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May 4, 2011

The Taste Bud: Dairy Kastle keeps it cheap and easy

Perhaps the flooding is finally behind us. To be perfectly honest, I am tired of working on that ark I started building in my back yard last week, and am plenty ready to get the spring and summer under way (as opposed to underwater).

And so as I drove by Dairy Kastle recently and noted the sign that read, “Two chili dogs and medium drink $2.99,” I said to myself, “Self: That has Taste Bud written all over it.”

Dairy Kastle is nearly four decades old and has stood at its corner of Eastern Parkway and Bradley Avenue for the duration, meaning the kids who enjoyed it in the 1970s and ’80s are now bringing their own kids to the curious-looking building with the green-and-gold awning.

Owner George Hayden bought DK from the original owners 11 years ago and hasn’t looked back. “I was just looking around for something small and easy,” he said about his purchase. “Or at least I thought it would be easy when I bought it.”

One notable aspect of the Kastle is that there often are lines, day and night (it is open 11 a.m.-10 p.m., March to October), which is a testament to the consistency in quality and value — where are you going to get better soft serve? And with the amount of residential area around the central Louisville location, just down the road from U of L’s campus, it’s no wonder the place remains a destination for many looking for refreshing summer fare.

The day I went with my friend Kirk, the chili-dog deal was a no-brainer; but I noticed some items on the ice cream menu that sounded intriguing as well (even though I am not into ice cream much): the Brown Cow, which is a root beer float with vanilla ice cream; the Black Cow, the same but with chocolate ice cream; the Orange Cow, which is sherbet and Sprite with ice cream, and perhaps most interestingly, the Fat Elvis.

If you guessed peanut butter and bananas with vanilla ice cream, you know your Elvis culture. Hayden said the Fat Elvis is actually fairly healthy. Although there is an alternative. “Some of the U of L students like it with chocolate ice cream, so they ask for a ‘Black Elvis,’” Hayden said. “Although, that may not be the most PC way to phrase it.”

Anyway, prices for these bad boys start at around $2, which falls in line with most items at Dairy Kastle: great taste, great value. Hell, this ice cream stand and eatery is a Taste Bud’s dream come true. You can also get a taco in a bag for about $1.50, which is essentially taco meat, cheese, salsa and sour cream dumped on a bag of Fritos.

I got my chili dogs with shredded cheese, mustard and fresh chopped onions, and they did not disappoint: two good-sized wieners on fresh buns, piled with toppings, all washed down with an ice cold Pepsi. The chili wasn’t terribly spicy, but the mustard blended in to make up the difference, and the crunchy onions added to the goodness.

“All this for three bucks?” mused my buddy Kirk as we sat at one of the concrete tables to enjoy our lunch on the first sunny afternoon in a long while.

“The whole menu is a value menu,” our friend Hayden said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

He noted that he discovered Dairy Kastle when he came to Louisville in 1974 to attend U of L — which, coincidentally, is when DK opened. “When you’re in college and looking for something cheap to eat, it’s nice to find a place.”

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