Staff Choices: LEO's favorite things about Louisville in 2018

Oct 3, 2018 at 10:33 am
LEO's Staff Choices

You've probably read LEO's Readers' Choice Award winners, but here are LEO's Staff Choices. 

Favorite Depot of Depravity Ali Baba Liquor Ali Baba Liquor (and smoke shop) sits at the corner of Hill and Seventh streets, a voluminous crossroads of the Portland divide. It sees swarms of red-faced commuters flying down Ninth Street at sunset and welcomes West Enders and UofL babies with nights off eyeing the pipes and bongs lining the windows. The bus stop and ATM out front further supplies a varied congregation getting fucked up sans-bar-tab. Perks include mixers, munchies, a fat wall of tobaccos, copious brews and spirits, grinders, incense and sugary shots and slushies, all drive through-available, plus a fun but no-bullshit staff. —John Nicholson

Favorite place for #metoo-free beer Barret Liquors I was at Barret Liquors buying a beer, and some guy checking out turns from the counter and inspects me. He asks what I’m buying. “Beer,” I asserted. He said, “You drink that?” “Well, yes!” said the guy behind the counter, owner Manoj Lippal (pictured above with Renu Lippal). Quick like that, he dismisses the nosy patron and waves me up for my turn. “It seems like you have some experience with that,” I mentioned. He rolled his eyes and said my experience was a mild one, and I wouldn’t believe what some of the other guys do. Except, I do. So, I nodded my appreciation. I felt understood. I’m just a lady who wants to enjoy her tallboys in peace. That’s why I choose to spend my money at Barret Liquors, at the corner of Barret and Winter avenues. —Megan Campbell Smith

Favorite Place to get edgicated in IPAs Gravely Brewery Everyone was telling me about this new brewery at the bottom of Baxter Avenue. So when a friend wanted to get a beer and discuss some business I suggested we try Gravely. Not only did I find one of the most interesting bars in Louisville, I finally discovered an IPA that made me go: “Oh, this is why people like IPAs.” What turned me was the Northeast IPA, but I’ve since gone back several times and had several of others, including a Blood Orange IPA. Everything Gravely does is great and, with a variety of places to sit, including a patio with a view of downtown, it’s a great place for meetings, gatherings or just hanging. —Aaron Yarmuth

Favorite place for screws Brownsboro Hardware & Paint I’m not handy. My wife cringes when I put hands on a power drill. I don’t like to shop. But I will misplace nuts for an excuse to go to a hardware store. Brownsboro Hardware at 4858 Old Brownsboro Road offers the best hardware experience. If I need a couple of screws, someone is waiting by the door to take me to what I need. That sure beats going to a big box store and trying to see if the bolts in the plastic bag are a match. One day, I arrived at Brownsboro Hardware two minutes after they locked the door, and they let me in to buy duct tape, which I needed to repair my car. Note to self: Buy more duct tape. I wonder if I can buy that Big Green Egg grill on layaway. —Creig Ewing

Favorite Place to Walk My Dog Butchertown Greenway Living in Clifton offers plenty of options for exercising my hyper-energetic hound dog, Atticus. Champions Dog Park is a short drive away, there are plenty of neighborhoods full of squirrels, and there’s the Butchertown Greenway. The path along Beargrass Creek takes us from the foot of Story Avenue all the way to the waterfront, with a view of the creek and lots of smells for Atticus’ sniffer and even wildlife, including ducks and great blue heron. We even got up close and personal with a turkey vulture one morning, which was quite an experience, to say the least. The development of Waterfront Botanical Gardens has seen the removal of a stretch of tree canopy, making part of the walk feel less intimate, but it’s still an every-weekend destination, weather permitting. —Kevin GIbson

Favorite place to spend 10 minutes Double Dragon Double Dragon, on the surface, is similar to any other strip-mall Chinese takeout restaurant. It has the same neutral Formica counter, tile floor, wallpaper and sparse Asian decor. It basically has the same menu, and even its name Double Dragon sounds like it comes from a Chinese restaurant name generator. However, there is something different about it. The flavors and quality is a step or two above the hundreds of other similar restaurants I have frequented in my years. Am I biased by its convenient location next to the Kroger on Goss Avenue? Is it the unreal, fast, 10 minute turnaround on all orders? Is it that they memorize the orders of their regular customers? Could be any and all of those reasons, but I believe the owners and cooks at Double Dragon put just a little more love into their craft than you find at the usual Chinese takeout restaurant. If you go on Tuesday evening, perhaps you will see me, but don’t blink... I will be there for only 10 minutes. —J. Cobb

Favorite place for a cut in style Beechmont Bombshells The Beechmont neighborhood has a lot going for it, including storefronts like Cocoberry Pops, Annie’s Cafe and the lesser known, but equally great, Beechmont Bombshells at 309 W. Woodlawn Ave. As a dude, most of the barbershops I’ve been to are pretty standard, with conversations revolving mostly around sports and yard work. But this stylish shop drips in rockabilly decor, complete with pin-up girls on the walls. Some of the stylists have tattoos that match the decor. And if you’re like me, and looking for something different than the usual sports talk, the stylists will keep you entertained. From the outside, the salon is easy to spot because of its signature bombshell, painted bright blue and red, on the building. Inside, owner Cindy Venture and fellow stylists give consistently great cuts for reasonable prices. —Ethan Smith

Favorite new reason to cross the river Longboard’s Taco & Tiki Speaking as a native Hoosier and a former Southern Indiana reporter, I think the state has plenty of things worth making the trip across the bridges to visit. But even if you’re not of that mind, I’ve got something that’ll compel you to drive the measly five to 20 minutes to the Sunny Side, in this case, to Longboard’s Taco & Tiki at 302 Pearl St., New Albany. Open since July, Longboard’s has some of the most mouthwatering (and I don’t take that word lightly) dishes in the Louisville area. Heck, the region. Its tacos carry a lengthy list of ingredients featuring interesting flavor combinations that somehow just work. I had the Korean BBQ (skirt steak, gochujang aoili, cotija house kimchi, apple, cilantro and crispy wontons) and Duck Confit (sorghum hoisin glaze, cashews, pickled vegetable slaw, jalapeño cilantro aioli) tacos last week, and I’m still telling everyone about them. Including you, now, I guess. Longboard’s tiki-inspired cocktail list is fun and inventive, too. I’m still bummed I didn’t order its Green Means Go creation, made with tequila, cilantro, cucumber, agave and lime. Tying up the Longboard’s experience into a pretty, little bow is its neat basement lounge, with funky globe lights suspended from the ceiling and thatched roof bar, as well as its nifty flag system for catching the server’s attention. Warning: If you go, you might find yourself spending more time in Indiana —  and enjoying it. —Danielle Grady

Favorite place for Gifts that give back Just Creations Just Creations is one of my favorite stores. This delightful little Crescent Hill shop’s two rooms are jam-packed with intriguing artisan goods from around the world. Just Creations at 2722 Frankfort Ave. is a not-for-profit Fair Trade store, dealing directly with low-income craftspeople in 45 countries around Asia, Africa and Central and South America. Sales help provide a fair wage, so all these artisans can afford food, education, health care and housing. What’s your pleasure? Fair trade coffee, chocolate, clothing, books, gloves, mufflers or hats? CDs? Or a T-shirt with “Louisville” spelled out in eight languages? If you can’t find the perfect gift here, you’re just not trying. —Robin Garr

Favorite place to try new meats Galan’s Meat Market & Deli Looking for Georgia Red Hots, those impossibly red hot dogs, or Liver Pudding Ring, or Garlic Links or... ham hocks or oxtails? Galan’s, at 2801 W. Market St., also has pork spare ribs and tips, pork chops, chicken wings, bacon and display cases of fresh and frozen meat, fish and fowl. Try the goat (see photo). The recent arrival of Galan’s in West Louisville adds to the city’s small number of specialty butcher shops and helps make up for the lack of places to get fresh food in that section of the city (it even has produce, albeit a small selection). The last time I was there I got a pound of rib tips and half pound of hot sausage. The tips got a respectable smoking and tangy barbecue rub in my backyard, and the sausage made a spicy addition to meatballs and Sunday sauce. Next, oxtail soup! —Keith Stone

Favorite Fashion tip Nearly New Shop I’m a frugal fashionista. One of the best ways to get my clothing fix is to shop at Nearly New’s annual Fashion Encore (in the lower level of the Mid City Mall). The sale features “gently-used” items for women, men and children. But it’s the women’s designer section that is worth the trip. Clothes from stores, such as Talbots, J. Jill and Chico’s, are abundant, as are designers like Ralph Lauren, DKNY and Michael Kors. Just don’t get in my way. A favorite coat is from the sale. Ditto an olive green purse. What probably was my best find — a Burberry trench coat — didn’t come home with me because it was too small (didn’t stop me from considering it though). Luckily, I found a Burberry cashmere scarf and bought it instead for 1/10th the original price.—Jo Anne Triplett

Favorite meal Panchitos Ice Cream & Taqueria In the Highlands I’m of two minds sharing a secret that, to this day, shocks me that more folks don’t know about. Perhaps it has a bit to do with this fast casual concept not changing their sign from the former Bahn Mi Hero on Bardstown Road near Douglass Boulevard until only recently. I want, nay, need this business to succeed of course. On the other hand, I also don’t want all you LEO-reading mouth-breathers to overcrowd my special joint. Originally a helado shop on Preston Highway known for long lines, Panchitos opened a taqueria in the Douglass Loop area last year. And they did so with a meal deal for the ages: three tacos, a scoop of ice cream and your choice of house-made fresca or Mexica soda for $10 plus tax. Ten. That’s as many as 10 ones. The tacos are authentic street style and awesome — sweet and spicy mole, perfectly succulent al pastor and much more — piled high with cilantro, onions and salsa. Coupled with friendly service and delectable deserts featuring both familiar and exotic flavors, Panchitos is a true gem. Just don’t ruin this for me, OK? —Michael C. Powell

Favorite place for... ‘merica Butchertown Pizza Hall Eighties nostalgia is everywhere right now, and one of the best places to experience it in person is Butchertown Pizza Hall at 1301 Story Ave., a neighborhood pizzeria with a family atmosphere and an arcade in back. BPH offers “Ms. Pac Man,” pizza by the giant slice and the best tater tots in town. My little tribe includes a picky eater, a gluten-free bloke, a booze enthusiast and a vegan queen — BPH has us all covered. My recommendation is the specialty pizza “‘Merica” (pictured above) — a little embarrassing to order, but worth it for the bacon, tater tots, and a ranch drizzle... you know, because ‘Merica. —Deena Lilygren

Favorite Street Breckinridge Downtown traffic can be the worst, especially for anyone who has tried to deal with the timed lights on the grid. City officials told a WDRB reporter a few years ago that traffic lights had been reset on east-to-west streets to keep drivers to the speed limit of 25. The result was a smoother flow. That must be what makes Breckinridge Street so damned special. Running parallel and south of Broadway, westbound, it starts in the Original Highlands and runs through Smoketown. Whoever designed that street needs a medal, because it’s smooth as a baby’s ass, unless there is a wreck. Even after the installation of a bike lane, Breckinridge flows like the spice in “Dune.” So, if you’re like me and want to ease up on that commute as much as possible, then take Breckinridge across town and hit the snooze alarm an extra time or two. —Syd Bishop

Favorite place to expire B&E Salvage Co. Inc. Looking for Dona Isabel Spaguetti Sauce from Peru that is closing in on its expiration date ($1.39)? No? Well, maybe you will like the 10-cent LaCroix waters (some dented), or something else from the mounds and shelves of canned goods at B&E Salvage at 8645 Preston Highway, Okolona. Like the Bluegrass & Blues Lip Smacking Sauce (99 cents) or a four-pack of Bumble Bee Wild Alaska Blueback Salmon ($1.50). You can find obscure brands and familiar brands, low-rent stuff and highbrow delicacies (such as found in a quarter aisle of mustards). Don’t worry if some are expired or close to it. An NPR reporter talked with experts and concluded: “Those ‘sell by’ dates are there to protect the reputation of the food. They have very little to do with food safety.” In other words, the expiration date is there to make sure you taste the food at its best. I say, let other buyers beware, but you can eat like a millionaire at B&E. —Keith Stone

Favorite wings Big Al’s Beeritaville A few years ago while driving down Mellwood Avenue with a friend, I noticed a bar that had a sign with a parrot on it. We thought the place looked tropical, so, of course, we wanted to try it out. Inside Big Al’s Beeritaville at 1715 Mellwood Ave., we immediately noticed this lit-up sports bar’s unique, tropical vibe, which included a fish tank in the middle of the bar. I ordered a beer and, naturally, wanted to try the wings. I am so glad I did because these wings, unlike those at other places in town, were so big and juicy... covered with a smoky Caribbean sauce. You also can get them naked, buffalo style with Mike’s homemade hot sauce. These 10 jumbo wings for $9.50 will fill you up and deliver explosive flavor without hurting the wallet. After that night, that’s when I knew I had discovered the best wings in town! —Eric Clark