With all due respect to a certain colonel, fried chicken isn’t the only menu item worth a good finger-licking. Sometimes a sauce-laden barbecued rib or a sticky, gooey glazed doughnut is equally deserving of a follow-up lick of the fingers.
Such digit-cleansing opportunities abound at the Lexington-area businesses featured on KET’s The Local Traveler as host Amy Hess explores several of the most popular purveyors of smoked meats and deep-fried treats.
A Sauce to Suit All Tastes
The old white clapboard building on U.S. 25 between Lexington and Georgetown may not look like much, but the plume of smoke wafting from it is a sure sign that good barbecue awaits.
“It’s the quintessential roadside barbecue joint,” says David Carroll, owner of Red State BBQ. “People, they romanticize that kind of thing, so it’s like finding that roadside dive where you can get good food and get it consistently.”
A local equine veterinarian who was a Texas native with a talent for barbecue started Red State in the café of the old Sunset Motel. Carroll took over the business several years ago and continued the tradition of serving the highest quality smoked brisket, ribs, pulled pork and chicken, and sausages.
Red State’s original complement of three sauces – a Memphis-style sweet sauce, a spicy Texas-style sauce, and South Carolina mustard-based sauce – has been expanded. New sauce options include what Carroll calls the Kentucky Small Batch sauce made with Jim Beam bourbon, a North Carolina-inspired spicy vinegar sauce, and the Alabama Show Horse, which has a mayonnaise base.
“We want the protein to stand on its own,” says Carroll. “So if you don’t use sauce, that’s OK, but if you want some sauce, we’ve got it.”
The house-made sides and desserts on the menu include staples like baked beans and macaroni and cheese, as well as unique items like beer cheese grits, corn pudding, and peach bread pudding served with a scoop of bourbon ice cream. Red State BBQ also takes its menu on the road with a food truck and catering service.
A Little Bit of Austin in Lexington
The Blue Door Smokehouse on Walton Avenue in northeast Lexington also offers ribs, pulled pork and chicken, and sausages. But co-owner Jeff Newman is especially serious about his brisket.
“I just love good quality fatty brisket – there’s just not much better than that,” says Newman. “You’ve got this fat and as it slow cooks … it really just melts down into the meat and that’s what keeps it nice and tender.”
Newman says he follows the Austin, Texas, tradition of using a rub of only salt and pepper on his brisket, then he cooks the meat low and slow, 12 to 14 hours, over oak. He says a slice of his brisket should hold together on its own, but then easily fall apart when gently pulled. To accompany the barbecue, Newman offers coleslaw, potato salad, collard greens, and beans.
Because Blue Door Smokehouse is so small, customers can often be seen lined up outside. And be warned: Newman says the restaurant, which has limited hours on only Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, could close early if they sell out of meat.
Newman’s devotion to the best barbecue means that they only offer what they smoke that day. It also means they don’t need a fancy kitchen with a lot of extra equipment.
“There’s no microwaves here, we don’t even have an oven,” jokes Newman. “We have a smoker and we have a stove – just enough to boil water for potatoes and make barbecue sauces.”
Time for Something Sweet
To some a doughnut is simply an on-the-go breakfast treat. For the folks at North Lime Coffee and Donuts, that sweet bit of fried dough is the foundation for a range of creative options.
If you want a simple glazed doughnut or cake doughnut with cinnamon sugar, they’ve got that. But how about a chocolate caramel sea salt doughnut? Or a bourbon-spiked eggnog doughnut? Then there are the maple bacon doughnuts, the sausage-apple fritters, or the chicken waffle doughnut that’s topped with a fried chicken tender.
Such is the yeasty innovation you’ll find on display at the shop’s original North Limestone location and their new Clays Mill Road storefront. In fact, North Lime prides itself on serving what it calls “life-changing doughnuts.” And even the employees have their favorites.
“The one that’s special to me because I kind of created it was the tiramisu,” says Nick Cooper, a manager at North Lime Donuts. “I love that dessert, so it was like I’m going to make it into a doughnut.”
Across town, the Donut Days bakery on Southland Drive likes to focus on the classics.
“We try to do everything we can to keep it the way your mother did it and the way your grandmother did it,” says owner Fred Wohlstein. “The most popular still remains the traditional, glazed yeast doughnut. … And then the second would be the chocolate covered, which is also a yeast-raised doughnut.”
Donut Days opened in 1972, and Wohlstein says they now serve the children and grandchildren of customers who have been coming to the bakery since they were kids. In addition to the original Southland Drive location, Donut Days now has shops in the Chevy Chase neighborhood and on the Eastern Bypass in Richmond.
Along with the traditional favorites, Wohlstein says they also make a maple bacon doughnut, blueberry doughnut, and what he calls a bourbon barrel doughnut that’s often paired with a devil’s food cake doughnut.
Not wanting to waste anything, Wohlstein says his kitchen crew collects the daily scraps of doughnut dough, which they mix with freshly sliced apples and ground cinnamon to make their popular apple fritters. Donut Days is also a full service bakery offering cakes, Danishes and other pastries, muffins, cookies, and rolls.