One of the things I really wanted to do while in Louisville was to get the Urban Bourbon Trail t-shirt. I love free t-shirts. Especially ones that you have to do things to get. You see, I'm a bit of a homebody. When I travel, I often end up staying in my room at night and read or watch tv with a drink in my hand and wondering why I'm not out doing something a bit more fun. So I like it when something like this comes along. The desire for the t-shirt is a good excuse to get off my butt and get out there.
In case you haven't been to Louisville, or never paid attention when you were, the Urban Bourbon Trail is a collection of around 20 bars and restaurants in Louisville, KY. Each of the bars has to have at least 50 different bourbons available, offer bourbon flights and a good bourbon cocktail list. The ones I ate at also had some damn fine food. In order to qualify for the free t-shirt: you get a passport and get your passport stamped at six different locations. When you are at each just make a purchase (doesn't have to be bourbon, but yeah, it probably will be) and can get your passport stamped.
So what were my six? Read on my friend and I'll share my adventures and thoughts with you.
The Bar at BLU
It was about 7 o'clock on a Saturday night. I'd been on the road since 4am that morning. It was all I could do to get myself out of my hotel room and go visit the bars. But it was my birthday and I was bound and determined to go have some fun. My first stop was the Bar at BLU. It was in the hotel about a block west of mine. I walked in and immediately felt a bit under-dressed. I was in my Minnesota Gopher t-shirt and jeans. All the others in the lobby were dressed much nicer. I was a bit confused as to where the bar was, but the hostess for the restaurant very kindly walked us over to it. We grabbed a table where we could see the football games and took a look a that the bourbon list. It said they had Pappy's...it was wrong so I asked for a recommendation. The bartender told me that he had just opened a bottle of this year's Old Forester Birthday Bourbon. Since it was my birthday, how could I resist. We sat there sipping our bourbon and watching the games. Every so often, the bartender would come over to chat. At first he was checking up on us to see how we liked it, after that it seemed it was just to chat. He gave us some tips about other bars that we had to see while we filled our passport. As we finished, we looked for one to have supper at. I liked this bar. Even though we looked like we'd been on the road all day, they treated us as very welcome guests.
Doc Crow's Southern Smokehouse & Raw Bar
So we'd decided to eat at Doc Crow's for supper. We both love barbecue and since it is darn near impossible to get great barbecue in Minnesota, we try to have it whenever we edge closer to any of its many homelands. We hadn't made a reservation, but the host was happy to take our phone number and give us a call when there was a seat free. Worked for me as that would give us a chance to wander down to the waterfront and see the river. After we got the call to return, we were seated in a nice half booth. I ordered a Founder's Red Rye to go with my brisket and my wife had a Bourbon Barrel Stout (from Bluegrass Brewing Company) to go with her pulled pork sandwich and fries. I gotta say the fries were amazing! The only downside was that when we asked for our passports to be stamped the waiter wouldn't do it if we didn't have a bourbon. It wasn't in the plan, but since we were on the Urban Bourbon Trail, what the heck. I had an Ancient Ancient Age 10 year and the wife had Angel's Envy. I liked this bar too, the stunt with the passport I'm going to chalk up to inexperience rather than malice since they were new to the program.
Maker's Mark Lounge
Even though it was getting on toward 9 (remember me starting my morning before 4am?) I wasn't ready to go back to the hotel yet. The guy back at the hotel had told us that if we wanted to do some people watching, we needed to go to 4th Street Live. Not one to pass up some prime people watching and knowing that there was at least one bar where I can get another stamp we decided to make or way over. So, Maker's Mark Lounge was where we decided to make our final stop for the night. The bar was on brand, dark wood and red everywhere. I really felt like I was in some sort of slick and sexy bottle of Maker's. Because it was early, there were only a few people in there. I ordered a Manhattan. Very tasty, though a bit heavy on the bitters for my tastes. My wife decided to go with one of their signature bourbon cocktails and have the Markee. After our drinks, it was back to the hotel and off to bed. I liked the Maker's Mark Lounge. Though I have a feeling that later on, the crowd might not have been to my liking. Based on the crowd in 4th Street Live, I'm not nearly Jersey Shore enough for it (I consider this a good thing about myself.) It did have nice people watching though.
Proof On Main
Oh my god! This is a cool place. So I walked in and the hostess pointed me to the bar. I ordered a sazarac, my first. The bartender might have actually been a mixologist, he was a tad hipsterish. But whatever his tendency toward hipsterness may or may not have been, he made a fantastic cocktail. For that, I forgive him anything. Plus he seemed to be a nice guy. It was a very nice place, a tad too white and cold in it's decor for me. But really nice. The coolest part of this place was the museum. When I asked the hostess about it, her eyes lit up. She personally walked me to the other end of the bar, showed me the entrance and told me a little about it. We wandered through. It was a bit strange for it to be both a hotel with guests going to and from their rooms and an art gallery. Somehow, the cool, white decor of the bar made much more sense now. Great cocktail, amazing art. This was a cool place. Not one I'd hang out in everyday, but I am so glad I stopped.
Dish on Market
So I'd read mixed reviews of this place. But the special of $10 burger and a bourbon was enough to bring me in anyway. I walked in and immediately felt at home. Exposed brick, green stained wood bar, honey colored bar top, black metal stools. It fit my tastes perfectly. We were seated by a very nice gentleman, who as it turns out was also our server and the bartender. We ordered the burger and bourbon special that we came in for and also a plate of steak fries. I expected steak fries to be a sort of thick cut fries. It was only $8 or so. What arrived was a plate of french fires with a sliced steak and a white cheese sauce on it. I was blown away. It was so good! We each had a burger, turns out that came with fries too, and a bourbon. Mine was Old Grand Dad 114 proof and my wife's was Eagle Rare 10 year. Everything was amazingly tasty. Our server Demitrius, was probably the nicest person I'd met in Kentucky. And that is saying a lot since everyone I met in Kentucky was amazingly nice. After chatting with us for a little bit, he found out that we were in town for a few more days and made the nicest and most sincere request that we come back before we go that I'd ever had at a restaurant.
And so we did. On Saturday, the night before we left to come home, we found ourselves with nothing to do and decided to take him up on his request. No idea if he was working again or not, but it didn't matter. Another bourbon was going to be a good thing whether he was there or not. Turns out, he was. We ordered the steak fries again. This time they were bacon wrapped steaks instead of sliced steaks. Even better. I had a Black Maple Hill and my wife had a Elmer T Lee. I got to let Demitrius know that the only reason we came back was his very sincere request. It seemed to make his day. We sat in there a while longer, he was trying to perfect his whiskey sour recipe and we got to be his guinea pigs. Trying a few little sips of each try. One tasted like lemonade, a few almost there, and then there was a perfect one. Even though I know the recipe, I won't share. It's not mine to give away man. This was my favorite stop on the Urban Bourbon Trail. I'm pretty sure it was all because of Demitrius.
Derby Cafe: At the Kentucky Derby Museum
This was the only place on the Urban Bourbon Trail where I could not get a bourbon. I'm not sure what was going on, but the waitress told us they didn't have their liquor license yet and that the bar didn't open until later. That was after my wife tried to order a mint julep, which was on the menu. I was disappointed by this place. Don't get me wrong, it's a fine place, it just didn't live up to the expectations I had for something on an Urban Bourbon Trail. But, the ravioli that was the day's special was tasty, so there's that. And hey, if you're into horse racing, there's a museum all about it.
Well, those were our adventures on the Urban Bourbon Trail. Next time I go back, I am totally trying for the t-shirt again. I got it by the way. It's a nice brown shirt. Which is a nice change and a lot of these earned souvenirs are white. I hate white shirts.