- 1153 Logan St, Louisville, KY, 40204
- Overall User Rating:
- (5 ratings)
- 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 7 p.m. Sunday
My pal Natalie is a carnivoyeur. She stopped eating meat long ago, but she's not one of those self-righteous types who looks down on those of us who still follow the path of the omnivore.
In fact, I daresay she derives as much pleasure from watching other folks dive into steaks, chops, burgers and roasts as do the folks who are wielding the forks — and her husband, John, reports that she regularly exhorts him to cook up meat-based recipes that she herself won't touch.
Smoketown USA, it turns out, is Carnivoyeur Central. It's an odd sort of place. Since opening in 2007, it's found a deservedly enthusiastic following among barbecue lovers, but it's also developed a reputation for serving some of the best vegetarian sides in the city.
If you want to talk meat, you have to start with the dish that owners Eric and Lynn Gould have dubbed Flintstones ($18.95 with two sides). Actually, calling Flintstones a “dish” is like calling Stonehenge a gravel pit.
Flintstones are beef short ribs on a mammoth scale — large ribs cut lengthwise, attached to thick, juicy, well-encrusted slabs of meat. The first time I saw a platter of Flintstones, topped off with a gracefully arched rib so hefty it could have served as a primeval weapon, I was astonished.
I was even more astonished when I slipped my fork through thick, black bark and found meltingly tender meat within. And by the time I finished eating — long before I'd made significant inroads on those ribs, I was totally won over. This is a meal for two — assuming both parties are taking part.
Some restaurants have “atmosphere.” Smoketown USA has what can only be described as a “vibe” — if only because the place feels grounded in the best aspects of the '60s counter culture.
The space is cluttered with a kitschy inventory of items that are part of Lynn Gould's ongoing “yard sale.” When he isn't in the kitchen, Eric Gould hovers over the dining room, greeting everyone with a smile and a “Shalom aleichem (peace be upon you),” hailing regulars by name, sitting down across the table to exchange friendly words.
If the place is packed, you may have to sit a spell before placing your order, but you won't find a friendlier place to wait. Thursday through Saturday, guitarist-singer Billy Hower stands in a corner, covering John Prine, Carole King, James Taylor and the like.
The only thing missing is the smell of patchouli — but it would probably be covered up by the smell of beef brisket, pork ribs and those great side dishes — some of which could easily serve as main dishes — like the all-you-can-eat Spanish rice and pinto beans ($5.79), flavored with a Southwestern dash of cumin, served with cornbread.
Other notable sides ($1.89) include garlic-laced macaroni and cheese, long-simmered greens and black-eyed peas that sport a fine dash of heat, and cabbage salad — slaw, really — with a refreshing punch supplied by cider vinegar.
A few of those sides, plus some plain or jalapeno cornbread, would make a meal in itself. Carnivoyeurs can also opt for a house-made black bean burger ($7.29) or a portobello mushroom sandwich ($7.29).
For the rest of us, there are plenty of barbecue options. Gould uses a dry rub for all his barbecue, then adds a finishing glaze with a spicy barbecue sauce (dry-rub purists who are anti-glaze can request their Q without that last touch).
Sandwich options include pulled pork or chicken, or beef brisket ($7.29, with two sides — the default for pretty much everything on the menu).
Entrees include chicken with a dark exterior char and juicy, full-flavored flesh within ($7.29 for a quarter chicken, $9.39 for a half); a salmon filet that is, perhaps inevitably, too dry, but nicely flavored nonetheless, and, of course, pork ribs in various sizes and configurations, starting at $7.29 for a riblet plate, $9.39 for a rib basket and $13.39 for a half slab, and rising up to $14.99 for a half slab of spare ribs and $19.49 for a glorious full slab of pork ribs.
If you're planning a gathering, pit-smoked hams and turkeys can be ordered at by-the-pound prices, and if you're bringing the kids, it's worth noting that for each adult meal that's purchased, an accompanying child under 6 eats free (the children's menu includes pork, chicken and brisket sandwiches).
And child or not, the dessert menu — which always includes some sort of house-made cake, is worth your attention — unless you've somehow worked your way through an entire order of Flintstones, in which case you can sit back and watch as your companions happily dig in.