As I sit bundled on the couch like an eskimo, watching another round of snow move in, I can’t help but wonder whether back to to back trips to Florida were a blessing or a tease. I live for summer and with a winter wonderland outside, it’s all I can do to keep myself from making a paper chain countdown. So for now, you’d better believe this girl is dreaming of a humid night, cold drinks, good food and great company at one of her favorite outdoor dining spots. Here are the 6 places you can find me on a summer night:
- The draw: This year-round favorite of mine totally transforms in the summer when the outdoor space opens. True to it’s name, the restaurant resembles an old mechanics garage inside and out. The most interesting feature? The two junked cars out front that are posed to look as if they wrecked. Located in NuLu, the large outdoor space is pet-friendly, which is a huge draw for those in the close knit neighborhoods nearby. The long family style tables and open garage doors give an easy going community feel, while the adjacent ping-pong tables provide entertainment for young and old. The fare ain’t so bad either!
- Sip and Snack: Garage Bar makes their tonic in-house and it’s as good as you would imagine so you can’t go wrong with a gin or vodka tonic. If bourbon is the name of your game, their specialty drink ‘The District 8’ is unparalleled. When you’re hungry, you can’t leave without getting my ALL TIME favorite appetizer, boiled peanuts. These are as good as any you’ll find roadside en route to Georgia and portioned easily for 4 (or as an entree, no judgement). Known for their pizza’s, I recommend the Brussel Sprout. I know, I know, it sounds odd but it’s incredible.
- The Draw: On popular Frankfort Avenue, located in a refurbished firehouse, Silver Dollar is known for their modern take on Southern cuisine and Bakersfield Sound music. Decorated with festive lights, this place buzzes with energy and life, especially in the summer. The open garage doors on the front transform the indoors to out and the back brick patio with open walls pairs people watching and sipping like peanut butter and jelly. Because of it’s prime location, it’s perfect for bar hopping to either Bardstown Road or St. Matthews. The friendly staff are always on their A-game and great with recommendations, which you may need help with due to the awesome selection of food.
- Sip and Snack: Their motto is ‘ Whiskey By The Drink’ so you can imagine their extensive Whiskey and Bourbon menu. You can never go wrong with one on the rocks and they serve your drink and rocks separately if you have a preference on your ratios but my personal favorite is their signature Kentucky Mule, served with perfectly crushed ice. It wouldn’t be a trip to ‘the dollar’, without ordering a basket of their Fried Pickles served with a spicy twist on ranch which always comes out hot…these tasty deep fried treats are always gone in a matter of minutes. For dinner, the Pan Seared Pork Chop served with mashed potatoes has my heart. Between the open air and great food, I promise you’ll visit more than once.
- The Draw: I love Mexican food so I don’t need much of a draw but in any case! The ‘Dia de los Muertos’ feel and vibrant colors are only part of it’s charm. Located just a hop, skip and jump from Silver Dollar on Frankfort, this restaurant is a staple and as such, is always full. Ducking under a doorway to the right of their entrance, their patio is covered and lit with fun lighting and candles so even on the soggiest summer days, you can enjoy. The space also boasts an outdoor bar for additional seating and service. My favorite part? The train tracks which run right behind it. As odd as it may sound, for me it only adds to the charm.
- Sip and Snack: There is only one drink for me at El Mundo, The Mosquito. This twist on a margarita includes cilantro and jalapeño, so for those of you like me who like a cocktail with a bite, this is the perfect mix between sweet, sour and spicy. While I myself am not a sangria girl, I’ve been told from multiple reliable sources theirs, both seasonal and otherwise, is nothing to scoff at. If you like Blood Oranges, they have it on the menu right now! The guacamole and chips are a must for starters! Meanwhile in the world of entree’s, the Pork Carnitas have my vote. Flash-fried pork served with a tomatillo-basil salsa, red onion and all the fixings’. You’re welcome in advance.
- The Draw: In the middle of the Highlands in what was originally a small Unitarian Church, Holy Grale is now in the business of serving up good beer and good community as opposed to Sunday services. As far as they went to preserve the uniqueness inside, it only makes sense the outside space matches. A cozy, enclosed, gravel patio strung with soft lighting and a wall of herb boxes ascending the stairs definitely makes this outdoor space a bit transcendent on a summer evening. It’s so nice in fact, a friend whose wedding I was recently in, not only got engaged in their choir loft but had her engagement pictures taken on their patio! Their seasonal and locally sourced menu makes it a haven for those who love all things 502. Bourbon and wine aficionados beware, Holy Grale is a beer only establishment though but I promise it’s worth it regardless.
- Sip and Snack: Their 26 rotating taps provide a wide variety of styles and locations when it comes to your brew of choice. Because of this, I don’t have a go-to! Instead I leave it to the experts and let the staff make recommendations that match my palate. If you aren’t sure, try a flight. When it comes to grub, when in season, I LOVE their brussel sprouts which are flash fried, crispy and guaranteed to make even the most green averse member of your party a fan. Otherwise the charcuterie plate is a home run. The burger may be one of the best in Louisville, served on a pretzel bun and cooked perfectly. For the burger and beer types, you will not be disappointed.
- The Draw: If you’re hoping to ditch the hustle and bustle of the last four places, the Village Anchor is your spot. Despite being nestled in the heart of quiet Anchorage, this East End favorite doesn’t lack for popularity. The quaint awninged exterior gives way to the interesting interior which is full of rich color, paintings from wall to ceiling and grand detail. However, the outside seating is what sets this restaurant apart, especially in the summer months. A stone half wall encases the wrought iron table settings, capped by a large fireplace at one end. Rain or shine, the patio is functional which makes this the perfect stop no matter the weather and if you get chilly, they provide blankets for your lap or shoulders. Your checks are brought in old books for an added eclectic touch and the presentation of food and drink leave nothing to be desired. As if you needed more of a reason to go.
- Sip and Snack: If you like grapes, you’ll enjoy the Wine Down Wednesdays with 1/2 price bottles. The cocktail menu is varied and inventive but doesn’t leave out the purists with a full bodied list of bourbon and spirits. As libations go, I usually take recommendations from the table and the staff and have never been disappointed. In the way of sustenance, the Goat Cheese Gateau appetizer is a crowd favorite, that is if you like cheese and general all around happiness. I’ve also gotten two regulars (who I trust implicitly) solid recommendations for Anchor’s Fish Tacos and Shrimp n’ Grits. Count me in.
- The Draw: In the middle of Westport Village, a small boutique local business shopping center, Napa holds its own for open air dining with an unbeatable happy hour, full menu and ambiance. As the dinner counter part to it’s creative across the street sister breakfast joint, Wild Eggs, Napa doesn’t disappoint. It’s the perfect middle ground for both a nice evening out and somewhere you can head after work to wind down with friends or a significant other. The patio has fire pit tables, couches, as well as traditional seating and a large outdoor covered bar with TV’s. Along with a privacy fence covered in vines and water feature to make you feel like you’re in the valley, the menu brings the left coast feel as well and does it without a hitch. Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kentucky anymore.
- Sip and Snack: The extensive wine list here makes happy hour on Friday an easy choice. I usually go with champagne or dry red/white but I promise you the options are limitless. The real winner for me is the caesar salad served in the parmesan cheese bowl (YES!) or the ham and cheese plate. See a theme here? If you’re still hungry and looking for something more, the Brisket with brussel slaw and a side of macaroni and cheese is mine as well as my dad’s favorite. It’s tender but not fatty and can be split or boxed up easily, though I doubt you’ll need to. Are you drooling yet?
For those of you who love a good countdown, the first official day of spring is March 20th. Which is less than five weeks away, hallelujah! And for those that are REALLY dreaming of the aforementioned wonderful, sticky, humid nights… summer starts June 20th…..and dear lord, here’s hoping Punxsutawney Phil wasn’t wrong this year! Hey summer, are we there yet?