Noche Mexican BBQ is hoping to find its niche in a former Lutheran church in the Deer Park neighborhood.
“Louisville likes weird things, so if I’m going to make it work, it’s in Louisville,” said Aaron Diaz, founder and managing partner of the restaurant, which has a Dia de los Muertos theme.
Diaz’s dream since youth has been to own a restaurant, despite many viewing restaurant jobs as temporary, he said. Diaz also is a bit of an anomaly because he isn’t a chef; he’s a business guy with a restaurant concept that he hopes will take off and grow.
With a Mexican spice rub recipe from his dad — “I knew it would kill,” funding from his mom’s retirement — “I had to be sure I could do it,” and friend/Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef Marco Marmol lined up to man the kitchen, Diaz is just a couple of months from opening his first restaurant.
“That’s really how my journey has been … people have been coming out of the woodwork to help me,” said Diaz, who is bringing the idea for the restaurant, recipes and more than a decade of restaurant management experience to the table.
Noche is expected to open sometime in January for dinner only and brunch on the weekends.
Noche Mexican BBQ, as originally conceived, had a more rustic design and was more divey, taking its cues from Green Street Smoked Meats in Chicago. It was possibly going to be named machete as well. But that changed when Diaz’s friend Petar Mandic, a real estate agent, showed him The Sanctuary on Bardstown, formerly Calvary Lutheran Church at 1838 Bardstown Road.
“My mom said ‘Don’t put machete on a church,’ ” he said. “The building itself is just so gorgeous, I had to elevate everything” from the interior design down to the plates.
The design now includes a large Dia de los Muertos mural, a partially open kitchen, a bar under one set of stained glass windows, colorful seating, string lights hanging down and a ombre paint effect on the walls, taking them from a white or light color to a dark blue that represents the transition from day to night. Noche is located in the main sanctuary of the church, the remainder of which was renovated and houses nine luxury apartments.
Diaz said he landed on the name Noche because it “was just really clean,” and he wanted a Spanish word that anyone can pronounce.
The menu will include brisket and pulled pork smoked with Noche’s signature spice blend, fajitas, flautas, green chili macaroni and cheese, grilled Mexican street corn and Shrimp Armadillo Eggs, which is jumbo shrimp and jalapeños stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon served with pineapple pico de gallo.
Chips and salsa will be complimentary, but Diaz warned that the salsa will be spicy. For those who can’t stomach the heat, Noche will sell guacamole and queso.
Diaz said the average ticket per person will be about $14.
Daniel Mason with Copper & Kings Brandy Co. is Noche’s beverage director. His menu features, among other drinks, two margaritas; a tequila take on the Old Fashioned with mezcal, agave and mole bitters; sangria; and a michelada, a Mexican lager with Clamato tomato concentrate and Noche’s spice blend.
Diaz described the food and drink menus as a mixture of his Mexican heritage, his upbringing in Midland, Texas, and his new home in Louisville. Before coming to Kentucky, he told Insider that’d he’d never had bourbon, though he was a whiskey fan, and he’d never eaten sweet potatoes, which are on Noche’s menu.
“I actually had to Google ‘Kentucky,’ ” he said, describing how little he knew about the state, let alone Louisville, before moving here to open a Genghis Grill as general manager in 2010.
Noche is expected to employ 60 people.
Diaz said he likes the restaurant industry because great restaurants create a family-like atmosphere among employees and among customers. “The most important thing is culture — in any job.”
The restaurant will seat 97 inside, with additional seating on an outdoor patio during warmer months. Unlike many Highlands area businesses, Noche has parking, with 10 spaces in a lot behind the church.