River Road BBQ soon will unveil food cooked in a new, eight-foot-tall smoker (at left). | Photo by Kevin Gibson

A small local barbecue restaurant just got a really big barbecue pit.

River Road BBQ recently installed a new 8-foot-tall, 1,500-pound, open-air pit at the restaurant’s location near Louisville Water Tower Park.

The unique pit, which the River Road BBQ staff has dubbed “The Temple of Fire,” was a project designed and completed by the restaurant owner Jon Gudmundsson and Sherman Blankenship of Iron Touch Designs. The pit is the only one of its kind in the Louisville area, according to a news release. It joins one of the restaurant’s original pits (“The Old Guy”) and a five-ton pit (“The Beast”) which sits outside the restaurant along River Road.

The Temple of Fire. | Photo courtesy of River Road BBQ

The old smokers will still be used for smoking pork butt and ribs, while the new fire pit will enable River Road BBQ to expand its offerings to larger cuts of meat like whole pig, legs of lamb, duck, goat and other specialty meats. It will also offer the option to cook meats with different flavor profiles, such as smoked chicken and salmon, which Gudmundsson jokes, “are practically vegetables.”

Smoked chicken will be the first regular addition, the release stated. The pit may soon be home to fire-side dinner gatherings and other special events. It will be “christened” on Friday, Oct. 26, with a private event.

Currently, the River Road BBQ menu focuses on barbecue classics like brisket, pulled pork, chopped chicken and ribs. Other items include smoked chorizo and other sausages as well as tacos. A house sauce created by Gudmundsson and house slaw and other sides help round out the offerings. The new pit is designed to become a focal point of the business.

“The whole point of this thing is to draw people in,” Gudmundsson said in the press announcement. “I can’t think of a better thing to congregate around than meat and fire. That’s why I call it ‘The Temple;’ it’s a place for people who love meat to gather.”

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Kevin Gibson
Kevin Gibson tackles the 3Rs — retail, restaurants, real estate — plus, economic development. He loves bacon, loathes cucumbers and once interviewed Yoko Ono. 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 plays in a band called the Uncommon Houseflies. Email Kevin at [email protected]