Category Archives: BBQ, Burgers, Steaks & Down-Home

Taking my ‘cue in LaGrange

Big R's
Big R’s, out in the middle of La Grange in Oldham County, has all the signs of a serious barbecue joint. And the pigmeat backs it up. Photo by Robin Garr.

Meanwhile, I blazed a trail out to Oldham County recently to check out Big R’s, a fine new barbecue joint. It’s located in an attractive country house right in the middle of town, surrounded by all the signals that real barbecue is sold here: a big, black smoker, lots of hickory logs and a statue of an anthropomorphic pig out front.

It’s a smallish place but clean and neat, with freshly painted walls the color of lemon ice and tasteful red-checked curtains; maybe a half-dozen tables inside and a few more on the porch. The menu is basic and functional, too: Baby-backs range from $9 for a half-slab with no sides to $18 for a full slab with two sides. Other smoked meats – pulled pork, pulled chicken and beef brisket – are mostly $5.25 for a sandwich with one side, $6 with two sides.

We chowed down on ribs and a brisket sandwich and four sides between us and were generally pleased. Let’s put it this way: Big R is a master of smoking meat, a champion BBQ artiste who “slow-smokes” pork butts and briskets over hickory for 15 hours and ribs for five; but his tastes in sauces and rubs differs from my “less is more” philosophy: He likes to use a little more.

The ribs, indeed, were as good as I ever ate: They’re very meaty, with surprisingly little fat or gristle, smoked just right so the hickory flavor is like a condiment but doesn’t conceal the natural flavors of the meat. I wish he had throttled back on the dry rub and shiny glaze, though. The aromatic spices in the rub (I think I smelled cumin) and the sweet-sticky glaze didn’t really enhance the excellent pigmeat.

The same was true of the brisket: The smoky beef was tender and delicious, but they shredded it and served it in a thick, sweet sauce like a Sloppy Joe. Why do that to good brisket? I wish they’d just offer a no-sauce option.

The sides were quite good. Baked beans were just about perfect – small and pink in a savory-salty sauce. Potato salad was devilishly good, chunks of tender potato and crisp celery in a thick sour-cream sauce with a hint of herbs, maybe dill. Wide green beans were wide beans, long-simmered country-style, decent enough, though a little bit of ham hock would have taken them to bean heaven. My wife liked her mac ‘n’ cheese despite its alarming Velveeta color.

Too full for dessert, we got away from a generous meal for a very attractive $20.14 for two, plus a $4 tip. In spite of my barbecue maven’s nitpicks, it was darn good ‘cue, some of the best around, and the ribs and pork might have made my Hall of Fame if they had just left them alone.

Big R’s Barbeque Shack
109 E. Washington Court
La Grange, Ky.
222-0058

Indulge your pork cravings at Pig City

Pig City
Pig City BBQ: Certain songs with food allusions may or may be what they seem, but there’s nothing ambiguous about Pig City BBQ. It’s about the pigmeat, brothers and sisters. Photo by Paige Moore-Heavin

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Pig City BBQ, Fresco Southwest Grill & Pizza)

Food was never very far from the thoughts of Mississippi blues great Armenter Chatmon, better known to the world as Bo Carter. At least we assume he was thinking about food when he dreamed up blues ballads like “Banana in Your Fruit Basket” and “Your Biscuits Are Big Enough for Me.”

OK, so maybe those references are just a little ambiguous. Maybe he was thinking about food, and maybe he wasn’t. But there’s no doubt that Bo had his dinner plate in mind when he warbled the tune I love best, “Pigmeat is What I Crave.”

I’m right with him there: Meat, fish, fowl or soy protein, it’s hard to beat pork for sheer deliciousity.

Naturally when I heard about a new barbecue joint out in the East End called Pig City, I knew where I had to be. Continue reading Indulge your pork cravings at Pig City

This drink’s for Fido

Tyler Dorsett
In a rare display of common sense, Kentucky recently made it OK to take home an unfinished bottle of wine from a restaurant. Tyler Dorsett of the Bristol-Downtown shows the first step, re-corking the bottle … Photos by Robin Garr

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Wine doggy-bagging, Cutting Board Café, Aldi’s)

You order an excellent wine to go with your restaurant meal, and when dinner is done, the bottle is half empty. Or half full, depending on your worldview. What do you do?

Common sense would dictate that you poke the cork back in the bottle and take it home to enjoy another day. But common sense, by and large, does not inform alcoholic-beverage-control laws. In Kentucky, restaurants are generally not licensed for “package liquor” sales and, historically, have risked a fine or loss of their drinks license if they permit customers to carry out wine.

In a rare display of common sense, however, Kentucky’s legislature this year passed a new law allowing consumers to take the partially consumed bottle home. The law requires that restaurant staff re-seal the bottle, place it in a closed bag and provide a dated receipt. The consumer must keep the bottle in the trunk, a locked glove compartment or other place “inaccessible to the driver” during the trip home, a rather bureaucratic set of requirements apparently aimed at ensuring that thirsty motorists won’t slug their Chateau Gotrocks right out of the bottle while speeding along the Watterson.
Continue reading This drink’s for Fido

Frosting the Hoosier pumpkin

Huber's
Server Dacqueri Mahar shows off Huber’s finest, the country platter dish of fried chicken and ham. Photos by Sara Havens

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Stumler’s, Joe Huber’s)

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock …
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence …
O, it’s then the time a feller is a-feelin’ at his best.

Ahh, autumn, time of harvest and nippy nights, hearty cider and cozy fireplaces. Autumn doesn’t get any better than it does in rural Indiana, and it’s no surprise that the poet who penned those words in 1883, Indiana’s own James Whitcomb Riley, was a Hoosier through and through.

Riley, who’s been a hero of mine ever since I learned that he started out as a newspaper reporter and was once fired from the Anderson Democrat for being a little too creative with his prose, knew a good thing when he saw it, and so do we.

The leaves are getting serious about turning colors now, and any random pumpkin is likely to wake up in the morning sporting a touch of frost. Let’s celebrate Riley’s memory with a leaf-peeping, eating and drinking expedition to the tourist farms of Starlight, Ind. Continue reading Frosting the Hoosier pumpkin

Chili today, hot tamale

Flabby's chili
Flabby’s chili is a simple, classic preparation – coarsely ground beef in chunks with tender red beans and just enough short strands of spaghetti to make it Louisville-style. Photos by Robin Garr

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Five noteworthy bowls of red; Karma Café)

Tomatoes or no tomatoes? Beans or no beans? Chopped meat or ground meat? Chile powder or dried chilies or fresh? And by the way, is it “chile” or is it “chili”? Gimme a break! This is almost like listening to the Kentucky legislature arguing about whether evolution or intelligent design should be taught in our schools.

Much of the chili debate centers around the argument that chili is a historic dish with a long tradition that started in the Texas-Mexico border country and was spread across the heartland by cowboys on the open range, and that it must be a pure, unadulterated combination of beef and chile peppers, nothing more, without adulterants or fillers no matter how delicious those additives might be.
Continue reading Chili today, hot tamale

Feeling the harmonious vibes

Jerusalem Cafe
Jerusalem Café, which opened in July near U of L, is the most recent entry in Louisville’s eclectic and growing collection of Middle Eastern eateries. Photo by Robin Garr

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(Jerusalem Café, Kim’s no-beef burger tour)

One of the world’s most historic cities, Jerusalem is sacred to three major religions. It seems kind of pitiful that they’ve spent much of the last couple of millennia fighting over it.

Happily, though, there doesn’t seem to be any conflict about Jerusalem Cafe, the most recent entry in Louisville’s eclectic and growing collection of Middle Eastern eateries: Just about everybody agrees it’s really good. (NOTE: Sammy Barghouthi, who was chef at the time of this review in September 2006, moved to Saffron’s Buffet under its new ownership in January 2007.)

Located in the short strip shopping center just west of the University of Louisville’s Belknap Campus, Jerusalem Cafe speaks Middle Eastern with a Palestinian accent. It adds a hint of the Levant to the storefront space that used to house a branch of City Cafe, an impression not diminished by a couple of good Persian carpets spread on the white tile floor and, of course, an appetizing scent of grilling kebabs.
Continue reading Feeling the harmonious vibes