Louie’s Hot Chicken took over the spot vacated by longtime occupant Lolita’s Tacos. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

For decades, Lolita’s Tacos was a stalwart for delicious, fast Mexican fare, but the business in that quirky little corner space on Poplar Level Road shuttered earlier this year.

Certainly, many will miss the delicious avocado burritos (preferably enchilada-style), but the new tenant, Louie’s Hot Chicken & Barbecue, already is garnering fans.

And for good reason.

The menu is a quick read: Choose from Nashville-style hot chicken on the bone or in tenders form, along with smoked or fried wings, smoked brisket and pulled pork, and a bevy of side items befitting both chicken and barbecue. To look at the selection, it’s nothing terribly impressive.

Hot chicken tenders, Louie’s style. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

No, the first impression comes with the first bite, and from there it’s just a matter of how much you like it. Based on a recent lunch, I’d guess it’s all good and that picking a new favorite — with apologies to the avocado burrito — won’t be easy.

There isn’t formal seating in the tiny space — Lolita’s crammed a few old Wendy’s tables into the “dining room” — as Louie’s is primarily intended for carryout, although on a sunny day, there are several picnic tables outside for enjoying your meal.

Meals are served in to-go containers, either way, and if you stick around, you’ll be using plastic forks and knives.

But the orders come out pretty quickly, even if it’s a little crowded. All you have to be able to do is decide, and that’s the tough part.

I got a three-piece tenders meal, choosing hot from four heat level options, along with sides of green beans and potato salad. I also added a brisket sandwich simply because I’d seen rave reviews online about the brisket. Even with a soft drink added, my meal came to under $20.

I started with the green beans, which were piping hot, and I was immediately sold. Typically, green beans will be lightly seasoned with a few bits of ham or bacon, but these tender beans were loaded with brisket.

Beware, vegetarians, because it looked to me like there was as much brisket fat and meat as there were beans. Absolutely delicious.

The potato salad is a straightforward mix of plump, skin-on, red potatoes and a creamy and tangy base of — best guess — mayonnaise and sour cream, plus a few spices. Simple but spot on.

Other sides include mac and cheese, fries, baked beans and corn on the cob.

You know the feeling of disappointment you get when you order brisket and it’s dry and overly dense? Yeah, you won’t have that feeling at Louie’s.

The brisket sandwich from Louie’s Hot Chicken | Photo by Kevin Gibson

The brisket is sliced, with plenty of fat (flavor, people), plenty of juice and tons of flavor.

Legitimate stuff, and there are quite a few sauce choices. I got sides of the signature Louie’s sauce, a classic red sauce that is smoky-sweet, with plenty of tanginess and just a bit of a kick.

The white sauce is a take on classic Alabama-style sauce, mild yet just peppery enough, with a tang that almost veers into citrusy sourness. That might not sound appealing, but it’s quite tasty. Other sauces include basic red, yellow (assuming that’s mustard-based), ranch and honey mustard.

The chicken heat levels include no heat at all, medium, hot and extra hot. I ordered my tenders at the hot level, and they were just hot enough for my palate, with a pleasing upfront spice and a heat that slowly accumulated.

I’m guessing the extra hot would overtake average palates. But the sauce is delicious, the chicken was plump and fresh-tasting breast meat, and served over a single, ill-fated slice of white bread, topped with pickles. There was plenty of sauce runoff for dipping leftover bread, your fingers or whatever. Speaking of the bread, it soaks up the Nashville sauce to the point that it packs a spicy wallop that outdistances the chicken.

Chicken meals come in a variety of sizes, from two-piece white or dark to a full chicken with three sides. You can also order a meal of three full wings with sides.

I’m all-in on Louie’s, even if I will no doubt occasionally have wistful thoughts of those burritos. But I’m sure a dose of chicken or brisket from Louie’s will help me get past the heartbreak.

Louie’s Hot Chicken & Barbecue, located at 4222 Poplar Level Road, is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Kevin Gibson covers everything from food to music to beer to bourbon. He loves bacon, loathes cucumbers and once interviewed Yoko Ono (pissed her off a little, too). Check out his books, “Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft” and “100 Things to do in Louisville Before You Die.” He has won numerous awards for his work but doesn’t know where most of them are now. In his spare time, he co-hosts a local radio show and plays in a band called the Uncommon Houseflies. Check out his blog, 502Brews.com, or feel free to call him names on Twitter: @kgramone.


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