Continuing on with my neighborhood series spotlight on the wide world of watering holes, my crew and I decided to venture out to Highview for an evening to see what kind of trouble we could find. What we stumbled across were four lively bars, some that have been around for decades, with a mostly welcoming atmosphere.
But first, a little background on Highview. The blue-collar neighborhood is located in the South End, sandwiched between Okolona and Fern Creek. Its population surged in the ’50s and ’60s as city folk flocked to the ’burbs, and now it’s home to more than 15,000 people.
And these hard-working Highview residents know how to throw down, as we saw firsthand on our great expedition to find rowdy fun, cheap thrills and cold beer.
Our first pitstop was …
Castaway Lounge — 6909 Shepherdsville Road
Between Bike Night, Ladies Night and happy hour, there’s usually a drink special just about anytime you walk through the door of this unassuming bar nestled in a strip mall off Shepherdsville Road. And even if there’s not, the cold domestic beers hover around $2.25.
The friendly bartender told us Castaway has been a neighborhood hangout for at least 70 years, and some of the regulars who were bellied up the bar confirmed that. Karaoke is the name of the game here, and it’s featured four nights a week.
We were told it can get a little wild on weekends, and as proof, there’s a chalkboard on the wall that proudly lists the bar’s “Asshole of the Month.” We wondered what poor Shawn must have done to get his name on the board.
While the regulars and bartender were nothing but welcoming, even showing my friends how to properly fill out a Keno lottery form, we noticed something jarring as we stepped into the hallway that led to the small patio out back.
It was a full-sized Confederate flag, complete with its own spotlight in case you had a hard time deciphering the reds and blues.
I admit it made my crew and me slightly nervous, and we immediately felt a strange uneasiness in the room, even though our experience in the main bar was the complete opposite.
So we chugged our beers and departed for …
Hitching Post Inn — 7314 Fegenbush Lane
This throwback bar’s mantra is simple: “We serve drinks, you put them in your belly.” The Western-themed watering hole has been in the same family since the 1970s, and it reminded us of the bar in “Westworld,” sans the prostitutes, of course. And gun fights. Oh, and robot cowboys.
Anyway, we found a nice mix of people huddled around the small bar, sipping on bottles, munching on fried goodness and swapping stories of the week’s trials and tribulations. The Hitching Post has several flat-screen TVs around the room, making it an ideal spot to catch a game or, in this case, Nascar race.
We ordered a round of domestic beers to keep it simple, and again, the price was a very affordable $2.25. Also, the beer was so cold, it led to a 20-minute discussion on how nothing beats an ice-cold beer — of the American swill variety — in the summertime.
(Before you post a comment about me sucking because I didn’t order a local beer, I usually try to stick to one type of lighter beverage on these bar hops, because I’m usually driving and it also gives me a general idea of the bar’s price point on its drinks.)
As we were discussing the merits of bone-chilling beer, owner Kevin Greene and his fiancé, Kim Mello, introduced themselves and gave us a little background on the establishment. Greene’s father, Jim Greene, who was a Jefferson County sheriff at one time, bought the bar in 1971.
Greene and Mello decided to buy the bar recently when Jim died.
And the Hitching Post could quite possibly have the coldest beer in town because Greene shared a secret: His walk-in beer cooler is actually a freezer, but with some tinkering around with fans and the thermostat, he keeps it just above the point where beer freezes.
Greene and Mello are working hard to update the bar, usually taking on one project at a time. But the welcoming and chill environment is a testament to the couple’s efforts. On the night we were there, a singer-songwriter was about to take the stage to cover some classic rock covers, but we had to shuffle out because we were heading to …
Smyrna Inn — 8201 Smyrna Pkwy.
This South End roadhouse first opened in 1936 if you can believe it. And it’s also supposedly haunted by the spirit of Mom, who previously owned the bar and lived above it. In fact, Mom’s picture hangs above the cash register — perhaps keeping an eye on the bar’s financial activity.
As we walked in, a cover band was playing Bon Jovi and the packed room was singing and clapping along. This was the most exuberant bar so far, and the energy was quite tangible and contagious.
We ordered another round of beer and again found it to be at the same price point as the other Highview bars, and we noticed Smyrna had a much larger selection of bourbon and other spirits than the others.
We found an open table on the upper floor and watched the band for a while, and then we noticed people going through an entrance that led to a basement.
Naturally, we had to investigate, and we found a secret lounge, complete with couches, pool tables and a Ripley’s Believe It or Not pinball machine. Score!
We talked with one regular, who informed us that because Smyrna Inn was technically a roadhouse and not zoned as a bar, if you have too much to drink, you can legally sleep it off in your car. I have no idea if that’s true, or why you can’t sleep in your car if it was a bar, but we nodded anyway.
We couldn’t stay and play too long, though, because we had to get to our final stop, which was …
New View Bar & Grill — 7601 Outer Loop
Although New View was hard to spot, hiding in a strip mall parking lot with very little signage, we were lured in by live music coming from the bar as we approached.
(As a big fan of “Bar Rescue,” I could hear my inner John Taffer screaming about the bar not having a prominent sign, although I did see a scrolling electronic sign at one entrance when we left.)
This frenzied sports bar was packed wall to wall, and everyone seemed to be enjoying the music by The Lohden Boys. We grabbed the only open table left, and I went to the bar to order my friends some drinks.
Unfortunately, a handwritten sign saying, “Cash Only: Friday and Saturday nights,” forced me to downsize my order as I only had $10 on me.
Again, I can hear Taffer explaining to struggling bar owners on his TV show that patrons tend to consume about 40% more when they open a tab as opposed to paying cash. I know I am way more likely to buy a round if I have a tab open than if I just have a $20 in my pocket.
But New View is far from struggling — if proof is in the number of people there, and it’s been open since 1983 — so to each their own. We sat back and enjoyed our beers, watching groups play pool, dance to the band or snack on some hot wings.
We were thinking of ordering cheese balls until my friend noticed our table was swarming with ants, so we decided to forgo the food and just enjoy the company.
The bar’s Facebook page shows lots of delicious-looking menu items, from burgers to pizza rolls, so I’d be willing to order some food on the next visit.
For a look back on other neighborhoods I’ve explored, here are some links:
- Divine dives of Dixie Highway
- Randomness is the point in Hikes Point
- New Albany’s smoky dives and trendy hives
- Is Lyndon the new Highlands?
- A night on the edge (of the Highlands)
- One night in J-Town
- A search for the elusive Okolona Corona
And here are a few more photos from our night in Highview: