Long before the NuLu neighborhood became the place to see and be seen -- even prior to the restaurant boom of Germantown and Schnitzelburg -- there was the Highlands. Defined by the eclectic shops, restaurants, and bars of Bardstown Rd, many a Louisvillian has cut their bar-going teeth on this stretch of the city that truly defines the adage "Keep Louisville Weird." You’re as likely to encounter someone sporting a mohawk and gliding by on a skateboard as you are a straitlaced business type with money to burn. A full night out on Bardstown Rd is basically a rite of passage for anyone who chooses to call the ‘Ville home, and while there are too many watering holes on this route to count, here’s our suggested itinerary for drinking your way up and down Louisville’s most popular street, and getting a good sampling of the diversity this area has to offer.
2701 Bardstown Rd
You can’t really design a proper Bardstown Rd bar crawl without including the Bambi, arguably Louisville’s most well-known dive. (It already has a bar crawl named after it, after all.) Prep for what is going to be an intensive night of drinking by fueling up on an "almost famous" Bambi burger, and take advantage of whatever drink special is on offer that night. Once you’ve taken in the Bambi’s distinctive ambiance, continue wending your way north...
1607 Bardstown Rd
Sticking first with the dive bars, visit The Hideaway Saloon, which is currently celebrating its 20th year in business. The name speaks to the nearly hidden staircase tucked off of Bardstown Rd, leading to this relatively gritty bar that has garnered a cult following, thanks to its live music offerings and plethora of gaming events -- think ping-pong tournaments, video-game competitions, and plenty of free pool. Shots are on special for happy hour (4-8pm daily), so you can get your blood flowing before heading just across the street for something a bit more upscale…
1576 Bardstown Rd
Now it’s time to trade in that wine flight for a sampling of beers crafted at the one and only Cumberland Brews. This microbrewery has become a mainstay for Highland dwellers, and it’s perfect for a sample-sized order of two -- or 10 -- of whichever current beers on tap pique your interest. Determine your favorites, and make a plan to come back for a full pint during your next visit. For now, the bar crawl continues…
1606 Bardstown Rd
LouVino’s tagline boasts a "small plates, big wine" mentality, and it delivers, with a lengthy and varied list of wines by the glass that are ideal for washing down orders of addictive duck fat fries served with white truffle oil, and signature fried chicken tacos topped with garlic mashed potatoes, cheddar cheese, and gravy. Snag a spot at the bar, and treat yourself to one of the suggested wine flights, each named for a famous Louisvillian.
1538 Bardstown Rd
A short stroll north on Bardstown Rd will take you to Seviche, a perennial favorite fine-dining spot for locals, where the ceviche is always fresh and inventive: the signature Tuna Old Fashioned ceviche, for instance, combines bluegrass soy, Kentucky bourbon, and pineapple -- good luck finding that in any other part of the world. Sip one of their delightful Ferrari margaritas, then continue on your merry way...
1133 Bardstown Rd
It’s high time we turned things up a notch on this bar crawl, and there is no better place to let the music energize you than at Nowhere Bar, where you can hit the dance floor or show off your pool skills at one of the billiard tables. If you happen to be completing this bar hunt on a Monday or Tuesday night, consider yourself lucky (or profoundly unfortunate, depending on who’s singing) -- karaoke kicks off at 10pm! And if you’re taking a Friday night tour, hit up the karaoke scene just down the road…
1056 Bardstown Rd
The karaoke scene is alive and well here on Friday nights, although this spot tends to attract a colorful crowd all through the week -- including metal music enthusiasts on dedicated Metal Mondays, and aspiring musicians for open mic night on Wednesdays. The bourbon list is relatively lengthy, and pours are generous, so order your favorite like a true Kentuckian -- straight or on the rocks -- and enjoy the people watching. Once you’ve sung your go-to, escape to somewhere more mellow, just down the road…
1034 Bardstown Rd
If the weather permits, the beer garden at Holy Grale is an oasis, a private outdoor space trimmed with flickering Edison bulbs that add just the right amount of ambiance for enjoying one of the countless craft beers flowing from the Holy Grale’s taps. The indoor space of this converted centuries-old church is also pretty stunning. Ask the bartender to give you a pour of whatever they choose, and sit back and appreciate the love and creativity that went into creating this Bardstown Rd gem.
933 Baxter Ave
When locals refer to Bardstown Rd, Baxter Ave is encompassed in the term -- before the streets split at Highland Ave, Baxter happens to be home to the Highlands’ trio of Irish pubs, Flanagan’s, O’Shea’s, and the one and only Molly Malone’s. All three play host to a party-ready crowd on the weekend, and this little strip of the Highlands is where to go if you want to throw down, college-style. Molly’s earns a place on our list given the various seating areas it boasts, including a large, multi-level outdoor patio. Order a Guinness before wrapping up your night less than a block away…
916 Baxter Ave
Louisville’s bars don’t shut down until the wee hours of the morning (4am, to be exact), so there’s no better way to celebrate last call/welcome the new day than with one of the Outlook Inn’s famous Bloody Marys. This spot has been a Louisville tradition since 1974, and it’s the perfect spot to toast your bar crawl accomplishment, then call a car -- at this point, it’s time to chug a glass of water and prepare yourself for a late brunch.
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1. Bambi Bar2701 Bardstown Rd, Louisville
2. Hideaway Saloon1607 Bardstown Rd, Louisville
3. Cumberland Brewery1576 Bardstown Rd, Louisville
4. LouVino1606 Bardstown Rd, Louisville
5. Seviche Restaurant1538 Bardstown Rd, Louisville
6. Nowhere Bar1133 Bardstown Rd, Louisville
7. Highlands Tap Room1058 Bardstown Rd, Louisville
8. Holy Grale1034 Bardstown Rd, Louisville
9. Molly Malone's Irish Pub933 Baxter Ave, Louisville
10. Outlook Inn916 Baxter Ave, Louisville
A rickety structure in the Highlands neighborhood houses this infamous dive bar, where locals have been flocking for years to kick back with a cold beer or a shot of bourbon. The real reason you're coming to Bambi, though, is to indulge in the beloved Bambi Burger, which you can order in one of five ways: no sides, with chips, with fries, with onion rings, or with your choice of appetizer. No matter what, this juicy delicacy comes topped with American cheese, onions, tomatoes, pickles, lettuce, and mayo -- just like a classic watering-hole burger should be.
For over 20 years, this dive bar/music venue hybrid has provided Louisville with dirt cheap happy hour drinks, ping pong tournaments, pool, and live music from local and global talent. The name is a nod to the bar's discreet location (without the metal blaring from within, one could easily miss the nearly hidden staircase on Bardstown Road), which hasn't deterred the cult following of neighborhood folk who frequent the spot for $1 shots at happy hour, affordable draft beers, and the gritty ambience that everyone wants from a dive bar.
Cumberland has thrived for a while as an excellent Highlands neighborhood bar that also produces some solid titles of its own. Parking and seating can be problematic, but it's worth a try, because it features some of the best brews around.
LouVino serves up small plates and an extensive selection of wines-by-the-glass. Brunch is not to be missed, featuring $10 bottomless mimosas (with the purchase of any entrée) and accompanied by Jazz band performances. Order the Pancake Tacos and Stuffed French Toast before trying to find the bottom of your mimosa.
The distinct latin menu at this restaurant changes seasonally, but the high-quality is maintained thanks to James Beard: Southeast finalist chef Anthony Lamas. His famous "avocado" dessert is made with avocado ice cream, dulce de leche chocolate, a bourbon pit, and coffee pine nut soil.
Nowhere Bar is Louisville's go-to nightclub, boasting a regular lineup of live DJs, special events (zombie theme night, anyone?), billiard tables, and weekly karaoke nights. The Bardstown Road outpost captures the perfect ambience of trendy and divey (stylized street art murals on the walls, exposed piping on ceiling, colorful vintage chandeliers interspersed throughout); combined with the affordable drink offerings and outdoor patio in warmer months, it's a weekend hotspot.
From the theme nights like Metal Monday to the bountiful weekend brunch buffet (pro tip: the chocolate chip pancakes are not to miss), Highlands Tap Room is a must-visit on Bardstown Road. The pork-centric dinner menu is just as solid, boasting elevated pub fare like pulled pork spring rolls with sweet chili sauce and slow-roasted pork loin with jalapeño cornbread. Like any self-respecting Kentucky joint, the bar features a robust selection of American whiskeys and the pours tend to be gratuitous, so you'll have the appropriate amount of liquid courage before you take to the karaoke stage on Friday night.
This converted century-old church now works full-service as an artisanal pub specializing in beer and food pairings. The space is equal parts ingenious adaptation and gorgeous design and the menu is always changing, as are the beers. Be sure not to miss the choir loft and the beer garden, and if the Scotch quail eggs are on the menu, order them immediately.
Molly Malone's is your quintessential Irish tavern (mahogany furnishings, traditional teal façade out front, bar tables chipped around the edges), offering a slew of affordable draft beers and delicious comfort food. Brunch is a hit thanks to standout plates like the "traditional Irish breakfast" -- a winning combination of two sunnyside up eggs, bacon rashers, sausage bangers, fried potatoes, roasted tomatoes, and toast -- but the menu of burgers, sandwiches, and bar bites makes it a great late night option as well. The ample indoor and outdoor seating makes it a popular weekend destination for groups, so swing through with your friends and down a few pints of Guinness.