Top Chef, Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay alumnus and James Beard-nominated Chef Bruce Kalman worked at prestigious kitchens in NJ, NYC, Chicago and became known for his time at and ownership of L.A.’s Knead & Co. Pasta Bar + Market and Pasadena’s UNION. Now he’s gracing Las Vegas with his talents and earlier this year opened Soulbelly BBQ, his first Las Vegas restaurant.
When asked about venturing from fine dining to BBQ he explained it stemmed from a catering job for Dave Grohl that led to a friendship and several backyard barbeques with the Foo Fighters frontman.
Chef added that his friendship with local chef James Trees (owner of Esther’s Kitchen and Al Solito Posto) helped convince him to move to Las Vegas and also to venture further into BBQ.
Sandwiched in between local breweries Nevada Brew Works and HUDL Brewing in the heart of the Downtown Arts District, the restaurant is set in a former automotive garage and the décor features murals by local artists showcasing Queen of Texas BBQ Tootsie Tomanetz and musicians Koko Taylor and Buddy Guy and a rustic environment with tables, benches and bartop made from reclaimed wood.
Another focal part of the room is a stage with a legit sound system where local bands play two to three nights a week.
The menu includes smoker dishes salt & pepper brisket, Carolina pulled pork, chipotle cider glazed drumsticks, pork spare ribs, pork & cheddar hot links and Texas sausages; sides such as corn casserole (chef’s mother’s recipe!), mac and cheese with chicharrón breadcrumbs, Frito pie and collard greens; and desserts including housemade banana pudding and an appropriately named ooey gooey cookie bar.
As for beverages to complement the excellent BBQ, I can’t think of a better option than beer, and there’s plenty of it here. In addition to a bevy of brews from local breweries including Big Dog’s, CraftHaus, Lovelady and Tenaya Creek, there’s a beer brewed just for Soulbelly right next door at HUDL. Called Charred & Shifty, it’s a 6% American amber ale aged with ash—slivers of oak chips supplied by Kalman from a Garrison Brothers bourbon barrel soaked in bourbon—which I found to be an excellent companion to chef’s phenomenal BBQ offerings.
Soulbelly is open from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Tue.-Sun.
1327 S Main Street, Las Vegas, NV 89104…702-483-4404… www.soulbellybbq.com