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Eat, Drink and Be Merry on Bardstown Road – Louisville, Kentucky



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keep-louisville-wierd-photo-by-nina-munteanu.JPG“Keep Louisville weird” is a phrase that refers to the city’s mandate to encourage and support local talent to flourish and keep the local culture alive; this is no better represented than on Bardstown Road, which fully embraces that motto on a number of fronts, particularly the eclectic commercial 2-3 mile stretch from Market Street (where Bardstown Road is really Baxter Avenue) near what’s known as the Cherokee Triangle to Taylorsville Road to the south. Bardstown Road is one of the most unique shopping districts in Jefferson Country, and features some of Louisville’s finest dining establishments, along with the best antique shopping and people watching in the country. Starting from close to the city centre and going as far as Bardstown, KY, 40 miles southeast of Louisville, Bardstrown Road is known variously as “punk street” and “Restaurant Row” for its copious nightclubs, pubs and eateries, and is a mixture of artistic, organic, punk and yuppie influences. I saw nothing ordinary here. Among the eclectic shops that provided body piercing, tattooing, and acupuncture, I saw clothing stores called “General Eccentric” or “Weeds of Eden” (they sell hemp clothing, by the way), beauty salons called “ScissorHands” and “Raindogs” (named after a Tom White tune), funky restaurants like “Za’s Pizza Pub”, “Karma Café” or “Ramsi’s Café On the World”, which is featured in the Best of Louisville CitySearch (2003). Late-night nibblers can stop at this funky eatery for international cuisine ranging from Morrocan to Italian. Of course, I had to go there!

Continuing on my walk I passed Doo-Wop, which sells musical equipment and Ear-X-tacy, a different kind of music store that sells CDs and DVDs. Among the many antique stores, a contemporary furniture store calls itself “Objects of Desire”. Practically every shop, bistro and bar is adorned with original hand-painted signs or old-style neon lights; like the eye-catching mural and avant-garde recursive-post modern design of the Metro Café, located on Barnstown Road off Duker Avenue. Upon entering, I felt a little like Alice as I left funky for high chic (must have been the blue pill I took earlier). Patrons are treated to the elegant ambience of a dining room lined with original German art-deco prints as they dine on anything from a starter of Vidalia Onion Tart with roasted tomato crème fraiche to a main course of Veal Scaloppini with Bing cherries and a Frangelico cream sauce with mashed potatoes and vegetable of the day. There’s a reason why the Metro Café was voted one of Louisville’s top five restaurants. And I didn’t even get dessert! Ah, those German pastries!

Stuffed with the diverse rich flavors of a good meal, I walked into the Old Town liquor/wine store, and was greeted by an imposing wooden Indian statue (affectionately named “Chief Wooden Head” by its staff). Jeremy, who stands in the picture next to the Chief with a bottle of one of Kentucky’s best bourbon, tells me that the Chief came with the establishment over twenty five years ago and survived the great tornado of 1974. The owners of Old Town Wine Store would prefer that the locals consider it as their neighborhood wine store, despite its more than ample selection of hard liquors and exotic soft liquors from all over the world, including champagnes that go for over $300.

While parts of Bardstown Road seemed old and almost run-down, even these displayed incredible character, particularly juxtaposed to the side streets, which showcased wealthy residential areas, shaded by impressive over 100-foot high mature oak, elm or maple trees. Streets east and west of Bardstown Road house mostly single-family residences, and range from working class neighborhoods to some of the most expensive streets in Louisville, such as Spring Drive, home of Louisville’s most famous Kentucky Derby parties.

nikki-and-adam-louisville-photo-by-nina-munteanu.JPGBardstown Road is a place to walk, meet people and experience the sights at a comfortable pace. You’ll witness anything from punkers with pink Mohawks and skateboarders doing 360-switches, to street musicians playing bluegrass on the musical saw. For instance, in a park beside one of the side-street cafés on Eastern Parkway, I met Nikki and Adam, a young couple with their two month old baby girl, who were travelling through Louisville in their converted school bus from New Orleans on their way west to Oregon. Adam plays the accordion to Nikki’s melodic musical saw. I walked, ate and drank my way down this funky fun street, which never seemed to close down. Nothing quite approaches Bardstown Road on a Friday night in the summer. Experience great cultural diversity, alfresco sidewalk-dining, and prime people watching; it’s clearly a place to eat, drink and be merry.

darwins-paradox-by-nina-munteneau.jpgThank you to my fabulous guest author, Nina Munteanu! Here’s her bio …

Nina Munteanu is a Canadian author and ecologist, who enjoys traveling around the world. She has been tasting and eating her way for years in exotic places from Bangkok to Paris. Her articles and short stories have been translated in magazines throughout Europe and North America. Nina’s latest book, “Darwin’s Paradox” is a science fiction eco-thriller that explores humanity’s evolution with intelligent machine and “intelligent” nature (http://www.darwinsparadox.com). Her award-winning blog, The Alien Next Door (http://sfgirl-thealiennextdoor.blogspot.com), provides lively discussion on topics of travel, pop culture, science and writing. For more on her writing and appearances visit her website, www.ninamunteanu.com.


Websites: General Eccentric, Scissorhands, Raindogs, Za’s Pizza Pub, Karma Café, Ramsi’s Café On the World, Doo Wop, Ear-X-tacy, Objects of Desire, Café Metro, Old Town Liquor/Wine Store, the great tornado of 74

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21 Responses to “Eat, Drink and Be Merry on Bardstown Road – Louisville, Kentucky”

  1. gina Says:

    hey my sis and i are looking 4 a fun place to go tonight any got any thing

  2. Nimbus Couzin Says:

    Hey, The coffeeshop in the picture is Ray’s Monkey House Coffeeshop, just off Bonnycastle, between Cumberland Brews and Cafe 360.

    Stop by!!

    (the sign was painted by Noah Church, and he has a thirty foot mural on the side of the building. Definitely worth checking out while you’re sipping your coffee, tea, beer, or wine)

    Cheers!

    -Nimbus

  3. nathan payne Says:

    Raindogs is a Tom Waits song not Tom White.

  4. Kevin Barry-Producer, Strange Days with Bob Saget Says:

    We are considering doing a show on the Kentucky Derby and unusual sights and people of Louisville. If you can pass the word or know of unusual characters–especially associated with the Derby/Derby week–we would love to speak with them.
    Kevin Barry
    Strange Days
    310-341-2500
    kevinb@statepenn.com

  5. Sam Says:

    Ray’s is pretty much gone, unfortunately. Call to confirm.

  6. R. Cristi Says:

    I love Louisville, Kentucky. I visited Louisville for awhile right after I attended my friend’s basic training graduation at fort knox. I would love to go again.

    R. Cristi
    Author of Blonde Joke book!

  7. Andy Says:

    “Practically every shop, bistro and bar is adorned with original hand-painted signs or old-style neon lights”
    Sounds like a great place to take photos! Are there any gay bars in the district, or is that a little too eccentric?

  8. Paul Smith Says:

    Louisville is an awesome place. I went to Bardstown Road 2 years ago and all I can say is they have the best shopping and dining establishment I’ve seen. I will definitely visit again.

    Paul Smith
    Visit us at: Chiropractic Marketing

  9. Jason O'Leary Says:

    Sweet – i’m taking a trip to SDF next week on business, i’ll be sure to check this out!

    Thanks!
    Jason O’Leary
    Irvine, CA
    Webmaster of Groom Wedding Speech
    (Groom Wedding Speech)

  10. Lynn James Says:

    I haven’t been back to Louisville in over 10 years, but I am hoping to make it there soon. I always had so much fun hanging out on Bardstown Road. This sure brings back a lot of good memories.

  11. Bob Revolution Says:

    “Ray’s Monkey House Coffeeshop, just off Bonnycastle, between Cumberland Brews”

    That’s all I need to hear! I’ll be in Louisville in about a month and I LOVE places like this. Hopefully I can find a place to stay that’s nearby (I’ll be there for about 10 days). I love having an area that I can get to know personally, and if it’s got good coffee and beer in the same vicinity, much less right next door to each other… needless to say my face will become quite familiar during my time there!

    Thanks for the great tips!

    Bob
    – from BOB Revolution

  12. Cathy Says:

    Nina,

    I love the Metro Café on Barnstown Road off Duker. I’ve been there and remember some good laughs with a few friends. Great memories.

    This post brought back some nice thoughts of friends I haven’t seen in a bit.

    Think I’ll pay them a call.

    Thanks Nina for this :)

    100 percent winners

  13. Lorenzo Says:

    I love the fact that there are so many eclectic coffee shops in Louisville!!! I’ve always believed that a city without
    small independently owned bookstores and coffee shops is a city without “soul”. Given what you’ve said in your writeup, Louisville seems to have plenty of that.
    Lorenzo from

  14. Mark Derulo Says:

    @Lynn James (#10)

    Yes same here, this really brought back a lot of my good memories for Louisville.

    The more I read this, the more I wanna drop by again. – Thanks Nina!

    But, 10 years?! You better go back soon Lynn, it’s gonna be a big change for you.

    Don’t forget your camera and share with us! ;)

    Mark Derulo
    Wichita, KS
    Blogger, Acne No More

  15. jeff Says:

    Wow, I’ve actually BEEN to Rays the one and only time i was in Louisville. It was AMAZING and I just got lucky and stumbled into it by mistake :)

    jeff

  16. Jenna Griego Says:

    I have never been to kentucky but this right here makes me NEED to go! thanks for the info!

  17. Jason O'Leary Says:

    Rays is in a Very interesting area, reminds me of berkley or haight and ashbury in SFO. I visit Rays EVERY time i’m in the Louisville area – thanks for making me want to back SOONER than my next planned trip, lol.
    jason

  18. Smokey Mountains, Wall Clouds, Great Music (Tennessee trip) « Beewatching’s Blog Says:

    [...] in Louisville. Another area of Louisville that features intriguing shops, clubs and restaurants is Bardstown Road. It’s a bit bohemian in appearance. If you are in Louisville with a few spare hours, you [...]

  19. Rosko Says:

    A buddy just came back from Louisville and said the food at Ramsi’s is great. Definitely will stop by there when I visit.

    Yours truely,
    Jacksonville Chiropractor

  20. Ned Says:

    That same slogan, “Keep Louisville Weird”, is probably more associated with the town near where I live, Austin, TX. Or at least I like to think it is.

    If Louisville is anything like Austin, I’ll be making a special trip up in the near future.

  21. Food Review: Hammerheads – Louisville, KY | molly dobbins Says:

    [...] Having a hometown like Louisville means constantly trying trendy places in NuLu, funky spots on Bardstown Road or hip joints in [...]

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