I had friends in town from Washington, DC, last weekend, who were visiting family in Fort Knox. Karen and Travis needed a night out in civilization, and Maia and I definitely were ready for a moment away from our parental responsibilities, so Louisville was our destination for an evening of drinks and dinner.
I chose the Garage Bar as our meet up spot, in the trendy NuLu neighborhood downtown. It’s hard to miss the vintage black Trans Am and Camaro out front that appear to have just engaged in a head-on collision. It’s technically considered a sculpture by Jonathan Schipper, entitled “Slow Inevitable Death of American Muscle.” Both vehicles are on lifts and move imperceptibly slowly, with sound effects, towards their predetermined conclusion.
We were only coming for drinks, as I’d heard the bourbon selection was solid and the staff was knowledgeable – both of which are true, but there is a solid dinner menu that offers local and regional country hams, shucked oysters, other southern-inspired snacks and wood-fired gourmet pizzas.
The location previously housed a service station, and it still gives off that appearance, with the expansive awning where cars used to pull under, and old-style gas pumps remaining where expected. Several garage bay doors are opened wide, giving an airiness to the bar and interior.
There is an extensive list of draft and bottled craft beers – but we were here for bourbon. I opened with a Knob Creek Old Fashioned ($9.75), which started to smooth out my edges. I gave the Four Roses Single Barrel a shot ($9.50), but it didn’t have the body to stand up in a muddled cocktail.
Karen was fond of the Bulleit 10 Year – that was smooth on the rocks. She also had a Larceny bourbon that was OK, but not great. A new one for me was Johnny Drum ($9), that was outstanding in an Old Fashioned. (Mad Praise!) This is a Willett product, and distilled in Bardstown.
We were enjoying our time and conversation so much we pushed our dinner reservation back to 9:00 PM to continue at the Garage.
We had befriended this young woman, Devon, after asking her what she was drinking. Devon and her boyfriend Josh were around half our age, 20-somethings. We ended up having a great conversation about how she deals with being a smart and capable person who has a lot of tattoos. They can be covered for a job interview, though her hair was a cute aqua-green, but in warm weather clothing her arms and ankles are eye-catching. This is a problem for Devon.
She was totally an awesome person, and I wish her the best going forward. Plus she turned me onto my cocktail of the evening: High Heat.
Being a former New Orleans resident I have an appreciation for absinthe. It’s making a big comeback around the country, especially in upscale apothecary cocktail bars, but it never went out of style in New Orleans.
The High Heat consists of Old Forester Signature bourbon, jalapeno, absinthe, lemon and Peychaud’s Bitters. There is a slight medicinal flavor to the High Heat, but it’s plenty smooth, and will make any troubles rapidly disappear.
The Garage offers a varied crowd. There were plenty in attendance sporting tatts and scraggly facial hair, young professionals, lot of us 40-somethings, parents with babies, and older folks yet. There is an expansive outside area and patio. Trees grow out of large planters that serve as climbable benches that are covered in faux-green grass. There are a couple of outdoor ping-pong tables that light up, and sit on crushed cars to provide added entertainment.
Opened in 2011, Garage Bar is headed by chef Michael Paley, along with partners Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown, who all are associated with Proof on Main. Paley formerly was the executive chef, but now splits his time between the Garage and Metropole in Cincinnati. Brown and Wilson are the pair that brought the wildly successful 21c Museum Hotel into existence. This centers on the idea of keeping historic exteriors in tact and retrofitting the interiors to accent livable art with a nod to a structure’s heritage. There is a bit of that going on at the Garage as well.
It’s definitely worth stopping by to take in the scene, relax and enjoy a cocktail. Chat up the bar staff with any questions. They are friendly and love talking liquor.
700 E. Market Street | 502-749-7100 | Hours: Mon-Thu 5-11PM; Fri 4PM-12AM; Sat 11AM-12AM; Sun 11AM-10PM| Menu