Our second trip down to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby actually started on Thursday. Yes, being unemployed isn’t fun but not having a job did afford us the opportunity to have an extended weekend in Kentucky. Our exploits began early on Thursday as we dropped off Stickers at Mollie’s parents house. As we were driving up to Evanston I was already starting to miss our girl, but knew she would be in good hands and would have a lot of fun with her cousin Maddie. After we dropped off Stickers, we headed back downtown to pick up some Garrett’s popcorn (The Chicago Mix) for my friend JW who is always such a gracious host when we visit him in Louisville. Mollie had already picked up a bottle of Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot Jobless Recovery Ale so we just needed to add a snack (Plus, I was hoping to have some snack food for the ride). After the popcorn was procured, and a brief stop for some DuDo (note: refrain from getting a muffin when having to drive), we loaded up the car with some music (new Best Coast, new Allo Darlin’, new Alex Winston) and some podcasts (WTF, Fresh Air, Doug Loves Movies, White Dad Problems) and began the journey down I-65.
In our continual quest to visit every restaurant visited by Guy Fieri, the next stop on our voyage was to the Triple XXX Family Restaurant and Root Beer in West Lafayette, Indiana. Mollie had the grilled cheese sandwich while I opted for the Duane Purvis All-American which is a succulent hamburger served with a healthy slab of peanut butter. It was excellent. I washed it down with some of that famous Root Beer. We also ordered a chocolate shake for the road and headed back down I-65.
Upon arrival in Louisville we made a quick stop at Kroger for a cold 6 pack of Coors Light and then headed down Bardstown Road to JW’s. The temperature in Louisville was a lot warmer than in Chicago, so we sat on JW’s back deck and enjoyed a couple of drinks before grabbing some dinner. While we were sitting on the deck, we heard some classic 80’s hits (867-5309!) being performed by a cover band at a neighboring house and decided to see what that was all about. We walked over to the next block, and the party looked like fun. So we decided to crash it. We arrived just as the band was taking a break, so we had a drink while waiting for the second set to start. We made bets as to what the first song of the second set was going to be based on what we had heard on JW’s deck. Our guesses: JW: Mustang Sally. Pete: Brass in Pocket. Mollie: Proud Mary. So imagine our excitement when the band took the stage and we heard, “Left a good job in the city workin’ for the man every night and day…” Yay Mollie!
After that triumphant party crash/name the tune game, we headed to a neighborhood called NuLu. Mollie and I had read about it in the Travel section of The Chicago Tribune a couple of months ago, so we were excited to be checking it out. Being huge fans of Top Chef, our original plan was to try 610 Magnolia, the restaurant owned by Ed Lee, who was one of our favorite contestants (I mean, cheftestants) from this past season. Unfortunately, the arrangements couldn’t be worked out so hopefully we’ll get to try it on an other visit. The area of NuLu that we visited was very vibrant with a lot of people eating and drinking and playing ping pong outside and enjoying the lovely weather. We went to a place called The Garage where we each ordered wood-fired pizzas (2 Margherita and 1 Smoked Salmon) that were incredibly tasty. After dinner we went to a bar called The Holy Grale. We were seated upstairs, and it reminded me of being in New York City. Cozy, dimly lit, good crowd, and at least 20 different varietals of Dog Fish Head Beer. Wonderful. Plus pretzel bread.
The next morning started early with a nice run through the hilly streets of JW’s quaint neighborhood. After the run and showering we stopped by a terrific store called Why Louisville where Mollie dropped off some of her cards. If you are ever in Louisville, make sure to stop by for a visit. We then had breakfast at a place called Ramsi’s Cafe that was memorable because, along with some delicious coffee, I tried Jakarta Rings, which are red onion rings in tempura served with Ketjap Manis, a house version of ketchup. Nothing like coffee and onion rings to get the day off to a productive start! We then headed downtown for a quick photo opportunity in front of the Louisville Slugger Museum and then to the gift shop so Mollie could buy a floaty pen for her collection. We heard great things about the 21C Museum and Hotel, so we made the short walk over where we took in the Anthony Goicolea exhibit and then headed next door to Proof on Main for a couple of drinks. While there, we read about the terrible news of the death of Adam Yauch of The Beastie Boys. We read a lot of different thoughts about MCA, but I really liked this piece by Sasha Frere-Jones in The New Yorker.
We then headed back to JW’s and met a few more people who came down from Chicago for the weekend. Mollie made some delicious Mint Juleps while we made our plan for the evening. Our first stop was right across the street to a place called Bambi Bar. The Kentucky Oaks had just finished so (many drunk) people were stumbling in from the track. There was some great people watching. After some drinks (one round of Fall City Beer, 5 people, $11.25), we went back down to NuLu for dinner. Mollie and I made a quick stop at a photo booth, watched a local band play in an alley, and then went to a place called Taco Punk for dinner. Mollie and I love going to Big Star in Chicago for tacos and Tecate, and so having a few tacos along with a Tecate in Louisville was a nice little taste of home while being away. We then did a bit of bar hopping and really enjoyed one bar where we heard a most awesome hour tribute to the Beastie Boys. We then got caught in a rainstorm, faked some karaoke, and headed back to JW’s to call it a night. After all, we still had the Kentucky Derby to attend on Saturday.
We woke up on Saturday to clouds, but the weather promised that the rain would stay away for the day and it did. Mollie and I put on our Kentucky Derby outfits and headed out to our annual pre-Derby breakfast with the rest of the group. We arrived at Churchill Downs around 1:3opm and it was a sea of humanity (2012 set another attendance record). We finally entered the grounds and found a decent position close enough to the fence in the infield that we could actually see horses. Sure, it may have been only for a second, but it was more than we saw last year. It was extremely hot so we spent most of the day walking around laughing at the crowd and trying to find some respite from the sun. We looked at the racing form and decided on what horses we wanted to pick for the Derby and then went to place our wagers. Mollie’s brother Bill (who had the task of looking in on our cat Lemur) gave us $5 to put on Daddy Long Legs to show. Mollie bet $2 on Gemologist to win, and a $2 Trifecta on Sabercat, I’ll Have Another, and Bodemeister. I bet $2 on Hansen to win and a $2 Trifecta on Gemologist, Take Charge Indy, and Dullahan. Total wagers: $13. Mollie was very close to hitting her Trifecta, but all of us were out of the money. The Derby as always was amazing people watching (turkey legs, sombreros, 7 foot guy dressed as a jockey, vomit, sunburn, fights, salmon pants, drunk girls, etc.) and it really is something that needs to be seen to be believed. And why do white people like to chant, “USA! USA! USA!” in tunnels?
After Derby we headed back to JW’s for showers and some relaxation time (and more of Mollie’s marvelous Mint Juleps) before heading back out for dinner and a couple of beers (and a round of $1 jello shots) before calling it another night and another successful Derby.
Sunday morning we stopped at a cute little place called Hillbilly Tea for a scone and a biscuit and then began our trek back up I-65 to get Stickers back and see Lemur for the first time in a few days.
We finally made it back to Chicago and ended the night with Domino’s pizza and a Mad Men episode with Rory Gilmore, Mr. Belding, and Don Draper not liking Revolver.