Louisville denizen Joe Heron helped re-popularize hard cider in America when he founded Crispin in 2004. Nowadays, he is reviving a long outdated appreciation of American-made brandy with Copper & Kings. Still, Heron isn’t one to be boxed in by tradition, and everything he does out of his distillery in the historic neighborhood of Butchertown exudes a hard-rock experimentalism—a perspective, perhaps, that only a foreigner (he was born in South Africa) can bring to such longstanding heritage. Now a proud Louisvillian, this expat has a nose for the best of Derby City's legendary music venues, splurge-worthy restaurants, picturesque parks, and more.
What neighborhood do you live in, and how long have you lived there? I live in the Cherokee Triangle neighborhood up in the Highlands of Louisville. We have lived here for two years. It’s truly great—all the restaurants and “cultural" amenities of Bardstown Road, then the parks and the location is pretty much in downtown without being in downtown. Loving having the ability to walk everywhere.
Where would you put up friends visiting town? At home!
Where is the best place to find your Louisville's signature dish? Lily’s Bistro has the best fried chicken (1147 Bardstown Rd.; 502-451-0447; lillysbistro.com), and I can’t get enough of the Lima beans at Mayan Cafe (813 E. Market St.; 502-566-0651; themayancafe.com).
What is your favorite restaurant to take visitors? I am really into music and the Patio at Decca in late spring is a great place to listen to a band and relax with a delicious cocktail (812 E. Market St.; 502-749-8128; deccarestaurant.com). The weather is just warm enough to be relaxed without being too hot. Chef Annie Pettry serves up fresh, local, simply elegant cuisine. I really like the new Butchertown Grocery for the depth of menu without being big and cumbersome
(1076 E. Washington St.; 502-742-8315; butchertowngrocery.com), and it has an incredible cocktail spread. Mayan Café—mmmmmmmm. Fresh, friendly, international. Try their cochinita pibil. There’s also Eiderdown (983 Goss Ave.; 502-290-2390; eiderdown-gtown.com). Like the name, its cozy, warm, and has great comfort food.
Where can you find the best cocktails? So many places! Meta: Jeremy Johnson is a spectacular bartender—very creative, very thematic, David Bowie in a coupe, a little glam, a little avant-garde, and a bit of Sticky Fingers by the Stones (425 W. Chestnut St.; 502-822-6382). Doc Crow’s: Old Fashioned cocktails with southern cookin’. My Morning Jacket and Wilson Pickett in a rocks glass (127 W. Main St.; 502-587-1626; doccrows.com). Butchertown Grocery: Tom Waits liquid, familiar but not, riffs on classics with surprising turns—and it’s a little sexy. This is a booze lovers town—there are many more.
Beer list? The Holy Grale: Belgian, German, Local, American—changes weekly and the only constant is superb quality. Plus, it has the greatest hamburger in the history of the world (1034 Bardstown Rd.; 502-459-9939; holygralelouisville.com). Hammerheads (only in Louisville): a beer bar in someone’s granny’s basement serving American craft centric. Seriously, Evil Twin’s Low Life Pilsner in the basement with baby back ribs—I surrender, I give up, it’s all over. This requires greasy fingers, a smile on your face, and a “please Ma’am can I have some more." Yessir! (921 Swan St.; 502-365-1112; louisvillehammerheads.com) Against the Grain: exceptional, unpredictable craft beers. Sit outside and then go watch Bats baseball or Louisville FC soccer—how good is that? (401 E. Main St.; 502-515-0174; atgbrewery.com) Goodwood (636 E. Main St.; 502-584-2739; goodwood.beer), Monnik (1036 E. Burnett Ave.; 502-742-6564), amongst others, are all world class. A little-ish secret… this is a GREAT craft beer town.
Wine list? The Oakroom at the Seelbach Hotel (500 S. Fourth St.; 502-807-3463; theoakroomlouisville.com). Also, Louvino has great variety and pairings with small plates (1606 Bardstown Rd.; 502-365-1921; louvino.com).
Where would you choose to splurge on a night out? La Chasse is lovely, and the nightly specials are exceptional. The wine list is excellent and novel. Sean Thackrey’s Orion is great example of a fabulous wine you don’t often see. Really good cocktails (1359 Bardstown Rd.; 502-822-3963; lachasselouisville.com).
What is your go-to after-hours bar? The Garage Bar in the NuLu neighborhood. Shorts, ping-pong, car crash sculpture, and the best country ham plate in town—did I mention good booze? (700 E. Market St.; 502-749-7100; garageonmarket.com)
What’s the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon in town? Have early lunch at Proof on Main and then take a tour of the amazing and unique art downstairs at 21C Gallery (702 W. Main St.; 502-217-6360; proofonmain.com). If it is a nice day, walk a few blocks over to Waterfront Park and across the Big Four Bridge to Indiana. Then have a nap.
What is your Sunday morning routine? New York Times, coffee in bed, and brunch at the Silver Dollar with a Butchertown Bloody Mary (1761 Frankfort Ave.; 502-259-9540; whiskeybythedrink.com).
Where is the best brunch? The Silver Dollar. This is the most decadent dish in the history of late breakfast: Texas Chili (beef chunks baby) with two eggs on top plus the previously mentioned Butchertown Bloody. After, go and read the paper, magazines, watch football, nap, digest, and watch a movie. Also, Ramsi’s has a terrific buffet brunch (1293 Bardstown Rd.; 502-451-0700; ramsiscafe.com). Spoil yourself: they have GREAT omelets, the best in the city.
Where do you go for the perfect cup of coffee? Louisville is a great coffee town but I recommend Heine Brothers for locally roasted, organic, Fair Trade coffee. They have a lovely latte (516 W. Main St.; 502-568-6339; heinebroscoffee.com).
What’s your favorite view in town (that tourists might not know about)? Obviously the view of west downtown Louisville from the Copper & Kings third floor Skydeck. Unsurpassed. Best view in the city.
What’s your favorite path or trail to follow on a walk? Beargrass Creek in Butchertown is so underrated. Leafy, cool in summer, quiet and located pretty much in the city, it links back to the Ohio River and Waterfront Park.
What are your favorite offbeat cultural attractions? Offbeat? Headliners (1386 Lexington Rd.; 502-584-8088; headlinerslouisville.com), The Palace (625 S. 4th St.; 502-583-4555; louisvillepalace.com), and Zanzabar (2100 S. Preston St.; 502-635-9227; zanzabarlouisville.com) are three of the greatest music venues in the land. Music is as deep a cultural touchstone as exists in the city, and as celebrated locally as any institution.
What’s your favorite shop or boutique? Old Town Liquor…does that count? (1529 Bardstown Rd.; 502-451-8591; oldtownwine.com) Work the Metal is also cool (chocolates, organic personal care, clothing, gifts) (1201 Story Ave.; 502-584-2841; workthemetal.com), and we love Revelry for local art and cool treasures (742 E. Market St.; 502-414-1278; revelrygallery.com).
What’s the ultimate souvenir from your town—something you can only get there? The fact that you want to come back again, not for the obvious booze and horses, but for the people and the ability to hang out and relax. You will always keep Louisville in your heart. It is charming, it is reinvigorating, it will put a smile on your face, and it is quite happy for you to be yourself, whoever that may be.
What’s the best-kept local secret? The park system. The Olmsted Parks are a national treasure. Cherokee Park is our favorite but Shawnee is lovely, as is Seneca. Butchertown is not so secret anymore, but the Portland neighborhood is going to explode very soon. The Speed Gallery is a little secret right now (2035 S. Third St.; 502-634-2700; speedmuseum.org), it’s been closed for a few years while being renovated, but it's about to re-open to global acclaim. Rodin’s “Thinker” sculpture at the University of Louisville is cast number two (the second cast sculpture in the series) and an artistic treasure of national significance that few know about (including Louisvillians themselves). Also, the fact that Louisville is by far the best Dive Bar city in America, with Haymarket (331 E. Market St.; 502-442-0523; haymarketwhiskeybar.com), Back Door (1250 Bardstown Rd.; 502-451-0659; thebackdoorlouisville.com), Hammerheads, Magnolia Bar (1398 S. Second St.; 502-637-9052; magbarlouisville.com), and Nachbar (969 Charles St.; 502-637-4377), just to name a few.
So, what can I tell you about my city: It’s got more brainpower than horsepower, there’s fantastic booze beyond bourbon (American Brandy, Craft Beer), and the food, arts, and music are stunning. And you definitely don’t have to dress up.
In our Hometown Guides series, we're seeking the best restaurants, bars, vistas, and things to do in a given place from the people who know best—the artists, designers, chefs, and store-owners who live there. See more Hometown Guides »
Images: Andrew Hyslop; Courtesy Speed Art Museum