At 11 a.m. Thursday morning, Tennessee-based Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint opened the doors on its first Louisville store, 3408 Indian Lake Drive — an opening that’s been cooking for five years.
“We were sitting at the end of a table five years ago talking about this stuff, and now we’re here,” said Josh Bleidt, former president of the Louisville chapter of Kentucky Restaurant Association and a partner in Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint in Louisville.
Bleidt met Pat Martin, founder of Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, at a poker game hosted by mutual friend Rob Bironas, a former Tennessee Titans kicker and Trinity High School graduate. The two struck up a conversation, and the rest is history.
“For me, it was a good thing to complement the food city and restaurants that are already here,” said Bliedt, who brought on business partners David Glass and Shay Tinsley, who will help introduce and grow the brand locally.
Bliedt saw the draw Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint had. People would drive 40 minutes from Nashville to Nolensville, Tenn., to eat at the restaurant before its Nashville stores opened.
“That’s like the equivalent of driving to Elizabethtown to eat dinner,” he said. “But when I got there and tried it, I understood it.”
So why did it take so long?
First of all, they had to work out the business details and find the right location and build it out, but the Louisville partners also needed to learn the business and how to cook the food. More than a year and a half ago, Glass and Tinsley got places in Tennessee and started an apprenticeship with Martin to learn how to make the food from scratch and, most importantly, how to smoke a whole hog.
“There’s a definite skill set to that, that is not hard, but takes a lot of repetitions,” Martin said. They “just totally baptised themselves in what I do. It’s been great.”
Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint prides itself on its fresh food and barbecue. The restaurant roasts a whole hog for 18 to 24 hours in a smoker fueled only by hickory wood; it doesn’t have a freezer on site; and its food is made daily.
“We try to run out of our food everyday,” Martin said. “All real barbecue joints run out of food.”
That said, Martin added, if the barbecue is gone, try the catfish from Mississippi or the freshly ground burgers. All the recipes were taken from someone in Martin’s family and everything is made in-house.
The Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint at Indian Springs is part of a larger overhaul in the neighborhood.
The Indian Springs Community Association took over the Indian Springs Golf Club a couple of years ago after an argument with the golf course’s owner. As with many golf courses nationally, the Indian Springs Golf Club wasn’t performing well, and the owner hoped to rezone the property and sell parts of it off to commercial developers to recoup some of his losses. The association fought the zoning change, and the golf club owner agreed to give the association ownership of the land.
Since then, an Aloft Hotel and other commercial businesses have been built on the property.
For Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, the surrounding housing development offers a built-in clientele for the restaurant. The business also has hired 20 residents of Indian Springs to work there.
Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint in Louisville employs a staff of 75 part-time and full-time workers.
The 6,500-square-foot restaurant in Indian Springs seats 175 in the main dining room and enclosed patio. It eventually will have a 50-seat private dining room and open garden bar, with darts and a Ping-Pong table.
Its hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday.