Kentucky Derby Style: Where to Eat, Drink, Shop + More in Louisville * Part I – Downtown, Nulu, Butchertown + New Albany

You’re coming in town for Derby. You’ve got your dress, your hat, your party plans. With all the Derby excitement, there’s not much time for anything else but in case you’re looking for a great place to grab a drink, a last minute brow wax, a mani touch-up or a strong cup of coffee – this post is for you.

I’m going to organize each of these by neighborhood/area of town since, while most people stay downtown, I know there’s a ton of people booking AirBnB’s all over Louisville. I’ve broken down my favorites by neighborhood – starting today with downtown, Nulu/Butchertown and New Albany.   When I started writing this, I planned to include them all in one post but it got so long that I’m breaking it into two. Tomorrow I’ll share St. Matthews, the East End and the Highlands/Germantown.

And, as always, if you’re looking for something specific – feel free to drop me an email ([email protected]) or DM me on Instagram.Instagram. Talking Louisville and Derby are my favorite things, so I’m always happy to share recommendations.

Downtown
Grab a drink at… Proof on Main.

I love the hotel bars during Derby week, there’s a ton of excitement in the air with people getting into town and locals out enjoying the “holiday” week. Proof’s bar has a great mix of people so you can get tips from the locals while meeting other visitors. Get there early to grab a seat at the bar and order the warm ricotta or their fries (so good).

Come for the drinks and art, stay for the people watching.

Last minute manicure… Mokara Spa at the Omni

There aren’t a ton of salon options downtown but if you need a last minute mani or pedi, head over to Mokara at the Omni for a touch-up. They carry both Essie and OPI colors and the set-up is oh-so-relaxing. Enjoy a mimosa while you take a breather from all the Derby madness.

Grab a cup of coffee at … Heine Brothers (Main Street or Omni)

There’s no shortage of Starbucks in town but if you want to try a local shop, there are two Heine Brothers downtown. Stop by the one on Main Street and then walk across to the Belvedere to sneak a peek of the river and the Belle of Louisville. Or stop into the one at Falls City Market in the Omni where you can also grab breakfast and snap a shoefie at the market entrance.

Last minute outfit change… Messie Shop.

The newest addition to South Fourth Street is only a few steps away if you forget earrings, need to swap out accessories or if you decide you need an entirely new outfit. With an exclusive array of designers, the owner Jessie can help you find something that’s unique for your day at the track.

For bourbon or history lovers… The Old Seelbach Bar 

Literary buffs may recognize the name from The Great Gatsby but bourbon lovers will come (and stay) for the huge selection of single barrel bourbons. You’ll take a trip back to the roaring 20’s over a bourbon on the rocks at the hotel’s historic bar.

Dress & Dwell Giraffe Print Dress 
Headcandi Fascinator 
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Derby Dresses Under $125
Nulu/Butchertown
Grab a drink at… Butchertown Grocery or Rye

One of my favorite Louisville restaurants is a must-visit while you’re in town. Reservation are probably all booked up (never hurts to call and have them let you know about any cancellations) but you can still stop into this local highlight for a cocktail or glass of wine. If the downstairs bar is packed, head upstairs to Lola – their cocktail lounge. The menu is always changing so I can’t pick a single cocktail to recommend. I usually just ask the bartender their favorite and go with it.

Or head over to Rye – one of the prettiest bars in town. Lots of natural light contrast with the classic oak bar. They make killer bourbon cocktails (partial to this mint julep) and have a great happy hour vibe. Pick a nice night and enjoy a drink and apps outside. Sometimes they’ll have live music Derby week which just adds to the good vibes.

 

Last minute manicure or brow wax… Dollface Brows + The Glossery

You’ll walk into Dollface a stranger and walk out with a new best friend. It’s literally impossible to not love owner Jess Bartley. Honestly, I make appointments just to catch up with her. As much as you’ll love her and her staff, you’ll love your brows even more. Jess and her team are incredible plus it’s a two-for-one stop since you can get a mani/pedi at The Glossery.

Their speciality is fun nail art and I’ve no doubt they’ll be offering Derby themed designs. Stop in to up your manicure game and get right for the weekend.

Grab a cup of coffee and a cookie at… Please & Thank You

Really just go for a chocolate chip cookie … or five. If you love a strong cup of coffee, P&TY is for you. The coffee is strong, the music is loud (it’s also a record shop), the treats are delicious and the vibe is Instagram ready.

They also have a location downtown if you can’t make it down to Nulu.

A souvenir they’ll actually like… White’s Mercantile or Revelry

Want to bring back something that isn’t totally cheesy or fully-branded? Stop into the newest shop on the block White’s Mercantile for something sufficiently southern and chic. Or bring back something with some local flair by stopping into Revelry. Need some last minute recommendations from a local in-the-know, ask for owner Mo McKnightHowe who can give you tips on everything from what to wear to wear to eat to where to party.

You can easily kill some time browsing in both spots (that are only about a block apart) and can come home with something your {in-laws, dogsitter, babysitter, mom + dad, kids} will actually like.

For a last minute accessory… Work the Metal

Need a pair of earrings? Work the Metal has enough for every day of the week and more. You can also find a party-ready look, a fun pair of socks for the fellas, or a great gift. Or just escape the madness for a little bit with a mimosa at their wine bar.

Grab a quick lunch… Royals or Feast.

If you’re craving southern BBQ, got to Feast and make sure to get a side of tots and mac n cheese. If you’re in the mood for fried chicken, Royals is your spot. Whichever spot you choose, make sure to get one of their signature bourbon slushies. They change seasonally but if they have the grape one, get it!

Both are counter service spots, so you can get in and out pretty quickly. Oh and if you go to Feast, be a little adventurous and get the pork cakes. It sounds super weird but they are crazy delicious.

New Albany 
Grab a drink at…The Exchange 

If the weather is nice, there is no better place to grab a drink outside. Their patio is, hands dow, my favorite in town. It’s comfortable, laid-back and just far enough away from downtown Louisville. Honestly, I recommend anyone go over there for drinks and dinner.

Craft beer lovers will have a hard time choosing just one from their massive list and foodies will be head over heels for the DELICIOUS goat cheese balls.

Last minute brows or lashes… Body and Brow. 

While I personally haven’t been to Body and Brow, I have enough friends that swear by it to recommend it to you all. Not only do they do brows but they also do lashes, air brush makeup and threading. Just head over to their Instagram page to get a look at their work. The salon is also new and very cute, right in the middle of downtown New Albany.

Grab a cup of coffee at … Quills. 

Quills has a handful of Louisville locations (that are all wonderful and you should definitely stop in) but I had to show them love in New Albany because it’s the best spot in town to grab a latter or giant coffee. It’s right in the middle of downtown NA where you can grab your coffee and enjoy a walk down Main Street or just sit outside and soak in the sunshine.

Grab a gift or make a last minute Derby outfit change… Dress & Dwell 

It’s no secret I love Dress & Dwell. It’s my favorite boutique in town and a mainstay of New Albany. Not only can you get a head-to-toe outfit, you can also grab a gift, pick up a new pair of earrings, or find a fascinator. With affordable price points, you won’t break the bank (aka get a couple pairs of earrings).

Call ahead and they can pull looks for you in your size/style. Their staff is always helpful and will make sure you leave feeling, and looking like, a million bucks.

You can easily kill some time browsing in both spots (that are only about a block apart) and can come home with something your {in-laws, dogsitter, babysitter, mom + dad, kids} will actually like.

Find a fascinator… House of K

If you get a late invite to a Derby gala, House of K can help you look black-tie ready with one of their gowns. More importantly though, it’s the home base for my friend Britni Knable of Headcandi. Britni has made all my Derby fascinators for the last five or six years. She’s crazy talented and her pieces range from soft and subtle (like the one in today’s look) to bold and bright.

Bring in your dress and she’ll help find something that pairs perfectly. Oh and if you’re in need of accessories, House of K carries a TON of earrings, necklaces and clutches.

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