Louisville is famous for great bourbon, and bourbon is famous for going well with BBQ (and almost literally anything else on Earth, but BBQ particularly) -- so it's not really a huge surprise that there are so many spots for the stuff in Louisville. Here are some of the best that are ribbed for your pleasure...
NuLu & New Albany, IN
Feast's founding chef worked in some of NY's finest kitchens before landing in New Albany and basically revolutionizing the local BBQ scene. Prepare for amazing tacos, a top-shelf brisket, homestyle mac & cheese, and 20 craft beers on draft. Oh, and two words: bourbon slushies.
Sometimes one spot can anchor an entire neighborhood, and the venerable F.A.B.D. does just that with its tirelessly tasty food and cold drinks. Wherever you live, it’s worth the drive to pull up and see -- and smell -- what’s cooking in its parking lot. Plus, stay for the fun and games on the back patio.
St. Matthews & Hurstbourne
This newer entry with the twisty name did KC BBQ so well, so quickly, that it has added a second, even more suburban location. Doing pretty much exactly what it says, Momma's puts out high quality BBQ (the wings are some of the best in town), pickles (order a ramekin or two, you won't be disappointed), and mustard (it's yellow, and has a little extra kick).
Back to when it all started, Boss Hog's was selling BBQ out of a car wash. Now, they're easily found around Downtown most weekdays (thanks mostly to the fact that spring has put the spice back in our lives), and they even deliver. The slow-smoked BBQ is fantastic, and the chili dogs are a great pick if you’re cue’d out.
Another neighborhood anchor, folks down South know to go straight to the Shack in the Back to satisfy their need for the meat. It's rightfully proud of its patiently home-cooked dishes, and it's been keeping its neighbors full for almost a decade.
What’s hotter than meat smoking for a dozen hours? Sadly, anything that firefighters might be called on to extinguish. Talk about a theme restaurant -- FDKY pays tribute daily to those who fight the bad fires, in a home nicer than the average firehouse. Pay respect to your meal and those who serve in one tasty way.
This small roadside gem serves it up for travelers from all over, and its location near some of our finest outdoor exercise locations makes its pulled pork a grand reward for those who have gotten in their daily walk or run. While recent water overruns have slowed them down, they plan to reopen before the Derby, stronger than ever.
Moe puts as much joy and personality into his food as he does in his social media, with posts like “Brisket is off the chain” (no lie, the brisket is off the chain, as is his pulled pork, cooked in a tomato & vinegar sauce). No wonder everyone wants him to open a sit-down spot.
Look, if you’re going to get BBQ in Louisville you might as well get it from a food truck that has a smoker on it offering anything from hot dogs to racks of ribs and brisket by a guy who calls himself the BBQ Cowboy, because, well, what a story! Check out Jim O’Higgins’ truck on Facebook or Twitter for updates as to where he’ll be serving in your neighborhood. One thing: definitely get in line fast because the meat goes quickly.
Frank’s Meat and Produce is a small, tucked away grocery store with an out-of-this-world deli that’s a BBQ lover’s paradise. There’s so much smoky, juicy, shredded meat piled on the sandwiches you’ll be hard-pressed to get your mouth around the whole damn thing. If you’re headed there, don’t let the long lines or lack of seating scare you away -- it’s just as good eaten in the front seat of your car.
Hammerheads is located in the basement of a little house on Swan St. Sure, sounds like it’d be easy to miss, but that giant shark hanging above the door kind of helps you out there. Plus, the crowd of diners gathered outside waiting for the doors to open and the overpowering scent of animal flesh being smoked to perfection is a little bit of a giveaway. Honestly, if you live in the neighborhood and can somehow resist that smell, you may have the most self control anyone has ever seen.
Not many things in this world are worth braving Interstate 71 -- the two-lane highway is notorious for long traffic jams, potholes, and slow-ass commuters -- but Big R's and Shannon’s BBQ's brisket nachos and deep-fried cornbread are totally worth the drive. And hey, if you get caught in that traffic jam on the way back (which you will), at least you'll have something to munch on.
Hilltop raises the bar for bar food. Their BBQ sauces (Spicy, Carolina, Louisville Red, Mango Habanero, and Buffalo) are homemade and their jumbo whole wings are a game-changer: smoked, then fried, then covered in sauce, then delivered to your table with a satisfying thud. (The behemoth birds that produce these babies must be skipping leg day). Pair those wings with Hilltop’s famous mac-n-cheese fritters and their smoked PBR chicken sandwich.
Nothing goes with BBQ better than beer. (OK, maybe bourbon does.) At Against the Grain Brewery and Smokehouse, you can sample some of Louisville’s best local brews while indulging in outstanding smoked ribs and molasses-glazed pork belly on a stick. Then, yeah, have some bourbon.
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Peter Berkowitz is a freelance writer from Louisville. Follow him on Twitter: @PBQTP.
1. Feast BBQ909 E Market St, Louisville
2. Frankfort Avenue Beer Depot3204 Frankfort Ave, Louisville
3. Momma's Mustard, Pickles & BBQ102 Bauer Ave, Louisville
4. Shack in the Back BBQ406 Mt Holly Rd, Fairdale
5. Smoketown USA1153 Logan St, Louisville
6. Shawn’s Southern BBQ822 State St, New Albany
7. FDKY BBQ9606 Taylorsville Rd, Louisville
8. River Road BBQ3017 River Rd, Louisville
9. Frank's Meat & Produce3342 Preston Hwy, Louisville
10. Hammerheads921 Swan St, Louisville
11. Big R's and Shannon's Barbeque213 S 1st St, La Grange
12. Hilltop Tavern1800 Frankfort Ave, Louisville
13. Against The Grain Brewery401 E Main St, Louisville
This is the first Feast actually in Louisville (the first is in New Albany) and it gets the job done just like the first, with 60+ craft beers and a menu loaded with tasty 'cue. The hearty, savory food and drink (loaded tots, fried pickles, and um, BOURBON SLUSHIES) will have you coming back for more. Feast's warm and friendly vibes are just an added bonus to otherwise great barbecue fare.
You can smell the Frankfort Avenue Beer Depot long before you reach it's doors and that isn't a bad thing. Two large smokers use the low and slow method to grill up some of the very best barbecue in town. Frankford Avenue also features a large selection of cold beer (duh) and there's even a mini-golf course out back. What are you waiting for?
Momma's provides fun for the whole family while evading and defying all the clichés and traps of the cheap American family meal. Choose from pork ribs, beef ribs, pulled pork, sausage, chicken and more.
Folks down South know to go straight to the Shack in the Back to satisfy their need for the meat. It's a literal, um, shack, but that shouldn't stop you from checking out their some of the best in Louisville BBQ. Shack's rightfully proud of its patiently home-cooked dishes, and it's been keeping its neighbors full for years with options like ribs, wings, pulled pork, and more.
Smoketown is a semi-hidden gem that you shouldn't miss. You can find just about every kind of 'cue under the sun, like the Three Amigos (Pork, chicken, and beef sandwiches), a chicken Reuben, and even seafood.
Shawn's is all about Memphis-style smoke, bringing the Dirty South to the Mild Midwest. Shawn’s family recipe-derived business is affordable, saucy, and ribbed for everyone’s pleasure.
FDKY pays tribute daily to those who fight the bad fires, in a home nicer than the average firehouse. Pay respect to those who serve in one tasty way, by ordering from a host of classic 'cue options like award-winning pulled pork and tender beef brisket.The folks at FDKY BBQ also serve up a mean menu of sides to go with your 'cue, like onion rings, mac 'n cheese, and chicken tenders.
River Road BBQ's a small roadside gem serves it up for travelers from all over. Its waterfront location is near some of the finest outdoor exercise locations in Louisville, so feel free to chow down on smoky rib tips, delectable pulled pork, and brisket and then get daily walk or run in. Or, reverse the order and get yourself some BBQ as a post exercise grand reward. You can do it.
Frank's, located right near the Fair and the Expo Center, has been a longstanding lunch spot for those in the area. The place has remained fairly consistent on all levels, including their prices. All sandwiches are under $5. The place is primarily a meat and produce store, but the real pull is the quality deli counter.
This uber-casual Paristown restaurant set inside a residence is classic American comfort food delivered in a relaxed and friendly neighborhood venue. Think Southern barbeque meets American burger joint and you've grasped Hammerheads, where racks of ribs sit right next to sliders and crab cakes. Seating is first come, first served at this corner eatery, but there's room enough for the whole crowd. Don't go to this Louisville spot if you're looking for a cocktail night, though—they only serve beer and wine.
This La Grange fave serves up barbecue realness in the form of perfectly cooked, smoky ribs, brisket, and tenderloin. The friendly, family-style venue is the perfect locale for loading up on Southern comfort food classics like sweet potato casserole, waffle fries, and Big R's famous Brisket Pizza. Yes, you heard that right. Brisket + pizza = a satisfied stomach indeed.
If you really want to hang out with locals, do so without ostentation at Hilltop Tavern, which has a ping pong table, a stack of board games, foosball, and pretty much everything you would expect from a local haunt. It doesn't hurt that their cuisine is a home-cooked, bourbon-syrup drizzled, and mouthwatering selection of American classics. Check out this friendly spot's Facebook page to get a sense of their changing daily specials.
Damn good beer and damn good barbeque are the hallmarks of downtown Louisville staple Against the Grain, located right at the famous Louisville Slugger field. Since opening their doors, the creative brewing team at Against the Grain have created over 100 unique beers that are so good they've evolved from local brewery to national beer distributor. With a full range of beer types, from light session ales to hop-full IPAs and smoky stouts, Against the Grain has a beer for every drinker. And if you don't drink, then chow down on their house-smoked barbeque, with favorites like brisket and pulled pork sitting alongside vegetarian options, like a signature chickpea sloppy joe, more adventuresome than just another salad.