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Fast Food


Arby's A & W Burger King Cane's Captain D's Charlie's Chick-Fil-A Chipotle Dairy Queen Hardee's KFC Lee's
Long John Silver's McDonald's Panda Cuisine   Quiznos Rally's Sonic Taco Bell Wendy's White Castle
Unlike most places, Lexington knows exactly where and when fast food came to town. On November 11 1951 Joe Smiley opened the Parkette Drive In on the gravelled New Circle Road. He introduced a double decker hamburger he named The Poor Boy, plus fried chicken, french fries, onion rings, soft drinks and milkshakes. He paid $10,000 for the now famous sign. The Parkette became an instant hit. People would drive in from surrounding towns to eat in their cars and socialize with other customers. In 1953 Eat n Park opened where the Denny's now is at the Southland - Nicholasville Road intersection. Burgers, Fries and Shakes became standard fare for teenagers cruising in their cars. A & W, McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Dairy Queen and White Castle arrived. As we entered the 21st Century, people became concerned with cholesterol, salt and sugar. Today, we have "fast food" outlets serving soups, salads, wraps, veggies, and fruit smoothies. There's roast beef and fish. And you can get meat baked and broiled. Heart healthy is the standard. But despite all the changes, 60 years later, people still love their burgers, fries and shakes. Sadly, the Parkette closed in 2022, to the loud mourning of thousands of loyal fans. parkette
arby's Arby's carved out its reputation with roast beef sandwiches and they still fix the best in town. They slice it thin, oven roast it and put it between toasted sesame seed buns. There are three sizes. They offer it in cheddar cheese and pepper bacon versions. The basic sandwich is one of the most heart healthy fast foods. But there's a corned beef /swiss cheese/ sauerkraut on rye, two roast turkey sandwiches, and three chicken sandwiches. Arby's has added four kinds of subs and three salads. The only concessions to the cholesterol culture are the curly fries, mozzarella sticks and potato bites. In 1981 Arby's added Salads. Arby's remains the healthiest of the fast food outlets, using no additives or trans fats. In 2012 Arby's began selling Roast Turkey sandwiches, which have become a huge hit in Lexington. In 2013 they added new Reuben and Fish Sandwiches. 2014's big addition is the Philly, lean sliced Angus beef with fire roasted onions and peppers and melted Swiss Cheese on a Philadelphia Roll. Arby's serves Breakfast, with the most popular items being a Ham Egg & Cheese Sourdough Sandwich, Ham & Swiss Croissant, Biscuits with either Chicken or Sausage, and a Sausage Egg & Cheese Wrap. Arby's offers a series of Jamocha drinks which are much better than soft drinks.
There are a lot of root beer conneisseurs out there who have always believed A & W makes the finest root beer in the world. Since 1919, A & W made a living selling them large, frosted mugs of its pure root beer with the foam on top. They superchilled the root beer so it was right on the verge of freezing, actually containing tiny slivers of ice when served. The bright orange stands offered very few options, the main one being its famous Root Beer Float (seen here at left). More recently, A & W has expanded to offer an actual fast food menu. It has the traditional Burger, a Coney Dog, Chicken Strips, Soft Cone, Sundae and Shake. It also features authentic Wisconsin Cheese Curds, a unique treat you won't find anywhere else. Then there are Fries and Onion Rings. That's it. Remember, you come here for the beverage. Everything else is just a side. a & w root beer
burger king Burger King's claim to fame is that it broils its meats, rather than frying or grilling them. Burger King started by using the InstaBroiler, and now uses its successor, the Flame Broiler. It places the meat patties in a wire holder that allows them to be broiled on both sides at once. This allows for more even heat, thus a better flavor. But, more importantly, the wire conveyor moving through the flames allows the grease to melt, drain down and drip off the patty. Tests by university labs have proven that broiling is much healthier than either frying or grilling. So you can still have your burger without worrying about cholesterol or trans fats. Burger King is most famous for its Whopper, the healthier version of McDonalds Quarter Pounder With Cheese. In all, Burger King offers 12 burgers, Seven Chicken Sandwiches, a BBQ Rib Sandwich, a Fish Sandwich and a Veggie Burger. There are also three Salads, two Wraps, the usual Fries, Onion Rings and Nuggets, and gourmet Teas, Coffees, Lattes, Mochas and Juices.
Cane's has one of the most interesting histories of any fast food chain in town. While a student at LSU, Craig Silvey turned in a business plan for a restaurant serving only one item : chicken fingers. The professor was not impressed and gave him a C-. But Silvey and buddy Todd Graves spent a Summer in Alaska working on Salmon boats to raise the money, and opened the restaurant anyway. It became a huge success and they opened a few more. Silvey graduated and sold out to Graves. He went on to Wake Forest for an MBA, then moved to California. A year later Graves called asking him to come back to the company. Graves had expanded to 60 locations and was being overwhelmed. So Silvey returned to the company he helped found. Today they're up to 100 locations, but their core menu still consists of three items : The Plate, The Box and The Sandwich. All come with the top secret Cane's Sauce. They've added a Kid's Box and a Tailgating Box, which are just smaller and larger variations on the original Box. Oh? The Name? They were going to name their restaurant Salmon's after the fish that provided them their funds, but were advised that would confuse people about their product, so they named it after Craig's dog. Cane II is now the official mascot and appears in ads and promotions.
Captain Ds The building pictured here is part of the New Look Captain D's features. The inside has also been totally redone to give it a fresh, clean, "beachie" look. And the menu has been updated. The knock against this Nashville chain has always been that service is slow. But that's a bit unfair. They fix each order fresh, which obviously takes more time. Seafood is not like slapping a burger on a griddle and frying, and Captain D's does not prepare meals ahead and merely warm them in a microwave. So be patient. You can order fish grilled, baked or broiled. Captain D's features Flounder, Crab, Salmon, Shrimp and Tilapia, grilled or otherwise fixed to order. It seems a bit unfair to call this Fast Food. We have been reviewing top seafood restaurants for a long time, including the best in the nation, and what you get at Captain D's might better be termed "good seafood, prepared fast." The Corn On The Cob is a fine side dish and they offer Iced Tea instead of soft drinks. For Dessert, there's the unique Cheesecake Bites, a dish of chicken nugget sized cheescake puffs. If you don't like fish but came because your friends do, there are a few Chicken entrees. There's also a Salmon Salad. Captain D's has three Lexington locations.

Harland Sanders began Kentucky Fried Chicken in Corbin, Ky., in 1930, and began franchising in 1952. He pressure cooked chicken using a recipe of 11 herbs and spices which is still kept secret. Chemists have tried breaking down the recipe and have identified black pepper, salt, sage and savory as four of the 11 ingredients but can't crack the other seven. Sanders was taught by his mother that deep frying ruined food so he never allowed it. He began cast iron skillet frying the chicken but as soon as the pressure cooker was created for vegetables he adapted it for chicken frying. He used soybean oil because it is trans fat and cholesterol free. So even though it's fried, the chicken is among the healthier of fast foods. In addition to chicken wings, legs and breasts, you can get very good cole slaw, corn on the cob, green beans, biscuits, macaroni & cheese, mashed potatoes and the potato wedges, which are almost as famous as the fried chicken. The wedges are seasoned with the same secret recipe as the chicken. People stop just for a bucket of wedges. The slaw is made from cabbage, carrots, onions and Sanders' mother's dressing. KFC now offers Grilled Chicken, which is marinated and seasoned before firing. Hot Wings are marinated in a chili pepper sauce. There's also a Chicken Sandwich, Chicken Pot Pie and a "Bowl" of mashed potatoes, sweet corn, chicken bites, three cheeses and gravy. KFC hand prepares each item on the premises just before serving it. You can order a soft drink, but we recommend The Colonel's Sweet Tea instead.

McDonalds is the all time fast food giant, and you can still feast on a Double Quarterpounder With Cheese, Large Fries and Triple Shake so thick you eat it with a spoon. However, even McDonalds has moved on. Their Wraps are very good in Ranch Grilled, or Chipotle Grilled Barbeque. The Grilled Chicken Sandwich is listed by the American Heart Association as the heart healthiest item on the McDonalds menu. The Grilled Premium Chicken Breast Strips are also great, as are six kinds of salads, especially the Premium Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad or the Asian Salad. McDonalds offers Paul Newman's Own Dressings in six flavors. These are nationally noted for their low fat, low cholesterol content. McD's still offers the sugary desserts, but the Fruit Yogurt Parfaits and Baked Apple Pie Slices avoid that problem. There's also Low Fat Milk, Apple Juice, Dasani Water, Orange Juice, and Iced Tea. For a caffeine fix, there are five flavors of iced coffee. McDonalds has 16 locations in Lexington.
Charlie's Charlie's is a classic harborfront fish counter transplanted to Lexington as the ultimate fast fish operation : you step inside, place your order, step down to the cash register, pay, then step further down for your food. Charlie's offers fresh Crab Cakes, Shrimp, Oysters, and Scallops, and more exotic fish frozen, all for you to take home and fix. But the reason you come here is The White Fish Sandwich, either $4 or $5 depending on whether you want one filet or two. This is the best fish sandwich in Central Kentucky. It is a very good cut of fish, big enough for two, freshly flown in, cooked to perfection. Along with it, you get two Jalapeno hushpuppies, tartar sauce and crinkle fries. Charlie's is pure carryout, with no tables. They're open 9-5 six days a week. Bring cash. Expect a line almost all day, out the door and around the corner at lunch times on good weather days. Many locals bring their own drink and a bottle of malt vinegar for the fish. The tiny parking lot is woefully inadequate but you can park further up the street and walk half a block.
wendy's Wendy's was the first national chain to openly challenge McDonald's in the burgers and fries wars, and the Ohio based company still makes fine burgers, in that unique square shape Dave Thomas created. You can get hamburgers or cheeseburgers in single, double or triple stacks with bacon and other additions. There are grilled chicken and fish sandwiches and wraps, and a line of stuffed and baked potatoes with sour cream, chives, broccoli and cheese and bacon. Wendy's has really focused on its salads. They offer Mandarin Grilled Chicken, BLT, Grilled Chicken Caesar, and Southwest Taco Salads. As sides you can have dishes of Mandarin Oranges, bowls of Chile and a Strawberry Yogurt Squeeze. Wendy's has always taken great pride in its milkshakes and still offers Vanilla, Chocolate, Fudge, Strawberry, and Nestles Toll House Cookie Dough. In Lexington, Wendy's has eight locations.
Long John Silver's was the first fast food seafood restaurant chain, although it borrowed its tradition from century old boardwalk beach shacks on Cape Cod, Long Island and The Jersey Shore. The menu is still heavy with various kinds of breaded fried entrees, including flounder, clams, shrimp, crab cakes, and the newer Lobster Bites. Fortunately, they have also introduced The Freshside Grille menu, which is the heart healthy alternative. There's Grilled Tilapia, Shrimp Scampi and Pacific Salmon, all served with long grain wild rice and steamed vegetables. Sides include Cole Slaw, Corn, Baked Potato, Clam Chowder, and Mixed Vegetables. The Pineapple Cream Cheese Pie is one of the more obscene desserts in town. One of Long John Silver's most famous items has always been its vinegar fish sauce, which can be bought bottled and taken home. There are four Lexington locations.
White Castle is still the home of the little square onionburger, which loyal customers refer to as "Sliders." This is primarily a carryout restaurant (somehow those squareburgers just seem more appropriate when you're driving around on a Friday night) but you can sit inside if you want. All White Castle outlets still use the 1932 Steel & Porcelain building and fry the burgers with the onions and bun so the onion flavor seeps through the meat and the juices drain down through the bun. White Castle was the very first ever fast food chain, and since no one had ever done it before, they had to create their own supply network for meat, bread, onions, and even uniforms and buildings. Refusal to go into debt or allow independently owned outlets limited growth, but in many cities they are popular enough that in 2010 they were still second only to McDonalds in total sales.
Sonic is a retro drive in restaurant where for half an hour or so you can pretend you're back in the 1950s. They even have girls on roller skates coming out to take your order and carrying your food out on trays which hook onto your car window. The menu is the classic burger, fries, shake and ice cream, although they've updated it a little with Nachos, Onion Rings and Chicken Nuggets. They play Golden Oldie music over the speakers. On Fridays and Saturdays it's a frequent stop for guys cruising Lexington in their restored 50s and 60s cars, so you might want to bring your camera. If you walk over from one of the dorms or nearby student apartment complexes, there are a few picnic tables set up under the canopy so you can sit outside and enjoy the ambience. Sonic has several outlets in town. The Richmond Road version is the newest and features a more modern design, which will impress some and disappoint others.
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