Louisville is full of neighborhoods and enclaves that have their own distinct style and offerings, and locals have long known that one of the most unique areas of town is the Highlands. Stretching along two main streets — Baxter Avenue and Bardstown Road — this part of town has been affectionally dubbed “Restaurant Row,” and it certainly lives up to the name. From tacos to fried chicken, soups to sandwiches, bourbon to beer, you can find it all in the Highlands.
But there’s more than food to be found in this eclectic Louisville neighborhood. The Highlands is also home to bohemian-style shops, art vendors, clothing stores, furniture shops and even a café where you can hang out with kittens. The best part? Everything is accessible by foot, so you can park your car and spend the day exploring. Here’s a look at some of our favorite things to do and see in the Highlands.
FOOD & BEVERAGE
It’s raining cats — and kittens!
Friends of furry felines will be quite taken with the Purrfect Day Café at 1741 Bardstown Road. This combination cat adoption center and cool meeting place is the brainchild of owners Chuck and Tricia Patton. The café opened in August 2018; since then, more than 1,000 cats have been successfully adopted.
In addition to the large, enclosed room that holds all of the cats, Purrfect Day houses a café where patrons can purchase beer, wine, coffee, tea and a variety of snacks. The menu includes “cat-ppetizers” like the South-by-Southwest Chicken Dip; “pawstries” that include the Tortie and Siamese scones; and “paw-pcorn.” Two favorite popcorn flavors are the Kitty Litter, made with white and dark chocolate with a graham cracker dust, and the Windy Kitty, a blend of caramel and cheddar cheese popcorn.
The upstairs lounge area and an outdoor “catio” are ideal lounge spots. And while reservations are required to hang out with the cats, if you’re simply coming in for a cold one, the door’s always open.
Where to grab a cuppa Joe
Highland Coffee Company, located at 1140 Bardstown Road, has long-been one of the most popular Highlands establishments — long-time neighborhood resident Kerry Isham says it’s her favorite coffee shop in all of Louisville. The most frequently ordered drinks include the chai latte, iced mocha and butterscotch toffee coffee. For the hungry bunch, the black bean and pepperjack panini and the turkey and goat cheese panini are safe bets. And besides the great food and drinks, be sure to check out the amazing artwork covering the walls. The art is submitted by locals, like Kerry, and the selection changes on a monthly basis.
Other Food & Beverage Must-Visits
If you’re a reader, there are few things more important than supporting your local independent bookstore, and Carmichael’s Bookstore, located at 1295 Bardstown Road, is Louisville’s oldest. It’s been 40 years since owners Carole Besse and Michael Boggs (the store’s name is a combination of their first names) opened the store. Then, in 2014 they increased their Highlands footprint by opening a children’s book store, Carmichael’s Kids, at 1313 Bardstown Road.
Both stores are small, yet they have a delightful selection of hand-picked titles that reflect the taste of the owners and their patrons. Special events, book signings and kids’ activities happen throughout the year, making Carmichael’s a must-visit Highlands destination.
All for fun … and fun for all!
At Heroes Comics and Gaming, located at 361 Baxter Avenue, there’s plenty of fun to be had for kids and kids-at-heart. The store’s shelves are filled with new and vintage comics, graphic novels, accessories and all types of comic-themed items. Even if you aren’t a comic super-fan, Heroes is still a great place to visit. The store is also a hot spot for live gaming and events and, hosts programs around games like Magic: the Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, Arena Rex and Star Wars Destiny. You can also reserve a free play area for your own gaming session.
Other Retail Must-Visits:
A place to rest your weary bones
The Highlands is known for being weird, independent and proud, so it’s no surprise that, instead of a traditional bed and breakfast, this neighborhood features a “bed and beverage.” The iconic Gralehaus, located at 1001 Baxter Ave., features a combination café/coffeehouse on the lower level and three guest rooms on the upper floor. Each room has a distinct charm and its own name — The Den, St. Brigid’s Deluxe and the Sky Parlor.
The Gralehaus is housed in a 1905 Victorian manor; it’s adorned with artwork by local craftspeople and filled with furniture constructed by Louisville makers. Beverages of all types flow easily here, from fresh-roasted coffee to 75 carefully selected bottles of beer, wine and cider that are available to carry out or drink “in-haus.”
No matter when you visit the Highlands, or where you decide to hang out, you’ll find a plethora of great food, entertainment and fun.
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