As far back as I can remember (moving to the Highlands in 1989), there have been, retail shops, pubs, and special establishments that all worked together to create the strange and wacky personality that still exists to this day in the Highlands. Electric Ladyland was always somewhat of an intriguing place when I was younger. There was a curtain separating the area of the store that was off limits for anyone under the age of 18. I eventually figured out that those were “tobacco pipes” behind that curtain. Later I figured out that those pipes worked for smoking pretty much anything. But, for sake of time and the reason I am writing, another mainstay that has been a part of the Highlands landscape forever, it seems, is Diamond Station. Even before I was old enough to enter the place, I knew about it. Although the exterior has changed slightly over the years, the interior still presents a window to the past and the rich history that this building represents.
In 1926, Diamond Station opened as a garage and filling station where you could gas up your new Bentley 4.5 litre or your Triumph 15/50. In the 1950s Diamond Station was actually called Leone Fruit Market, a locally owned grocery store where you could get all the Oertele’s ’92 Beer that you could dream of. Between the fruit market and now, there have been quite a few occupants, but the original Diamond Station name didn’t return until it became a neighborhood pub in the early 90s operating for at least a decade (bear with me as my numbers may be a little off). Sometime in early 2005, a new, casual restaurant, Diamante’s Grille, opened the doors serving seafood, steak, sandwiches, and salads. I actually didn’t live in the Highlands (or Louisville for that matter) during those few years, but I came across an old Louisville Hot Bytes article that seemed to give praise for delicious food. After Diamante’s closed, a couple of existing restauranteurs in Louisville opened a more upscale restaurant in the space, one with a mediterranean feel called Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon opened on the heels of Zaytun, which was already pumping out delicious mediterranean food 3 doors down. The owners decided to seize the opportunity to have two businesses running simultaneously only a few feet apart. I used to play guitar at Blue Lagoon every other week for a stint. I also used to grub on their amazing lamb chops. The food was fantastic here, still the management was less than solid, so it didn’t last too long. Bringing back the Diamond Station name only a short time after Blue Lagoon’s demise, Brian Bruenderman decided to give it a go, and re-open the Highlands classic. This, too ended abruptly, closing in 2016. That period of time wasn’t a total wash, though. During Bruenderman’s ownership, he hired a bartender who was already well-known and celebrated in this area of the Highlands for quite a few years. Kyle Llewellyn, formerly the general manager and bartender extraordinaire at Cafe Lou Lou in the Douglass Loop, started tending bar at Diamond Station (and basically running the show). During that tenure, Kyle developed quite a crew of locals and regulars that truly enjoy the fantastic service, laughable antics, and baseball wisdom that Kyle serves up on a daily basis. Immediately following the 2016 shutter, a restaurant (not even sure of the name, but it said “eat healthy” on the door) appeared at the location in true Jay Z fashion… grand opening, grand closing. Seriously, I think it was open for maybe 9 hours and 37 minutes total. The quick turnaround left the door wide open for someone to come back in and do it right. So, Kyle and a local friend / regular of Diamond Station resolved to bring back the iconic neighborhood pub.
May 2017 was the official grand opening for Diamond Station, and it’s pretty obvious that they’re here to stay this time. So what’s the future look like? Well let’s start with what stayed the same. Kyle may have inherited a slingshot and a saddlebag of hand-me-down tools, but he’s added a great deal of modern touches so that only the original necessities remain. Like the beige tile/block walls inside which still look like they did in the 50s. Pretty awesome. If you look at the photo above you can see the classic white cornices above the doors. They still look the same today only with a painted red stripe detail. The original garage door hangs high above the beer cooler, and the iron-framed windows bring a nice back-lit luminance to the fine bourbon selection behind the bar.
As for upgrades and updates, here’s just a few:
There are two 60″ tvs above the bar flanked on either side by a couple of 42″ tvs.
The dining room has at least 5 or 6 tvs, there are new barstools built for dreamers, and a lounge area with comfy couch and chair. The baseball package is currently running, and the NFL package will be added this season as well. Sit inside or outside. There are tables out front on the Bardstown Rd sidewalk, as well as the side deck.
There’s a nice Diamond pool table in the center, and a brand new Golden Tee machine in the corner near the side door.
The sound system is crisp, and the Touchtunes jukebox still gets tons of play.
Another major enhancement is the changing menus. Diamond Station makes pub food, but trust me when I say that it’s ramped up to the max. First and foremost, the burgers are super legit. There are a number of different burger flavors to try, so go ahead and start working on their list. Second, Kyle met some Good People at a Widespread Panic show who make beer cheese, so naturally this beer cheese is available at Diamond Station and it’s fantastic. Choose from mild or spicy, it doesn’t matter… they are both incredible. The spicy version has a really solid kick to it, so be ready. Finally, the beer and bourbon collections have escalated quite nicely. Kyle knows he’s found the place that pours the coldest beer, and he’s certainly diversified the selection. He keeps the rotators fresh and can/bottle list current. The bourbon list carries names like Old Grandad, Blade & Bow, Bulleit Rye, Michter’s, Old Forester’s specialty bourbons, and even a few Weller products.
Yes, Diamond Station is here to stay, and you should check it out. Head out for happy hour, enjoy your favorite jams on the jukebox, host your event here, play some Golden Tee, play some pool, watch all your favorite sports teams win (or lose), and enjoy delicious food and drink while you ham it up with one of the Highlands’ most influential and entertaining bartenders. So, instead of sitting in an easy chair with your boots on and a melted whiskey in your hand, go get a fresh bourbon while you check out Diamond Station at 2280 Bardstown Rd Louisville, KY 40205.
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