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    Eat & Swig

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    This originally appeared in Vol. IV of Louisville Swig, December 2015
    By Dana Loustalot Duncan
    Image: Freddie's 220 Facebook


    The beer selections and cocktail recipes at these places are simpler than at more celebrated spots, but what the bars might lack in polish, they make up for in character. Many are family-owned and have been in business for decades. Even if you’re not a neighbor, you won’t be a stranger for long. 

    Syl’s Lounge
    2403 W. Broadway 

    Don’t let the building fool you. There’s no visible entrance or windows when you drive by, giving it an abandoned-fortress feel. I drove by this bar for years, admiring the sign — a coupe glass and the simple name written in vintage cursive script hint at a Rat Pack-type establishment — but assumed it was no longer in business. Luckily, somebody set me straight. Once you’re inside Syl’s, the warm glow of the many neon beer signs, the live blues and R&B, and the unhurried ebb and flow of the crowd will lure you into ordering another round.

    Joe’s Palm Room 
    1821 W. Jefferson St. 

    This 60-year-old institution in the Russell neighborhood is the type of bar where many patrons dress up for the classy, old-school scene rather than because of any sort of strict dress code. The staff and patrons greet everybody like a regular. Watch people connect and reconnect. Live music performances feature solid R&B, blues and soul. 

    220 E. Broadway 

    You’ve passed it on Broadway but never had the guts to go inside. Remedy that soon. Photos, posters, bottles and lots of boxing memorabilia line the walls of this dark, cozy throwback of a bar. The pours here are strong, and most drinks cost less than $3. Adding to the throwback feel — cash only. 

    Central Avenue Beer Depot 
    1102 Central Ave. 

    In what one must assume was a remarkable display of neighborliness, Churchill Downs built a massive video screen that is almost perfectly positioned for viewing races from the Beer Depot. 

    Spot this easy-to-miss place by looking for the two picnic tables on the side of Central Avenue, a short walk west from the track. The bar boasts a pinball machine. The jukebox selection ranges from country to classic rock to folk. Louis, the bartender, sits in the old high-backed green chair on a concrete landing that runs most of the length of the small building. Tell him which standard-issue domestic beer you would like, and he’ll quote you the price and hand you down your bottle or bucket. Be good to him and he’ll be good to you.

    Wyandotte Tavern
    3700 Taylor Blvd. 

    The inside feels a bit like a lodge or an old mountain bar out West. Burgers and fried bologna come off the grill. The karaoke crowd gets loud but is always supportive.

    Old Taylor Bar 
    3464 Taylor Blvd. 

    After you’re done at the Wyandotte Tavern, wander a few blocks north. Old Taylor’s small deck is packed when the weather’s nice, especially, interestingly, when the karaoke machine inside is in use. Coral-reef-like layers adorn the back of the bar: Christmas lights, Mardi Gras beads and other mementos. Get a drink, sit back and make friends with the person next to you. I was once regaled with the life stories of a couple named George and Laura. Not that George and Laura.

    Southside Lounge
    (located inside Ken Bowl)
    7021 Southside Drive 

    This small bowling alley/bar has wall-to-wall carpeting, crazily patterned velvet wallpaper, tufted vinyl booths and a sadly underused parquet dance floor. The bartenders will remember your order after your first visit. The bowling lanes are packed during league nights, but the bar won’t be since people tend not to drink while bowling in earnest. There’s snack bar food, like hot dogs, popcorn and nachos, but if you get really hungry, wander down the street to Rubbies for more of those wings.

    3202 Frankfort Ave

    Two words: Serious. Karaoke.

    The Rush Inn
    1801 Brownsboro Road

    Three words: More. Serious. Karaoke.


    This originally appeared in Vol. IV of Louisville Swig, December 2015
    By Dana Loustalot Duncan
    Image: Freddie's 220 Facebook


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