There’s never been a debate in our house on how to pronounce “Louisville”. When I was a kid, my stepfather made frequent business trips south, guiding his Kentucky sales team on the best practices for selling snowblowers before the Midwest winter began. Sometimes he’d visit for Derby, most of the time it was just on a random Tuesday for a meeting or a regional power equipment convention.
“He’s headed down to Luh-vul this week,” my Mom would say, and we’d all take a second to pronounce it the same way she had, out loud and in our heads. It was a sound you chewed on, something that sat at the back of your throat, forcing you to say it louder than all the other words in the sentence. Luh-vul, I was instructed, a word taking enormous space in your mouth, like a hot piece of food in mid-bite.
I didn’t realize it was even much of a debate until I spotted the giant purple banners flowing next to the stage at Bourbon and Beyond this year. Looey-ville, Looaville, and Looavul are all reasonable efforts in my opinion, of course. But in my house, it will always be Luh-vul, even if it means my friends are confused about my destination.
On my first visit this fall, Louisville seemed as comfortable as I had expected, if not more. I have heard the city on the lips of my fellow food and drink friends often over the last few years – for cocktails, craft distilleries, chefs alike. In the downtown district, busy with business summits and conventions, bars like Proof on Main are packed to the brim with discerning palates in search of polished dining experience. Theatre-goers stream into chef Edward Lee’s downtown MilkWood on all nights of the week. Wild Eggs, just off Main Street, is the local go-to for breakfast and brunch options. Friends who know will beg you to bring a sandwich back from Another Place Sandwich Shop. And the mussels at Mussel & Burger Bar might convince you that maybe you don’t have to question every shellfish in a landlocked state.
Only 72 hours in the city, my main destination was, however, the inaugural Bourbon and Beyond festival. In addition to the incredible musical lineup this year – names like Eddie Vedder, Amos Lee, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Gary Clark Jr., Steve Miller Band, and music legend Stevie Nicks – the culinary features were also a draw, with Tom Colicchio, Carla Hall, Edward Lee, Chris Cosentino, and Amanda Frietag showcased throughout the weekend. Food options were outstanding – everything from barbecue and crawfish to noodles and pizza. White pointy food booths as far as the eye could see, with surprisingly minimal wait times.
Cocktailers both local and national provided drinks to accommodate a wide variety of attendees, from beer and ciders to craft cocktails and shots. Featured bars towered around the perimeter of the concert green, a glowing Angry Orchard tree bar poised amid the main seating area, with Pappy and other pricey pours available behind black curtains of the Down the Rabbit Hole bar, classic Mint Juleps at the Maker’s Mark Southern Soul Party, and plenty of good ol’ sweet Kentucky bourbon at the Brown-Foreman Char House.
Photo credit: Jennifer Matthewson / Daily Blender