When Barry Washington opens the second location of his popular restaurant Barry’s Cheese Steaks and More, he promises it will be more of the same: quality food and a commitment to community.
While the space is still being worked on inside, Washington is targeting late January to open the location at 1161 S. Second St., formerly the home of Geechee Bayou in Old Louisville.
A full kitchen buildout and complete rewiring of the space were the first steps in getting the new restaurant — which Washington estimates at 2,500 square feet — ready. He has most of his staff in place, and finishing off the aesthetics will be the final chore.
When it opens, the second Barry’s Cheese Steaks will be designed primarily for quick-service carryout food. The menu will be similar to that of the original location at 7502 Preston Highway, although pared down, as Insider reported last year.
One key difference is that wings won’t be on the menu, partly in deference to Daddy Rich’s, a wing place just down the street on Oak.
While the original Barry’s has always brought in fresh-baked bread daily, the new location will have an oven and full-time baker on site all day, every day, so that all the bread will be as fresh as possible. All in all, Washington expects the restaurant to employ roughly 20 people.
Washington, who estimates about $60,000 has been invested in the restaurant so far, also says he has continued to find employees who he feels might need a break.
He references one young man he hired nearly five months ago. Some of Washington’s other employees wanted the man fired, but Washington cautioned, “Be kind.” He says it has worked out well.
“He has some issues,” Washington says, “but he has stepped up.”
Speaking to his employees on Monday, just before taking a break to do an interview, he told them, “We love you so much at Barry’s Cheese Steaks and More.” The Christian-based company goes for buy-in through kindness, including a matching program for employees who set up an IRA or some other retirement plan.
“I’m trying to help them live a little bit better life,” Washington says, “learn how to manage money and get a better quality of life.”
His commitment is born of his past. Washington worked in restaurants for much of his adult life while living in Philadelphia, but after experiencing a troubled youth, he turned to crime and drugs.
This is a man who found redemption in the kindness of others after being stabbed 41 times and left for dead by a pair of drug dealers. His experience opened his eyes, and his path ultimately landed him in Louisville, becoming a pastor and opening his restaurant.
The new restaurant will seat about 20, with counter seating and three tables in the small dining area, and Washington expects it to be a busy place. The kitchen setup and ordering system are designed to get customers in and out quickly, in response to the frequent long waits at the original location.
Washington says it’s not uncommon to go through 300 pounds of meat in a day at the original location — “That’s 495 sandwich buns,” he says with a laugh — and won’t be surprised if some days in Old Louisville eclipse those numbers.
One small change when the new location opens its doors will be the addition of a white cheese sauce to replace the hard white cheddar currently used on Barry’s Philly sandwiches. Barry’s still won’t be serving cheesesteaks with Cheez Whiz, no matter how many people request it.
“The places I did it in Philly, we didn’t use no Cheez Whiz,” Barry says, shaking his head. He then laughs and adds, “No Whizzing on our sandwiches!”
A third Barry’s location is in the works, he says. Currently, he is looking at a space in the Pleasure Ridge Park neighborhood, and if that works out, he would target the end of 2019 to open it. He’s been working on the Old Louisville location since last June.
In addition, he is considering a larger location on Preston Highway. A bigger kitchen, he says, would help him break out some of the dishes he doesn’t have the space or equipment to make in his current kitchen, although he didn’t elaborate.
“We got some other great food, for real,” he says. “We can cook, man.”
For now, Washington and his staff and partners will focus on bringing Philly-style cheesesteaks, burgers and fries to Old Louisville. When the new location opens — currently, an opening date has not been set — hours will be Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.