Kentucky is where bourbon comes from. This makes Kentucky a happy place. This past fall I was in Louisville for a couple of InfoSec events, DerbyCon (a fantastic hacker-esque, but grown up event, with an great community vibe) and the Louisville Metro InfoSec Conference (a very good event, very professional, and I was humbled by the overwhelming hospitality of the Kentuckiana ISSA team).
I stayed in Louisville for eight days, and between the events and working from my hotel and coffee shops I was able to sneak in a little roaming around the city. It is a diverse place, with more funky corners than I had expected. Most people think of the Kentucky Derby and the Louisville Slugger if they think of Louisville at all. If they think of food and drink, much of the attention goes to Fourth Street Live, which is OK if you want a college drunkard chain restaurant experience. For me, I prefer to venture a bit.
Let’s start with a bit of coffee, and while the ubiquitous Starbucks are easy to find, the local Quills Coffee is a better bet for local flavor. The Baxter Ave. location is in the Highlands district, an artsy/hipster area of town, but the hipsters aren’t too bad and the artsy-ness of the area is pleasant.
Just down the road from Quills is a funky former church turned gastro pub, the Holy Grale serves up good food, and great beer from their 26 taps. But no bourbon, for that we’ll have to head elsewhere.
There are plenty of places to enjoy bourbon in Louisville, many think that Jockey Silks at the Galt House is the best, and it certainly is nice- but the selection is overwhelming with over 150 bourbons to choose from. Also, Jockey Silks isn’t cheap, and it is a bit fancy for my usual (lack of) taste.
Which brings me to my favorite place in Louisville, Stevie Ray’s Blues Bar. (Warning: I love the place, but the website auto plays music, which no one loves). Stevie Ray’s has open mic nights, blues jams, local and national acts, mostly blues, but also some rock and R & B. I was surprised by the great performances I heard on the open mic and blues jam on nights I visited, there are some seriously talented folks in the area. Oh, and they have about a dozen higher-end (but not crazy-expensive) bourbons, a manageable selection for just chilling and listing to music, or chatting with the bartenders (who are real bartenders, not just people who sell booze for a living). It is a bit of a dive, but I mean that in the best possible way. One note: they do not serve any food, but there is occasionally a BBQ truck out front, and the staff can hook you up with info an a variety of nearby dining options (including ones who will deliver to you at Stevie Ray’s). The drinks are reasonably priced, including some downright cheap beers- so tip well and you can still leave without spending a lot.
A final suggestion: Saffron’s Persian Restaurant. Saffron’s is very nice restaurant serving great Middle Eastern food, and has a fantastic staff (who were welcoming of a bunch of late evening diners showing up with no reservations, as the staff was starting to think about cleaning up for the night).