BBQ is something delicious. There are a few different styles and interpretations of this angelic, smokey fare. You got sauces, you got dry rubs, you got brines. How many spices do you use? Perfecting your BBQ recipe is really just as much of an art form as cooking most other styles of food. I have always been a fan of BBQ and if you didn’t know, Louisville is no stranger to smoked deliciousness either. You may have caught my articles about Louisville’s Best BBQ Part 1 and Louisville’s Best BBQ Part 2. When I decided to write my first thoughts on Louisville’s BBQ scene, I had some specifics in mind. One of those was the 502 Cafe food truck run by Chris Williams. As stoked as I have always been about the food truck, I’m even more excited now that 502 Cafe has just recently opened a brick & mortar location right on the University of Louisville’s campus. I was happily able to attend the soft opening, and have already been back since. Here’s why you should go too.
NOT TOO SHABBY
It’s simple…this restaurant is not shabby. The smoke-tacular, flavor layin’ wood man, Chris Williams, partnered with the pool playin’, Old Fashioned slingin’ Anthony Happel for this venture. Together the two have made this dream a reality. The reason I sound like a hype man for a boxing match as I introduce them is because they have a very solid Louisville theme running through their restaurant, part of which has to do with the recently passed, greatest boxer of all time, Muhammed Ali. You can find posters and renderings of the GOAT all throughout the building. Of course, the other factor in this very Louisville restaurant is the Cards. Ah-hem, the LOUISVILLE CARDINALS. That’s right, Birds memorabilia is scattered throughout this smoke spot right alongside their supportive team mate, Cassius Clay. Each restaurant partner has their own specialties within the restaurant, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to find one of them there at all times. They spent countless hours cleaning and sprucing up the place, as the building’s previous tenant had left it in fairly shabby condition. A fresh look, some new decorations, and great energy has transformed this space and created an inviting spot for lunch, dinner, and even late night. There are plenty of TVs to watch whatever you’re looking for, there’s also a pool table, a jukebox, a stage, and plenty of seating for you and a date, or your large party.
NOT YOUR AVERAGE
Some BBQ restaurants get stuck in the standard offerings. You get pulled pork, pulled chicken, and maybe some brisket. That’s fine for certain places, however there’s plenty of room for creativity within the BBQ realm. Chris has taken some of these creative liberties and applied them to different areas of his menu, which really pays off when you want to try something familiar but different. On soft opening night, my wife and I split the pretzel sticks with beer cheese. There was plenty of beer cheese to go with the sticks, and the flavor was fabulous. You will also want to try the “totchos”, which is a type of tater tot nachos, or try the bacon and cheese stuffed homemade tots. For dinner I had the PBLFT, which is easily one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. This thing is loaded with incredible smoked pork belly, lettuce, and a house made fried green tomato, finished with 502 Cafe’s signature bourbon bacon jam. Oh yeah, it comes on Texas Toast. Forget it. Stop asking questions. Just order it and see for yourself. On my return trip, I had to get the pulled pork sandwich so that I could compare it to my other favorite BBQ joints in Louisville. The pork is so juicy and tender, the bun is soft and flavorful, and 502 Cafe’s house made chipotle BBQ sauce really ties everything together without overpowering the smokiness of the meat. I can’t tell you how well-balanced this pulled pork sandwich is. Fantastic. Also, the sidewinder fries make an incredible side item. Or you could get the amazing truffle mac and cheese, or any of their sides to go with your meal.
502 Cafe offers a full bar, with some very fine craft beers available on draft. I had the Rhinegeist Truth IPA, which is a personal favorite. There was definitely some thought put into this beer list, and it’s pretty awesome to see that the beverage menu was just as important as the food menu to them. The bottle selection will accommodate just about anyone’s taste, with a wide variety of flavors and styles. You want water? Soda? No problem. I just point out the beers because I like to enjoy a cool brew with a smokey delight.
Look, this place has already proven itself to me, and it’s already been a favorite of mine through the original food truck. Now that 502 Cafe has opened the restaurant I have become even more impressed with the things that impressed me before. They have also stepped up the game a bit and really established themselves a place to be, eat, drink, and enjoy company. I love it and I wish them the best. As for me, You’ll see me there once a week for lunch! (or dinner…breakfast maybe?)
Thinking about moving to Louisville or relocating within Louisville? I would love to speak with you about your next home. firstname.lastname@example.org – 502.509.9278