Bourbon Tasting and the (Surprisingly) Cool City of Louisville

After some serious biscuit-eating in Charleston, South Carolina, a visit to Mr. Dame in Spain’s hometown of Atlanta, and a two-night stay on our friend’s family farm outside of Knoxville, we were off to pay homage to our favorite booze: Bourbon.

We arrived in Louisville, Kentucky with an ambitious plan: To visit all nine official Kentucky Bourbon Trail distilleries in the course of two days. This proved impossible. We arrived on Sunday, when most distilleries were about to close, and several are closed on Monday as well. All for the best: When we finally got started, we realized we wouldn’t want to stand through nine hour-long tours on the bourbon-making process. We really just wanted samples. And sample we did. We did a tasting at Jim Beam, and toured the distilleries at Woodford Reserve and Buffalo Trace (makers of Blantons, Eagle Rare, Stagg, and the much-coveted and price-inflated Papply Van Winkle).

The distilleries were delightful, but I expected as much. What I didn’t expect was how much I’d like Louisville. It has a south-meets-Midwest industrial vibe, is packed with cool bars, restaurants, and shops. It’s also fairly walkable, which gives a city high marks in my book. My favorites:

Garage Bar


Delicious woodfired pizza, craft beer on tap, ping-pong tables in an astro-turf and gravel outdoor space: Garage Bar (700 E. Market St.) is just so hip.  I was in love with their Ron Burgandy cocktail, a mix of Monkey Shoulder scotch, pear-thyme shrub, and soda water. The second time we came here, we basically crashed a meeting of a local Shakespeare production group. I was two Ron Burgandys in but wasn’t totally joking when I suggested we come back to Louisville for The Two Gentlemen of Verona next summer.

The Haymarket Whiskey Bar


The Haymarket (331 E. Market St.) has an astounding whiskey selection for any bar, let alone for a seriously low-key dive bar like Haymarket. This bar even pours the illusive Pappy Van Winkle (but you may be judged for ordering a it — several Kentuckians I talked to rolled their eyes over the insane popularity and marketing tactics of Pappy Van Winkle and suggested you’d be better off with a cheaper, but just as good, brand). Our bartender, Stubey, mixed up one of the best Old Fashioneds I’ve ever tasted. And Louisville pop-punk band White Reaper was in the Haymarket filming a bar fight scene for its new music video. An off-the-chain bourbon selection, a knowledgeable but no-nonsense bartender with a name like Stubey who makes a killer Old Fashioned, and we were in a music video. Seriously, what more could you ask for in a bar?

Revelry Boutique Gallery


Visit Revelry (742 E. Market St.) and you’ll want all of the handmade arty things for yourself or your home — from red-wax tipped Maker’s Mark bow ties to hand carved wooden wine bottle holders. Mr. Dame and I bought an American flag made of slats from a bourbon barrel. Sadly, we were so jet-lagged when we arrived to Jerusalem at few days ago (yes, we arrived!) that we forgot we’d brought it as checked baggage and left the airport without it. Fingers crossed we can locate it.

Mayan Cafe


I wasn’t expecting to have Mayan food in Kentucky, but this place was really good. The pumpkin-seed dip was super flavorful and the veggie burrito with potatoes and caramelized cabbage was delish. (813 E. Market St.).



Lovely farm-to-table spot with wholesome fare like pumpkin hummus on toasted brown bread and very good sweet potato fries. (624 E. Market St.)

I also really loved the egg sandwiches on chive biscuits at Please and Thank You coffee shop (800 E. Market St.); the clubby, vintage vibe of Jack Fry’s restaurant (1007 Bardstown Rd), and sipping a cocktail while watching a silent film projected onto a wall in the basement bar of Decca restaurant ( 812 E. Market St.).

After our super fun Louisville visit, we stopped in Cleveland and then spent in a week with my family outside of Detroit. And with that, our dreamy home leave came to an end. Next time: Updates from our new city, Jerusalem.

To bourbon, and to Louisville, Kentucky,

The Dame in Spain




  1. I just reread this aloud to Chris as we are considering putting in for a position (for him) in Louisville. We’ve been trying to think who we could ask for their opinion on the city and I remembered you and Adam had visited and you wrote about it. Thanks for your helpful review! I gotta say I’m intrigued!

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