Ever since I ordered my first drink in Louisville — I believe it may have been at Coyote’s and probably a Zima — I’ve heard about the legend of the Okolona Corona.
Part backhanded put-down and part a tasty way to enjoy a domestic beer, the mythical drink recipe consists of a lime wedge situated in a bottle of American swill beer — kind of like how a Corona is served, but for those on a budget.
In my quest to explore each and every corner bar of the city, I decided to amass a crew and visit the South End-situated neighborhood of Okolona to find out if this Loch Ness Monster of beer really exists, or if it’s just an old tree branch floating in a pool of deception and classism.
While I won’t spoil the journey, I will say that Okolona covers a large-ass area of town that centers around the intersection of Preston Highway and I-265. Included is the Jefferson Mall area, the new shopping centers and movie theater way, way out on Preston, Grade Lane near the airport, Outer Loop, Fern Valley Road and much more.
It’s like three Hikes Points in one! Or maybe 300. Either way, it felt large, but thankfully Google Maps was in charge, so we followed where it led. And the first stop just so happened to be …
Stooges Bar & Grill — 7123 Grade Lane
I’ve always heard great things about this third-shifter sports bar, and once I even stopped by at 7 a.m. to see just how crazy it gets when those night owls get off work. I remember being astounded at how lively and crowded it was so early in the morning.
But then again, everyone deserves a happy hour, no matter what time you work.
Stooges is open from 6 a.m. to 4 a.m. every day of the week except for Sundays, when it opens at 10 a.m. And along with the 21 TVs I counted, there are a couple of sand volleyball courts out back, pool tables, beer specials, friendly servers and a full menu of delicious bar food from chili and cornbread to fried balls of cheese.
We tiptoed in and perched ourselves at a table in the main room. It was about 6:30 p.m., and it was the only table open.
I monitored the situation, detecting the preferred method of imbibing beer was in bucket form — five beers to a bucket — and nowhere did I see a lime protruding from a bottle.
What I did make note of was a $2.50 Corona special on Thursdays, and a happy hour that runs every day from 4 to 8 p.m. I also noticed about 12 to 15 taps with a nice mix of domestic and craft beer, proving that there’s more to Okolona than Miller High Life.
We fueled up on fine fare — I recommend the Stooges Burger and the hand-breaded chicken tenders dipped in buffalo wing sauce — sucked down our domestic beers (no lime offered), and headed to our next case study, which happened to be …
Lefty’s Lounge — 8122 Preston Highway
I’m not even sure how we found Lefty’s, as it’s only been open a few months and doesn’t have a legit sign yet, so I’ll consider it blind luck. In fact, there’s still a sign of its former occupant — Fibbers — on the front of the small building tucked off Preston Highway, soon after you cross over Outer Loop going south.
The only mention of Lefty’s was an election-type yard sign and a lit-up marquee that boasted of karaoke on Tuesdays.
But we made our way inside and found a newly remodeled one-room bar that was quaint, comfy and friendly. A singer-songwriter was just getting ready to start a slew of classic-rock covers, and a small group of regulars were crowded around the pool table.
We watched in awe as one man — who wore a T-shirt that read “Trick, Treat or √Beer” — ran the table, making shot after shot to the chagrin of his buddies.
We found great specials on beers — $2 domestics and $2.50 imports — and we even noticed an entire bucket full of Modelo beer with no limes in sight. I’m beginning to think this Okolona Corona nonsense is more of a myth than I suspected.
I even asked the attentive bartender about said myth, and she just assumed I wanted a Corona. To her, it’d be like ordering a Highlands High Life or a Butchertown Bud. She digs the way the words sound together, but if you want a Corona, just order a damn Corona. If you want a Coors Light with a lime, then order it that way. She’s a server, not a fortuneteller.
We also noticed a door hanging from the ceiling, and she explained it was one of the only remnants of Fibbers after a fire destroyed the building. The bar’s regulars each autographed the door, and now it hangs as a shrine to the past.
It was way past our time to stay, so we headed out and made the trek to …
The Corner Tavern — 5207 Mount Washington Road
This little stone pub was way the heck on the outskirts of Okolona, and it reminded me of that creepy little bar from “An American Werewolf in London,” where the townspeople gathered and warned David and Jack to keep to the road and beware the full moon.
The Corner Tavern isn’t seedy or intimidating like the Slaughtered Lamb was in the film, but I do sense that delectable debauchery does go down when the moon is full. On the night we walked in, several regulars were bellied up to the bar, and one woman felt so comfortable being there, she showed up in her bath robe with two little dogs on each hip.
Our domestic beers were cheap — $2.50 — and, once again, no limes were offered or even spotted. There were several pool tables, and the space felt like a suburban basement in the 1970s, with a series of spindles that separated the bar from the game room. Remember when Wendy’s had beads hanging from the ceiling? It was like that.
We enjoyed our one drink quickly but felt a little too far away from the city, so we headed back north and ended our journey at …
Norm’s/Holly’s Pour House — 907 Ulrich Ave.
I’ve been a fan of Norm’s for years, as it’s easily assessable right off Fern Valley Road near the I-65 ramp. “It’s right behind the McDonald’s,” I often tell people who are looking for a dive bar off the beaten path. A few years ago, new owners changed its name to Holly’s Pour House, but they don’t mind one bit if you still call it Norm’s.
This place was our favorite of the night, and it’s a bar I would be a regular at if I lived closer. Plus, the bartender’s name was Sarah, and she seemed genuinely happy we stopped by. Holly’s has a few pool tables and dart boards, but I’ve always had no problem keeping myself occupied sitting at the bar and talking with strangers.
On this night, we met Sean, who drives trucks for a living and who just happened to stop by Holly’s for the first time. I introduced him to the mighty 22-ounce monster, a specialty of Norm’s that carried over to Holly’s. For $4, you can get 22 ounces of domestic beer bliss and feel like a giant all night long.
We also discovered a great price on Old Forester 100, at $5 a pour. Sean bought us a round and put up with our ignorant questions about life on the road. Fun fact: If nature No. 1 calls, he prefers the 52-ounce plastic cups from Speedway to discretely relieve himself while driving.
But back to our mission. I asked Sarah about the obscure Okolona Corona, and she just laughed and stuffed a lime in my bottle. She says nobody ever orders them — if someone wants a Corona, they’ll order a Corona. And she assumes it’s more of a derogatory remark on the area of town than an actual drink.
If that’s the case, then maybe we should close the case on the mysterious Okolona Corona once and for all.
Trending: And speaking of Corona, if you haven’t tried a Corona Premier yet and are looking for a low-calorie, low-carb option, it’s a good choice. At 4 percent alcohol, 90 calories and 3 carbs, it comes close to the trendy Michelob Ultra (4.2 percent, 95 calories, 2.6 carbs) and tastes better — especially with that lime.
Here are more snapshots of our night in Okolona: