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Friday, January 11, 2019

The Brown Hotel - A Tasting Experience in Louisville

When I take a trip I do a little research, make a plan and print out a list of things I want to see or do.

Christmas decorations at the Brown Hotel

I don't always do everything on the list; often I get there and discover other things that are more intriguing.  And of course on this trip Katrina was doing her own research and making her own plans.  Her goal was to get a free t-shirt for completing at least 6 stops on the Urban Bourbon Trail.  Lucky me, some of those stops were in historic buildings on my list of things to do!

Ready for the midnight balloon drop

So we braved finding parking in downtown Louisville on New Year's Eve in order to have an early dinner and a drink at the infamous Brown Hotel lobby bar. The good news is that traffic isn't an issue if you are looking to party before the "real" parties begin!

The bars and restaurants on the Urban Bourbon Trail excel in all things bourbon, and our challenge was to find a cocktail we both wanted to try.  We went with the Mint Julep even though we were tempted by the Bisontini.

It was an acquired taste, but as we neared the end of the glass I actually started to really like it.  And the fresh mint was so plentiful in the glass that it was like sipping bourbon in a summer garden.  Sipping Mint Julep while listening to live piano music was a new experience I was glad to add to my list!

More choices faced us as we checked out the dinner menu.  We weren't too hungry and wanted something to share.  Should we try the famous Hot Brown which was invented right in the Brown Hotel in 1926? Lamb sliders on Brioche buns? Shrimp grits? We settled on the crab cakes with fingerling potatoes and grilled zucchini. I regret nothing!

Best way to end a long day of driving!

We had our waitress stamp our Passport, which not only lists the participants but also gives you some hints on what to try when you visit.

And yes, we left room for dessert, which could only be Derby Pie.  Technically it's not Derby Pie unless it's made by Kern Kitchens, which this one was, but I enjoyed this walnut pie so much that I plan to make it at home soon. When we left Louisville we both picked up our own pie to take home, but I'll tell you that the blueberries and raspberries really made this dessert pop both in appearance and in flavor.

Satisfied without being full, we wandered around the lobby.  The hotel was in serious danger of losing a floor vase once I laid my eyes on this one - good thing I didn't know how to smuggle out a waist high vase.

The Brown Hotel was built in 1923 and has seen a lot of history.  Here is a story I thought was just delightful from their website: In January 1937, the Ohio River rose, invading Louisville. Nearly a thousand people from low-lying areas sought refuge in the hotel and found themselves stranded for ten days. A witness recalled, "We were rowing down Broadway and there was The Brown Hotel. The doors were open and the place was filled with water so we just rowed our boat in one door, went through the lobby and rowed out another." Spirits remained high, however. Charcoal grills in makeshift kitchens fed the multitudes, and bucket brigades carried water up the 15 flights of stairs to flush toilets. During the flood, the bell captain caught a fish in the second floor lobby.

Glamorous check-in window across from the Lobby Bar

We didn't see anything quite so fantastical on our visit, unless you count our glimpse of the young guest in the Crystal Ballroom who called the room "magical" before she skipped over to the Christmas tree in the corner.  I couldn't agree more!

Which drink from the menu would you have chosen? Comment below!


  1. Oh phoey, Every time I drive through Louisville, I just am on my way somewhere else. Now I want to look at that hotel! My drink would have been the Kentucky Derby I think. Thanks for great post and the story of the flood especially! And I would have loved your dinner too!