By Kevin Gibson
It’s no secret that Louisville has an excellent fine-dining scene, especially for a city its size. Still, sometimes you just want to kick back with a good sandwich and a beer.
Enter Big Al’s Beeritaville in Clifton. With a cozy bar, front patio with tables and an outdoor beer garden complete with a horseshoe pit and cornhole, it’s a fun, laid-back place to spend a Saturday afternoon or a weeknight happy hour. LEO Weekly’s own Bar Belle, Sara Havens, wrote earlier this year that the bar at the newly made-over Mac’s is “like hanging out in a friend’s basement,” which pretty much says it all.
The story behind the name resonates: Big Al’s is owned by Mike and Loraine Sachse. Mike’s brother Al, who was born with Down syndrome and who used to bartend at Rush Inn just down the street, had always wanted to own a bar. When Al died last year at 51, the Sachses decided to buy Mac’s and remodel it in his honor. Thus the name, and thus the fun: A photo of Al, grinning ear to ear, hangs in the bar.
My friend Julia and I had dinner there recently and weren’t disappointed. It’s an order-at-the-bar scenario, so I grabbed a bucket of Coronas ($11) and asked for an order of hot wings ($6) while she snagged a picnic table in the beer garden. We studied the menu as we sipped our beers, trying to decide among the extra-thick fried bologna sandwich, a bratwurst or a deli sandwich (each just $4). The special of the night was smoked sausage with chips, a bargain at $3.50.
We were impressed at the more than reasonable prices, but couldn’t help wondering if such a low toll could possibly yield great eats. Then the wings arrived, and I’m here to tell you they were tasty. Ten plump wings greeted us (with sides of ranch and blue cheese, per request), and they challenged our taste buds from the get-go. The sauce was more than just Frank’s and butter – there was a hint of citrus in the mix, and just a touch of sweetness, perhaps a little honey. The spice is latent, but it’s there. They could use a bit more pepper, in my estimation, but they’re unique, and we both gave them the thumbs up.
With bolstered confidence in the menu, we ordered. Julia chose a stacked club sandwich ($5) with steak fries, and I went with the Reuben. The food arrived just a few minutes later (the service was spot-on), and we immediately knew we would be taking some home. Julia’s sandwich, although it could’ve used a bit more turkey, was piled high with bacon, ham, turkey and tomato on toasted bread. The fries were plentiful – hot, crisp and spiced with seasoned salt.
The Reuben was a solid specimen of the traditional German sandwich, with plenty of tender corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing. The sandwich came with tasty kettle chips, which were fresh and crisp, and a semi-impressive pickle spear. (Restaurants really should learn to get good pickles; I always give extra points for crisp, tasty pickles.)
Considering the price – with enough leftovers for lunch the next day – this could go down as one of the better deals in town. There are daily specials and soups of the day (15-bean was featured on the day we visited); whenever I’ve stopped in, it has always been active. Hoist a cold one in honor of Al … and try the wings. – Kevin Gibson
Big Al’s Beeritaville
1715 Mellwood Ave.
Rating: 81 points