Back to Lexington: Parkette Drive-In

Parkette signFor my entire life I have been in and out of Lexington, Kentucky. I went to college there. I worked there. During all those decades I have driven by Lexington landmark Parkette Drive In innumerable times. And I never once stopped despite the classic sign beckoning me in.

This trip, I decided, would be different. Vowing to break out of my ritualistic visit to Ramsey’s Diner (don’t get me wrong, you should go to Ramsey’s), I decided to spread my culinary wings. Parkette Drive In it was.

Parkette is a true 1950s era drive in straight out of American Graffiti (yes, I know it was set in 1962, but you get the point). It’s the kind of place after which a modern chain like Sonic is modeled. Parkette plugged along for over 50 years before finally closing, only to be purchased and reopened a decade ago.

Parkette garageThe newly revitalized Parkette has proved to be so popular a new Eat-In Garage was added. An open air building with garage doors all around and ceiling fans to keep things cool, it blends well with the traditional drive-in vibe. They’ve played on the garage theme with old signs (and replicas) covering the walls.

I arrived right at lunch time, and the Parkette was busy but without wait. I decided to go for their Big Lex Burger with onion rings. Faced with Pepsi products, I chose the strawberry shake, a drive-in staple.

Water arrived, then the milkshake, both in Pepsi cups. (A nice touch would be for Parkette to have their own cups, particularly for non-Pepsi items.) The burger basket followed after a reasonable wait.

The Big Lex is a bacon cheeseburger with barbecue sauce on Texas toast. It is a great burger, a definite step up from chain fare. The meat was juicy, the toast gave it a different spin from the standard bun. My regret was not springing for the extra bacon.

Parkette Big Lex

The onion rings were good, about what you would expect them to be. And that strawberry shake was quite tasty, although not out of the ballpark good. There is room for improvement with both, but don’t hesitate to order either one. And while I’m at it, a switch to Coke products would be nice, but unlikely to happen.

Authentic drive-ins are few and far between these days, and the ones that remain deserve our support. I’ll do my part to help keep the Parkette going when I can.

Lexington Road Trip: Lunch at Ramsey’s Diner

Ramsey's doorThe great thing about going to Lexington is that my two favorite places are just around the corner and across the street from each other. When one is famished from browsing at Black Swan Books you will find that Ramsey’s Diner is only a quick walk away.

Ramsey’s Diner opened around the same time I started at the University of Kentucky, although I didn’t eat there until a fellow editor at the student daily The Kentucky Kernel took me there for lunch during my senior year. I’ve been devoted to Ramsey’s ever since. They’ve blossomed into a local Lexington chain while maintaining their quality. I’ve eaten at most of their locations across town, but for my now rare trips to Lexington I prefer the original.

Ramsey’s menu is anchored by a meat and three menu, and I’m a particular fan of their chicken fried steak. But the vegetables are the real stars here. Ramsey’s does an excellent job of sourcing locally grown fresh vegetables. When I was there it was their annual “Corn Daze” when corn is in season and featured in all its culinary forms.

Living in an agricultural region of the South, it’s frustrating that more restaurants won’t do this. The food is far fresher, the taste better, the local economy stronger. It shows respect for the customers they serve and the community they profit from. Ramsey’s has it right.

These days I get to Ramsey’s so seldomly, maybe twice a year, I can’t resist ordering my favorite thing on the menu: the Hot Brown. The Hot Brown is a Kentucky tradition, and hard to find outside the Commonwealth. It also happens to be the world’s most perfect food, a combination of bread, ham, turkey, mornay sauce, cheese and bacon.

Hot Brown

Since corn and tomatoes were in season, I added on fried corn and fried green tomatoes. I didn’t regret the choices in the least. In fact, one can have an incredibly fine meal at Ramsey’s with their vegetable plate.

Corn Daze

And did I mention that Ramsey’s has its own attached pie shop? Well, it does, and Missy’s Pies knows what they’re doing. Again, my order is preordained. I can’t not get the key lime pie. The new waitress brought it without the whipped cream, but I sent it back for the necessary garnish.

Key Lime Pie

It’s hard for me to give Ramsey’s an entirely objective review as there is quite a bit of my old Kentucky home nostalgia tied up with it. But I don’t know anything on the menu that I would change. I never leave disappointed, and I imagine if you go you won’t, either.