Monday, October 12, 2015

Roadfood in Kentucky

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
- Bites of the Bluegrass State 

Stopped into some classic Kentucky roadfood type spots on my way down to Nashville and then back to Chicago. Got four more for my database. Plus I have another spot from a different trip. Enjoy.

Laha's Red Castle Hamburgers

Hodgensville, KY

This old school slider shop has been on my list for a minute. I've tried to go a couple times while down in Louisville but it's closed on Sunday's and that was always the day I had the opportunity to take the hour drive south. After some high praise from a friend of the food trail I wanted to get there even more. This trip would be my chance. There's not much online but according to a sign inside they've been there since 1934.

a peek inside

There's only about 8 seats at the counter and so much grill space however because the little balls of smashed beef cook fast they get them out quick. I'll tell you what, Mr. Miller wasn't f-ing around when he said this place might be the best restaurant in the state. Without a doubt a Top Ten all-time burger in my book, which has 100's and 100's of chapters. I have no idea what the secret is to these amazing treats similar in size of a McDonald's cheeseburger but I know there's something special about them. I've wanted more since I finished off the order of two I convinced myself to stick with and not order any more than. Lesson learned.

Cheeseburgers for the Record Book

Harper's Catfish

Scottsville, KY

Using my best road friend google I searched out some popular catfishes houses in Kentucky and came across a few that were either within a short ride from Nashville or not too far off of the route there. Stopping at Harper's en route down meant an extra 25 minutes added onto and a route that took us through some backroads. But my saying has always been "gotta go while I'm near there." A sign greets you from the side of a backroad and then instructs you to turn down a dirtroad where the shack awaits your order. I was ten times more uncomfortable here than I've ever been at any bulletproof glass protected establishment in Chicago. I'm a city boy and this was country to the core. I ordered a platter of catfish with home fries to take for the ride. The little catfish bites were perfectly coated with a light cornmeal crust but they must've been fried and held because they were room temp. The home fries were hot and all of it was damn good I just wish it was all served to-order.

Catfish Platter with Home Fries

Ferrell's Snappy Service

Hopkinsville, KY

Another classic Hamburger Americana shop long on my list. I wasn't sure I'd ever get here and the only reason I did was because I decided to take the US-41 route that takes you back in whats almost a straight shot to Chicago. It's actually about 10 minutes quicker. According to Google maps anyway.

a peek inside

Full House on this Memorial Day visit and the wait would be loooong. The lady running the grill must've been approaching her one millionth burger made and her grill game was slowing down a bit but it would all work out. There's conflicting numbers about when Ferrell's opened with both 1929 and also 1937 being mentioned. There's another location up the highway in Madisonville and I guess the now gone original was in Owensboro so my guess is that this location has been around since 1937 and the original debuted in 1929. I cant confirm if the awesome lady working the grill has been there since day one but she got the job done.

In Action

The menu here is pretty damn simple. Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, Chili, and Chips. No fries. I ordered a cup of chili which I ate the next day and was pleasantly surprised by. It looked like it was going to be a classic heavy tomato Midwest style recipe but it had a unique flavor to it and maybe one or two beans. It wasn't spicy but it was deep in chili spice. Very interesting.

Cup of Chili

The burgers are the big deal here. As they should be. While not quite on the same level of addictiveness as Laha's these were a near flawless example of the classic 30's style hamburger. Onions are served raw and I'm probably a little more partial to grilled but these babies below, along with the architecture and atmosphere, brought me memories of the Motor City. Ferrell's is an institution. A 24 hour one.


Harned's Drive-In

Paducah, KY

I f'ed up while plugging in the address from Ferrell's. I just put Chicago as the destination I was going to decide where to stop in the IN/KY border area near Evansville when I got near. I was thinking fried chicken in Henderson but it took me back to one of the main highways and I was a good 30 minutes out of the way upon realizing this so I just had to go with the flow. I google searched 'Paducah Kentucky' for some food stops and found a Doe's Eat Place via the Mississippi Delta but couldn't get an answer on the phone from them so there would be no bundle of hot tamales. Instead I got bbq.

Menu on the Wall Outside

Harned's has been around since 1955 and they're still a real deal drive-in. No girls on skates but they do come up to your car to take your order. There is no inside. As you can see up above the menu is small with BBQ Pork and Ham joining burgers, Hoagies, Chili, and Chuckwagon sandwiches.

Smokehouse in Use

There was smoke in the air and a circle of cars parked around the place so I saw these as good signs and they were. The smoked pork was hunks of lightly smoked meat topped with your choice of sauce in preference of heat. The hot was almost a dry rub of vinegar and chili powder that looked unappealing but tasted just fine. The baked beans were just ok while the potato salad was classic in a very good way.

Bar-B-Que Plate

Best thing here though was the ham sandwich. Served on toasted bread with your choice of sauce it was an excellent sandwich. You don't see bbq smoked ham everywhere and thats too bad because this was a winner.

BBQ Ham Sandwich


Lexington, KY

Bonus Stop! This one was made on a trip to Asheville last year. We stopped in Lexington, KY for the night and woke up hungry. A little searching around revealed this popular Creole style breakfast stop with an emphasis on fresh local ingredients. It was a gorgeous day so we took a seat on the patio outside and started off with an order of Beignets. Not to the level of Cafe Du Monde but good.

Beignets to Start

The menu item from here that most caught my eye was the shrimp and grits. Something I cant really find up north here in Chicago, I always have to make my own when the taste for a bowl comes calling. Here they make theirs with large, tail-on shrimp resting on a bed of cheesy Weisenberger Millgrits, smothered in tomato gravy with a dollop of homemade green onion remoulade. Bits of bacon were also scattered in. Not the best bowl I've ever had but way better than anything up here.

Shrimp and Grits

Laha's Red Castle Hamburgers
21 Lincoln Square
Hodgenville, KY 42748
(270) 358-9201

Harper's Catfish
3085 Old Gallatin Rd,
Scottsville, KY 42164
(270) 622-7557

Ferrell's Snappy Service
1001 S Main St
Hopkinsville, KY 42240
(270) 886-1445

Harned's Drive-In
4421 Clarks River Rd
Paducah, KY 42003
(270) 898-3164

262 N Limestone
Lexington, KY 40507
(859) 317-8507

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