September 13, 2016

Guy Fieri got his start in Louisville by taking over one of our bars

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Louisville, KY - Finally, Fieri.

There's been talk about a Guy Fieri restaurant in Louisville for years now. That restaurant, called Guy Fieri's Smokehouse, opened this weekend at the former Sully's space at Fourth Street Live.

If you're not familiar with the name, Fieri is the host of "Guy's Big Bite," "Guy's Grocery Games" and "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives," all on the Food Network.

Monday night I sat down at the new restaurant and tried a few dishes during a media event, including tuna tacos, a bacon cheeseburger with macaroni and cheese on it and ribs that were smoked for about two hours in the eatery's custom smoker. The latter was probably my favorite, as they were seasoned with a rub that offered a bit of texture and spice to each bite.

But I'm not much of a food critic. And I found that Fieri's story about how he came to open a Louisville restaurant is as tasty as the food itself.

Turns out Fieri has a few friends here, including John Schnatter, founder of Papa John's International Inc., with whom he attended the Kentucky Derby in recent years. It was such Derby trips that got him thinking about opening a restaurant here, he told me in an interview.

One recent Derby— he couldn't remember which — he was looking for a place to throw an after party for some celebrity friends. While staying at the Downtown Louisville Marriott, he met with the manager of Sports & Social Club and asked if he could put together a party.

"Then I went in and commandeered the kitchen, started bringing food in, started cooking with the guys in the back," he said. Some were commenting that a place for him in Louisville would do really well.

Time will tell on that prediction.

Guy Fieri's Smokehouse has 6,700 square feet of dining space, including 117 interior seats and 79 outdoor seats. The place was busy last night — especially for a Monday — but it's still new.

Today, Fieri is working closely with the operator of Sports & Social Club and Fourth Street Live — Baltimore-based The Cordish Cos.— to bring Guy Fieri's Smokehouse locations to a handful of its operations, starting in Louisville.

"These guys are no bullshit," he said of Cordish. "They are real-deal restaurant operators."

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