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    This originally appeared in the 2019 Best of Louisville issue of Louisville Magazine.

    By Tom Johnson
     

    In every great joint there is a place. It is the owner’s spot or, if the owner is otherwise occupied, the territory of the bar’s alpha patron. It is where Bogart stood in Casablanca, or Patrick Swayze in Road House, with a view of the room but, somehow, out of the way.

    Jack Fry’s has a seat like that — against a wall of ancient Thoroughbred photos at the far end of the short bar. In the most elegant speakeasy in town, the last barstool is wedged into a broom closet-size space between the bar and a romantic booth for two.

    Ordering another round takes only a nod: Old Forester, rocks, in a heavy glass that fits my hand as if it were carved just for me. In that place I feel very much like the man Gay Talese described in his 1966 Esquire profile “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold”: “It was obvious from the way Sinatra looked at these people in the poolroom that they were not his style, but he leaned back against a high stool that was against the wall, holding his drink in his right hand, and said nothing.”

    That’s me! That’s what I feel like! (Minus the disdain for my fellow patrons.) I lean back against the high stool and put my elbow up on the padded bar, the din of conversation, laughter and forks on fine china obscuring me in a warm fog of noise. It is my place. I have stood there close to the busy center of Jack’s film noir dining room without anyone but the bartender paying me any attention at all. I watched a close friend eat a long, luxurious dinner 10 feet away and might as well have been invisible to him. I’ve called a waiter over to shuttle a request and a neatly folded bill to the piano player — Sinatra always, “The Way You Look Tonight” usually.

    Perhaps I will see you there. Hopefully you won’t see me.
     

    This originally appeared in the 2019 Best of Louisville issue of Louisville Magazine. Read more.

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    Cover photo: Jack Fry's // Facebook

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