5 Places to Get Your Derby Day Celebration On

Remember May 1 last year? Ha. 

That was the day Gov. Greg Abbott allowed restaurants statewide to reopen their dining rooms at 25-percent capacity. Three weeks later, the governor told everyone it was fine to go to 50-percent capacity. Two weeks after that, it was 75-percent capacity! I mean, remember that?!

(Covid-19 soon pushed back.)

And now May 1, 2021, is upon us. Many of us have been or are being vaccinated for the virus. Food and drink establishments are open for real. So this day, the day of the Kentucky Derby, serves as something of a symbolic moment. For many, life does seem a little more manageable, and being at a restaurant or bar seems a little safer. It’s nowhere near the “throw stuff into the air and see what lands” moment of last May 1.

With that in mind, maybe you want to celebrate the Derby. Or May 1. Or life. And we have five ways you can do so.

Julep (It’s Back!)

This news actually reads like we’ve come out the other side. Julep owner Alba Huerta has been one of the most cautious food and drink operators, keeping her acclaimed bar closed while running a delivery truck and selling boozy freeze pops.

For Derby Day, naturally an important celebration for Julep, the place opens at noon with four satellite bars, food from Blood Brothers BBQ and Feges BBQ, lawn games, a DJ set, a livestream of the race, and, yes, boozy popsicles. Also mint juleps, obviously. Temperatures will be checked upon arrival, and masks will be required while inside. Should you dress in hats and bowties? Yes. $10 ahead of time, $15 at the door

B.B. Lemon

Just down the block (you could do a crawl), B.B. Lemon is throwing its own party from 2–6 p.m. The restaurant will serve cocktails by Four Roses bourbon, including a mint julep, plus bites like oyster shooters, a Kentucky “hot brown” sandwich, and fried chicken. The race will be on, and there’ll also be a live DJ set, hat contest, and a pony. Yup, a pony! Reservations recommended.

Backstreet Cafe

While B.B. Lemon has Four Roses, Backstreet Cafe will be working with Maker’s Mark this Derby Day. Tracy Vaught and Hugo Ortega’s Houston favorite will serve brunch all day with a special cocktail pairing. Get three courses (entrée options include a hot chicken sandwich, smoked duck leg, whiskey salmon, and steak and eggs Benedict) with a pairing for each dish for $45. Look for $10 Maker’s Mark cocktail and flight specials, and for those doing takeout, you can get julep and snack kits for $60 (available April 30 and May 1). Reservations are encouraged.

The Rustic

The restaurant, bar, and entertainment venue’s Uptown Park location will host a big party with mint juleps by Woodford Reserve bourbon; specialty menu items, like sliders with fried green tomatoes; and a best-dressed contest with $100 gift card prizes. You must be at The Rustic by 4 p.m. to compete. For more information, go here.

Loch Bar

The River Oaks bar and restaurant focused on Chesapeake Bay cuisine will host a Derby party with a best hat contest. You can also get Maker’s Mark flights, mint juleps, and grub, like Kentucky “hot brown” sliders. Cocktail specials will benefit nonprofit Bo’s Place, a bereavement center for children, families, and adults.

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