A family-owned restaurant is giving Central Kentucky customers a change of pace from chopped kale salad and truffle oil over everything by serving a casual steakhouse experience, complete with a salad bar.
Cattleman’s Roadhouse, owned by Shelbyville natives Bill Hisle and his nephew Stuart Meredith, has locations in Frankfort, Shepherdsville, Mt. Sterling, Shelbyville, Georgetown and Louisville. The Shelbyville location was the first, opening in 2005. The men said the business is always looking to expand, and they’re considering Danville and Winchester.
Each restaurant has seating for about 240 people and offers a casual dining experience, a bar and a salad bar, Hisle said.
The men have been in the restaurant business together before. In fact, Meredith’s father was a chef, Memel Meredith, and guided Hisle early in his career. Hisle used to work with Grisanti Company in Louisville before it shut down.
They owned the now-closed Bistro 535 in Shelbyville which, Hisle said, sold a lot of steaks. With Bistro 535 gone, Shelbyville lacked a casual steakhouse. So Hisle decided to open one.
Not long after, Jim Beam came calling. The Shepherdsville bourbon distillery was getting ready to open a new tourist center and wanted Cattleman’s to open a place nearby for visitors to have a place to eat and drink. All Cattleman’s now carry Jim Beam products.
Naming the restaurant was one of the hardest challenges to overcome in the beginning, Hisle said. The best advice he got came from someone who worked in advertising and suggested he should choose a name that sounds like it was a chain. Thus, Cattleman’s Roadhouse was chosen.
“People don’t come off the interstate for a ‘mom and pop’ place,” Hisle said.
When it comes to its food, Cattleman’s prides itself on serving Kentucky Proud brands. While Cattleman’s is known for steaks and salad, some of its popular dishes include Moonshine Chicken, fresh and never frozen chicken tenders called Scratch Tenders and Tony’s Country Fried Steak, which was featured on the Cooking Channel’s Kix Brooks “Great American Steak Out.”
The decor features Bluegrass signage, like the large metal Kentucky sign that hangs on the wall near the salad bar in the Georgetown location.
“We are just a couple of Kentucky boys,” Hisle said.
Each location has the same hours, menu and deals, which provides consistency for customers. For example, two Early Bird menu special includes a meal that feeds two for $22 and a meal that feeds two for $24. Both include entree options and a trip to the salad bar, but the $24 option includes two entrees of steak. The Early Bird Specials are from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and all day on Sunday.
Also, the restaurant offer a frequent buyer card.
It took the company awhile to learn the importance of consistency and the importance of offering the same experience at each location. The restaurant has done nothing but grow since opening, Hisle said, adding he believes the restaurant is only as good as the last dinner it serves at the end of the night.
The quality of the food served at Cattleman’s has helped make it successful, Hisle said. Cattleman’s uses 30-day aged in-house certified Angus beef that’s hand cut. Burgers are made of Aspen Ridge All Natural Beef that is certified humanely raised and without antibiotics, he said.
While it costs more to use high quality steaks, the franchise’s sales took off when it invested in the high quality beef.
Though some may remember the salad bar trend as a thing of the past in the restaurant industry, Hisle said he was inspired to re-create a fresh salad bar at each Cattleman’s location from restaurants such as The Peddler Steakhouse in Gaitlinburg, Tenn. (one review on Yelp.com cites the salad bar as “a meal on its own”), and the now closed Fifth Quarter in Louisville.
Vern Eswine, president of the Marketing Company in New Albany, Ind., has worked with Cattleman’s for about four years. He said Hisle and Meredith are about “steak, salad bar and service.”
“They take it to heart. That’s what makes them successful,” Eswine said.
Hisle is hoping to expand into other locations and, apparently, it won’t be a problem. Cattleman’s has been recruited by several small towns that, like Shelbyville, saw a need for a steakhouse, Hisle said.
Usually, a mayor of a small town or the town’s economic development team eats at an existing Cattleman’s and then calls the restaurant’s management, he said. Once the call comes, representatives from Cattleman’s scope out the town and decide if it could be a potential restaurant location.
Executive Director of the Mt. Sterling-Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce Sandy Romenesko said the restaurant, located off I-64, has been continuously busy since opening a few years ago.
“They have maintained their quality and service and have been very successful here,” Romenesko said. “They have drawn people from surrounding counties into Mt. Sterling and lots of interstate folks as well.”
Scott County Sheriff Tony Hampton was eating at the Georgetown’s Cattleman’s last week with some other law enforcement officials who were in town for a meeting. Hampton, who calls himself a fan of the restaurant having eaten at several locations, said he hopes Cattleman’s continues to be successful and grow.
“Cattleman’s is the only true steakhouse we have in Georgetown,” Hampton said.
Grant County Sheriff Chuck Dills, who was eating with Hampton last week, said his county could benefit from having a Cattleman’s and that the mayor of Dry Ridge has reached out to the restaurant to open a location there.
If you go
All Cattleman’s Roadhouses have the same hours: Sun.-Thu., 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Locations include Shelbyville, Frankfort, Shepherdsville, Mount Sterling, Louisville and Georgetown.