Laura Goes: Louisville, Kentucky

Words by Laura Bento

Photos by Nathan Pedigo & Andrew Hyslop

 

Road-tripping with people I love, people who make me laugh and have great taste in music, is one of my favorite things in the world. And quite honestly, it’s what gets me through this messy life. I feel so lucky that these little getaways are a part of my job. But even if travel isn’t your favorite past time like it is mine, I hope that you will get out and adventure soon. It is my very humble opinion that travel is food for your soul. We drove to Louisville from Birmingham on a Friday to have a quick, drivable weekend getaway with friends. I strongly recommend you or someone you trust drive you to Louisville on your next road trip. Kentucky has some of the most magical rolling hills and picturesque, selfie-worthy back roads we’d ever seen.

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After settling into our rooms at 21c Museum Hotel and exploring the lobby, which doubles as a beautifully curated museum, featuring everything from classic pieces to pop art and interactive exhibits, we headed to East Market Street (also referred to as NuLu) to grab a late lunch. I love that the different areas of this city develop their own vibe and personality. We decided on Royals Hot Chicken, mostly because it was sunny and we were drawn to their awesome outdoor seating area. We loved the quirky mural, the food was delicious, and to top it all off, they have bourbon slushies. When in bourbon country… well, we felt obligated. While in NuLu, if it’s before 2pm, you MUST go to Hi-Five Donuts. This badass, lady-owned, giant-donut-selling establishment needs to make your list for post-breakfast or lunch dessert. Yes, it is more like dessert than breakfast, but you should be okay with that.

For the evening, we made reservations at bar Vetti—a new (and highly recommended) dinner spot downtown. This equal pay, tip-free establishment doesn’t sacrifice anything with this new twist on hospitality. Owned by Ryan Rogers of HiCotton Hospitality, this Italian jewel had us singing its praises from the time the cauliflower appetizer hit our table. Singing so loudly, in fact, we re-ordered it. Sarah Cait and I decided on pasta, and Shane and Tom ordered pizza. I love being with friends who don’t mind sharing food. Actually, who am I kidding? I won’t travel with people unless they promise they will let me eat off their plate.
 

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As we made our way back to our hotel after dinner, we were distracted by a crowd of people entering what definitely appeared to be a deli, but everyone was dressed up, so we had to check it out. As we entered the door of Another Place Sandwich Shop, the smell of bacon and deliciousness was accompanied by the sound of live jazz music coming up through the floor. We made our way downstairs to find a shotgun style, low-lit jazz speakeasy called Jimmy Can’t Dance. Ya’ll. We had the best time. We stayed for hours even though we had sworn to hit the room early since we had a packed day the next day.

Saturday morning we headed to Gralehaus for breakfast. Located in the Highlands, it is an old church-turned-bar and restaurant with delicious food, an awesome patio, and great vibes all around. We left full and happy, ready to venture about an hour south to tour Maker’s Mark Distillery. Before starting the tour, we met Greg Davis (Master Distiller) and Jane Bowie (Creator of Maker’s Mark Private Select). I loved their passion—especially in sharing how Maker’s Mark has done such an impeccable job of paying homage to their heritage while also incorporating technology into the process of bourbon making. After some preparatory coffee, Greg and Jane handed us off to Ryan, our tour guide for the day. Now listen, I’m the girl who gets fidgety in tours, especially if it’s something I am not already really into, so I was very pleasantly surprised to be so captivated. The thing that stood out most to us all that day was the consistent drive for excellence in creating one amazing product. Touring this legacy company’s facility and enjoying the beautiful property was a highlight of our trip.

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When we got back downtown, we plotted our night and decided to find another speakeasy after dinner. And boy did we! Hell or High Water was the perfect end to our night. This library-style bar/speakeasy was gorgeous, and I am obsessed. I realize secret bars and obscure places are gaining momentum, but what a great tie-in to the theme of this issue. It speaks to the adventure and thrill-seeker in all of us to walk into a space that you had to really work to find.

Our weekend ended at Flora Kitchenette, an adorable vegan café home to some of the best avocado toast I’d ever eaten. Note: no one in our group is vegan, so what I’m saying is do it anyway. Vegan or not. 

Louisville, Kentucky, you are a new darling of mine. You have four new fans who will absolutely be back.