Moo Restaurant in Louisville is known for its
Ky. — Whenever I’m looking for a short getaway, I need
look no further than the River City. Whether I’m wanting
to revisit an old favorite or try a new experience,
Louisville never disappoints.
my most recent jaunt down I-64, I spent a few days with
three friends which included a leisurely guided stroll
through an historic Victorian neighborhood; an art
exhibition every Southerner should see; a
"progressive spirited food tour" where the
"spirited" came in liquid form; a couple of new
restaurants and a new-to-me bourbon attraction that is
sure to please.
Evan Williams Experience made its debut on the city’s
Whiskey Row (Main Street) in 2013 and has become one of
its must-see attractions. While sampling bourbon is reason
enough to visit, the sophisticated multimedia presentation
on the life of Williams, Kentucky’s first commercial
distiller, puts the product he produced in vivid
Disneyesque tableau, you can stand with him on the loading
dock as he prepares to send a shipment downriver to New
Orleans and then wander along an early 1900s re-creation
of Main Street.
history is good, but bourbon tasting is even better, and
here at the Evan Williams Experience, the first distillery
to open on Main Street since Prohibition, you can do your
tasting in several different venues: a re-created 18th
century tavern, a speakeasy or a 1960s bourbon bar
inspired by the TV series "Mad Men." My friends
and I opted for the speakeasy, where we indulged in the
"Sweet and Neat," pairing three different
bourbons with gourmet chocolates.
you want to pair your libations with something other than
chocolates, I suggest one of the curated Mint Julep Tours.
Our group hopped aboard a small bus for what was billed as
"a progressive, spirited food tour."
up was Harvest, where the tortellini and country ham soup
was accompanied by a craft cocktail with the alliterative
name Peter Piper’s Peaches (try saying that after
drinking one). Made with Michters Rye, pickled peach,
allspice, cinnamon, clove, a splash of angostura bitters
and served in a glass rimmed with serrano pepper and
sugar, it definitely got our tour off to a spirited start.
it was on to Le Moo, where it was a tossup as to which we
liked better — our entree (4-ounce filet with country
ham demi-glace, popcorn and cheese grits and crispy
brussels sprouts with caramelized onions and garlic) or
our libation (Blue Grass Breeze, made with Basil Hayden
bourbon, apricot liqueur, lemon juice and Demerara syrup).
The votes were split, with one even going to Le Moo’s
extravagant decor (for a hefty price you can dine in an
alcove decorated with Louis Vuitton luggage).
the time we arrived at our last stop, Silver Dollar, for
dessert and a Mint Julep using Four Roses Single Barrel
bourbon, I didn’t think I could eat another bite. One
look at the house-made buttermilk biscuit with
strawberries and whipped cream made me change my mind.
Julep Tours offers several standard tours or they can
personalize one especially for you and your group.
FOR EVERY TASTE
seems a new restaurant, bistro, cafe or diner appears
somewhere in Louisville on an almost weekly basis.
Fortuitous — yes; making it easy to decide where to eat
never tire of going back to old favorites such as Buck’s
(perfect for a leisurely lunch following a walking tour of
Old Louisville … more on that later) or the English
Grill at the Brown Hotel (where new chef Jim Adams has
given the venerable dining room its most interesting menu
I love finding new spots. One of the most unusual is Red
Herring, an establishment that unlike most newcomers, isn’t
the least bit interested in being hip or trendy.
in a vintage turn-of-the-last-century theater, it features
a house band dishing out traditional Bluegrass music,
while the kitchen dishes out traditional Kentucky
favorites such as fried chicken and smoked barbecue.
also has a cocktail list with some 100 offerings —
everything from a Pink Lady (when was the last time you
had one of those?) to a Clifton Donut Shake (bet you’ve
never had one of those — it’s the rum that makes it
different from your typical donut or shake).
ordered the signature Red Herring — bourbon, orange and
black walnut bitters — finding it the perfect beverage
for listening to Steve Cooley and Friends banging out the
"finds" were Decca, housed in a restored
landmark building in NULU where chef Annie Pettry is all
about local farms and small producers (evident in the
watermelon and heirloom tomato salad with blue cheese,
green olives, basil and tomato vinaigrette), and Finn’s
Southern Kitchen, a Germantown favorite specializing in
regional Southern cuisine.
you’re looking for a good brunch option, try Gralehouse.
This eclectic cafe in the Highlands area will have you
thinking you’ve been magically transported to Germany’s
Black Forest region.
addition to the Evan Williams Experience and the Mint
Julep offerings, Louisville has tours for every day of the
week. One of the best is a sashay through Old Louisville
with local author, chef and raconteur David Domine.
greets us on a toasty August morning, assuring us that the
weather is just a "Kentucky Hug," meant to
provide guests with a "nice warm feeling."
warm feeling enveloping us, we start off on our
hour-and-a-half walk through the nation’s third largest
historic preservation district, and its largest purely
of 45 city blocks and 1,400 structures, the area is a
treasure trove of elegant homes built in a variety of
styles — Queen Anne, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and
Chateauesque — mostly built between 1885 and 1905, a
period referred to as Louisville’s Gilded Age.
asked where the wealth to build the mansions came from,
Domine glibly replies, "Mostly from bourbon, horses
and tobacco, so that means drinking, gambling and smoking
— vices that Kentucky was built on."
tours, offered daily and priced at $20, also take in
Central Park, laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted, who
designed that other Central Park in New York City, and St.
James’s Court, an area of leafy mews and gas lamps,
which every October plays host to one of the country’s
largest art fairs.
of art, while I’ve made several visits to the Speed Art
Museum, following its four-year-long renovation, it was a
particular exhibition that lured me back this time.
William Faulkner once described the South as "not so
much a geographical place as an emotional idea." The
Speed’s current special exhibition "Seeking the
American South in Contemporary Art" (through Oct. 14)
illustrates that he was at least partially correct. Works
by artists such as Howard Finster, Minnie Jones Evans,
Andy Warhol and Ebony Patterson use a variety of forms
(film, painting, photography and sculpture) in an attempt
to capture the Southern psyche.
Louisville alone has more than enough to offer the
visitor, another of its advantages is being a natural base
for a jaunt across the Ohio River to several artistically
blossoming communities in Southern Indiana.
YOU GO TO LOUISVILLE
to stay: Brown Hotel, 335 W. Broadway; 502-583-1234;
brownhotel.com. With its elegant lobby bar, sophisticated
English Grill restaurant and Georgian Revival
architecture, it has been a Louisville landmark since
1923. If you feel like splurging, book the Muhammed Ali