Explore Louisville's Trendiest Neighborhood
The newly revived Butchertown neighborhood is booming, and you should check it out if you’re in town for the Kentucky Derby (or any other time).
To most people, Louisville, Ky., means three things: bourbon, baseball bats and horses. And yes, this Southern city and the surrounding region have been producing some of the world’s finest examples of all three for well over a century. But if you’ll be visiting Louisville for the Kentucky Derby this year — or any other time — you also shouldn’t miss Butchertown.
Located just east of downtown and next to a creek that flows into the Ohio River, Butchertown is named for the high concentration of stockyards and slaughterhouses that filled the neighborhood in the 19th and early 20th century. A massive flood in 1937, followed by the construction of Interstates 64, 65 and 71 cutting through the neighborhood, put an end to Butchertown’s original boom (in fairness, a large JBS Swift meatpacking plant does still operate in the area) but it’s become revitalized in the last decade or two and is now one of Louisville’s hottest areas again.
Butchertown today is a thriving district of cool restaurants, trendy bars and charming boutiques you shouldn’t miss. And there’s more to come: The Waterfront Botanical Gardens is turning a 23-acre former landfill into a nature preserve whose first phase is set to open in 2019, while United Soccer League team Louisville City FC is building a stadium in the neighborhood scheduled to debut in 2020. Here are a few spots to check out on your visit:
It’s got great cocktails, the requisite list of several dozen whiskies and local beers, and delicious bites including an amazing grilled PB&J sandwich on Texas toast, but The Butchertown Social (1601 Story Ave.) truly earns its name with its events. The bar hosts all kinds of live music, trivia nights, art exhibits, film screenings—there’s something almost every night. For Derby weekend, it’s holding a 10-course dinner with drink pairings Friday , a DJ night Saturday and a special pop-up brunch Sunday. (Can’t make it then? Make bar manager Bri Hlava’s mezcal-based Mint Julep at home instead!)
For a slightly fancier meal, check out Butchertown Grocery (1076 E. Washington St.). There’s a menu of sophisticated Italian dishes and classic cocktails you can enjoy in either the elegant and bustling main dining room or the intimate candlelit lounge upstairs they call Lola. After 11 on weekends, Lola has its own special late-night menu of more adventurous cocktails, too.
Or you can go for pizza and video games: Butchertown Pizza Hall (1301 Story Ave.) has brick oven-baked New York-style ‘za (you can even get it by the slice!), along with a collection of vintage arcade machines in its gameroom. Head upstairs to Cabel Street Bar for cocktails and live music, too.
Take a break from eating at go shopping at Butchertown Market (1201 Story Ave.), an 8,000-square-foot former factory holding a variety of local boutiques, like clothing, jewelry and housewares maker Work the Metal; handmade beauty product producer Moss Hill Bath & Body Collection; and artisan chocolatier Cellar Door Chocolates.
Louisville might be the heart of bourbon country, but Butchertown is home to a distillery that doesn’t make whiskey at all. Copper & Kings (1121 E. Washington St.) is focused on brandy instead, creating barrel-aged spirits from grapes and apples as well as absinthe, gin and more at its architecturally impressive distillery and visitors center, which host frequent concerts, film screenings and other events. During Derby weekend, Copper & Kings will be holding its own Butchertown Race Days, featuring adult tricycle races, food trucks, live music and a pop-up market highlighting local artisans.
About a quarter-mile from Copper & Kings, you can also find a charming strip of shops along Main Street dubbed the Butcher Block. It’s a good breakfast stop, with elaborately topped creations from Hi-Five Doughnuts (1011 E. Main St.) or organic coffee and pastries from the ‘50s-styled Red Hot Roasters (1007 E. Main St.), or you can snag lunch or dinner from Vietnamese street-food spot Pho Ba Luu (1019 E. Main St.). There’s shopping, too: Grab a local-themed gift from LOUaBULL (1015 E. Main St.) or some elegant home decor at Stag & Doe (1013 E. Main St.)
Get some exercise (or just watch some cool moves) at David Armstrong Extreme Park (531 Franklin St.), a 40,000-square-foot skateboard, in-line and bike park including a wooden vert ramp, massive full pipe and lots more fun features. The spot is open 24 hours and often full of extreme athletes of all ages.