New barbecue joint is booming

By Keren Henderson Published:

STAXX BBQ
Location: 11 Carson Place
Phone: 502-352-2515
Website: StaxxBBQ.com
Hours: Sunday through Thursday: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Catering: Available for parties of 50 or more. Call Karen at 502-219-0433.

Former Blood-Horse editor Dan Liebman’s placed a winning bet.

Frankfort is hungry for good barbecue.

The greats – Pink Pig and Capital Barbecue – went out years ago, and Liebman figured it was time to revive the popular fare.

Liebman and Chef Tommy Walters partnered to open Staxx BBQ in May on Carson Place – the lunch crowd is sometimes so large that there’s no place in the lot to park.

Walters, a lifelong chef and founder of Furlongs and Furlongs Catering, says Staxx is a hit because people love barbecue, and his recipes get it right.

“We season our meat and let it sit for a couple of days – each cut has a different process and seasoning,” said Walters, who learned the trade from his chef father in Louisiana.

“Dad used to barbecue every weekend,” Walters said.

When it comes to catering, Walters has done it all and says barbecue may be his favorite because of how long the process takes. His cooks use propane and wood to smoke the pulled pork, sliced brisket, smoked turkey, smoked chicken and ribs.
Walters is equally committed to the sides.

“I taste everything every day,” he said, pointing to a menu of homemade sides: potato salad, coleslaw, mac ‘n’ cheese, green beans, baked beans, French fries and sweet potato fries. “That’s a lot of food.”

Baked beans are the most popular, though Walters is partial to the coleslaw and potato salad.

What makes Staxx unique is all that’s offered from a single location, Liebman says. They offer dine-in, carryout, drive-thru and catering.

The catering side of their business isn’t just barbecue.

“We can do anything,” Liebman says. “With Tommy as our experienced chef, our catering doesn’t have to be barbecue. If people want beef Wellington, if they want us to roast a pig, we can do it.”

Liebman, who grew up in Frankfort, and Walters, who came to Kentucky as an adult, became friends 20 years ago – they met through the thoroughbred industry. Liebman formerly worked as a reporter for The State Journal and was editor of the

Blood-Horse in Lexington. Walters catered several events for the horse industry.

Through the years, they’ve thrown several events together, and partygoers leave praising the food, they say. Liebman’s a cook in his own right and has always considered opening a restaurant.

With his departure from the magazine, he and Walters decided it was time to take a gamble on Staxx.

Part of their recipe for success is large portions and affordability, they say.

“I want anyone to be able to come in here and feel comfortable,” Liebman said. “I want a construction worker or someone from the National Guard to be able to come in here and feel like they’re paying a reasonable price.”

Sandwich combos are less than $7. Dinners are more pricey.

And they want people to feel at home. For that, they relied on the creative direction of Susan Knoll, Liebman’s partner. Knoll grew up on a farm in Switzer and is now a practicing attorney.

“Susan did everything,” Walters said. He named the restaurant in honor of Stax Records – a Memphis, Tenn., label that played a key role in Southern soul and Memphis soul in the 1960s, which is why patrons eat their barbecue to the sound of jazz and blues.

Knoll ran with the theme.

“I had collected research on Stax Recording Studio and found the artists who recorded there, and I found all these different Stax records and posters and pulled it all together as a tribute,” she said.

She also covered the walls with old photos, Frankfort celebrities, items from each high school, the horse industry and Kentucky State University. Even her old cheerleading jacket from Franklin County High School made the cut.

Some patrons have been surprised to find themselves in the old photos, Liebman said.

“Having lived here almost my whole life, it’s gratifying to have started something in your hometown and have this kind of support,” he said.

And there’s one thing that tips him off to the fact that Staxx has staying power.

“We’re seeing lots of kids come back,” he said. “When you see kids coming back, you know you’ve got a great little barbecue joint, because they’re talking to their parents and saying, ‘We want to go to Staxx.’”

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