If you’re heading to the Yum! Center for the Pink concert tonight, consider making a stop before or after at the new Down One Bourbon Bar, 321 W. Main St. Created in a space that was once a parking garage, it’s a cozy place to have a drink, one that with a few tweaks could be elevated to something really special.
The first thing you’ll see as you descend the stairs from street level is the “whiskey window,” featuring many of Down One’s more than 100 brands. On the menu, they are cleverly arranged by “epochs.” The First Generation, pre-Prohibition section (1792-Oct. 28, 1919) includes brands like Ancient Ancient Age, Early Times 354 and J.W. Dant. Second Generation, post-Prohibition (Dec. 5, 1933-1980) offerings include Baker’s, Blanton’s and Wild Turkey 101. The Modern Era (1980-today) includes Angel’s Envy, Bulleit and Noah’s Mill.
Down One also offers a full complement of cocktails. I tried the Manhattan, which is made with Down One Single Barrel (the bar’s proprietary bottling of 10-year-old Knob Creek), Amaro and chocolate bitters, with a chocolate-doused cherry ($10).
The bar at Down One is distinguished by art glass salvaged from the Brennan Building on South Fourth Street that once housed the elegant Art Nouveau-style Vienna Restaurant.
When the building was demolished in 1982, a Down One employee told me, owner Al Schneider loaded up the glass windows in his pickup truck and saved them. The Al J. Schneider Co., developer of Down One, has also used the Brennan glass as “skylights” in a private speakeasy room that you enter through an old telephone booth.
But as right as Down One gets these delightful details, it falls down on others. The ugly chairs, apparently salvaged from the old Executive Inn, mar the otherwise posh atmosphere. And while the menu offers an interesting twist on bar food - particularly the Three Little Pigs sandwich ($7), which combines roasted pork belly, pulled pork and bacon with mustard barbecue, slaw and pickles - the presentation in plastic baskets and paper seems jarringly cheap. Upgrading to actual plates is a small touch that would make a big difference.
Overall, though, Down One is a welcome addition to Louisville’s Bourbon Row.