I guess you think the Colonel invented Kentucky Fried Chicken. Well, guess again. Kentucky Fried Chicken was actually invented by Joe Smiley of West Virginia and sold at his Lexington, Kentucky drive in during the 50’s. I know. I just blew your mind.
Okay, now lets sort all this stuff out. KFC as we know it with it’s 11 herbs and spices was indeed invented by the good Colonel. However, marketing genius that he was, he knew when he went to mass market his now famous chicken he needed a name. That’s where Joe comes in. The Colonel thought Joe’s "Kentucky Fried Chicken" name was perfect. The two men struck a deal (Rumoured to be $30K) and the name “Kentucky Fried Chicken” was sold. And as the iconic Paul Harvey would say, “Now you know the rest of the story.”
“Good food at a good price” was Joe Smiley’s motto. Having moved from West Virginia to Lexington he saw an opportunity. His vision was for a drive in on a dirt road outside town. He made that dream a reality on November 11, 1951. Joe sold only fresh made food from fresh ingredients and now 60 + years later, that tradition continues. The Parkette has become part of the civic fabric.
The now iconic sign shown above was installed in 1957 and is as much a symbol (#10) of Lexington as is a horse farm.
Sadly, Joe closed the Parkette in 2003. A group of local investors bought it and tired to keep it afloat. They failed, it closed. In 2009 Jeff and Randy Kaplan bought it, dusted off the cobwebs and reopened it. The brothers were immediately snowed under with business. It was too much. They closed for the winter, regrouped, renovated and otherwise retooled. They reopened in the spring of 2010 returning The Parkette to the “Good ol’ days.”
It was later in 2010 that Guy Fieri and his Triple D gang showed up for a visit and put The Parkette on the national map. It’s of course where I first learned of it. They say you can always tell when they’ve re run the episode by the upswing in business.
It’s always great when you’re really looking forward to eating somewhere and it still exceeds expectations. So let’s have a look at this culinary time capsule.
Where best to start but with the chicken. Very nicely breaded although not overly herbaceous it’s possibly the best of the non 11 H&S types I’ve had. The breading had good flavour and the chicken was tasty, tender and juicy. All in all, fantastic. You can get sawmill gravy with it but honestly, I really don’t think it needed it. That said, the gravy was awesome. I thought Mrs. Sippi was gonna get a “To go” cup of it with a straw for the car ride. It was that good.
The accompanying slaw was nice. Nothing special just straight forward slaw. Nothing wrong with that. I also love the crinkle cut fries. The ridges helped hang on to that gravy.
As I perused the menu I heard a gasp from the other side of the table. Seconds later I saw why. Gizzards. Mrs. Sippi loves her some gizzards. These babies come with a nice crisp breading and have a very pronounced chicken taste. My whole problem with gizzards is texture. It’s much like eating cartilage. These particular examples, while still “Cartilagy” were certainly more tender. Think al dente. They were fabulous dipped in the chicken gravy.
There were so many good things on the menu I didn’t know where to start and where to stop. One thing I couldn’t over look though was the Chili Dog. Using Vienna Beef weiners, steamed on a steamed bun. This incarnation has it loaded up with mustard, onions, chili and cheese. It was a work of art. No one thing dominated yet it didn’t all turn into one big flavour. You bit in and you though, onion, no, chili. Oh, nice dog, oh and cheesy. What I’m trying to say is, all the components complemented each other and tended to take turns tickling your palate.
As I’ve pointed out before, back in the day, these types of places had a burger that included all or most of the following components. Two all beef patties, special (or house, or secret, etc) sauce, cheese, lettuce, pickles, onions and a sesame seed bun. I’m sure you’re more than familiar with the formula. Anyway, for Joe, life in coal mining West Virginia was mostly poor. With that in mind, he named his sandwich, the Poor Boy.
Very reminiscent of a Big Mac (obviously) but just better. One word of warning though, a pretty hefty slice of onion garnishes it. I love onion but found the whole disc too much. I pulled it apart, leaving a few rings and it worked much better. I thought the whole piece was a little too dominant.
There you have it folks. Call it a slice of Americana, a trip back in time or just plain great food. Whatever it is, you should check this place out. Well worth the 10 or so minutes off I – 75.
You can find The Parkette Drive In at 1230 E. New Circle Rd. Lexington, Ky.
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You can also find them on the web, facebook and Twitter.
Well that’s all for now folks, see ya next time in the food court.