Here’s where you can go eat, drink, and enjoy Louisville. I’m sure I left out a place or two, so just email me to remind me, and if you know of any cool places I should check out, just let me know. Thanks – Bernie
Whether you’re visiting Louisville for Bourbon tours, or just visiting, this is a vibrant city with a lot of great things going on. You just have to know where, when and what nights to go. As a Louisvillian, (or Indiuckian) that prides myself on my city, this is where I go, and where I’d suggest anyone to go here in town on certain nights.
When you’re planning your trip, keep in mind that there are bourbon tastings at each distillery, so getting a tour company to drive and remove that worry is the way to go. There are several good tour companies. Mint Julep Experiences has been around the longest specializing in the Bourbon Trail and crafting a tailored trip for you whether you need an SUV for a few people, or a bus for 22 people. check out their website at; www.mintjuleptours.com and call them direct at 502-583-1433. They also offer tours of the distilleries in Tennessee through their Nashville location.
Most all the major downtown hotels have a great bourbon bar, and you can check out the Urban Bourbon Trail for a complete list of places to visit that are guaranteed to have at least 50 bourbons on the back bar to choose from. Their website is www.bourboncountry.com
But here are some suggestions from my personal experience. I’ve broken it down by areas of town. No place on the list is more than just a few miles away from downtown hotels, which means you can take a Lyft or Uber and to most any of these places between 5 and 15 minutes! You can of course use the google machine to look up menus and prices before you go, so I don’t go in to that sort of detail here.
Not all these places have a big bourbon selection, but most all will have one that you like I’m sure. I’ve also listed the ones that are Certified Bonded Premises, which means that Heaven Hill Distillery and myself have certified that they carry every bottled in bond spirt available in the state of Kentucky. That’s about 22 Bottled In Bond offerings…If you don’t know what that is, visit my website at www.whiskeyprof.com for articles there.
Today there are 1,400 craft distilleries in the country now, and 10 major distilleries there are probably 4,000 different whiskey brands and offerings in the U.S. today. Of those 4,000 whiskey brands, there are probably about 25 bottled in bond…and at Heaven Hill we proudly make 10 of those! So I call bottled in bond the “Eagle Scouts” of spirits; The “Navy Seal’s” of spirits; so why wouldn’t you want every single one?
PACE YOURSELVES: In Louisville you have to pace yourselves because the bars are open ‘til 4am every night, so it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Enjoy Louisville y’all! We are glad you are here.
Accounts that have two asterisks ** in front of them are bars and restaurants that have been around and locally owned and operated for 1o or 20 years and are cool places with great history that now have new local owners and have keep the history of the original place still going.
Accounts that have three asterisks *** in front of them are places that have been around for more than 20 years and have deep Louisville history.
Louisville has a lot of hotels in downtown like the Marriott, Omni, Courtyard, etc. Those are all great, and right in the center of town. Here’s a few options just down the street though and still in the mix of things.
Parkside Bikes BNB – Bed and Bike – 822 E. Market in Nulu. Bed and Bike https://www.parksidebikes.com/bed-and-bike (502) 384-0668 is a quaint bed and breakfast connected to a Bike Shop where you can rent a bike and see then city. The Bike Shop moved and it’s a Florist now, but you can still stay there, and rent I bike since they are the landlord; ha. Located not even a mile from the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, this is in the heart of the Nulu area, and many cool bourbon bars and restaurants are within steps.
Also in Nulu, aloft hotel – 102 W. Main St – is a great option in Nulu, and has a great bourbon bar inside. You might even see our Master Distiller; Denny Potter there having a drink with his parents who just bought a condo down the street there.
Distil and Moxy Hotel – 101 W. Main on Whiskey Row, and Moxy is right behind it at 100 W. Washington St. – these are Marriott properties and both are located where the former J.T.S. Brown Distillery offices were. So Distil Hotel makes sense, and their Bar and Restaurant is called Repeal. Great whiskey selection, and Repeal’s signature is “Oak Fired Steakhouse”. Distil is a luxury hotel part of the Marriott AC collection.
AC Hotel Nulu – 727 E Market St – This hotel opened for Derby of 2018, and is in the same block as Taj, Decca, and several other Nulu spots. Perfect location for being downtown, but just out of the bustle of convention and Yum Center traffic.
Marriott Downtown – 2nd and Jefferson – Large convention hotel, the lobby bar has a great selection, and my buddy Hickory Vaught plays music on most Saturday nights there starting at 9pm.
The Omni – 400 S. 2nd St. – this iconic hotel built here in 2018, and it’s quite the place. Right behind the Marriott, and close to everything downtown.
21C Museum Hotel – 7th and Main St – Boutique hotel founded by one of the Brown’s of Brown-Foreman, this hotel is also a museum of 21st Century Artists with rotating artwork between all the locations of 21c around the country. Fun colored penguins dance all around the hotel. Great bar with nice cocktails and great restaurant.
The Galt House – 4th and Main – locally owned and operated, the Galt House is undergoing a renovation. Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse is right out front, and has awesome steaks and seafood. My sister in music Miss Robbie Bartlett sings there most weekends. The Galt House is a local staple, and if you want to stay right on the river in the middle of the mix, I’d stay here. Jockey Silks Bar is one of the oldest bourbon bars in town and just went through a major renovation.
Bars and Restaurants In the Highlands
Grale Haus – 1001 Bardstown Road Open 8am – 4pm every day. 502-454-7075 www.gralehaus.com Behind Holy Grale and a part of the Bed and Breakfast there (so keep that in mind for accommodations). They call it a “Bed & Beverage”, which is a great descriptor. It’s a 5 minute uber/lyft fom downtown.
Doc Crows – 127 W. Main – Next to the Second Street bridge – because we have UPS SuperHub here, they carry oysters and that from the coast, and great BBQ and that sort of fare, and a great bourbon selection. This is a big place, so great for large groups….you’ll want reservation usually though. Open for lunch and dinner. Doc Crows is also a Certified Bonded Premises!
Sidebar – 129 N. Second St. (at the Second Street Bridge, next to the Yum Center, behind Doc Crows) – great place for lunch or casual dinner. Great bar, and an awesome bourbon selection as well as beer. I love coming here for lunch, but come for dinner too. I like the “adult milkshakes” here for a dessert. Sidebar is a Certified Bonded Premises; C.B.P. KY-129
Troll Pub – 150 Washington St – Under the Bridge behind Doc Crows and Sidebar – This is a good size location so great for larger groups – It’s a sports bar with a great beer and good solid bourbon selection, and they’re also a Certified Bonded Premises which means they carry every bottle in bond available in the state of Kentucky; C.B.P. KY-150.
Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen – 122 W. Main across from Old Forester – this place has LIVE MUSIC NIGHTLY and has a great bourbon selection. They’re a Certified Bonded Premises – C.B.P. KY 122. Tacos and casual fare, and laid back casual atmosphere, and they love their bourbon.
expo – 114 W. Main Street – Right next to Merle’s is expo, which opened in Jan 2020 and is a premier cocktail bar. Owner, Nickle is usually behind the bar shaking up some of the best if not THE best cocktails in town. He’s a Mellow Corn Whiskey fan like I am, so tell him to make you Bernie’s favorite Mellow Corn cocktail, a Mellow Corn Paloma, or as I call it a Mellowma!
Down One Bourbon Bar – 321 W. Main St. (in front of the Galt House on Main St) – Another Certified Bonded Premises, C.B.P. KY-321, this place has good food and great bourbon selection.
Jimmy Can’t Dance – 119 S 7th St –Across from 21c Museum Hotel in Another Place Sandwich Shop’s basement – LIVE MUSIC – Live jazz venue open Wed-Saturday only. No admission on Wed/Thurs – just $10 on the weekend. Great place to hear some great live jazz in a great setting with a nice bourbon selection, and cocktails.
Hell or High Water – 112 W. Washington St. – is a seated cocktail bar/speakeasy, so everyone there has their own seat for best possible service therefore reservations are strongly suggested through RESY or at 502-587-3057. Closed Mon/Tuesday.
Temporarily Closed: Against The Grain – 401 E. Main St. in Louisville Slugger Field (Across from Angels Envy – This is a brewery and they make the beer and the BBQ right there on site. They call themselves a Smokehouse classic with a unique twists. The Pork Belly kabobs are awesome by the way.
Haymarket Whiskey Bar – (331 E Market right next to Residence Inn) THE best prices and one of the broadest whiskey selections downtown! They also happen to be C.B.P. KY-331 too, so you can look for their certificate and take your picture next to it.
Meta – The first cocktail only bar opened in Louisville a few years ago by Jeremy Johnson (the guy that made Jello shots out of his allocation of Pappy Van Winkle)
8 Up – 350 W. Chestnut St – Elevated Bar – 8th floor roof top bar in the Hilton Garden Inn. This has decent cocktails, and a nice roof top, but it turns in to a nightclub around 10pm…so just keep that in mind.
Brendan’s Catch 23 – (in the Embassy Suites) 505 S. 4th St. – This is an upscale seafood and steak house across from the Seelbach Hotel. Great food, but it’s pricey, and nice bourbon selection.
Third Street Dive – 442 S. Third St. – Dive bar in downtown. Pretty darn good beer and bourbon selection though. Karaoke, pool table. Sometimes it gets a little heavy metal in the music department, but hey, it’s a dive bar with good prices in the heart of downtown.
***Wagner’s Pharmacy – 3113 S. Fourth St. across from Churchill Downs side gate) Not really downtown, but only a few miles from downtown…This is truly old school place with drawings and pictures of the food on the wall. The actual pharmacy where horse trainers go for liniment and other needs for thoroughbred race horse industry at Churchill Downs across the street. (so not right downtown, this is just a couple miles South). This is a true experience, and the food is home cooked and authentic, and it reminds me of being in the country, but in the city. A truly cool experience .
– NuLu is damn near walking distance from many hotels downtown, but unless you’re in a pack and can handle yourself and travel savvy, I’d suggest taking a hotel shuttle or quick Lyft or uber here and back…especially at night. Louisville is a safe city, but it is a city; so let common sense prevail.
Taj – 807 E. Market – It’s a really cool small neighborhood venue with a good bourbon selection. I suggest a Heaven Hill 6 yr 90 or BIB or a local/regional brew. Nice outdoor patio and unique bar inside. Casual local hang out.
Decca – Then walk across the street to Decca at 812 E. Market for live jazz in the basement. It really has the feel of being in another time and another place. Evan Williams BIB is on the rail there and you can get a Coors Banquet beer along with it as a “beer back”. Live jazz from some amazing musicians, which is not exaggerated. Heaven Hill’s own John Smart will back me up on this one since he knows and plays with these cats. Sax, flugelhorn, standup bass, keyboards, drums…from 9-12.
Feast On Market – 909 E. Market – Good BBQ and always have a Bourbon slushee on tap, and a good bourbon selection. The TV show Top Chef stopped by when they were in town filming over Derby here in 2018.
Grind – 829 E. Market St – good fresh burgers, and a really nice beer and bourbon selection. Order at the counter and then they bring it to ya kind of place
Garage – 700 E. Market St – this is a hipster cool joint with brick oven pizza and really nice cocktails, Southern fare, and big outdoor patio area. Same owners as 21c Museum Hotel, so you know it’s cool.
**Diamond Pub & Billiards – 630 Barret Ave – This is first and foremost a pool hall, with LOTS Of Diamond pool tables…but it’s a BIGG place, and they have LIVE MUSIC a lot of nights, and they have a live music venue attached to it that has capacity for 500 people or so. This place is definitely a nightclub on the weekends with a younger crowd. There is the original Diamond Pub & Billiards in St. Mathews too.
**Highlands Tap Room – 1056 Bardstown Rd. – Tommy owns this place, and this place is known for it’s front patio and people watching at picnic tables kinda place. He owns bars right next door to each other, so you can bar-hop in one location. LIVE MUSIC on some nights, and trivia, karaoke, and all that good stuff. Brunch buffet style on Sat/Sun.
***Jack Fry’s – 1007 Bardstown Rd. Louisville’s favorite restaurant is Jack Fry’s has hundreds of cool old black & white pictures in the wall from memories from Churchill Downs and other local scenes. The food is spot on, it ain’t cheap, but it ain’t too bad either, and it’s the pure Louisville experience you came here for. And get reservations here…they fill up fast even on Sunday. It is Louisville’s favorite local restaurant, but because of their size, and popularity, it’s going to be hard if not impossible for parties over 6 people.
Holy Grale – 1034 Bardstown Rd for a craft beer after at this former church…a great way to finish off a Sunday night for either the beginning, or end of your visit to Bourbon Country. There is no whiskey here, but, many beers finished off in bourbon barrels, and sometimes ya need some suds to have after drinking all this bourbon.
Grale Haus – 1001 Bardstown Road Open 8am – 4pm every day. 502-454-7075 www.gralehaus.com Behind Holy Grale and a part of the Bed and Breakfast there (so keep that in mind for accommodations). They call it a “Bed & Beverage”, which is a great descriptor. It’s a 5 minute uber/lyft fom downtown.
Flanagan’s Ale House – 934 Baxter Ave – This place has a good neighborhood feel, and has good food for lunch and dinner, and a good beer selection…not the biggest bourbon selection, but you’ll find something here. Nice outdoor patio in the back.
***Barret Bar – 1012 Barret Ave. – neighborhood hang out. Barret Bar is basically a pool hall, 6 pool tables, but they have some good bar food, and nice place to hang out and chill and have a drink with your friends, (real nice bourbon selection) and on the weekends there, you get to hear some awesome live music, and sometimes that’s The Fehr Weather boys with my buddy Jeffery Faith who owns Fehrs Beer, and plays bass in our band.
Martin’s BBQ – 984 Barret Ave – just a block down the street is Martin’s which is out of Nashville. Road Side BBQ feel is what they’re going for, and the back bone of their brand is West Tennessee whole hog BBQ, which means they cook 200 pound whole hogs for 24 hours, and that’s something you just can’t do without expertise.
Big Bar – 1201 Bardstown Rd. – a very small, but very cool little gay bar in the Highlands “Gayborhood”. Quaint small neighborhood bar with a nice patio. A new frozen drink highlighted each couple weeks. Not a big bourbon selection, but in the spirit of the place, a nice tasteful bourbon selection.
***The Back Door – Mid City Mall – 1250 Bardstown Road When you’re done pop into a neighborhood joint that’s been a local favorite of mine and others for over 30 years; The Back Door in the back of Mid City Mall. They have no jukebox or live music, this is where ya go to actually talk to friends and recount the day/week, and sip on some good bourbon poured generously at a great price. Don’t ask for a double, you’re getting one already. If you want to eat dinner here, hell they truly do have the best bar food in town! They have a pretty big menu too so lots of great food here. The Back Door is the only bar I know of that’s closed on New Year’s Eve because it’s amateur night, and they don’t wanna bother with it! Now how about that?
**Ramsis Café on the World – 1293 Bardstown Road – Ramsis is from Jerusalem and he married girl from Kentucky, and they have been offering dishes from around that world for about 20 years now. Great buffet style brunch on Sundays and good bourbon selection.
La Chasse – 1359 Bardstown Rd. – co-owner Isaac is in charge of the bar program here, and their chef is creative and the food is great. (Larceny Bourbon is a favorite of theirs) and along with a great chef there, this is a great experience. La Chasse is great for smaller groups, but can accommodate up to 8-12 comfortably with enough notice.
Ciao – 1201 Payne St. – This is an Italian place with a nice cocktail program. I like the pizza here, and they’ll make it with Pesto sauce if you ask; it’s really good.
***Bambi Bar – 2701 Bardstown Road – This is a true dive bar. There’s a famous local pub crawl named after it called “The Bambi Walk”. The Bambi Burgers are legendary, but it’s still kind of a little secret. I like the #3 with onion rings, and their wings are pretty damned spot on. If you want a dive bar true Louisville experience, Bambi is your answer! Beth and her husband own the joint, so ask for her and say hey.
Shenanigan’s at 1611 Norris Place (at Norris and Deer Park) is a local corner neighborhood bar/pub in the Deer Park neighborhood of the Highlands. Eddie and Dee own the joint, and Rick is the manager, and lives next door. They have good food, and it’s a great little bar to meet your friends, or make new ones, and have a bourbon/beer/drink, and watch a game, or just shoot the shit. My golf buddies and I come here almost every Sunday after golf for their brunch. Often they have a live band playing jazz during brunch.
Hammerheads – 2222 Dundee Rd – second location of this Germantown original and local with bumped up pub grub like duck fat fries, deep fried mac & cheese, bbq lamb ribs, soft shell crab, catfish, and more.
**80/20 @Kaelin’s – 1801 Newburg Road in the Deer Park neighborhood. Bill and Chris are owner/managers and this is an iconic neighborhood restaurant where their slogan is, “if you can stop, Please Wave”. This was one of the very first locations of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and then when the Kaelin’s took it over, as the legend goes, they invented the Cheeseburger here. So the 80/20 stands for the grind they use for the hamburgers there, all done in-house. Nice bourbon selection, and a big patio, and this is good for small or large groups, but call for reservations for larger groups.
***Kern’s Korner – 2600 Bardstown Road – Clay bought the bar from Bob and his brother owned the bar after their dad passed on, and their dad worked with my dad at the Falls City Brewing Company. Known for their home made chili, they also make a darn good burger. This is a small place, so if there’s more than 3 of you, then this would not be the place to go eat. It’s a neighborhood bar, not a restaurant, but they have damn good chili, and other food. CASH ONLY
Seviche A Latin Restaurant– 1538 Bardstown Road – upscale Modern Latin white table cloth restaurant owned by celebrity chef Anthony Lamas. Awesome food, and good cocktails. Decent bourbon selection.***Left Field Lounge – 2282 Bardstown Rd – Next door to Diamond Station is Left Field Lounge, another classic neighborhood and service industry hang out and for me it’s the best place to watch a ballgame or shoot a game of pool or darts or Golden Tee. It’s a small place, but there’s always enough people there to make it fun, but not packed. Good cheap drinks, and bartenders Sean and Nick are usually behind the stick.
Diamond Station – is directly next door to Left Field Lounge, and Cort and Kyle are usually behind the bar, and this is a cool place to watch a ball game, enjoy an Evan Williams or other bourbon (they have quite a good selection there) and 2 Golden Tee games; no waiting. They have pretty damn good pub food too. You’re likely to see me at Left Field or Diamond Station during football and basketball season watching UK & UL games there.
***Karem-Deeb Liquors – Morris’ Deli – 2228 Bardstown Rd. This is one of the last liquor store/deli counters left here. Known for their country ham…only 2 tables in the joint, so have a seat and meet some folks, or get sammy’s to go for the trip out in the country to the distilleries.
Le Moo – 2300 Lexington Ave – open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch menu, and you can get most any Heaven Hill whiskey, and everyone else’s too here. Le Moo is a great high-end steak house too (le moo, get it?) and would be awesome for dinner any night as well. Le Moo can do larger groups, and on weekend nights…I’d suggest reservations though. They have a nice horseshoe bar you can sit at too if there’s just a couple of ya too.
Game – 2295 Lexington Road, is awesome for meat lovers. Kangaroo and antelope are on the menu along with other exotic game and you can try the in a meat ball, and then order a burger from the one you liked the best. Pretty cool, and tasty with beer and wine selections – no whiskey.
Bistro Le Relais – 2817 Taylorsville Road – The old terminal at the original Louisville 1920’s Airport called Bowman Field. This is a cool art deco place with French cuisine and they have bi plane rides you can take too if you arrange them ahead of time.
***Air Devils Inn – a former old one room school house at 2802 Taylorsville Rd. (just outside the Highlands across from Bowman Field Airport) It has been a bar since Prohibition ended, and make NO mistake, this is a dive bar. Not a new bar that is trying to look like a dive bar…it’s a dive bar. It’s not dangerous, but colorful characters will be there…along with my talented cousin Nate Thumas who sings and hosts Wide Open Mic Night every Tuesday from 9 til midnight. You can come in with a $20 bill and drink and tip pretty good!
Crescent Hill / Clifton Area
**Mellwood Tavern – 1801 Mellwood Ave – dive bar with burgers and some food. Cold beer, and you’ll find a bourbon here too. Hickory and the boys play LIVE MUSIC music here every other Friday, but there’s always someone playing LIVE MUSIC on Fridays, and they have live music outside on their “Reflection Patio” every Sunday.
Temporarily Closed: Silver Dollar – 1761 Frankfort Ave – Next door to Red Herring, “The Dollar” has a fantastic bourbon selection with their own unique single barrel private barrel picks. They also have a Bottled In Bond Certification and are C.B.P. KY-1761. Great tequila and mezcal selection too. Buck Owens, Webb Pierce. Dwight Yoakam and other Bakersfield Sound artists are spinning on vinyl, and the food reflects this theme. They pride themselves on their cocktail program headed up by Suzie Hoyt, and they’ve been named one of the top 4 cocktail bars in the U.S. in New Orleans at the annual Tales of The Cocktail.
**Hilltop – 1800 Frankfort Ave – casual dining at this neighborhood tavern across from the Silver Dollar. House smoked pulled pork, brisket, chicken, turkey, and wings. Good beer selection, and decent bourbon selection.
Varanese – 2106 Frankfort Ave – Owner/Operator John Varanese created a Mediterranean New American menu with a good bourbon selection, good cocktails, and LIVE JAZZ BACKGROUND MUSIC nightly.
**Bourbon’s Bistro – 2255 Frankfort Ave – Jason and John were ahead of the curve when they opened this Bourbon-Centric restaurant in 2005. Jason appears in the Direct-TV documentary called Bourbontucky (as amI by the way). He’s got some “old whiskey” in there too, from the 1950’s and 1960’s that you just might be able to put in a whiskey flight and taste historic whiskeys. Bourbons can accommodate larger groups too. They are C.B.P. KY- 2255.
Fork & Barrel – 2244 Frankfort Ave – Chef Geoffrey Heyde matches Southern food with some personal touches and takes on recipes. They don’t have a big back bar, but very tasteful one, and make up some good cocktails, and are a Certified Bonded Premises – C.B.P. – KY 2244
Volare – 2300 Frankfort Ave. Treat yourself to a great dinner, wine, bourbon, cocktails, at this upscale Italian restaurant…my sister from another mother, Robbie Bartlett sings there on Wednesdays and Thursday’s, so if it’s just 2 or 3 of you sit in or at the bar and it becomes a whole other special night with her smooth but smoky voice singing jazz and R&B with her guitarist Barry King. Volare can accommodate larger groups. In the dining room.
Red Hog Butcher Shop – 2622 Frankfort Ave – Louisville’s first whole animal butcher shop featuring house butchered meats from local farms committed to sustainable, ethical, and humane farming. Fresh cuts cooked and/or cured. They have a café too. Closed Sunday and Monday.
***Pat’s Steak House – 2437 Brownsboro Rd is truly Louisville. Just a few blocks down the road from Silver Dollar; Pats is Old School (they just started taking credit cards after all these years) Pat’s is THE local steak house joint where Pat himself butchers the beef every day. I call it “The Lance Crackers/Melba Toast served with salad” kind of place. Great for large groups there; as they have a couple private rooms.
***Checks Café – 1101 E Burnett This is a Louisville neighborhood dive bar tradition since 1944. It is located in the heart of Louisville’s Germantown neighborhood. It is across the street from the Catholic Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, so the regulars call the place, “Saint Checks”. Known for their home made chili, this place has great home made food, and inexpensive drinks and brews and friendly regular customers. They have bourbon here, but just a handful, it’s just a cool place to experience where a lot of neighborhood locals go.
Come Back Inn – 909 Swan Street – Italian-American comfort food. Pizza is on the menu, and you can get spaghetti and meatballs, but my favorite there is the Italian Beef there Chicago style with au jus ladled all over it. Whatever you end up ordering here, there’s a lot of it, and its very reasonably priced.
Hammerheads – 921 Swan St – This place is small. It’s an old dive bar in Germantown that they kept a dive look and feel but turned in to a restaurant, and it’s awesome! Pork belly, duck fat stuff, and all kinds of great food if you’re NOT a vegetarian. They have a 2nd location in the Highlands, and also own Game which is great too. Don’t come here to get a seat right away, first come first served, and you’re going to wait. But the wait is fun too if the weather is nice outside.
The Post – 1045 Goss Ave – My old poker buddy Nash and his wife own this place, and it’s in an old VFW post (thus the name) great pizza, and nice bourbon and beer selection. They have a Slice Of The Day, and also pizzas made to order. Right down the street from The Pearl and Nachbar.
Sarino’s – 1030 Goss Ave – Itallian restaurant. Good food, good cocktails, and good for small or large groups. Good solid menu, and it’s conveniently located in the heart of Schnitzelberg
**The Pearl – 1151 Goss Ave – This is a bar only venue, and is the dive bar concept of Silver Dollar. So they have great prices, and a good bourbon and tequila selection. You never know who from the national and international bar scene is going to be hanging out here, but the person sitting next to you just might be one of those people. This is where they come to have a beer and a sip of tequila, mezcal, or bourbon when they visit the city
**Nachbar – 969 Charles St – Germantown neighborhood bar. Not a big beer and bourbon selection, but very tasteful. Great place to sit and have cocktail with friends. Outside patio out back. Music on some nights.
***Tim Tam – 1022 Clarks Lane, just off Poplar Level Road – This is a Dive bar (but it’s clean) and they have good house made pizza. This bar has been around a long time and named after the Derby winning horse Tim Tam from 1958 Run For The Roses! It’s always been a dive bar, but it has new owners, and it’s kid and family friendly.
Ice Cream Anyone?
***Dairy Freeze – old school walk up neighborhood ice cream joint. Most people just walk there, and there’s always a line, but it goes by fast, and is fun. There’s not that many places like this left in the world…so support your local neighborhood ice cream joint!
Butchertown Grocery – 1076 E. Washington St. for a great dinner, but make sure to make reservations in plenty of time, because of their popularity, and also the place isn’t all that big, but the food is awesome. Then after dinner just go outside and upstairs for some great live music and cocktails in a very cool setting. This is not a good venue for parties over 6 people.
Feel adventurous? Pop across the street to the nightclub Play (1101 E. Washington) is a Drag bar and Dance bar and is one of the biggest and cool gay venues in the country regularly featuring performers from the TV Show “Ru Paul’s Drag Race”…and hey why not? You are outta town!!! They have a decent bourbon selection too…it’s Louisville, everyone drinks bourbon here y’all !!!
***Patricks – 3202 Frankfort Ave – another Louisville landmark, and they have one of the old beer coolers that’s shaped like a beer bottle from like the 1930’s. Neighborhood joint next to FABD with a couple pool tables, and a nice patio out back. My buddy Tommy bartends there, so say hi to him.
***Frankfort Ave Beer Depot a.k.a. FABD – 3204 Frankfort Ave. – This bar has been around forever too, and was just a beer only depot years ago, but now they’ve expanded and have great BBQ and good beer, and spirits too. This is a joint, so just come and enjoy the awesome food and good place to gather with your friends in a laid back atmosphere. The place will be full of regulars.
***Gerstle’s – Frankfort Ave – 3801 Frankfort Ave – The neon sign out front says “no coils” and back in the day for draught beer I guess that was a deal. Been here forever, and this is a great bar snuggled up next to the RR tracks here. They have LIVE MUSIC most nights, and there’s a nice patio and bar out on the side too.
**Diamond Pub & Billards– 3814 Frankfort Ave – This is a pool hall first and foremost. But it turns in to more of a nightclub on the weekends. LIVE MUSIC most every weekend and some other nights too. Tasteful bourbon selection and good beer selection. If you like to play pool, this is a good place for you.
Waylon’s Feed & Firewater – 3939 Shelbyville Rd – From the same folks that give you Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen downtown, is Waylons. (Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings…get it?) Good food and serving food late nights too. LIVE MUSIC on stage most nights. They have a great bourbon selection here too and are a Certified Bonded Premises.
Out A Tad Further On The River
River House and The Levee –3015 River Rd – John Varanese’s second location. This place is huge, but has more of a higher end restaurant on one side, and LIVE MUSIC and more casual fare in a bar setting in the other side at the Levee. BEST BET FOR OUTSIDE SEATING DURING
Bearno’s By The Bay – 5801 River Road – pizza joint, live outdoor music on this marina.
Harrod’s Creek Tavern– 6240 River Rd. – real local river joint. I grew up on the River, and those of us who did call ourselves “river rats”. This is where us river rats hang out and unwind after a long day at work.
***Captain’s Quarters – 5700 River Road. – This place will have a couple thousand people here on a Saturday and Sunday night. So BIG group are great for here. It’s a huge place where all the kids come to listen to LIVE MUSIC and DJ’s at night, but their parents are all here for Happy Hour!
New Albany, Indiana – (Just across the Sherman Minton Bridge)
Brooklyn & The Butcher – 148 E. Market St. in New Albany, IN. It’s just a short 15 minute uber/Lyft from downtown so don’t be scared to go across the bridge. The food here is just awesome in this former historic hotel, and the cocktails are really good. If there’s just a couple of ya, sit in or at the bar, and enjoy this cool place at our Southern Indiana neighbors. Good for larger groups during the week and they have a great downstairs Speakeasy type of venue. The weekends here are packed, so plan accordingly.
Also Great over there is The Exchange at 118 W Main Street in New Albany, and Gospel Bird just down the street at 207 E Main Street. Both have a good menu, and a good bourbon selection from Heaven Hill, and everyone, and good drinks. So if you want to stop by after Brooklyn & The Butcher for a drink, or have dinner instead, it’ll be a good time. Also Great over there is The Exchange at 118 W Main Street in New Albany, and Gospel Bird just down the street at 207 E Main Street. Both have a good menu, and a good bourbon selection from Heaven Hill, and everyone, and good drinks. So if you want to stop by after Brooklyn & The Butcher for a drink, or have dinner instead, it’ll be a good time.
Out a tad further in Simpsonville (30 min from downtown Louisville)
Old Stone Inn – 6905 Shelbyville Road – built as a private home in 1792 (the same year Kentucky became the 15th state) the Old Stone Inn served as a stage coach stop for travelers going from Louisville to Frankfort & Lexington
Jeffersonville, Indiana (Just across the 2nd Street Bridge)
Portage House – 117 E Riverside Dr – nice restaurant right on the river in Jeffersonville. Nice bar and good cocktails too.
Parlour – 131 W Chestnut St – pizza place. Very cool outdoor area and garage bar at the foot of the walking bridge on the Indiana side. So you can walk from Waterfront Park in Louisville across the bridge and back and take a pedi cab from there. Cool night!
Match Cigar Bar / Riverside Cigars – 207 Spring St.- Jeff and his wife own the place, and he’s a big fan of cigars obviously, so this is a bar you can buy and smoke cigars in, and/or bring your own and enjoy. Great bourbon selection. Sometimes there’s live music here, but mostly it’s the only cigar bar in the area.
Vinyl Lounge – 353 Spring St. – Above HM Franks, this is a service industry hangout and frequented by bar influencers in the area.
Barrel House- Spring St. – Cool little Dive bar near the river. All of these places are accessable by the walking bridge. Don’t feel like walking back, grab a Lyft or Uber for short ride back to town.
Red Yeti – 256 Spring St. – nice neighborhood place with solid food, and they have their own brewery in the joint. They have a nice Sunday brunch too.
Other Cool Experiences –
***Churchill Downs – 700 Central Ave Spring meet is open from Derby week, until 4th of July. October Meet – around the last 2 weeks of Oct0ber Fall Meet – November
Historic Churchill Downs is home to the Kentucky Derby, the biggest day in horse racing with up to 180,000 fans watching the most exciting 2 minutes in all of sport. I love coming here, and you can come to Twilight Racing and there is also evening racing sometime, so check the website, and you can go after your distillery visits and dinner, or have dinner here too. They have many options so check out the website and see about getting a table and betting on the ponies. General Admission is only $3, so they’re betting on your coming in and losing money. So, prove them wrong and clean up on your bets!
Muhammad Ali Center – 144 N 6th St – non-profit museum and cultural center dedicated to the legacy of the favorite son of Louisville; Muhammad Ali.
Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory – see historic Louisville Slugger bats of baseballs greatest players, past and present. Personalize your own Louisville Slugger bat