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  • Writer's pictureTamara Schneider

BBQ Love Shack

Updated: Sep 11, 2019

Just for fun, I Googled which states are known for their BBQ. Guess what? Kentucky is not on the list of the best 8 states for BBQ according to the folks at Escape Here. I was shocked that we didn’t make the list! After dining at Shack in the Shack BBQ in Fairdale, Kentucky, I feel the need to write those folks a letter or, better yet, send them straight to Shack in the Back so they can taste for themselves the marvelous meats. I know, for sure, Kentucky would then be placed on that list. Let me tell you about our experience and perhaps entice you to take the trip to this little gem of a place that seems out of the way, but really is only 10 minutes from Louisville.

Shack in the Back BBQ sits just off Mount Holly Road in Fairdale, Kentucky. It’s considered a neighborhood of Louisville due to the merger that happened in 2003 between the city and Jefferson County’s unincorporated community. In short, you feel like you’re out in the country, but you could be at the Louisville International Airport in 20 minutes. That’s my kind of town! And doesn’t the best BBQ come from roadside establishments? This isn’t just any shack, though. This is an authentic 1896 log cabin, and it gives you good vibes from the moment you pull into the parking lot.

I’m not sure which part to talk about next, the food or the story behind it; they’re both equally compelling. Let me start with the food because that’s what we started with when we got to Shack in the Back. After looking over the menu, Leigh and I were having a hard time trying to decide what to get, so we were thrilled when we were told that they were just going to bring out a little bit of everything. Ok! Problem solved. While we waited, we took in our quaint surroundings. A relatively small place, it has approximately seven or eight tables, photographs and memorabilia hanging from the walls, with country-themed valances hanging over the windows. If you’re tall, watch your head as the ceilings are low. Just out the door and a few steps away is another, much larger room that holds the overflow and provides the space for bands to play on Saturday nights. We chose to sit in the cabin to get the full feel of old-fashioned real pit BBQ.

The first things we were offered were their spicy pickles. Now, I’m not a huge pickle fan. In fact, I’m the person who asks my friends if they want the pickle that is sometimes served with sandwiches at places. Not wanting to seem ungrateful, however, I plopped those pickles in my mouth, but instead of hurrying up and swallowing them whole, I started chewing and got excited by the freshness of the sweet pickles. They had a little heat, but not enough to make me want to spit them out or call for a glass of milk. They were perfect! I could probably eat a whole jar of them. Good thing they sell them by the jar. Following the pickles, we were offered small cups of their burgoo. Burgoo, for those non-Kentuckians, is a thick stew made of poultry and other vegetables and meats, and let me tell you, these folks know how to do it right. It was delicious!

Shortly afterwards, there appeared a large tray with several bowls of steaming, mouth-watering food, and I’m sure the other diners were thinking, “Dang, those girls are hungry!” There on the table before us was a BBQ lover’s dream: brisket, chicken, turkey, and pulled pork, mac & cheese, potato salad, smoked baked beans, skillet fried corn, and green beans. We were told that the meat is smoked long and slow, and the side dishes are all homemade, but the best part was their lineup of sauces. I’m a sauce girl, so this quickly caught my attention and I was eager to try them all. They offer a Sweet or Hot BBQ, Sweet Sop, White Lightnin’ or Tangy Mustard. They were all great! Asking to pick a favorite would be like asking which of my children I loved the most. They sell the sauce by the bottle, so you can take them all with you or, even better, give them away as gifts!

Since dessert is what I live for, I knew I had to try the peanut butter pie. What I don’t know is how I ended up eating all that food, plus the delicious dessert. I told Leigh we had been training our whole lives for this, so we couldn’t stop now! It was just the right amount of peanut butter and chocolate with whipped cream, a chocolate drizzle and crushed nuts on top. I took a picture for you all. You’re welcome! Leigh had the banana pudding, another BBQ picnic staple, and exclaimed it was yummy, too. As if there were any doubt!

We devoured the food in a short amount of time, washing it down with sweet tea like good Southern girls. It really was spectacular food, but getting to sit down with Barbara Sivells, who owns the place along with her husband, Mike, and hearing her tell the story of how Shack in the Back BBQ came to be was really the piece de resistance. I’m a sucker for a good love story and they have a great one. Working together at a Radisson Hotel, she as a waitress, he as a bellman, they fell for one another. He shared with her his dream of having a BBQ restaurant because growing up in Hopkinsville, there seemed to be one on every corner, and Mike knew he had to have a place of his own. For 17 years they worked and started their family, juggled two jobs, but kept the dream alive by driving around looking for the perfect place to start their restaurant. When the 1896 log cabin that formerly housed a florist came up for lease, they knew instantly that was the place. They threw everything they had into turning the cabin into a restaurant, and opened Shack in the Back BBQ in September of 2006. Since then, they continue to work full-time, hands-on. Many of the employees have been with them for a very long time, so they all feel like family, and that’s exactly how you will feel when you step inside, like family.

Their business is brisk. They offer catering as well, so if you have an upcoming reunion or family celebration of any type, be sure to give them a call. And speaking of calling, go ahead and place an order by phone, and then swing through their pick-up window so you can get home and start eating as quickly as possible. You won’t be able to resist that smell for very long. Your family and friends will know how much you care when you serve them this delicious barbeque. And let’s help spread the word about Shack in the Back BBQ. Like them on Facebook. Let’s make them go viral. Maybe then we can get Kentucky put on the list of best BBQ states in the U.S.A!

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