The $10 Challenge: Mark’s Feed Store

I lived in Louisville for 17 years, but there was a lot of stuff I missed.

I didn’t discover all the shops along Bardstown Road until freshman year of college. I didn’t go to the Kentucky Derby until I was assigned to cover the event for the Lexington Herald-Leader two years ago. And I drove on Frankfort Avenue for the first time in February.

But the latest $10 Challenge made me hang my head in shame.

How could I spend the most formidable years of my life in Louisville, yet miss out on the greatness that is Mark’s Feed Store?

Sure, I had heard of Mark’s Feed Store. But for the longest time, I thought the business was a livestock supply company. So color me surprised when a friend told me about the great and inexpensive barbecue on which she feasted at Mark’s Feed Store. Those context clues were enough to inform me that:

  1. Mark’s Feed Store feeds people, not animals.
  2. The restaurant was ripe for a $10 Challenge.

Mark’s Feed Store has been serving up barbecue in Louisville since 1988, according to the company’s website. It’s been successful enough to spread to three locations in the city and one in New Albany, Ind. With a motto like theirs – “Friendly Folks Servin’ Famous Food” – it would have been a sin to keep living life without trying Mark’s meals.

Mama Eats and I stopped in the Dixie Highway location after a trip to the neighboring Feeders Supply on a recent Saturday night. Families were waiting for tables at the bar, in the entryway and on the benches outside, but the hostess gave us a table in less than five minutes.

It was difficult to get my bearings during my first trip to Mark’s. I felt like I had been plopped in the middle of a hoe-down. The interior resembles the inside of a barn. I saw at least one American flag. The tables were covered in blue gingham.

Oddly, I loved it all. Those are the things that should be at a barbecue restaurant, a place where it is acceptable and encouraged to eat with your hands. And the menu provides lots of opportunities to do so.

The menu seems guaranteed to leave fingers sticky and coated in one of Mark’s three signature sauces that sit at each table – original, red or hot. The combo section of the menu caters to the eater who just can’t decide. There’s one combination that includes pork, beef, Honeywings and babyback ribs ($13.99); one with babyback ribs, chicken breast and barbecue pork ($15.99); and another with 13 Honeywings ($10.99). All of the combinations come with Texas toast and two sides, so there is enough to satisfy big appetites.

The sandwich and burger platters and baskets are more reasonable in size while still providing variety. Barbecue sandwiches, which contain pork, beef or chicken, can be ordered with platters ($7.49) come with coleslaw and spicy fries, and baskets ($6.49) come with just the spicy fries. And there’s a couple of surprises at this barbecue joint, such as the wild salmon burger ($7.49) and a bacon barbecue cheeseburger ($8.49).

I decided to keep my meal basic with a barbecue pork sandwich platter and replaced the spicy fries with baked beans.

In the words of Emeril, pork fat rules.

The sandwich was everything that good barbecue should be. The pork was shredded, tender and piled high on a soft bun. The meat was smoky and tangy, especially with a couple of swirls of the original and red barbecue sauce. Thank goodness for the roll of paper towels sitting at the table because I had no shame in picking up stray pieces of the delicate meat that fell off the bun. The coleslaw was as crisp as the meat was tender. The dish was more like a salad than I’m used to. The beans were thick and seasoned with pieces of barbecued meat – just the way I like them.

Mama Eats ordered the same platter but with baked apples instead of coleslaw. It was a sweet compliment to the savory barbecue. The apples were still firm and wonderfully flavored. I was tempted to eat more than a small bite, but she enjoyed them as much as I did and ate them all.

I’m sad that I let so many years pass without enjoying Mark’s Feed Store. With such a great selection, tasty food and good prices, I will make sure I make up for lost time.

Notes about Mark’s Feed Store:

  • Mark’s sells its barbecue sauce. It’s a worthy investment if you are into barbecuing at home.
  • There are lots of specials throughout the week, such as a free dessert for dine-in customers on Mondays, and kids eat free on Tuesdays.

The Stats:

  • Mark’s Feed Store, 10316 Dixie Highway, Louisville, Ky. (three other locations in Louisville and New Albany, Ind.)
  • Barbecue pork sandwich platter with baked beans and coleslaw: $7.49
  • Total (with tax and tip): $9

Mission: Accomplished

7 thoughts on “The $10 Challenge: Mark’s Feed Store

  1. Beautiful post, Ashlee. There’s so much to do/eat/try/experience in Louisville, and I’ll never get it done from Lexington, but I love living vicariously through your clear thinking and fine writing about your adventures.

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