Maple Inn is “J-Town’s finest dive bar.” | Photo by Sara Havens

“Jeffersontown,” “J-Town,” “That city way down Taylorsville Road” — whatever you call it, the neighborhood is a thriving part of our city, although it’s not technically even part of our city. I don’t want to get into the details, because I don’t understand them myself, but Jeffersontown is its own city — complete with its own mayor, city council, cops and 27,000 residents.

There are a few mini-cities like that in Louisville, including the very one I live in, Parkway Village. Some day I might just become mayor of the Village, you never know. You gotta have goals.

But anyway, back to J-Town. It’s been on my list for a while, since I started this Bar Belle Neighborhood Series, and I finally got a chance to sneak over there to experience its eclectic nightlife scene. My crew and I found a bar in a church, a bar stocked with bourbon and video games from my childhood, a decent pizza joint and a cozy little dive bar to boot.

It’s definitely worth a drive out to this little East End city, and not just because a welcoming resident bought us beer.

Our first stop in J-Town was …

Chubby Ray’s — 3910 Ruckriegel Pkwy.
Chubby Ray’s | Photo by Sara Havens

We like to start our adventures with a full belly, so naturally we picked a place known for its pizza. Chubby Ray’s has been serving pizza and other sports bar staples since 1992, and on the night we stopped in, it wasn’t too crowded at all — or it didn’t seem crowded, because the place is huge.

We took a seat in a booth and asked about happy hour specials, because it was around 6 p.m. Sadly, our server informed us there were no specials, so I stuck with a Bud Light because I knew there was pizza in my future.

Bud Light and pizza is like peanut butter and chocolate — it’s just meant to cohabitate in my mouth.

Everything on the menu was fairly inexpensive, including a pretty hefty side salad that cost a mere $2.95. Now that’s what plant leaves should cost! And we had to balance out the green goodness by ordering fried pickles, called Tickle Pickles at Chubby Ray’s.

And, alas, we ordered a pizza with half cheese and half black olives — don’t judge.

Chubby Ray’s pie — half cheese, half black olives | Photo by Sara Havens

Overall, the food was solid and the atmosphere was reminiscent of a sports-bar-meets-basement party. The place is family friendly, is chalk full of TVs and even has a stage for live music and/or karaoke.

We didn’t stay long after we chowed, because we had to get to …

3rd Turn Brewing — 10408 Watterson Trail
A bar in a church! | Photo by Sara Havens

We found this little beer mecca smack dab in the middle of a church. Now this is my kind of city! And there were dogs and lots of people waiting in line and occupying picnic tables and playing board games and — of course — drankin’ beer. Craft beer. Local craft beer.

I checked my preference for crappy American swill at the door and decided to partake in the Swooly, a 3rd Turn original that featured kolsch beer infused with mango, pineapple, orange and jalepeno. I clapped as I read the ingredients, drawing the attention of a friendly J-Town resident who bought it for me because he could tell it was my first time there. Not sure if that’s tradition, but I kinda like it. From now on, I’ll make every time my first time. (That’s what she said?)

The delicious Swooly | Photo by Sara Havens

Anyway, it was quite interesting and delicious — the jalepeno added just the right kick at the end. My friend Elizabeth tried the Orange Dreamsicle Blonde Ale, and it tasted pretty damn near a dreamsicle.

The other two yahoos in the group don’t care for beer, so they ordered a cider and a piña colada slushie. Both were pretty decent as well.

I really like the vibe at 3rd Turn and could see myself hanging out there if I, say, lived in the area. There were so many other beers I wanted to try, so I’ll be back. And it’ll be my first time.

Next, we headed to …

Rec Bar — 10301 Taylorsville Road
Rec Bar: Where you can be a kid again. | Photo by Sara Havens

As soon as I stepped through the doors of Rec Bar, I felt like I had died and gone to the heaven of my 8-year-old self. Old-school video game machines were everywhere, and there was lots of noise, including squealing children. I guess little humans are allowed at Rec Bar until a certain time at night, so be warned — or make note of another place you can bring your spawn.

As my 8-year-old self ran to the token machine and began trying to choose which game to play first — Punch Out or Street Fighter — my 21-year-old self noticed the massive bourbon selection glowing from the bar. I mean, this place has just about everything — Weller Antique, multiple varieties of 1792, Pappy, the Old Forester Whiskey Row Series, etc.

Because I was so far from my neighborhood, however, I decided to make the responsible decision and just order Michelob Ultra. But I’ll be back to taste some of those bottles for sure.

The rest of the crew went with the Rec Bar’s specialty, the Buffalo Trace Bourbon Slushie. I had to cover my ears after they took their first sips and declared it one of the best bourbon slushies they’ve ever had. I took a quick taste and confirmed — it was hefty with bourbon and icy and mouthwatering.

This bourbon slushie was the bomb. | Photo by Sara Havens

Two of these and I wouldn’t even notice the little humans running around the place.

The four of us were able to play a few rounds of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle game, as there were four joysticks for all four turtles. I think I was the red one, although deep down I wanted to be the purple one with the stick.

We saw many people celebrating birthdays and such, and eating dinner — so it’s definitely a destination spot if you’re looking for a change of pace. There’s also a backroom full of pinball machines both new and old.

We couldn’t stay too long, because we had one more stop, and that was …

Maple Inn — 9416 Taylorsville Road
This unique building was a former Burger Chef. | Photo by Sara Havens

If you know nothing about me, know this: Dive bars give me wings. I love unpretentious little hole-in-the-walls because that’s where you’ll find my people — people just looking to unwind, play a game of pool or darts, and shoot the shit with each other over longnecks at the bar.

We certainly saved the best for last, as Maple Inn checked off every item on the Perfect Dive Bar List. Located in a triangular-shaped building that had to be dreamed up in the ’70s or ’80s — it actually was a former Burger Chef — Maple Inn has been serving up good company and cold beer since 1939, although it wasn’t always at that location.

Dive bar staple | Photo by Sara Havens

Bartender and owner Steve said it was once located further down the road and actually closed in the ’80s, but it was resurrected at its current spot in the ’90s.

With its tagline “J-Town’s finest dive bar,” Maple Inn offers extremely cheap prices — domestics were $2.50 — as well as pool, darts, live music on the weekends and even a welcoming porch swing out front.

We stayed for a couple rounds and enjoyed Steve’s company. He was unsure what to think about a pack of four ladies bellying up to the bar at first, but he warmed up to us in no time. The only other notes I scribbled down were the hours — 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. every day.

Maple Inn, much like J-Town itself, is simple, sensical, serene.

Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville. She's known around town as the Bar Belle and updates her blog (barbelleblog.com) daily. She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."


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