Late one recent afternoon, Cindia and I took a trip out to Kerley’s Barbecue, a Lexington staple since the seventies. Some decent barbecue, fantastic hushpuppies, and an overall good, filling meal were the result.
We seated ourselves in a booth near the wall. For some reason, these barbecue restaurants always remind me of high school cafeterias. This one didn’t seem as focused on memorabilia and decoration as other restaurants I have seen, but there were pictures all along the walls, and overall it had a definite homespun vibe that seems to be a part of every Lexington barbecue joint. Happily, it wasn’t as cramped as my last barbecue outing. There was a ton of open space at Kerley’s.
After some menu wrangling, we decided to sample the chopped sandwich, the cheeseburger, and a large basket of hush puppies. The food arrived swiftly and we tucked in.
The cheeseburger got an average response. It was good enough, but not great. In particular, it wasn’t melty enough, the cheese was just slapped on top. But it was certainly better than what you would find at a fast food restaurant, and barbecue joints should be known more for their barbecue anyway.
The chopped sandwich was quite delicious and filling, and messy as good barbecue should be. I’m not a huge fan of slaw, but it added a nice crunch to the texture of the sandwich, and the ratio between meat and slaw was pretty well balanced. The main problem I faced was getting the fantastic dip on the sandwich without the whole thing falling apart. This was a quest doomed from the start, and in the end I had to resort to eating with my fingers (Could I have asked for a fork? Surely. But don’t try to bring me down with your logic and table manners).
The mess was worth it, because the dip was really great. It had an almost tomato-soup quality to it, though of course much thinner. It had just enough heat to contrast really well with the cool sandwich, and rounded out the meal quite well.
Of course, I can’t talk about barbecue without bringing up hushpuppies. The hushpuppies at Kerley’s were close to perfect. Instead of the oblong forms you often find, they’re wonderfully little round, two-bite masterpieces, crunchy and hot. They worked really well with the dip, too. They kept their crunchy exterior instead of getting soggy, and the extra bite of flavor the dip added was lovely. These are certainly a contender for the best hushpuppies in the Welcome/Lexington area.
One of the best things about Kerley’s was the price. Lexington barbecue doesn’t generally break the bank, but the fact that we were able to get two sandwiches, a huge basket of hush puppies, and soda for just eleven dollars was noteworthy. They have lots of great weekly specials as well. Tuesdays feature two chopped sandwiches for five bucks, so you could feed two people for less than value meal at McDonalds. Or one really hungry person could have two chopped sandwiches. Whatever floats your boat.
We were the only customers at Kerley’s the afternoon we went. This was probably our own fault, as we were only able to make it out during the lull between lunch and dinner. Towards the end of our meal, some other early birds began to straggle in. But even an almost empty restaurant didn’t change the good, attentive service, and our trip to Kerley’s was satisfying. I’ll definitely be going back to sample more of their menu.