Best BBQ in Louisville, KY
Let's put our minds and our pallets to work to scientifically (as best we can) determine the best BBQ experience in Louisville. I see MANY postings as to what's good and what isn't (unfortunately, i think there is more bad than good). Here are the rules:
1) No chains. they don't do it right anyway. 2) No more than 5 locations 3) Side items (generally) won't count. We're talking BBQ here. 4) They must serve all of the items to be able to participate.
Rate the following items at each location on a 0-10 point basis. 10 being the best.
Beef (a 2 point deduction if the beef is not brisket)
Chicken (parts, pulled or wings)
Sauces (whether the meats need it or not)
Total of 50 points max.
Tiebreaker: Rate the restaurant concept on a 0-10. a zero means it's a guy with a smoker on the back of his truck, a 10 means it's linens and china or something unique.
We'll start with these 5 restaurants (in alphabetical order):
Bootleg BBQ (several locations, any will do)
Jucy's BBQ (1 location)
Mark's Feed Store (multiple locations)
Pig City BBQ (1 location)
Vince Statens BBQ (several locations)
I picked these because they are either the local established champs (Mark's and Vince), a couple of guys out there doing their thing (Bootleg and Jucy's), and the up and comers (Pig City).
We will begin it today and end it on October 31st. That gives everybody 2 months to visit the locations.
You can add a write in candidate if you like. As I visit each one, I'll post my findings. I have a group of guys that go out and have BBQ every Friday for lunch, so I will take their scores and average them and post comments and a composite score for our group. 10 weeks....5 BBQ restaurants....destiny and history awaits....
Our first visit was to Bootleg BBQ. They have three locations in louisivlle. For discussion purposes, we will assume they have the same food. There were four of us eating. We kept our scores and comments to ourselves until everyone had finished the judging.
Pulled Pork Composit Score: 7 (6,7,8,7). Generally speaking we all agreed it had decent smoke flavor, but just a little dry as though it had been pulled for a while.
Beef Brisket: 6.75 (7,7,6,7) A little tough but good flavor.
Chicken: 5.25 (5,6,5,5) Chopped and not a lot of flavor by itself
Ribs: 7.25 (7,8,7,7) Very tender. decent amount of meat. Best meat item they offer, but priced at 20.99 a slab (at the time we were there)
Sauce: 5 (4,6,5,5). Nothing to write home about. pretty predictable flavor. Just OK.
Tiebreaker Decor: 5 ( 5,5,5,5) (standard bbq atmoshphere). it's named "bootleg" after Bootleggers, so what else would you expect?. If you are looking for the "hole in the wall bbq joint experience", that has good food, this place will get it done for you.
Total Score of 125 with a composit of 6.25.
Next up is Juicy's.
I live deep in the heart of Barbecue country[Austin,Texas] and I can give a vigorous recommendation to KenTex in Shelbyville a half hour or so outside of Louisville.Succulent and fatty brisket and Pork Ribs that can hang with some of my favorite places in Central Alabama.When I travel to Kentucky once or twice a year this is the only barbecue I've found that could hang out a shingle in Texas and make good money.
We ended up taking on Marks Feed Store and Pig City BBQ on consecutive weeks at the end of September and first of October. They are about a block from each other in Middletown, KY (about 10 miles east of downtown louisville). A pretty easy drive out Shelbyville road to Middletown, or Blankenbaker parkway to shelbyville road. Marks is a louisville landmark for BBQ, but we are not sure why.
Pulled Pork Composite Score: 4.25 (4,5,4,4) -It was fairly moist, but totally lacking any smoke flavor or color. We weren't sure why (there is a big-ol smoker out back), but it didn't have any. It was similar in color to the chicken.
Beef Brisket Composite Score: 2 (5,3,3,5) (It is not brisket, so there is a two point penalty). It had decent texture and a hint of smoke, but it just where we thought it should be. We were guessing it was chuck roast. Or some other type of roast.
Pulled Chicken Composite Score: (4,5,3,4) 4 (very dry and no smoke). Not much else to say. We think it was grilled, not smoked.
Ribs Composite Score 6.5 (7,7,6,6). Nicely done. Good flavor. A little overcooked but overall it was the best meat we had while we were there. Good, meaty portions. From our perspective, get the ribs if you gotta have marks.
Sauces: 5.75 (6,5,6,6) Two to choose from, a red, and an "original". Very different, unexpected flavor, but not bad at all.
Tiebreaker Decor: 6 (6,6,7,5). A definite step up from bootleg. this particular is roomy without being noisy. We've been in the one on bardstown road, and it's kind of crammed in there. This one is good.
Total Score: 98 with a composite of 4.9.
Just down the road from Mark's is Pig City BBQ. They are a one off. We hit them the first week in October. The website says they use cherry wood which is a much more subtle, which had us very concerned. but we shouldn't have been.
Pulled Pork Composite Score 7.75 (8,8,8,7). Nothing subtle about this smoke, and my bun was wet with juice, so it wasn't dry. Killer smoke flavor.
Beef Brisket Composite Score 8 (8,8,8,8). It fell apart under a light fork and had good smoke flavor, but the smoke ring was absent. And they have a kansas city version of the brisket called KC Burnt ends. It was black with smoke and sweet.
Pulled chicken composite score (6.25) (6,6,7,5) Unbelievably moist (again, our buns were wet) and reasonable smoke. We did find a bone in one sandwich (thus a 5), but at least that told us it's really pulled.
Ribs Composite Score (6.5) (6,7,6,6). Memphis style. mild, un-impressive rub, but (again) really good smoke. A little dry, but a drizzle of sauce took care of that. very meaty.
Sauces Composite Score: 8 (8,8,8,9) Our first nine of the competition. 6 sauces based upon the various BBQ regions.
Tiebreaker Decor: 8.5 (8,8,9,9). You would think this was a high priced chain. Upscale BBQ. Nice TV's lot's of pig art. Actually Art, not posters. and Wi-Fi.
Total Score: 145 with a composite of 7.25
This was a huge surprise for us. We don't know if we just showed up on a day when everything was perfect, or it's like this all the time. If you come to town, try it and let us know.
On to Juicy's.
I eat BBQ about 3 times a week and have been to Pig City many times. You hit it on the head. Probably the best overall BBQ place in town. The brisket is the best I've every had and that includes Kansas City brisket. I'd give the brisket a strong 9, the pulled pork an 8, the pulled chicken a 7 and the ribs a 7.5. The sauces are great too. I usually do a combination of the Champion and the Texas Hot. Excellent place to go and the lunch portions are nice and a very fair price.
Wow, I obviously think Mark's Feed Store is better than you do. I'd give the pulled pork a 7 (get the big sandwich), the brisket is a 6, the ribs are an strong 8. No one will ever beat Rib Tavern from the old days. Always like their sauces and buy them at Kroger for use at home. Their BBQ beans are THE BEST anywhere. I frequent the new Mark's Feed Store in New Albany at least once per week.
I was hoping this would have more replies. I just moved to Louisville from NC and was looking for some GOOD BBQ. So far I haven't had any. I did eat and marks feed store because I was told it was your best. Sorry but I was not impressed at all. I'd hate to have to drive to Owensboro or TN for some good Q.
I don't care what anyone says... Marks Feed Store is way overrated. They're too commercial, plus their food is overwhelmingly average! I've eaten t
here at least five times and every time it's the same thing: pork or chicken is dry, sides were funky (found a WHOLE egg in my potato salad once. WTF??). I think as far as "authentic" bbq goes, Bootleg BBQ is the way to go, especially their potato salad, ribs, and wings.
I've heard great things about Feast BBQ in New Albany, IN. I've seen a write-up in a local food magazine and it looks awesome. Check them out, or read up on them. I think there was even an article about them in The Chicago Tribune.