Shack in the Back BBQ makes Fairdale feel not so far away. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

On the recommendation of a friend, I recently took myself to Fairdale to try a little place called Shack in the Back BBQ. I’d actually heard good things about the place the last couple of years, but life is busy, and Fairdale isn’t exactly next door.

Shack in the Back has made that trip seem a lot shorter.

Yep, that’s a log cabin, all right. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

Owned by Mike and Barbara Sivell, the business was a longtime dream of the couple they finally made good on when they came across the mid-1800s log cabin around which the restaurant is built.

It’s a quirky, fun atmosphere, with a small dining room in the cabin itself giving way to a covered patio dining room behind it. It conjures the Bobby Bare song “Ode to the Little Shack Out Back.”

(Well, sort of. That song is actually about an outhouse.)

Decorated with pig statues, Coca-Cola artifacts and other fun items, you walk into the cabin and order at the counter in a room that can quickly get crowded. Hey, it’s a log cabin. Be patient, and you’ll get your turn.

There is a menu affixed to the counter, and a stack of paper menus as well. I would advise grabbing one of those so you know what you want when you order, because Shack in the Back seems to prefer moving folks through quickly.

My girlfriend, Cynthia, and I had just decided our order when our turn came. When the order was taken and paid for, the woman running the counter said, “Your drinks will be in the window.” She pointed me to a small, square portal in the wall behind the counter and, sure enough, moments later a pair of mystery hands scooted two Styrofoam cups through it.

You take those and your assigned table number, and they’ll find you when your food is ready.

The cabin was mostly full, so we decided to go outside to the roomier patio dining room for some quasi-al fresco dining.

It was maybe five minutes before a server came out looking for us and placed two plates of delicious-looking food before us. Cynthia had ordered a pulled pork sandwich with a side order of house-made chips, an order that was just over $5. I went for a quarter rack of pork ribs with sides of baked beans and macaroni ‘n’ cheese, and my order came in around $10.

Pulled pork sandwich and chips | Photo by Kevin Gibson

Cynthia’s sandwich was amply piled with tender pork that I fortunately was given permission to sample. It was delicious even without adding one of the signature house sauces like tangy barbecue (our favorite), hot barbecue or sweet barbecue. There’s also a white lightning sauce that is served with turkey ribs that is well worth trying.

The meat itself was not over-smoked, with the pork flavor taking the lead on the taste buds. The house chips were thick and crunchy, and made wavy to give them sort of a backyard barbecue throwback feel, lightly seasoned and a solid vehicle for sampling the sauces.

I pulled off my first rib, raised it to my mouth to take a bite, and the meat started falling into my plate. No problem. Not sure the last time I had ribs I could eat with a fork, but the bark was delicious, and the tender, juicy meat was a flavor factory. Again, no sauce necessary, although I did use some of the tangy sauce on a few bites.

And I appreciated that a quarter rack was available, given it was lunchtime and I had no desire to gorge myself.

Pork ribs | Photo by Kevin Gibson

The macaroni ‘n’ cheese was thick, sticky and delicious. I now kind of wish I’d gotten some to go because it was just like the stuff your grandmother probably made.

This isn’t Velveeta, folks — Shack in the Back goes the distance. The beans, meanwhile, were on the sweet side for me — tasty, with chunks of green and red pepper, but my least favorite part of the meal (which isn’t exactly a major criticism).

For the price we paid, lunch was a bargain, and the fun atmosphere rounded out a fine experience. The menu is chock full of other items I’d like to try as well, from sides like Nanny’s potato salad and Wild Willie’s coleslaw, to featured items like smoked bologna, burgoo, smoked sausage and smoked wings.

There also are three samplers so you can try a variety of things.

Shack in the Back BBQ, located at 406 Mt. Holly Road in Fairdale, is open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

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,, or feel free to call him names on Twitter: @kgramone.


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