Sweet and salty heaven at Texas-style barbecue gem
BY KATE JONUSKA | PHOTOS BY PHIL MUMFORD
Published in the Fall/Winter 2017 Boulder Magazine
The change from Phillips 66 gas station to neighborhood restaurant was not as drastic as you might think in the case of LuLu’s BBQ. The pull-throughs may be the patio and the garage doors are now used for ventilation and decoration, but owner Kevin Herrington made sure to keep his barbecue joint firmly blue-collar and accessible—and he always fills up his customers.
“We’re trying to be simple and unpretentious,” says Herrington about the restaurant’s pie-plate serving dishes, the cornhole games out back and LuLu’s signature beer-can cozies. “Salt-of-the earth people are the ones who created barbecue, and I think salt-of-the earth people are the most likely to appreciate what we’re doing here.”
Livening up the corner of Main and Pine streets in Louisville for six years now, LuLu’s BBQ focuses on Texas-style barbecue, which basically smokes down to worshipping your proteins—brisket, pork, chicken, sausage and even turkey— not over-saucing and following in the footsteps of greatness.
“This is Roy Perez of Kreuz Market, keeping it traditional with sawdust on the floor and his 100-year-old blade,” says Herrington, pointing out one of many photos of renowned chefs and restaurateurs hanging on LuLu’s walls, among the vintage petroleum memorabilia and pin-up girls that evoke the building’s gas-station past. “We’re basically in our infancy compared to these kind of places, but they’re my inspiration to maybe one day be a place like that, a place with history.”
Meat Speaks for Itself
With ribs and burnt ends that sell out most days, and regular customers coming from all over Boulder County and Denver, LuLu’s cooking proves the restaurant can find a place among those greats. The ribs ($17/ half rack, $28/full) slide easily off the bone, the pork is pulled into strands that melt in your mouth ($14/plate, $11-$11.50/sandwiches) and the brisket is cooked tender but remains meaty, as if reminding you it’s beef ($16/plate, $11/sandwich).
“We focus on letting the meat speak for itself,” says executive chef and general manager Graham Atkinson, who stresses that there’s no need to order sauce on the side at LuLu’s. Only the ribs and the smoked chicken ($14/plate) get the lightest brushing before their final caramelizing finish in the smoker. Otherwise, proteins are infused with flavor via a variety of housemade spice rubs and served naked, allowing customers to add whatever amount they want of LuLu’s three sauces, all based on Herrington family recipes.
The main house sauce is tomato-based, sweetened with brown sugar and molasses, and it drips shiny and thick over your meat of choice like tangy maple syrup. It’s equally effective on LuLu’s smoked tofu ($11.50), which is marinated, breaded, fried and served on a bed of sliced avocado. The hot version of the sauce adds chile flakes and chile extract to kick up the spiciness without changing the flavor. The third is a vinegar-based zesty mustard, especially delicious on the chicken.
Of course, both red and green chilis are on the menu. They are sold solo ($7/bowl) and as Mac ’n’ Chili (with noodles, $10) and can be added to the BBQ Nachos ($2 upcharge). These nachos ($10) are a legend in their own right, made with house-fried, gluten-free corn chips topped with your choice of meat, onion, jalapeños and the house cheese sauce, which is composed of white Cheddar and old-fashioned, blue-collar, creamy-goodness Velveeta. That cheese sauce also accompanies the fluffy sweet-potato tots that are LuLu’s elevation of more typical French fries.
Coming from a more traditional culinary background, chef Atkinson has come to adore the barbecue ethos and the flavor imparted by LuLu’s smoker, which sends delicious smells through the restaurant and its yards (plural, because there’s seating in front and in back). He also likes the specials board, which allows him to take other cuisines that inspire him and meld them with barbecue. His Korean short ribs have been a hit, and his chile-rubbed New York strip steak topped with tomato compound butter suggests a delicious deconstruction of classic red chili.
All that delicious barbecue certainly leaves you thirsty, and the restaurant’s bar program does not disappoint. In addition to canned and draft beers—local brewers take over the taps on Thursdays during special promotions—LuLu’s specializes in margaritas. Its signature drink, the Texas Slush [$7], is half frozen homemade margarita and half Boulder Upslope craft lager.
Herrington understands that Colorado doesn’t have an established local barbecue culture, but then again, many Boulder County residents aren’t originally from Colorado.
“We have a lot of people transplanted from Texas and other places that are looking for good barbecue,” says the Oklahoma native, “but it’s not on every corner here, and there’s a limited amount of people who do it right. People say LuLu’s is the next best thing to home. We take pride that we can feel we’re one of the top places around Colorado.”
LuLu’s BBQ (720-583-1789, http://www.lulus-bbq.com) is located at 701B Main St., Louisville
80027. The restaurant is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays-Wednesdays and 11 a.m.-
10 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays. The kitchen may close earlier when meat sells out, but
the bar is usually open later on weekends.
Published in the Fall/Winter 2017 Boulder Magazine.