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Where you must go now in Louisville, Ky.
While millinery mavens and pony-playing tipsters lead the parade to Churchill Downs for the May 4 running of the Kentucky Derby, Louisville's creative crowd and hungry hipsters have a tip of their own for visitors: NuLu, or New Louisville.
East of I-65 near downtown, NuLu was, until recently, a rundown district of 19th-century, mostly brick two-story mercantile shops, largely abandoned but for two locally beloved institutions, the family-run Muth's Candies and the sprawling Joe Ley Antiques. A trickle of independent merchants and small businesses has turned into a veritable stream as NuLu's newest tenants line five blocks of East Market Street in Louisville and rank among the buzziest restaurants, smartest shops, and edgiest art galleries in town. A trolley shuttle even links major downtown attractions like the Actors Theatre of Louisville and the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory with the district.
Any Derby bet is a gamble, but this pick-six field of NuLu newcomers is certain to pay.
707 E. Market St.: A lively mix of retro and modern furnishings and accessories stuffs the year-and-a-half-old shop Revolver. Unique finds might include iPhone cases made from cork, men's wallets fashioned from vintage plaid flannel shirts, and reproduction Eames plywood chairs.
805 E. Market St.: For locally designed Bourbon Built T-shirts with historic images of Whiskey Row and dapper patterned ties by Cincinnati-based Artfully Disheveled, shop the year-old Gifthorse. Co-owner Butch Sager makes many of the hand-blocked hats sold under the label Danbury Shakes and popular with Derby-goers. 502-681-5576; gifthorse-shop.com
700 E. Market St.: The owners of downtown's art-filled 21c Museum Hotel have converted a vacant mechanic shop into the funky Garage Bar, landmarked by a sculpture of a two-car collision. Chef Michael Paley, a stickler for true Neapolitan piecrusts, imported a wood-fired Ferrari oven from Italy to produce his seasonal and regional pizzas, while the bar dispenses craft beer and, fittingly, Kentucky bourbon. 502-749-7100; garageonmarket.com
900 E. Market St.: Chef Tyler Morris last cooked at the white-hot Breslin in New York before opening Rye with owner and local Michael Trager-Kusman. The daring and oft-changing menu whets the appetite with bar snacks, small plates, and entrees, such as rabbit terrine, kale salad, and roast snapper with kimchi, respectively. Cocktails include creative bourbon elixirs. 502-749-6200; ryeonmarket.com
732 E. Market St.: La Coop: Bistro à Vins channels Left Bank élan in a candlelit storefront with about 60 hard-to-get seats. Locals rave about chef Bobby Benjamin's 72-hour-sous-vide-cooked pork belly. The bar stocks unique offerings such as homemade fortified aperitif wines known as vins maison. 502-410-2888; coopbistro.com
909 E. Market St.: Adding to the area's gallery scene, the artist cooperative Pyro Gallery just moved from downtown into a pocket strip mall in NuLu. Pyro's 19 member artists, all Louisville locals, fill the gallery's three rooms with assorted pieces ranging from sculpture to textiles. Leading up to the Derby, mixed-media artist Corie Neumayer showcases a new collection of canvases featuring layered silhouettes of perching birds and pedestrians done with spray paint. 502-587-0106; pyrogallery.com