Nothing says summer like barbeque. Today, food writer Lindsey McClave profiles the second installation of Feast BBQ in NuLu.
When Ryan Rogers opened Feast BBQ in New Albany in 2012, it was an instant hit. Word spread quickly across the river, and the demand for a location on the Louisville side of the bridge was incessant. Thus, the NuLu outpost of Feast was born, and locals have been waiting in line for Rogers’ signature BBQ ever since.
We found ourselves pointed in the direction of NuLu on a recent Saturday evening, making the quick bike ride from the Highlands to downtown with BBQ and tater tots firmly on our minds. This was not our first visit to Feast. As one of the most affordable and casual dining options in NuLu, the line winding around the block outside of Feast has fast become the place to be, and boy, is it worth the wait. As we biked across Lexington and turned onto Market, hunger propelling us forward, we decided to try a few key menu items we had yet to sample, mixed in with the classics, of course!
As we pulled up to the corner of Market and Campbell, 30 or so hungry guests were already standing out in the sunshine, their happy chatter filling the early evening air. We could overhear each new person in line comment on its length, a bit amazed, but not too deterred to join its ranks. We parked our bikes and made a beeline for the bar, our favorite place to dine at Feast, assuming a picnic table by the window isn’t available. The bar spans the length of the restaurant, running along the west wall and stretching to the ceiling, long shelves stocked with an impressive bourbon collection, Americana decor sprinkled throughout. The greatest perk to dining at the bar (other than the purse hooks—thank you Feast!) is that you get to bypass the line, skipping straight to the cocktails while you peruse the menu.
First on the must-try list was the Bourbon Slushie. Served small (8 ounces) or large (16 ounces), bourbon is blended with an ever-rotating roster of flavors until the ever-desirable texture of slush is formed. I selected a small pour and was quickly presented with a mini mason jar filled with red-berry slush, an extra-wide straw standing tall for easy sipping. It was cool, refreshing and offered up just the right amount of bourbon punch. My husband ordered a beer from the long and rotating list of Kentucky and Indiana breweries on offer.
Sitting at the bar, we settled into our drinks and placed an order for both the pork cakes and the loaded tots, the former at the top of my must-try list, and the latter, an old standby. It would be a sin not to indulge in the tater tots when visiting Feast. Fried until perfectly crisp and then smothered with Feast’s signature slaw, BBQ sauce and green onions, the only difficult decision of the night was deciding which meat we wanted to layer over the top. We selected the pork on this particular occasion, although I have to admit their brisket tends to be my trusty standby. I was stepping outside of my go-to zone, however, and was rewarded handsomely, the pork, more tender than one could imagine, breaking up easily as we speared our forks into the indulgent platter. When it comes to building a dish, balance in flavor is a critical element, the backbone that takes even the most nostalgic of items (cue the tater tots) to the next level. The loaded tots at Feast are a perfect example of this harmony in play, the marriage of mild and crunchy potatoes with meaty pork obvious; the richness of the pork cut through cleanly with the addition of the creamy slaw. The BBQ sauce adds spice and depth of flavor, while the green onions add a bright note of freshness to an otherwise intensely delicious dish.
Next up were the pork cakes, a dish I had heard much-lauded, but had yet to sample. Two large croquettes of pork were presented to us, encrusted in bread crumbs and fried lightly. The cakes were swimming in a pool of BBQ sauce, slaw and sweet sorghum, another sprinkling of fresh green onions mounded over the top. Picture crab cakes in pork form when you think of this dish. They were crunchy on the outside, creamy in the center and 100 percent chock-full of pork goodness. We quickly cleaned our plates and decided to take a cocktail break, the starters of our meal filling us up faster than we intended. These dishes are meant for sharing!
I’ve quickly learned that while BBQ is the name of the game at Feast, guests come for the meat, but stay for the cocktails. Their list is well-curated and beautifully crafted, bourbon taking center stage in most drinks, with fresh herbs and house-made syrups on hand for what is, all-in-all, a well-rounded beverage program. I selected the Queen B for my mid-course beverage, blueberries and honey tempered with bourbon and citrus.
Refreshed, we moved on to the main event, continuing to bypass our favorite main courses of chicken, ribs and brisket for the less obvious BBQ salad and tofu taco. The salad brought us a welcome punch of freshness, a mesclun mix of greens as big as your head, speckled with fried pickles and red onions and served with a pile of pork BBQ, smoked mustard dressing and—you guessed it—BBQ sauce on the side.
The Crispy Smoked Tofu taco is not what one would expect to find at a BBQ joint. Bathed in the Mexican-inspired trappings of cabbage, pickled red onions, cilantro and crema, however, it is well cloaked and a welcome addition to the menu.
We couldn’t bring ourselves to leave without an order of the mac and cheese. Traditional and laden with cheddar, it served as our dessert and final nightcap.
As we biked back toward home, our pace dramatically more leisurely than before, I couldn’t help but think how grateful I was to Feast for being only a short bike ride away. Not that I wouldn’t still travel across the bridge for loaded tots, because I would. They’re definitely worth the effort!
Feast BBQ has two locations:
116 W. Main St., New Albany, IN • (812) 920-0454
909 E. Market St., Ste. 100, Louisville • (502) 749-9900