Call me angel and take my hand
Wishing you could be my man
But I can tell if its truth or lies
When you've got bourbon in your eyes
Tell me something that I don't know
Then I dare you to prove it so
I'd ask you to try this on for size
But you've got bourbon in your eyes
“Bourbon in your Eyes” - Devil Doll
Last-second substitutions played a role in our Louisville trip, just as they did in our New England excursion a few months back. On a positive note, the deviations were more weather- and event-related than they were pandemic-related and were felt more on the food & drink side of the ledger.
And now, without further adieu…
Louisville Eats: Breakfast traditionally ranks as our favorite meal, but with food allergies cropping up in the past year, finding places to indulge in this has become a tougher task. Happily, our two breakfast visits in The Derby City ranked as our favorite meals of the trip.
Located in the NuLu neighborhood, Biscuit Belly is a mini-chain that knows how to crank out a darn good biscuit, with a fluffy, non-crumbly interior and a lovely crispy exterior (and thankfully, no egg-wash enhancement on the exterior.) Cincinnati-area folks will appreciate the presence of Goetta on the menu, and there’s even a sweet option (vegetarian Bonuts – basically fried up biscuit chunks with various sweet toppings) breakfast lovers in general will find something to satisfy the tastebuds, with The G.O.A.T. (a buttermilk fried chicken breast accented with sweet pepper jelly and goat cheese) living up to its name and The Rockwell (a buttermilk fried chicken breast topped with cheddar and goetta sausage gravy) rocking pretty nicely as well.
Also in the NuLu neighborhood, Toast on Market also features a good biscuit (maybe something in the water?), but offers up a larger variety or breakfast and brunch variety. My spouse’s Shrimp & Grits might rank as the runner-up in terms of favorite items, and their House Frittatta proved to be a good bang for the buck dish.
Bonus points to both for some really good coffee to boot.
Other meals during our trip definitely resides in the comfort food zone. Louisville sports a fair share of Cuban eateries, and Mi Sueño Restaurant sports a variety of stews and other hearty Cuban fare to ward off the effects of a longish drive and a gray, drizzly day.
Meanwhile, Los Aztecas is something like Columbus’s El Vaquero, but on a far smaller scale, with all the Mexican Tex-Mex style fare you see at many similar restaurants. We weren’t necessarily looking for something wow-inducing, but their shredded beef, which we ordered on their Quesadillas and their version of Taquitos, was pretty darn good.
Finally, located 45 minutes outside of Louisville, Bardstown ranks as Kentucky’s second oldest town and is conveniently located to a number of distilleries on the state’s Bourbon Trail. The eateries lean heavily towards the “American” style fare, which is why Bardstown Burger, opened the start of 2020, seemed perfect fare. Pretty nice burger and fries for a fair price is all you can ask for here, and Bardstown came through in spades.
Louisville Drinks: Yes, Louisville has its fair share of bourbon tasting rooms and factory tours in its downtown; however, we’ve done our fair share of brewery and distillery tours and were more interested in sampling the product itself. Plus, we didn’t exactly plan booking the tour tickets ahead of time and our in-town options were limited.
Thus, we decided to book it to the Bardstown area to get in our bourbon sampling. Our first stop turned out to be compactly-sized Limestone Distilling, which has a familial connection to the famous Beam family and whose brands of spirits have their own unique history of origin, renaming, shelving, and rebirth centered around the chaos that Prohibition wrought on Limestone and other distilleries. Their Yellowstone Bourbon whiskey had been recommended earlier in the trip (more on that later) and we found that that and their other spirits are worth further exploration in the future.
On the opposite side of the size scale, Maker’s Mark distillery, located in Loretto, is a place where you can simply walk around their facility for a half-hour to an hour without a formal tour and get a worthwhile experience. Winding pathways and beautiful landscaping hallmark their facility, the former Burks Distillery which the Samuels Family bought in 1953 and underwent a major expansion in 2015. Even if you don’t do a formal tour, a stop by their gift shop is almost a must, if only to give yourself a chance to perform your own signature red wax sealing on one of their bottles.
Kentucky has been a state we actually haven’t done a lot of craft beer exploration within, and we figured we needed to fix that a bit on this trip. Located in the Schnitzelburg neighborhood, Monnik Brewing is a bit old school in that hazy IPAs aren’t a huge part of the taproom menu, at least when we visited. And that’s all the fine with us, as we sampled a few of the generally solid offerings along with some grub in a space that isn’t too unlike some Ohio spaces we’ve visited in the past year (such as Massilon’s Paradigm Shift or West End Cider House in Athens.)
Breweries attached to former or current religious institutions often prove more interesting than the usual. The space that hosts St. Benedict’s Brew Works, located an hour west of Louisville in Ferdinand, IN, isn’t that particularly interesting inside, but the space it’s attached to (The Sisters of St. Benedict, founded in 1867) adds more spice to the wort. Inside, the feel was very small town in a good way – warm and friendly, with plenty of regulars just in to have a brew plus some random visitors from out of town (like us and a group from Findlay, Ohio) with pretty fair brews and a cheeky sense of humor (like the T-shirts with a nun-like figure shouting “Ale Mary!”)
We we’re hoping to grab on of their abbey ales, but settled on a Christmas-styled Saison to bring home. A tour of the impressively constructed monastery is available, but as we had a long drive back home, we decided to decline the opportunity for the next time around.
Final Notes: We received our tip on Yellowstone Bourbon Whiskey from the fine folks at Old Town Wine & Spirits. Their inventory does seem to lean more to the wine side as implied by their name, but they were very knowledgeable on the spirits side as well and picked up a couple bottles at their suggestion. Interestingly, we didn’t pick up any Yellowstone, which they recommended as a great bang for the buck spirit there, but it was their suggestion that helped get us to Bardstown on this trip.
Just a few blocks north, Ramsi’s Cafe On The World is one of those restaurants that in retrospect strikes us as a place where it takes a local to ferret out the gems in its rather substantial world-oriented menu, much of which is vegan and/or vegetarian. The Peanut Ginger Thai Noodles was the most liked of the two dishes, but we have the feeling there’s even better to be had, and the space itself is supposed to be an experience in its own right.
Last but certainly not least, our initial choice for breakfast on Saturday was Flora Kitchenette, but alas they seemed to be closed during our visit. Hopefully we’ll get to visit them on the next visit into The Derby City.