Local Life and Lore in Louisville

When in Louisville, Kentucky, do (and talk) as the locals do.

Kentucky Derby Museum

Kentucky Derby Museum

Photo by: Evelyn Bennett

Evelyn Bennett

The Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY, features a statue honoring 2006 Kentucky Derby winner, Barbaro.

By: Robin Garr

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  1. Southeast Cities

Say it correctly

Yes, it is pronounced LOU-a-vull. Not Lewis-vill. Nothing marks you as a newcomer more than not knowing how to pronounce the name of your new hometown.

The Derby

The Kentucky Derby has been a Louisville tradition since 1875. Run annually on the first Saturday in May, this internationally famous horse race draws more than 125,000 people to the historic Churchill Downs racetrack a few miles south of downtown. The crowd is mostly tourists, soaking up the atmosphere and sipping souvenir mint juleps. Many Louisvillians prefer to celebrate Derby in house parties, watching the race on television. Derby season extends for three weeks of parties and civic activities ranging from the gigantic Thunder Over Louisville fireworks display to steamboat, hot-air balloon and foot races.

Behind where the old Sears used to be

Once you've settled in, prepare to receive directions to places you've never heard of by reference to other places you've never heard of (and no longer exist): "It's behind where the old Sears used to be" is a local favorite, followed closely by "it's east of where Baer's used to be." Countless variations exist. Many newcomers believe we do this to torment them, but it's not so. It's just our way.

Fish sandwich, please

Locals love to eat fried whitefish sandwiches, historically cod on rye with tartar sauce. According to some statistics, Louisvillians eat more cod per capita than residents of any other city in the U.S. Theories abound as to why this city 700 miles from any seashore should be so partial to fish. The prevailing story is that Louisville's large Catholic population created a burgeoning fish-supply industry by abstaining from red meat on Fridays during Lent. In the early 20th century, more than one-third of the city’s residents were Catholic.

"Louisville's fish and cod consumption is a phenomenon that has puzzled me and others in the fish business for as long as I've been in it," Mark Kotok, of Arctic Fisheries of Buffalo, N.Y., told Louisville Magazine a few years ago. "There are no statistics, but for an inland city -- a city not served by coastal waters -- in my 40 years of experience, I don't know of another geographic area that consumes as much cod."

There are dozens of local fish-sandwich eateries: Moby Dick is the big local chain, with 18 locations in the Metro area, including those in the Butchertown neighborhood (1500 Mellwood Ave.), St. Matthews (4848 Shelbyville Road) and Middletown (12012 Shelbyville Road). Another famous establishment, Mike Linnig's, started in 1925. Its picnic-like grounds draw summer crowds to the Southwest end of the city (9308 Cane Run Road, 502-937-9888), Other favorites include Stan's Fish Sandwich (3723 Lexington Road, 502-896-6600); its near neighbor, The Fishery (3624 Lexington Road, 502-895-1188) and The Fish House (2993 Winter Ave., 502-568-2993).

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