The Louisville bakery and cafe serves local ingredients along with a side of history
By Linnea Covington
Though the striking purple exterior walls of The Huckleberry bring to mind the flavorful fruit, the bakery and cafe was actually named after the title character in the book “Huckleberry Finn,” and as an homage to a beloved family cat named Finn.
“It seemed to be a wholesome name, and Huckleberry Finn, being a down-home adventurer that’s a fun-loving dude, it matches with us since we aren’t pretentious and we try to do some good stuff in a casual environment,” said chef Lenny Martinelli, founder of Three Leaf Concepts, the hospitality group that owns The Huckleberry. “We do try to uplift it a bit and serve good food using the vegetables and pickled goods from our farm.”
Today Finn the cat is long gone (though the Martinellis now have a horse named Finn), but The Huckleberry remains as lively as ever. In fact, it’s been going strong since 2005 when the family bought the venue housing a restaurant originally called Karen’s in the Country. The building, which used to be an old bank and post office, well, it’s been steady since 1898, and now it’s part of the historical side of downtown Louisville.
The Huckleberry was the third restaurant in the family’s portfolio, and finding the space for it proved simple, said Martinelli, who moved to Louisville over 30 years ago. As the story goes, his milk vendor came to the back door and basically asked the chef if he wanted to buy the building. Shortly after, Martinelli and his wife Sara went to dinner there, it was empty and perfect. They signed for the lot and the historical spot got revamped—expanded to include two buildings—and became the successful neighborhood eatery and bakery it is today.
“It became this hometown place; and when kids go off to college they come home and say, ‘we got to go to The Huckleberry,” said Martinelli, adding there’s something about the space that just feels right, not just to him, but to the customers too. “Daily, kids come from school and get their milkshakes and the happy-face cookies we always had, plus we celebrate special occasions with multiple generations of families.”
Even when they did take-out during the pandemic people came and supported the spot. During this time, the restaurant dropped dinner service, and right now still only does breakfast and lunch. Overall, the menu at The Huckleberry focuses on American classics and diner fare with a seasonal and funky twist.
For example, the Scramlette, Martinelli’s take on an omelet and egg scramble. The menu boasts eight iterations including the Lorraine with bacon, Swiss cheese and scallions; the Garden with tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, onions and cheddar cheese; and a vegan one made with tofu, tomatoes, green onions, zucchini, broccoli and mushrooms. Each is served with a fresh biscuit and breakfast potatoes. Other breakfast staples include different types of eggs Benedict, chicken fried steak, biscuits and gravy and freshly made apple fritters.
“It’s really a classic breakfast menu with a little twisting of some classic things, but we try not to be pretentious,” said the chef. “It’s very important to us to have good food, good service, friendly people and a friendly place.”
Lunchtime brings an array of sandwiches, such as the Reuben, French dip and the BLFGT, a take on the BLT featuring bacon, lettuce and fried green tomato on whole wheat toast. Other hearty fare includes half-pound burgers, homemade chicken pot pie and tomato basil soup. Salads showcase the fresh vegetables the restaurant sources from the company’s 13-year-old Three Leaf Farm, which is managed by Martinelli’s son, Jax. In fact, 100% of the goods grown on that farm go to one of the five Three Leaf Concepts’ restaurants or its catering company.
On the bakery side, one can find an array of colorful cakes for any occasion, as well as Martinelli’s favorite: pie. So many pies, from blueberry to apple to pumpkin, all with a little something extra to make them stand out. The bakery also makes vegan carrot cake and gluten-free multi-grain bread, though it needs to be ordered in advance.
One of the most popular items found at both the cafe and bakery surprisingly isn’t solid food, it’s the RumChata Chai that’s been made in-house by the group for 30 years. Today guests can get the concoction bottled to-go, perfect for enjoying at home.
Diners can also indulge in afternoon tea daily between 2 and 3 p.m. The cost runs $24 per person, or $15 for kids under 9, and includes a tiered tower of pastries and savory tea sandwiches, all baked fresh day of. Of course, a hot pot of tea is also provided thanks to the group’s Boulder Tea Company and its catalog of over 100 imported teas.
The Huckleberry isn’t like any of the Martinellis’ other restaurants, the most famous being The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse. Opened in 1998, the teahouse’s uniqueness partially comes from the building, which was built by hand without any power tools, in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. It was gifted to the city of Boulder and sent halfway around the world in pieces to be rebuilt in Boulder as a symbol of friendship between the two cities. This year the teahouse was recognized and recommended by the Michelin Guide in Colorado’s inaugural award ceremony.
Three Leaf Concepts, owned by Sara and Larry Martinelli as well as Jerry Manning, also runs other Boulder-based concepts including the historic Chautauqua Dining Hall, Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant and Zucca Italian Ristorante. The catering and events side of the business runs strong too, overseen by Martinelli’s daughter, Lily.
While The Huckleberry stands out from the group’s other restaurants, it falls into the same category of hospitality, offering Boulder County a fun, comfortable and solid place to get a good breakfast or lunch, as well as birthday cake any time one is needed.