Beers For All Occasions

An Experiment in Social Drinking

ZaZoo’s

Located in an unassuming building near the corner of Frankfort and Bauer Avenues is ZaZoo’s, a funky little spot that claims to be a sports bar with a classy vibe. You can find ZaZoo’s online here, and in person at 102 Bauer Ave, across from the Frankfort Avenue Wal-Green’s.

ZaZoo’s has been on Bauer Ave for 5 years, and was a traditional Irish pub previously. Named after the bird in the Lion King, this joint stays true to its Irish roots by running TWO happy hours. Sunday through Friday, happy hour runs from 4 to 7:30, with $2 domestics and $2 wells, then Sunday through Thursday happy hour starts AGAIN at 11, and run through 4 am. There are also shot specials which run all week.  The beer list is standard, but solid with PBR, Smithwicks, Harp and Newcastle all on tap, and a decent spread of run of the mill bottled beers, including Red Stripe.

The environment at ZaZoo’s is sort of low-key sophistication. The basic tile floor is off-set by the intricately carved bar, topped with tiles from Ireland. The giant dry-erase board announcing the weekly specials doesn’t look quite so typical when you consider the smoking courtyard out front. Drinker beware however, the layout of ZaZoo’s lends itself to traffic jams by the bar and front door, and seating away from the bar is somewhat limited. The tables and chairs in front of the building, in the paved court consistutes the only space available to smokers, and it is entirely open to the elements. Regardless, the staff at ZaZoo’s is incredibly friendly and loyal to their bar, making you feel welcome right away.  

For entertainment, ZaZoo’s offers a variety of live music acts, with DJs on Thursdays, and High Five Fridays every fourth Friday. For those of you who haven’t heard yet, High Five Friday is an opportunity for local rap artists to get together and freestyle, which sounds like something this Beerologist just has to experience. They also host quite a few live acoustic acts, often outside, a great summer-time diversion. If it happens to be an evening without live music entertainment, ZaZoo’s boasts one of those nifty internet jukeboxes, and of course plenty of room to dance your socks off. However, it is important to mention that there aren’t any open mic or karaoke nights available at ZaZoo’s.

One of the best things about ZaZoo’s has to be their expanded menu. Used to be, ZaZoo’s just served your basic pub grub, but in recent times they’ve managed to add a lot of tasty things for those with a finer palate, including pesto flatbread, salads, bison burgers, and pizzas. Entree costs run from $6-$8, and pizzas are all $15 or less. Sounds good, right? We thought so, too.

In the near future, ZaZoo’s will be opening a lounge next door to the bar proper, called Top Shelf. Top Shelf will have its own bar, and is rigged so that anyone can plug in an iPod or iPhone for musical harmony. The lounge will be available for private parties and business meetings just as soon as their permits get finalized.

ZaZoo’s is incredibly friendly to local music, and is participating in the Peak Summit music festival, so swing by and give them some Louisville lovin.

All things taken into account, these beers are for making a joyful noise. Rock, rap, croon, and holler on Louisville!

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June 11, 2009 Posted by | St. Matthews | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gerstle’s

Gerstle’s is conveniently located in what has recently been called the “coolness corridor”- that spot where Crescent Hill and St. Matthews meet. In fact, it’s precisely at the juncture of Frankfort Ave. and Shelbyville Rd. The place does offer parking and is totally safe.

Once you’ve parked, some folks get a little confused about where to enter. On the Frankfort Ave. end of the bar, there’s a fantastic smoking area- heated with its own bar and bathrooms- but it’s essentially indoors, and the giant windows that make it a ban loophole look a lot like doors. Keep walking- you’re almost there.

Inside, the place is clean and decoration is fairly minimal. It is worth noting, though, that though it was built as a bar by the Gerstle family in 1924, Gerstle’s was remodeled last February, so it sort of feels new. We were particularly impressed to see that the booths can be shifted around to seat more than four people, always a plus if you travel with a pack.

This bar features entertainment-a-plenty with something going on all the time. Mondays Steve Cooley picks bluegrass and there’s a trivia game, $2 Old Forrester, and$3 pints. Also, there’s a 4-7 happy hour Monday-Friday offering $1.50 domestics and $3 wells, so stop in after work. Thursday, there’s full-contact karaoke (sing with a band), which Sean, the bartender, tells us is sometimes brutal. Bands play on Fridays and Saturdays.

The selection is fairly standard, but being beside BBC, they offer the Hefe and the Amber. For eats, they serve pub grub, which, according to Sean, is only the good stuff. There’s a $10 tab minimum, but Gerstle’s has an ATM in house.

Crowd-wise, Gerstle’s is a weekend melting pot with an age range that spans from early twenties to late forties. Though we went in on a pretty empty night, it’s worth it for the bar staff- Eric and Sean are both in their early thirties run this show, and as young folks, we think that’s pretty damn cool. Sean says he’s “Just a young man trying to make his way in the world today.” I have to add, he’s pretty easy on the eyes. All in all, I’ll drink to him and his business. These beers are for making your way in the world today (takes every thing you’ve got).

June 4, 2009 Posted by | St. Matthews | , , , | Leave a comment

The Bambi Bar

We’ve all heard the name. We know the walk. We know the burgers. Now, allow us to introduce you to the bar behind the legend. Located at 2701 Bardstown Road, The Bambi Bar has been in operation since at least 1955, and is family-friendly, hosting a little league team after their games. They serve only beer and wine, have an internet jukebox (which was religiously playing country music), and welcome your kiddos at a reasonable hour. The place is frequented by a tight-knit circle of regulars, and there’s never any trouble. The low ceiling, well-loved bar, and panelled walls make the Bambi Bar welcoming and comfortable, and the regulars are happy to strike up a conversation with you about anything and everything.

When we visited The Bambi Bar we met Wayne, a bass player and the best short-order cook in Louisville. Wayne’s been at the Bambi Bar for 17 years, and he was able to give us all the inside information on the history of the joint. What we now know as a bar used to be an old-fashioned fill station. The new owner has made tons of improvements, including turning the fill station’s old ice house into a kick ass smoking room, complete with heaters in the winter, industrial fans in the summer, tons of seating and a sizeable bar. There’s additional outdoor, picnic table seating on the patio.

So why the Bambi Bar? Wayne was able to tell us that too. Its called The Bambi Bar because the first owner of the bar wallpapered his kid’s bedroom in Bambi wallpaper, and used the excess to paper the front wall of the bar. Wayne says the wallpaper is probably still in the bar, under layers and layers of paint and panelling. Whether or not you’re into little deer, you’re gonna love this bar.

We would be ridiculously remiss if we did not give you the history of the bar hop that’s been keeping Louisville weird for the last 40 years. It all started in the early 70’s, with 5 bored fellas. They would spend Saturday afternoons riding the bus from the Outlook Inn down to the Bambi Bar. That’s right, Bambi Bar used to be the end of the walk, but as more people learned about the hop, and more bars popped up along Bardstown Rd., the owners decided to let someone else clean up the puke. Now, the big Bambi Walk happens in August, every year around the Fair, and of course begins at the Bambi Bar itself. People start their own, impromtu walks all the time, especially in celebration of 21st birthdays. Come on…you know you tried to do the entire walk for your 21st birthday! Its a virtual rite of passage for Louisvillians, and is definitely on par with wearing a big hat to the Derby.

You don’t need to do anything special to start your own Bambi Walk – just get a group of friends together, give yourself plenty of time and use City Scoot to stay safe!

So, in honor of this legendary Louisville bar, these beers are for tradition, and Bambi walkers everywhere.

May 21, 2009 Posted by | Bambi Walk, The Highlands | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cahoot’s

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Once upon a time, before Headliner’s Music Hall, Louisville had a legendary music venue. Tooligan’s  brought in great bands in its time, but has been known for the past 13 years by another name, almost as legendary in certain circles, Cahoot’s. Located at 1047 Bardstown Rd., Cahoot’s is just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Irish Triange, Pheonix Hill, and all the activity North of Grinstead too. You can visit their MySpace here, but be warned it is not checked often. Now Cahoot’s is a neighborhood bar, frequented by a circle of regulars and the overflow of Bardstown Rd. insanity. Be prepared for a crowd on the weekends, and at least one bar fight, but a pretty quiet atmosphere through the week.

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The beautiful thing about Cahoot’s is that its like the Mag Bar of the Highlands. Its dirty, smells like vomit and shame, and all the same rules apply. The jukebox is good, there are 3 pool tables, Pac Man, Foosball, and one our all-time favorites, a cigarette machine.  The main difference here being, Cahoot’s serves food. And not just bar food, real food. And they serve it until 3 AM to keep your drunk ass from driving anywhere. When we talked to the bar staff, they assured us that the live music of the previous era is making a comeback, so make sure you check their MySpace for upcoming events.

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Cahoot’s has nightly drink specials, which are the same from week to week. You can get a Bud or a PBR for $1.50, and they have drink specials every night. On tap, Cahoot’s has all the standards, plus one BBC beer, and the Jager is kept in the deep freeze (we thought it was special that they even had a deep freeze). Its worth mentioning that Cahoot’s has two bars, one in the front and one in the back, which makes getting a drink during the busy times that much easier. The outdoor seating is limited, but covered and there are lots of group booths inside so that no one gets left out. We called them drinking forts, because the backs of the benchs are so high.

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Although the crew at Cahoot’s mainly kept to themselves, these beers are for them, and for their chest pieces, long may they wave.

May 13, 2009 Posted by | The Highlands | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Back Door

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It’s no secret that the Beerologists like reader requests, and so this article is written with a heavy heart for a dear friend who asked us to do it. Nick was a fellow with an unforgettable laugh who had a way of lighting up when he saw his friends. Every night with him was a blast, and I had the pleasure of spending a good chunk of his last week with him, much of that time at the Back Door.

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The Back Door is located in the heart of the Highlands, at the North end of Mid City Mall. For those of you who aren’t Highlanders, Mid City is a strip mall located between Bardstown and Baxter- the one with Baxter Avenue Theater. There’s a well-lit parking lot and it’s close to a lot of stuff. The Taproom is across the street and Bearno’s, The Bristol, Ramsi’s, Avalon, and Akiko’s are all basically in spitting distance. The neighborhood is one of the safer ones around. Open since 1985, the Back Door was originally a warehouse. The old loading dock is now the smoker’s patio- which is quite a good one- there are umbrellas that serve well on rainy nights and it’s heated. In fact, the Back Door was a key opponent to the Louisville smoking ban.

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It’s sort of a local legend with more LEO awards than I can count- among them, it’s been named Best Neighborhood Dive, Best Free-Pour, and they consistently have the best wings behind Hooter’s and BWW. It’s a great place to shoot pool with six tables (there’s a league that meets on Mondays), but it also boasts foosball, darts, video games, and a bunch of big-screen TVs (take note- this is U of L country).

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Despite its ranks as a dive bar, the Back Door is pretty clean, even the bathrooms. The front room is dominated by murals- one impressionistic sort of work sponsored by Blue Moon, a portrait of happy hour regulars sponsored by Jack Daniels and the door to the patio painted to look open on a sunny day featuring more regulars. I appreciate a bar that appreciates its patrons, so it’s nice to know all those people on the walls are real folks- you might even recognize a few.

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The bar staff is a sort of wonder, as well- Owner John Dant bought it from within his family, so the bar has stayed with the same bloodline since it opened. Furthermore, it’s had the same manager since it opened. Five of the bartenders have been there for twenty years or more. We spoke with Steven- after nine years, he’s one of the new guys. There’s no jukebox, so the tunes you hear are bartender playlists. As far as selection, the beer list is good and cheap. There are daily and weekly specials, and happy hour is every day from 4 to 8.

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 Foodwise, it’s better than the standard bar fare. In addition to the aforementioned wings, there are great sandwiches and the “Back Door Bomber”- a blackened chicken wonton. The crowd is best described as “Highlands-y” (in non-Louisville speak, that means eclectic). It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to saddle up between a Doctor and a Trucker and see that they’ve found common ground. The place is both mulit-cultural and gay-friendly. It’s a welcoming crowd and a safe place to go alone- in fact, the Back Door is such a common ground, you’re bound to run in to a friend even if you don’t pre-plan a meeting. In addition to the Monday pool league, there’s an open mic on Tuesdays and they’re open every night except Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

 

These drinks are for making it count- they’re for making those memories that’ll get you through darker days. More importantly, though, these drinks are for Nick.

May 13, 2009 Posted by | The Highlands | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Swan Dive

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The Swan Dive has been a bar since the 1920’s, but until about a week ago, it was called “The Dugout.” Though it’s pretty obvious where the old name came from (the bar was literally dug out of the ground), the new one is even better, I believe.

 

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It’s a risky move to call a bar a dive before you see what the crowd will be like, but being located on Swan Street must have made it nearly irresistible. It’s a nice area- close to the Nach, but not so close that the crowd from the Schnizelburg area necessarily has to spill in. Originally, legend has it, the place was pretty shady- a hang out for bookies and the like,  but thus far, the current incarnation seems fairly low key and laid back.

 

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The first thing you’ll notice once inside is the low ceiling. Even the shorter beerologist can touch it, and she’s pocket sized. The place doesn’t have a bar smell yet- right now, it’s reminiscent of a Germantown basement in that regard, and it’s impressively clean- even the bathrooms. The decor is minimal, but I assume tchotchkes may collect with time.

 

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The owner, Becca, assures me there will be shows, but she and her husband/partner Jeremy plan to be considerate of the neighbors in regard to noise. By the way, if you’re looking to chit chat, Becca is the talker of the pair.

 

The menu is where the beauty lies in this place. The beer list is extensive- thirty eight including the elusive Deliriums- and it’s reasonably priced (but be warned- there’s no liquor). There’s also food- all veggie, plenty is vegan friendly, and it looks delicious! Swan Dive is open 5P-2A every day, but there’s also breakfast- including waffles- on Saturday and Sunday starting at 9:30, which we’ll be sure to sample and report on as soon as we drag our asses out of bed before noon on a weekend. 

 

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As the place has only been open for about a week, it’s hard to evaluate the crowd, but it looked like the hipsters had sent their scouts when we were there. Is it possible that we, the beerologists, beat that crowd to something new? Time will tell. What’s certain is that the bar’s landlord was having a drink, which was nice to see.

 

 All in all, these drinks are for the cutting edge- check it out before your friends find it!

May 6, 2009 Posted by | Germantown | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Lounge

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As a continuation of our foray into reader favorites, we would like to introduce those of you who have not yet had the pleasure to an incredibly little bar called The Lounge.  You can find them online at http://www.myspace.com/11971394, and in the flesh at 947 E. Madison St., although it may be easier to think of The Lounge as being located at the corner of Chestnut and Wenzel Streets. I know its confusing —  all I can say is do what you can to find this place, because its totally worth it. Its important to note that the sign outside The Lounge is a Budweiser sign, and “Lounge” is printed in teeny lettering, so know what you’re looking for when you head that way.

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The Lounge has been…wherever it is exactly…for a year, but there’s always been a bar in the location, and it feels like a time capsule. The owner, Shelby, has preserved the old-time feeling, with a Pepsi soda counter serving as the bar, diner seating, and a gorgeous wooden bar back that Shelby thinks is from the 1920’s, while embracing spontaneity.

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Shelby’s whole manifesto on The Lounge is to throw things together and see what sticks, so on Wednesday nights they have an incredible blues jam hosted by Jim Masterson, Thursdays is an Open Mic/Poetry Slam/Movie Night, and Friday and Saturday nights are held for local bands. The crowd is eclectic, and runs the gamut as artists, musicians and drinkers tend to do. The space upstairs is rented out as artist studios, and art is featured throughout the bar. There are wonderful quirks throughout the bar, but the bathroom is especially fabulous – it has a red light and frosted glass door. There’s no disgusting bar smell in The Lounge, just a lovely museum-sort of smell, and the whole place feels very much like New Orleans. Not Garden District New Orleans, but the real New Orleans.

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As far as libations are concerned, this is a strictly bottled beer joint. Every week Shelby tries to add a beer or two to the list, so things are constantly changing. When we were there, all the basics were in stock, as well as some of the better beers, like Long Hammer and Stella. You can get a PBR or a Budweiser in a can for $1.50, so this is a great bar in which to drink yourself out of the recession. Chips are available behind the bar, and it wasn’t too long before the popcorn and mixed nuts came out, for your snacking pleasure.

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The Lounge is the perfect bar for feeling like you’ve gotten out of town without breaking the bank, and we assure you that if you’re as willing to talk to strangers as we are, you’ll meet some real characters while you’re there. If you go on a Wednesday, look around for a jazz drummer named Charles, and ask him about playing pop music in the 60’s. He has more stories than Carter has pills, and he’s something of a charmer, if you ask me.

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These beers are for spontaneity you guys, and getting off the beaten track. Keep your reader recommendations coming, because we love where you’re sending us!

May 3, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments

City Scoot and Derby – A Match Made in The Bluegrass State

The safe alternative after a long night- City Scoot
 
We’ve all been out on the town at one point or another and thought “maybe I should just call a cab.”  Why waste your money and not get your car home?  Next time think about the revolutionary alternative: City scoot.  They pick you up… IN YOUR CAR! The concept is simple and the process is easy.
How it works:
About 30 minutes before you are ready to leave the bar or friend’s house dial 56-NO-DUI (566-6384). Tell them where you are drinking and where you are going home to and City Scoot will send a professional, fully insured, designated driver to pick you and your car up.  Your driver will often time pull up riding a small foldable scooter that will fit easily in the trunk of most cars. No room for a scooter? That’s okay too, just let the dispatcher know when you call and they will be sure to send you a driver with a car that chases. It’s that easy, and for about the same cost as a cab ride, you would be crazy not to call!
Pick up area:
City Scoot picks up in the highlands, St. Mathews, Old Louisville and Downtown areas.  I-264 and 5th street are normally the boundaries of their pick up area; however some exceptions can be made pending wait times.
Pricing:
Most fares cost about $20, but if you want to get a better idea there is a way to check.  City Scoot’s pick up fee is $9 with a charge of $3.50 per mile.  When you call in they will run a map from your pick up location to your final destination with the shortest possible miles as to insure there is no “running of the meter” as you will often times see in cabs.  City Scoot also has discounted fares from several Louisville bars, and all Louisville Original restaurants.
For more info visit: www.cityscoot.com

A Note from the Beerologists: This weekend, all of these beers are for Louisville, no matter where you find them. So, in the name of the most exciting two minutes in sports, let’s all be smart. If you drink, don’t drive. Call City Scoot! You know that $3.50/mile is worth your life, and we think smart people are sexy!

May 1, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stevie Ray’s Blues Bar

Located between at 230 E. Main Street is Stevie Ray’s, bringing live music to Louisville six days a week since 1994, and they can be found online at www.stevieraysbluesbar.com , where you can view daily drink specials and concert calenders. Parking is primarily on the street, but ample, and the neighborhood is convenient to both Downtown and the Highlands/Eurotown vicinity. 

Billed as the only venue in Louisville bringing you local blues bands, Stevie Ray’s is a music haven. They were voted the 2007 LEO Reader’s Choice for Best Blues Bar, so you know the decor is musically themed, with exposed brick, old posters, guitars and a bonafide dance floor. They have a great singer/songwriter open mic night on Mondays, hosted by Louisville’s own Tenia Sanders, complete with an in-house sound guy. The night we were visiting there was a Felktastic (hearts, stars, and rainbows Michael!) blues band playing, featuring an ensemble cast of local blues greats. Music starts at 7:30 PM on the weekends, however it must be noted that there is often a cover to hear the bands, and that they don’t take reservations or presell tickets.

Originally a workshop, Stevie Ray’s is named for the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughan, a bit of music trivia that the general manager called a, “tip of the hat.” They have a beautiful, hand-carved wooden bar that is large enough to successfully serve the masses, and they’ve managed to maintain an industrial vibe, without losing any sophistication, all of which reminds us pleasantly of the Monkeywrench. There are lots of tables, in addition to seating at the bar, most of which are oriented toward the stage for your musical enjoyment.  They don’t have a draught line in house, so all their beers are bottled, and primarily they only serve the staples, although they do keep one BBC brew on hand (the Nut Brown). They also carry some wine, and it goes without saying, plenty of liquor. The vibe is really mellow, with dancing on the weekends and none of the fighting we see at some of the downtown joints. For our fellow smokers, we invite you to experience the Voodoo Garden, a walled courtyard complete with seating and wall murals, where you are invited to bring your drink with you.

The management at Stevie Ray’s would like us to extend to our readers an invitation to come out, dance, drink and listen to some really great, regionally-based music. Dedicated to re-urbanization, they’re trying to bring a younger crowd both into the bar and into the neighborhood, but they need you to come and have a drink. 

While never ones to rain on a parade, we have to say that these beers are for the blues, regardless of where they find you, and for the legend of Stevie Ray Vaughan.

April 29, 2009 Posted by | Downtown | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Freddie’s

Though I’ve always known Freddie’s was there, I had never ventured inside before our review excursion. It’s certainly not a new bar- Freddie’s has operated under it’s current name for the past 47 years and was Bachelor’s Too for the 17 years prior to that. It started as a church- the steeple still stands- and also was likely a pharmacy at some point, as all the cabinetry has an apothecary-sort-of-vibe. Furthermore, Jimmy, our bartender, believes it may have been an orphan’s home at some point. Of course, bars always manage to care for mis-fit children, right?

The location is a good one- it’s on Broadway between 2nd and 3rd. Granted, that stretch of road is no Baxter ave. or 4th Street Live (though it’s just a couple of blocks away), but it’s located directly across from the Brown Theater. Plus, for those of us who truly believe in Louisville’s downtown, it’s a great spot to do your part to revitalize it. We had no problem finding street parking, but found out once inside that there’s more in the back, and though we had a nice little chat with a respectful bum out front, the area feels completely safe. 

Once inside, one can’t help but notice the presence of the Rat Pack- the beerologists were certainly reminded of Sinatra’s hotness. In fact, I think if my Grandpa had a man cave, it would be Freddie’s. There’s an amazing collection of antique bottles and a pair of Jimmy Ellis’s gloves. In addition to the internet jukebox, video monopoly, and darts, there’s a classic cigarette machine (these are starting to get rare, folks) and a commonwealth seal over the bar. It even smells old in that way that always invokes nostalgia. The ladies’ room is wood paneled with a classy dressing table- it’s one of the cleanest I’ve seen. It also must be noted that Jimmy was watching a western when we came in- something with Clint Eastwood- it fit the scene. 

The selection at Freddie’s is completely basic- the domestics you’d expect- but it’s cheap enough there’s no need for specials. Food-wise, there are chips and beef jerky for sale- nothing extravagant. Take note: Freddie’s is cash only!

I also think it’s worth mentioning that there was once a bar-cat named Tinker who was somewhat of a local celebrity- her picture still hangs over the service area. 

According to Jimmy, the crowd varies every night, but the staples ae actors and Brown-concert-goers. Perhaps the most crowded day is the Pegasus Parade, so stop in on Thursday and celebrate a great Derby event local style!

April 29, 2009 Posted by | Downtown | , , , , , | 1 Comment