The quest for great ‘cue

Shane's Rib Shack

(Shane’s Rib Shack and Pig City BBQ, Voice-Tribune, Aug. 31, 2007)

For many years, when I’ve been in the East End and craved excellent barbecue, my go-to spots have been Jucy’s near Pewee Valley and Vince Staten’s in Anchorage.

Jucy’s remains a favorite, but Staten’s, sadly, has lost a step since local writer Vince Staten (co-author with the C-J’s Greg Johnson of the fine book “Real Barbecue“) moved to Tennessee and the eatery that still bears his name moved out U.S. 42 to new shopping-center quarters on the site of the old Melrose Inn in Oldham County.

While the barbecue at Vince’s (without Vince) remains acceptable, it’s no longer memorable; so I’ve been looking for some new go-to places in the neighborhood when I’ve got a hankering for smoked ribs, pulled pork, brisket and all the fixins.

The good news, however, is that at least a couple of worthy candidates have turned up in recent months. I’ve chowed down heartily recently at Shane’s Rib Shack in Holiday Manor and Pig City in Middletown, and I’m prepared to offer one thumb up for Shane’s and a happy two thumbs up, both of them well-smeared with rib fat, for the first-rate Pig City.

Shane’s opened last month in the strip-mall quarters on Lime Kiln Lane that formerly housed the short-lived Tijuana Flats. It’s the first Louisville property of Atlanta-based Raving Brands. This is the same corporate entity that owns Moe’s Southwest Grill, but happily, nobody yells “Welcome to Shane’s!” Based on a down-home original in McDonough, Georgia, Shane’s has been spreading rapidly across the Southeast and is now going nationwide.

The attractive, colorful interior looks a bit like a country barbecue shack. The menu features sandwiches starting at $4.59, dinner plates with two sides and dinner platters with two large sides, up to $19.99 for a full rack of baby backs.

We tried ribs ($12.99 for a half-rack plate), chopped pork ($7.99) and an order of wings ($5.99 for 10), plus sides, and found everything prepared well and served hot. The chopped (not pulled) pork was tender but a bit dry; the ribs were fine, meaty and pull-off-the-bone tender, but both dishes seemed to have only a passing acquaintance with smoke. Every dish, including the meats and sides – even collard greens – had a sweet flavor, which seemed odd. Iced tea was strong and fresh, and a short selection of bottled beer is available.

Shane’s Rib Shack
2420-G Lime Kiln Lane

Pig City

Pig City opened last autumn in a shopping center in front of the old Furrow Building Materials. It looks a bit upscale for a barbecue joint, with its stylish Louisville skyline murals and cozy wooden booths. The L-shaped room seats more than 100, with room for more on a patio out front.

Look around the back of the building and you’ll find serious, heavy-duty barbecue smoking equipment and – a Pig City specialty – aromatic cherry wood in place of the customary hickory.

We’ve rarely been disappointed as we’ve worked through much of the menu. On a recent visit, highlights included a smoked pork chop ($8.98 with two sides) and a three-meat combo platter ($13.49 for ribs, brisket, pulled pork and two sides).

The pork chop was cooked well-done, perhaps just a tad on the dry side, but meaty pork and subtle cherrywood flavors made it a winner just the same. Pulled pork suffered a bit from dryness too, but again, good flavor and texture and a proper whiff of smoke brought it around. Both the juicy, lean ribs and perfect, thin-sliced ribbons of beef brisket were blue-ribbon winners for me. All the sides – meaty, thick baked beans, long-simmered green beans, rich cheesey mashed potatoes and tart vinegar-based cole slaw – were fine.

Pig City BBQ
12003 Shelbyville Road