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June 20, 2012

NuLu to open new American eatery: ‘The Dust Bowl’

As a response to the proliferation of prohibition–style speakeasies and cocktail lounges, Louisville is about to experience its own drought-cuisine boutique renaissance: The Dust Bowl.

Mason Dubs III’s shrine to the authentic flavors and despair of the 1930s will snuggle up next to Ghyslain in the vacant property at the corner of Market and Shelby streets.

“This area is so hot right now,” Dubs mused. “You’d have to be crazy to pass up an opportunity to create an experience like this. We’re calling the concept ‘Rural Blight with an Urban Bite.’”

LEO got a sneak peek of the passion project’s new space and its savory, melancholy menu this week.

An old, decaying wooden windmill greeted us as we climbed a wreckage of stones, withered cornhusks and thorn bushes, following Dubs’ bloody footprints to a soiled canvas flag guarding the main entrance. Our guide jimmied a thin, rusted latch open with a crooked, antique switchblade. We walked into the squalid, rank saloon and were handed a welcoming canteen of warm buttermilk to share.

The space is spartan, broken, magnificent, with sumptuous surfaces covered in fur, leather and dirt. A bare, greasy lamp warmly illuminates the room.

Dubs — pale, thin and anemic — presented to us a menu cut from a piece of hide and scented with ruined rainwater.

“Prix Fixe Dinner: squirrel and gravy and potato and beans.”

For an appetizer, the proprietor poured a ration of pillaged, bruised apples from his charred, upturned hat.

“Want some of these?” he croaked, settling into his role.

He sliced the fruits into crescents with his skinny knife, wiped it on his cheek, and folded it together. “Them apples is more trouble than what it’s worth,” he barked with a flourish.

We continued to pass the buttermilk canteen back and forth, pairing it with thin-cut strips of smoked and dried coyote meat.

“This is awful good,” I offered. “But what is going to separate your vision from the rest of the expensive, throwback menus being offered in 2012?”

“A chance to eat bitterly and with solemnity,” Dubs answered. “The thing about patrons in this area is that their spirits are exhausted. That’s why we encourage our visitors to realign their senses by fasting for two days before eating at The Dust Bowl. If our ‘Black Blizzard’ cocktail of cold black coffee, pureed denim, and Grey Goose vodka doesn’t inspire them to greatness, our authentic, antique muzzles for noisy children will.”

The Dust Bowl will be open from cold, broken sunrise to dark, hopeless dusk, and will feature local, seasonal fare.

*This story is part of LEO's Fake Issue.