A bit later on, when we felt ready for dessert, Pie Kitchen’s various baked goods beckoned through their glass display case. Here one could gorge on the fresh-baked odors alone; not that one would want to stop there. Back on Market Street, sniffing for pizza, we found a neon sign spelling “garage” in modest lowercase, hung over what appeared to be a fuel pump and a wasted, extremely dusty vintage car. Garage Bar turned out to serve very excellent pizzas (pork belly pie, butternut squash, and Brussels sprouts, to name a few), along with fresh shucked oysters and regional hams.

Fuel-stop staples, Louisville style? I mused.

“Until just now, I actually thought this was an auto repair shop,” Trish said.

My entire week was strung with good eats, but a certain appetizer the first evening there impressed upon my palate the indelible mark of Louisville. The menu at Eiderdown, in Louisville’s Germantown neighborhood, listed dishes including local roasted beef tongue sandwich and fried quail with sweet potato pancakes. Our party started off with a round of beers, the duck fat popcorn, and Gouda beer cheese. I stopped cold at the beer cheese (or rather — didn’t stop, until it was gone), a simple union with such obvious matrimonial harmony that I was dismayed I hadn’t thought of it myself.

“So is beer cheese a Kentucky thing, like those signs at gas stations for boiled peanuts?” I asked, searching for an explanation to my ignorance.

The others looked at each other. “You’ve never had beer cheese?” said Jen, a mutual friend of mine and Trish’s, incredulous. “Beer cheese is pretty much everywhere.”

Trish concurred. “Are you sure you’ve never seen beer cheese? You’ve been in France too long.” (I had indeed been in France too long, clearly, as in a country reputed for its 200 or more cheeses, I had never once come across a beer-flavored variety.)

Fortunately, I was to have numerous run-ins with beer cheese throughout my stay in Louisville, and was able to procure a recipe immediately upon returning to my home kitchen. Turns out, beer cheese is everywhere — that is, everywhere in Kentucky. They didn’t even know how lucky they were.

Or perhaps they did, as Louisville also boasts the Hot Brown, a 1920s creation of the Brown Hotel and a dish described variously by Peter Meehan in the fall/winter 2011 issue of Lucky Peach as “the sort of dish that was created to feed drunks”; “an open-faced turkey sandwich for people with a death wish for weight gain”; and, “totally awesome.”


Louisville is in a wet county and Louisvillians know it well. When Trish and I walked into the church on Sunday, we mounted a narrow flight of steps to a choir loft presided spookily over by an enormous gothic chandelier, the kind you might see Zorro or d’Artagnan swinging from. The choir loft contained several heavy wooden benches and we promptly sat down and knocked back a few rounds of specialty beer. We were indeed in a church (Unitarian), albeit restored as the Holy Grale, a gastro pub for devoted beer lovers and temporary converts. Other bars have followed suit in the I-look-like-what-I-am-not line; notably, Meat in Butchertown (appropriately), looking a lot like a meat locker and tasting like superb in-house cocktails. Trish’s favorite is a Moscow Mule, muddled cucumber with vodka and ginger beer. I usually go for a vodka-water, but the temptation of ginger beer and the availability of cucumbers were too much to pass up.

Following suit with the theme of disguise and surprise, the previous night we had attended Connection’s nationally famous drag show, showering dollar bills at the superbly talented performers of LaBoy LeFemme. There were spunky soul tunes, pulsing pop anthems, and splits that would put a varsity cheerleader to shame from the likes of Karmen Delarouge, Adriana Fuentes, and the hilariously sharp-tongued Hurricane Summers. This is a show that Lady Gaga has rocked out with on a night out. On the club’s dance level, hunky men with chiseled facial hair were enjoying a different kind of shower — a real one with water and soap, inside clear glass shower booths. After I assured her that no one was watching, Trish pulled a few moves on the pole, as she had learned in pole dancing class. It looked pretty hard.

We finished that evening at Trish’s favorite hangout, Zanzabar, which sells cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) for a dollar and games of Tron for a quarter. This “barcade” gives perspiring dancers two options for a breather — beer garden, or mini arcade. Out on the dance floor a guy in a cool T-shirt and knit cap was monopolizing DJ Wise Guy’s electronic beats with fluid tectonic moves, intimidating and fascinating everyone else in the bar, until we were too drunk to care and clambered in all at once, hands up and feet skipping.

Cincopa WordPress plugin