While it’s not quite the return of the martini lunch, a 2017 emerging trend on the Louisville restaurant scene is the lunchtime happy hour. We stopped by a few places around town to check out their mid-day discount on adult drinks. Plus, we wanted to see which of our neighbors and friends were down for a little mid-week day drinking.
In January, LouVino kicked off a new lunchtime happy hour at their Douglas Hills location. Chad Coulter, who co-owns LouVino with his wife Lauren, says that LouVino sees themselves as catering to business professionals and others who are looking for an alternative to the fast-casual lunch. “There’s a limited number of those clientele that are coming to lunch. So, we feel like we can get more of them to come out by offering a special,” says Coulter.
LouVino offers half-off bottles of wine during lunch. You can buy the bottle for later, or you can uncork it and enjoy it with your meal. You’re welcome to take any wine left in the bottle home with you. Also, for an additional $5, you can add a glass of house wine to their popular $15 lunch special that comes with a main, a side, a drink, and two cookies.
Two women who chose to level-up to a glass of wine with their lunch said they had not been aware of the special when they decide to come, but were more than happy to take advantage of it. The dining room was almost exclusively filled with groups of women who had settled in for a leisurely lunch. Coulter says, “Our servers seem to want to continue to do it. We were just going to do it in January just to see how it went, but we are going to continue to do it. There’s no harm in it.” LouVino’s lunchtime happy hour will run indefinitely.
Spreading the Word
Galaxie Bar in NuLu also premiered a lunchtime happy hour last year. They’re offering half off their popular margaritas, which brings them down to the low-low price of $3.50. Their daily drink special is also available from open to close.
Bartender, Charles Rallis, says, “Lunchtime is a lot of regulars.” Two men at the far end of the bar were excited to learn about the new happy hour and drank two margaritas each with their spicy chorizo wakatakas.
Bradley Hammond, general manager, says Galaxie Bar was inspired to try out a lunchtime happy hour because “we wanted to build our week day lunch business.” So far they’ve been impressed, “We weren’t expecting anything right away but there’s definitely been an increase in sales.” Rallis added, “Like most things in Louisville, it’s [spread by] word of mouth.”
Hammond also hinted that there’s a new brunch on the horizon for Galaxie Bar with Bloody Marias and other lighter day drinks. The crowd seemed to be mostly retirees but Hume says, “There are a few who come in and enjoy a half-off drink before heading back into work.”
Sadly, Garage Bar, just up the street from Galaxie, has ended their long-time Friday lunchtime happy hour. The happy hour wasn’t heavily pushed and bartender Will O’Dell says their lunch crowd mainly saw it as a “bonus.”
A Happy Hour begins at Lunch and Ends at Dinner
However, head out to the East End at Napa River Grill in Westport Village. They just rolled out a new menu for their lunchtime happy hour that’s been running for about five years. They’re offering half-price wine by the glass and Finlandia, Grey Goose, and Old Forrester drink specials. Most domestic beers by the bottle will run $3 with some domestics and imports running $4. Their generous happy hour window runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Josh McDevitt, server and bar shift manager, says that some begin to arrive for happy hour between 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m., but that the crowd really gets going around 3 p.m. Bartender, David Hume, finds himself filling mostly wine orders during happy hour.
Hume recommends pairing your happy hour selection with an order of their calamari. The new bar menu also features a delish hourico-crab cakes, hoisin BBQ ribs, and giant onion rings. The happy hour is only available in the bar area.
Drink with the Angels
Not a restaurant, but still worth a visit during lunch, is the bar that opened downtown at Angel’s Envy Distillery. The Finishing Room is open from 12 to 4 p.m. One of their whiskey guardians, Adam Staniszeski, operates the bars and prepares the rotating assortment of cocktails they offer. Staniszeski says they won’t be offering a full-on lunch but there will be “bar bites.” He also says he sees about ten people an hour at the Finishing Room, so word is slowly getting out.
To visit the Finishing Room, be sure to RSVP for one of Angel’s Envy’s tours. Your tour will end in the Finishing Room with Staniszeski. Tours are an hour long, so you might need to tell your boss you’re headed out for a long lunch.
It feels too early to tell if the lunchtime happy hour trend will take off in Louisville. But it’s definitely not too early to get out there and treat yourself to a glass of wine, a whiskey drink, or a margarita on your lunch break. As always, regardless of the time of day, please drink responsibly and remember to tip your bartenders.