Maker's Mark Bourbon House serves upscale cuisine and, of course, a long list of Kentucky-distilled bourbons. From the classy comfort of the wood-topped bar, warm your whistle with a flight of low-rye bourbons (Jim Beam, Knob Creek, and Woodford Reserve, $12), high-rye bourbons (Bulleit, Four Roses Small Batch, and Fighting Cock, $12), single-barrel bourbons (Blanton’s, Eagle Rare, and Elijah Craig 18 year, $15), or a rich palate of millionaire's row bourbons (Jefferson’s Presidential Reserve 17 year, Pappy Van Winkle 23 year and Parker’s Heritage Collection 27 year, $60). There are more than 60 creamy, smooth, oaky, toasted, and roasted flavors from which to choose.
Every year on the first weekend in May, throngs of well-dressed visitors descend on Louisville, headed to Churchill Downs to witness the country's most iconic horse race. The track hosts other horse races throughout much of the year and operates a museum seven days a week. Louisville's other bastion, the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, offers 25-minute guided tours through the bat-making factory. The attached museum expounds on the manufacturing process with interactive exhibits, including an opportunity to stare down a 90 mph fastball. Post-tour, each visitor receives a miniature souvenir bat to swat away falling acorns.
Baseball in Louisville dates back to 1876 when the Louisville Grays began playing as part of the National League. Soon after the turn of the 20th century, minor league baseball arrived in Derby City and for 70 years, the Louisville Colonels commanded it. Their departure in 1972, however, led to a period of inactivity, as well as a period of unemployed umpires roaming the city shouting "SAFE!" at landing birds. Ten years later, baseball returned with the arrival of the Louisville Redbirds, who eventually became the RiverBats in 1998, and simply the Bats in 2002. Over the years this franchise has spent time as the affiliate of three big league teams: the St. Louis Cardinals, the Milwaukee Brewers, and its current affiliate, the Cincinnati Reds.
In the bone-dry days of the early twentieth century, residents of the Phoenix Hill neighborhood could only legally purchase spirits at the Vienna Bar & Restaurant or the Phoenix Hill Brewery. In 1984, The Brewery Restaurant and Bar took up the mantle of these venerable beer barons, conjoining two 120-year-old buildings on Baxter Avenue and opening up shop for nights of revelry and feasts of juicy burgers, hearty pastas, and deli-style sandwiches.
In the back, an antique 5,000-pound bar top from the original Vienna Bar & Restaurant evokes an air of old-timey nostalgia, and fully functional antique beer coolers chill drinks with traditional mule-powered refrigeration methods. Occasional live bands serenade diners and dancers, and the restaurant's mobile unit of caterers delivers payloads of mouthwatering pub fare to distant parties and events.
The Vernon Club, nestled in a historic building dating back to 1886, rolls out eight gleaming lanes with automatic scoring, a new Internet jukebox, and tasty comestibles for fueling competitive appetites. Players don borrowed footwear and the letterman jackets of league-player ghosts before hurling three-holed spheres toward pins poising themselves for the welcomed whack of a spare or strike. Bowlers can rest their pin-striking biceps of fury with a gooey 12-inch pizza or maintain concentration while grasping a bratwurst in non-bowling hands. On select nights, rock bands set up shop beside the lanes and churn out foot-tapping ditties until 1 a.m. or 2 a.m.
Chef Harold Baker and his team transform classic American steak and seafood dishes with upscale, contemporary flourishes including rich provençal sauce, seasonal produce, and local cheeses. Their attention to detail led the Courier-Journal to hail the menu as "concise, well thought out—with consideration for local products—and tastefully executed." In addition to elegant entrees of New Zealand lamb loin, bison rib eye, and sea scallops, they assemble half-pound burgers and sandwiches to please more casually minded diners or those contractually obligated to consume a bun with each meal.
The restaurant resides in the old Spring Street Meeting House, but Leo Weekly notes that they've remodeled the 19th-century building into "a stylish dining room with exposed brick and mocha colored walls … [and] historic Louisville photos." Leather couches gather around the fireplace's hearth, and cream-colored tablecloths help accentuate the banquettes' matching stripes. Diners can also venture outdoors for al fresco dining and to the upstairs bar, where bartenders pour an extensive selection of whiskeys, vodkas, and cordials to supplement wines by the glass or bottle.
Four Pegs Beer Lounge enshrines an impressive arsenal of craft beers—there are about 12 of them on tap—and pub fare within its casual lounge décor of sturdy high-legged chairs, and elegant, Depression-era bartop. The cozy lounge structure in which Four Pegs set up shop exudes an old-school charm. The building's rich history dates back to 1935, when the memory of Prohibition was still fresh in patrons' minds, movie tickets cost a nickel, and life was still in black-and-white. Barkeeps mind shop behind a polished hardwood countertop, as guests sip satisfying liquid refreshment from breweries such as Founders, Dogfish Head, and Three Floyd's. The back-room arcade cabinets beckon drinkers and diners after they join beer and burger in delicious mealtime matrimony, officiated by the tempting menu of hearty pub starters and sandwiches.