Bruce Kalman’s Soulbelly BBQ makes its debut in the Gateway District in Downtown Las Vegas, sandwiched between two breweries. Kalman, who moved to Las Vegas from Los Angeles in 2019, appeared on Season 15 of Top Chef and gained a following for his restaurant Union in Pasadena, California, and Knead & Co. Pasta Bar + Market in LA’s Grand Central Market.
When he first moved to Vegas, his goal was to open an Italian restaurant with LEV Group at Tivoli Village. He scrapped those plans to switch to a barbecue restaurant with Richard Camarota, the former executive chef at Sage, that leans more on Kalman’s take on smoked meats and less on being a pitmaster. A chance meeting with Dave Grohl, the frontman for the Foo Fighters and Backbeat BBQ founder, convinced Kalman to explore barbecue.
Soulbelly takes over a 2,916-square-foot space between HUDL Brewing Co. and Nevada Brew Works. It will make full use of the recently installed 1,581-square-foot patio sitting right on Main Street, located next to the outdoor smokehouse.
Kalman, who held a number of pop-up events to introduce Las Vegas to his food and test out dishes, serves salt and pepper brisket, Carolina pulled pork, chipotle cider-glazed drumsticks, pork spare ribs, burnt ends, Hatch chile made in house, cheddar hot links, and Texas sausages. On the side, customers can order mac and cheese with chicharrón breadcrumbs, corn casserole, collard greens, or coleslaw, or a bar menu with rotating bites including pigs in a blanket, Frito pie, pickled eggs, chicharrón chips, or pimento cheese dip. Disco fries with pulled pork, pickle-brined fried chicken, and a smoked burger also find a home at the restaurant. Desserts such as banana pudding and cookie bars, as well as pies from PopNpies, made by pastry chef Andrea McLean, formerly of Joël Robuchon, round out the menu.
For drinks, Kalman focuses on American beers such as Lone Star and Shiner, alongside local brews, such as neighbor HUDL Brewing, which is making Charred & Shifty, an American red made with Garrison Brothers Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey barrel ashes in the mash. The bar also features sweet tea sangria and the Lunch Box, a blend of beer, amaretto, and orange juice, along with 37 whiskeys and bourbons.
Kalman converted a former automotive garage into the restaurant space with an original half royal blue painted wall and murals on each side of the dining room that showcase iconic figures such as the queen of Texas barbecue and pitmaster Tootsie Tomanetz and Southern musicians including Koko Taylor and Buddy Guy. The space features a 16-by-8 foot stage for live music, along with Soulbelly BBQ’s mascot, an antique metal pig now named “Lambchop,” and a vintage beverage cooler parked near the front of the restaurant, which houses the canned and bottled beverages.
• All Coverage of Soulbelly BBQ [ELV]