On Monday, July 18, the Olé Restaurant Group led by chef/owner Fernando Martinez opened its latest eatery, Red Barn Kitchen (8131 New LaGrange Road), a chef-driven southern barbecue concept in Lyndon.
No stranger to the restaurant business, Martinez is the driving force behind Olé Groups’ successful Louisville-based restaurants Mussel & Burger Bar, Artesano Vino Tapas Y Mas, Guaca Mole Cocina Mexicana (9921 Ormsby Station Rd) , Mercato Italiano (10640 Meeting St.) and El Taco Luchador.
If Martinez’s newest venture seems like a departure from Olé’s other concepts that’s because it is. “I’m always looking for a challenge,” Martinez says. “I’m at home in the kitchen and never stop trying new styles and dishes. Olé Restaurant Group, our partnership, we are always trying to push ourselves. We try to tackle a variety of cuisines. I thought there was room for a great barbecue and Southern restaurant here in Louisville.”
Martinez hired Reed Johnson, formerly of Wiltshire Pantry and Against the Grain, as Executive Chef, and the two designed the concept and menu.
“Reed Johnson is a really impressive guy,” says Martinez. “He has an intense passion for smoking meat and home cooking.”
Originally from Madisonville in Western Kentucky, Johnson learned the secrets of southern cuisine and refined his smoking techniques at a young age. The two collaborated in the kitchen to develop a menu that includes: shrimp and grits with country ham and shellfish broth, BLT with pimento cheese and fried green tomatoes, a country ham pork chop, mac & cheese with cheese curds, and of course, plenty of meat options like pork, pork ribs, beef brisket and beef ribs smoked on two Southern Pride smokers.
“We’ve installed these amazing smokers, and we’re using hickory, cherry, and oak for flavor,” says Martinez.
“I had a blast developing this menu,” he continues. “Reed and I hunkered down in our kitchen in the basement of Mussel and Burger Bar in J-town for several months. It was a great collaboration that I think people are really going to enjoy. There’s no pretension to it, just good food.”
Martinez is especially excited about the fried chicken. “There’s a lot of people in Louisville doing hot chicken now, but it’s surprising how few do fried chicken. I’d put our bone-in fried chicken up against anyone,” he says.
In addition to food, Red Barn Kitchen will offer custom moonshine cocktails, an extensive bourbon list, and eventually 52 beers on tap ranging from domestic pilsners, to local craft brews.
New Restaurant, Old Space
Red Barn Kitchen not only introduces a new concept to Lyndon but a new space. The restaurant is located in the former neighborhood staple restaurant/bar Joe’s Older than Dirt.
“I’ve known the owner of the building, Don Blackburn, for over a decade. He owned Joe’s,” says Martinez. “He approached me about doing something in the space a while ago. He worked on me long enough that I eventually agreed.”
Martinez is happy to have a property in Lyndon. “Lyndon is a great community,” he says. “I think we will draw a loyal customer base there. We’re also situated near St. Matthews, Hurstbourne, Middletown and Anchorage. The food and the approachable atmosphere will bring people in.”
Olé completely overhauled the space, but did retain some of the rustic charm of Joe’s. Diners will notice more refined touches like mason jar chandeliers, wood paneling and outdoor hanging patio lighting. “We have transformed the place with some amazing renovations,” says Martinez. “The patio is great. One of the biggest in the city.” Look for live country and bluegrass music acts to come.
Martinez considers this his most approachable restaurant, to date. “This is southern home cooking and barbecue from a chef’s perspective. I’m very proud of the way the menu has come together,” he says.
When it comes to new restaurants, Martinez doesn’t slow down. When asked what restaurant concept Louisville needs most, Martinez is quick to answer Peruvian.
“Louisville could use an excellent Peruvian restaurant. Peruvian Cuisine is one of the hottest cuisines in the world right now, with some of the best restaurant and chef coming out of Peru,” he says.
Don’t put it past Martinez to bring some of Peru to Louisville in the future.
Red Barn Kitchen hours are 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Eventually the restaurant plans to expand to lunch service, including Saturday and Sunday brunch.