Long a favorite spot for University of Louisville students thanks to its proximity to campus, The Granville Inn is going into its 80th year, having opened under its current name in 1939 as a store and lunch spot that sold everything from sandwiches and sodas to tobacco products and candy.
These days, it is part food joint and part sports bar, serving pizza, sandwiches, appetizers and more, with a full bar and plenty of beer taps. The space looks every bit its age, with tin ceilings, exposed brick, plenty of neon beer signs and an old pool table in back.
One of the defining characteristics of the neighborhood spot is the curious looking Bevador cooler in one corner of the bar, a space-age oddity from the 1950s with rotating shelves that looks like it could easily be converted into an iron lung.
Interestingly, most of the TVs in the place were airing soap operas when we stopped in, with a handful of others showing ESPN, the NFL Network and other sports stations.
The music was a tad loud, especially for a Monday afternoon (although why intersperse tunes like “A Country Boy Can Survive” with “You Shook Me All Night Long” and do so quietly?), but our bartender/server was friendly and accommodating, and the space had a bright, inviting feel.
Dive bar atmosphere aside, The Granville is known to many as a prime burger spot in Old Louisville, with the signature Granville Burger leading the charge of several versions including the Italian-themed Bambino Burger, the spiced-up Tijuana Burger and the mushroom-and-onion-covered Charlie Burger.
The menu brags that every burger is a “half pound of USDA Choice ground beef, charbroiled to order.” And to think, I’d never had one until my recent lunch visit with my friend Greg.
Greg eschewed the legendary burger for a Ragin’ Cajun Fowl sandwich with a side salad, but I climbed on board with a bacon and cheddar version of the ground beef sandwich, along with an order of crinkle-cut fries. After all, when in Granville, why not dine like it?
Greg’s salad was a pleasant surprise, especially for what to the naked eye looks like a dive bar that is more prone to selling jalapeno poppers than salads. But this one was made with fresh romaine, sporting plenty of onions, tomatoes, carrots, black olives and mushrooms, topped with a generous portion of mozzarella cheese.
His sandwich was a medium-sized chicken breast dusted with Cajun spices, served dressed. Greg shared a bite of the chicken, which was nicely spiced and charred, and grilled smartly enough that the char locked in the juices. He referred to it as “super good” once he dug in.
The burger was indeed a behemoth. The standard Granville Burger comes with lettuce, onions and tomato, but my bacon cheddar burger was all meat and cheese, served with a pickle spear. I had ordered it medium rare, but it came out closer to medium, which is fine by me, as long as the burger isn’t dry.
It wasn’t. In fact, I wrote in my notes that it was a “squirter” (although it was probably more of a “dripper”) and that anyone ordering one will need to “watch their pants.” I wound up with juice everywhere.
Most importantly, the combination of fresh beef flavor and the added flavor the grill imparts made it a mouth-watering treat. Throw in a thick slice of cheddar on top of a small pile of bacon — as opposed to strips that hang off the edges of the burger, as most are served — and my taste buds were more than pleased.
The crunchy, flavorful pickle spear and crispy, salted fries capped it off.
For just over $8, the meal was a good deal, too. I couldn’t quite finish the delicious, half-pound beast The Granville served me.
As we were finishing up, another couple of menu items passed by our sight line in the form of a grilled tuna steak and hand-battered onions rings, the latter of which are another Granville favorite. Those rings looked worthy, indeed.
Greg said he’d also tried the chicken tenders, which he said were hand-breaded and fresh, not the fast-food, straight-from-a-bag versions many bars serve.
The Granville Inn, located at 1601 S. Third St., is open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 a.m., and Sunday, 1 p.m.-4 a.m.