In honor of Joe’s Older Than Dirt reopening in Lyndon recently, I decided to venture out to the East End neighborhood to find out just what all the hubbub was about.
Turns out there’s a very thriving nightlife happening right under our noses — it was so lively, in fact, it reminded me of the Highlands on a typical Saturday night, with crowds spilling out onto patios and lines forming at doors to get in.
Could Lyndon be the new Highlands?
Perhaps, but first, I should explain where it is for those who don’t quite know. I tried to recruit several friends to join me on my neighborhood expedition, and most didn’t know what I was talking about.
“Lyndon?” my friend who shall remain nameless asked. “Is that off Preston Highway?”
Not even close.
Lyndon is kinda tucked away over near the Oxmoor Mall, I’d say between St. Matthews and Anchorage. The good news is, all the bars we visited were a bottle cap’s throw away from each other, except for one, which was just a bit further.
Of course, the first stop took us to …
Joe’s Older Than Dirt — 8131 New LaGrange Road
Two years ago, the friendly little corner bar Joe’s was closed and transformed into Red Barn Kitchen. Neighbors were sad to see it go, as it had served up cold beer and pub fare since 1937.
The Olé Restaurant Group, which owned Red Barn, spruced up the place, added some fancy garage doors that opened up into the large patio and served delicious food.
But they weren’t quite reaching the audience they wanted. So recently, they partnered up with the bar’s former co-owner, Cres Bride, and decided to convert it back into Joe’s, while staying put in the kitchen to continue to make quality food.
On a recent Friday night visit, I can say Joe’s is back with a vengeance. The place was packed, and luckily my friend Courtney and I got the last two seats at the main bar. It was only 4 p.m. The later it got, the more people funneled in.
But we had our space and the bartender’s attention, so it was all good. Joe’s has three separate bars throughout, and at the main one, we were staring at 21 taps. Knowing I had three more stops ahead of me, I ordered a pint of Michelob Ultra and an appetizer of potato skins. Courtney went with Miller Lite. (We’re easy to please.)
For all you beer snobs, they had plenty of offerings of local, regional and national craft beer — from West Sixth and Country Boy to neighbor Holsopple (which we’ll get to later). Joe’s happy hour runs from 5-7 p.m. and offers $1 off everything. Pretty simple.
The menu has some tasty treats, and since Olé is running things, the pub fare is bumped up quite a few notches. For instance, our potato skins ($7.99) did not taste like they had been frozen — you could tell they were not simply taken out of the freezer and thrown into a deep fryer. They were fresh, mismatched and quite thick and cheesy.
And we each ordered a burger ($8.99), which were hand-smashed and tasted like quality meat. I had fries, Courtney had onion rings — and both sides were spilling over the side of the baskets.
Joe’s, I’m glad you’re back, and I’ll return soon — maybe for a lunch that somehow extends through happy hour, if the boss allows it.
Our next stop took us about a mile up New LaGrange Road to …
R Place Pub — 9601 Whipps Mill Road
Fun fact: I used to bartend at R Place on the weekends when I first moved to town in ’99. For more than seven years, I worked the Sunday day shift, where I annoyed regulars by switching the TVs from NASCAR to “Dirty Dancing.”
It helped me hone my cocktail-making skills (I can make a solid Jack & Coke), gave me an instant social life and helped me realize I am not a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
So I have a soft place in my liver for R Place, and it was nice to return and see that things really haven’t changed.
Bride, who I mentioned above as owning Joe’s, also owns R Place, and I was surprised to see there are now two or three sand volleyball courts — hey, it was dark.
In fact, the main court out back now has a tent over it, so volleyball can be played year-round. I peeked my head out on the way to the bathroom and found dozens of people back there playing in an intramural league.
Inside, R Place is somewhat of a dive bar — it’s unassuming, simple and affordable, and the people you will meet are priceless. I walked in and was so happy to see a handful of my regulars still taking advantage of happy hour deals with bucketloads of beer ($1.75 domestics).
I think they were happy to see me, because I didn’t have to pay for a single drink.
While we were catching up and recalling sordid stories about people from the past, I noticed the bar still has some pool tables, dart boards and even a long shuffleboard table that many people play to pass the time. Two guys even followed us from Joe’s to R Place because they “broke” the golf video game thingy they were playing and wanted to resume their virtual putt-putt.
We didn’t eat, but R Place’s menu has all the bar staples, from wings to burgers to cheese fries. And they are the official home of the Steelers Fan Club, so don’t stumble in there on a Sunday wearing a Bengals jersey.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay long, because we had to get to …
Sal’s Pizza — 812 Lyndon Lane
I thought Joe’s was the place to be Friday night, but it turns out Sal’s Pizza was just as crowded. Why? Turns out during Lent, this little sports bar tucked into a strip mall serves up more fried fish than pizza! Every table and bar stool were filled with people looking to get their gill fill.
From nuggets to sandwiches to platters, fish is the dish of the hour. I don’t even eat seafood — bad memories of being forced to eat frozen fish sticks as a kid — but I wanted to partake in the feast along with everyone else. So I settled on a hushpuppy a kind stranger offered up.
Sal’s is located back over near Joe’s, just down Lyndon Lane a few blocks away.
I’ve known Sal’s manager Jo Harp since she ran NV Tavern (now Big Bar) in the Highlands a few years back, so I’m not surprised to find a tightly run ship with delicious food and ice-cold beer. We ordered more domestic drafts ($2.50 each) and found them to be a perfectly crisp and cold.
I’ve been to Sal’s a couple times to watch NFL games in the winter, and I can attest to the quality of the pizza as well. It’s a true hidden Lyndon — and Louisville — gem.
But we had to skedaddle, because we had one last stop to make at …
Holsopple Brewing — 8023 Catherine Lane
These days, it seems like every decent neighborhood ought to have a decent brewery, and Lyndon is no exception.
Holsopple, which opened about a year ago, is located just across Lyndon Lane from Joe’s in a dimly lit strip mall that is home to a dance studio.
Just pay attention to what your phone tells you, and you’ll find it at some point.
The comfortable little space (which actually just added an additional room) was bustling with folks of all ages — right down to a happy, content tiny baby who was soaking up attention as the patrons were soaking up beer. A chalkboard featured 12 Holsopple beers — available by the sample, pint or growler.
I went with a pint of the Aloupa Pale Ale ($5), which bar manager Stefanie Jordan from Joe’s recommended I try, and it was particularly tasty, seeing that I had been drinking light American swill all night. And although this was my first visit here, I ended up knowing some people from my bartending days — proving that Lyndon is a tight-knit nook of town.
I was tempted to do a flight of some of their other beers — like the Coffee Stout and the Holsopple IPA — but I decided it was about time to get back to my neck of the woods before it got too late and I start side-eying millennials.
But I will be back, Holsopple. And that’s a promise.
In fact, it’s a promise to the entire neighborhood. Because apparently, it’s always spinnin’ in Lyndon.
Here are some more photos from our night:
This is part of the Bar Belle’s series on bar-hoppin’ through random neighborhoods in Louisville. Below are other neighborhoods she’s crashed.