it’s also just right for cocktails; it’s a real buy at $19 for a fifth, $24 for a liter at my local shop, The Wine Rack. And now – be still, my heart — Old Forester has launched a 100-proof rye whisky (yes, that’s how Brown-Forman spells it) at the same price. It’s Brown-Forman’s first non-bourbon since 1870, and it is seriously good. You really need a rye to make a proper Manhattan or a Sazerac, but this rye is just as good as its bourbon sibling for sipping on its own. There is indeed a sibling relationship in that familiar brown sugar scent that oak barrels impart. But there’s a spicy thing going on too, a note that speaks of rye, plus a distinct but subtle whiff of wildflowers that adds complexity. This is a fine whiskey, er, whisky, and a great value. —Robin Garr

Lemon Pepper Hot wings make me sing.
Lemon Pepper Hot wings make me sing.

My Favorite Wings Spot

The Chicken Box

Plump. Tender. Crispy. Saucy! The wings at The Chicken Box at 5905 Terry Road put the Pleasure in Pleasure Ridge Park. Sure, Louisville and Southern Indiana have plenty of wing spots, many of them contenders and some of them outright winners in their niches. Indi’s has good hot wings (but get the keel). Barret Bar’s smoked-and-fried are legendary. The Back Door has its fans, of course, but... The Chicken Box puts the sauce beneath my wings. The Box sauces — called “drips” — run both the flavor and Scoville scales: Buffalo, Extra Hot, BBQ, Lemon Pepper Hot, Garlic Parmesan, Lemon Pepper, Sweet Asian Chili and Siracha Bourbon. My go-to is the Lemon Pepper Hot, a mix of the slightly acidic, sour Buffalo with that lemon pepper kick. The bone-in wings are huge. Huge, I tell you! These must come from Goliath Chickens. The Box fries them to order: They come out steaming, cooked perfectly so the skin crackles but the meat remains juicy and tender. Buy them bone-in or boneless, à la carte or in combos with waffle biscuits and sides. My favorite side is an order of sweet potato fries, the perfect palate cleanser. The price? A bargain at any price, but these are about $1 a wing or less, depending how many you can cram in your wing hole. —Keith Stone

Mariel and Clarisse Nall learning about moth caterpillars on the Insectarium tour.
Mariel and Clarisse Nall learning about moth caterpillars on the Insectarium tour.

My Favorite Place To Visit For Curious Minds Of All Ages

Idlewild Butterfly Farm & Insectarium

Want to cure your entomophobia? Then this is the perfect place. I recently took my twin daughters, who love bugs more than kittens or unicorns, and they enjoyed themselves immensely and are raring to go back. This slightly off-the-beaten-path gem located in an old storefront in Smoketown is a Mecca for lovers of entomology, biology and nature in general. The working “micro” farm raises and markets insects and other arthropods that are beneficial for pest control and healthy garden environments. But for the general public, it also provides guided tours that are informative, creative and delightful. Get close up with these exotic insects — yes, some you can hold. The on-site butterfly flight house is a must-see. Idelwild offers educational workshops, classes, field trips and hosts wonderful events such as its upcoming “Bug Ball” at the Waterfront Botanical Gardens and Halloween-themed “Creepy Things” at its Logan Street location. The gift shop is worth a visit in its own right as it is filled with whimsical curiosities that make the perfect gift for your science lover. —J. Cobb

Revelry abounds in the Kentucky Derby’s infield. - Photo by Kathryn Harrington. - Kathryn Harrington
Kathryn Harrington
Revelry abounds in the Kentucky Derby’s infield. Photo by Kathryn Harrington.

My Favorite Place To Retrieve My Drunk Relatives After Derby


If you live in Louisville and don’t go to the Kentucky Derby, it’s even-money odds that you will be asked to pick up friends or relatives after their day at the races. This is not an easy task for several reasons: Without a parking pass, you can’t get close to Churchill Downs; with 100,000-plus people at the track, cell phone service will be spotty; and your friends probably will be drunk. Because it rains every Derby day, wet and muddy is a good bet as well, if they are infielders. I like to wait in the lot behind the UofL’s J.B. Speed School of Engineering just south of Eastern Parkway. Have your friends walk up Third Street toward campus and up Brook Street, which is the newish road with the bridge over the railroad tracks just past the Jim Patterson Stadium, UofL’s baseball stadium. Meet them at the bottom of the overpass. Sound easy? Remember: Your friends have been drinking and watching horses run in circles all day. You’ll hear others in the parking lot shouting into their cell phones, trying to guide their friends.

“If you don’t know where you are, Sheila, how am I supposed to know?”

“No, I can’t come there. The streets are blocked. You’ll have to walk. … OK, I guess you’ll have to stagger then.”

“Where are you, Sheila?”

“I told you! I’m waiting in a parking lot by the lacrosse field. Or maybe it’s a field hockey field. I’m not sure. Just walk past the baseball stadium. No! Not the football stadium.”

“How did you get on Algonquin Parkway, Sheila?”

Remember to bring a towel, some patience and bread crumbs for Sheila. —Creig Ewing

Photo by Danielle Grady.
Photo by Danielle Grady.

Favorite Substitute For A Beach Vacation

J-Town Beach

Besides being located, oh, approximately 629 miles from the ocean, J-Town Beach, based in Jeffersontown’s historic Gaslight district, is a lot like your favorite seaside vacation spot. Anchored by two sand volleyball courts, this quaint bar serving rum buckets and refreshing Naturdays is right next to a Comfy Cow ice cream spot and, depending on the day, might also be serving up authentic Jamaican food to a reggae soundtrack. You can sign up to be a part of one of the bar’s many volleyball leagues (I am evidence that you don’t have to be good to play — Team Comic Sands; watch us lose every Thursday night), or you can grab a colorful Adirondack chair and watch a game with your feet dug into the sand. Ahh, just like Destin… until a rogue volleyball smacks you in the head. (Sorry — it was probably me) —Danielle Grady

My Favorite Public Art

‘The Thinker’ by Rodin

Public art is just that — art for the public (aka you and me). But what do you do if you want to show someone a favorite piece of Louisville outdoor art (with a capital A), and he prefers the giant bat at the Louisville Slugger Museum? Pick something even a non-art person knows, such as “The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin located at UofL. While he may refer to the sculpture as “the one that looks like a guy on the toilet,” as least it’s a start.

Peak his interest with some artistic gossip. For instance, there are multiples of “The Thinker” around the world. For years, it was believed the first casting was the one Rodin gifted to Paris. Actually, we have the first; the one now in Louisville was bought at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

Its coloring resembled green pond scum for decades due to corrosion and graffiti. The school’s maintenance crews cleaned it, with a professional conservation not happening until 2012.

Who owns “The Thinker?” That’s up for debate. As it sits on UofL’s campus off Third Street, you would think the university owns it. It was gifted to the city in 1949; after much discussion, it was decided UofL, then a private university, was the best place for it. But in 2017 the school said the state is the owner (UofL is now a state school, with its assets part of the Kentucky system). Louisville Metro maintains it has always owned it. —Jo Anne Triplett

My Favorite Laundry Is In A Category Of One

2406 Laundrymart

Louisville laundromats are categorically miserable. Their dryers burn your shirts. Their washers never rinse. Their patrons toil in a perfumed cloud of mildew and B.O. Laundromats have no love for us and us no love for them. For those of us who must air our dirty laundry in public, there is one and only one decent way to do it. Ditch the laun-dro-mat and opt instead for the best wash, dry, fold and steam services in the city: 2406 Laundrymart. In a category all to itself, 2406 Laundrymart at 2406 Frankfort Ave. is so clean you could eat off the folding tables. The staff is friendly and helps resolve any issues that would soil the typical day at the average sudshole. The water is hot. The AC and WiFi are plentiful. High-tech security doors and video monitoring means you can show up for last wash minutes before 8 p.m. and stay as long as you need in absolute comfort and safety. And if you never thought a laundry could make you feel jealous... 2406 Laundrymart offers exclusive 24-hour wash privileges to a few lucky patrons in the After Hours Club. I’ve tried to sign up many times, but there’s a wait list. Watch me smile real nice so maybe Mr. John will bump me to the top of the list. —Megan Campbell Smith

Photo by Syd Bishop. - Syd Bishop
Syd Bishop
Photo by Syd Bishop.

My Favorite Playground

Hal Warheim Park

Tucked quietly into the Belknap neighborhood is one of the most magical parks in the city. Opened in 2004, Hal Warheim Park has such an innocuous entrance that you could pass it for years and never know the secrets that it holds. Hal Warheim bought the overgrown, vacant lot at 1832 Overlook Terrace in 1974 with the inspiration that it could become a green space for the neighborhood. It became that in 2004 and now is wholly supported by donors and volunteers. Surrounded on all sides by neighborhood, the park is a magical, green island in Highlands suburbia. Following a long, snaking trail, you pass a tiny library and trees carved to look like various creatures. The trail opens up into a large, circular area with bench swings nestled throughout, and a gazebo at the center. And equal to that gazebo is the playground, which is perfect. You want swings? There are all kinds of swings in this park for all ages. There are slides and things to climb, and natural art everywhere. As a parent, what makes this park shine is that it’s equally great for the kids and the adults. —Syd Bishop

My Favorite Cocktail In Louisville

Trouble Bar

I’m going to be accused of being biased, but numbers don’t lie. The top-selling cocktail at Trouble Bar – Shelby Park’s new bourbon bar – is The Storyteller, by yours truly! The owners were kind enough to honor me and other women important to them with cocktails on the menu. I talked with Nicole (and Kaitlyn!) about what I wanted, and we got to tasting different things. Then, they chose a name for it and listed me as the creator. The Storyteller is Old Bardstown Bourbon and local honey infused with hibiscus and jalapeño, finished with a splash of lime juice. Besides having my own drank on the menu, you can catch me at Trouble because the feminists who own and run the place want you to feel comfortable whether you’re seated at the bar, on their couch or even the toilet #genderisasocialconstruct. And we can never have enough welcoming spaces. See ya there, Louisville — next round’s on you ;) —Minda Honey

My Favorite Place to Play Golf

Seneca Golf Course

Upon my arrival to Louisville 15 years ago, I found myself with nothing to do most days. Then, I discovered the wonderful Seneca Golf Course. The layout was challenging enough, but the staff. Man, that staff is the bee’s knees. It all starts at the top. Head pro Kevin Greenwell is an awesome fella. He is also a fine teacher from what I hear. I usually go alone and pair up with other random players, as I am an outgoing guy. The people I have met have been nothing short of fantastic. I have made so many friends there. Every Friday at 12:30 p.m., we play a skins game (it’s a gambling game where you put money in a pot, and people win depending on the best score on each hole. You don’t have to be good the whole game. You just have to be good at the right time). So, if you think you can win a skin or two, show up Friday. If you want to play golf with a bunch of good people, show up Friday. If want to do both, you know the answer. I hope to see you, Friday. —Tim Northern

My Favorite Place To Get Close-Out Liquor

Schreck’s Baxter Liquors

In a city that promotes itself to the world as a drink destination, its liquor stores had better be pretty good. They are. The big stores and the niche stores have rows of bourbons found only in Kentucky. They have those special craft beers from tiny microbreweries in, say, Lansing. But when you are hankering for obscure finds, like flipping through the bin at a record store, I recommend Schreck’s Baxter Liquors, which purports to be the oldest family owned liquor store in Kentucky. (The neon sign alone says “old timey.”) Schreck’s has an entire rack of close-out wine and liquors, starting at $3.99 and also close-out beers. Find that Hungarian aperitif or charcoal-flavored moonshine from Texas. Enjoy a bottle of cut-priced Stoli with cranberry or a merlot with a picture of a cat on the label. Can I get a witness?! Yes... One Yelp! reviewer wrote lovingly (if that is possible on Yelp!): “Schrecks is kinda weird — it’s really small, and they have a huge selection of bizarre sounding liquor.” Another wrote: “I found a real nice 10-year-old port (like pulling teeth in Bourbonville here), and the wine selection had some real fine labels as well.” And, finally: “Cashier directed me to a particular bourbon that was on sale for $15. The next day, I saw the same bourbon at Kroger for $50! Awesome experience.” Let the spirits moved you away at Schreck’s. —Keith Stone

Photo courtesy of the Olmsted Conservancy.
Photo courtesy of the Olmsted Conservancy.

My Favorite Way To See The City

North Overlook in Iroquois Park

Churchill Down’s “Big Board,” the 171-foot-wide, 90-foot-tall video board that hovers 80 feet off the ground, was touted as the largest of its kind in the world when it was announced in 2014. But from North Overlook in Iroquois Park, it is sooo tiny... just one of the many pieces you might recognize as you try to put together this jigsaw puzzle view of the city and Southern Indiana. I have long loved hiking up to the overlook to gaze out over panorama. For a while, that was not easy: Trees and brush had grown up, obscuring the view. A graffitied, crumbling concrete foundation was the only place to stand or sit. All of that has since been redone beautifully, with native plantings, rain gardens and a sandstone outlook for sitting and standing. Make a day of it: Vietnam Kitchen for J7 (pork and egg roll over vermicelli noodles), and then park at the entrance to Iroquois and walk to the overlook via the road or on a trail. The view will keep you coming back. —Keith Stone