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PHOTOS BY SARAH JANE SANDERS
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670 North Broadway (859) 233-7985
My favorite dining experiences often include incredibly flavorful food at very reasonable prices; few places accomplish this better than Indi’s. The restaurant is drive-thru or carry-out only, but it’s worth it. If you don’t believe me, Esquire Magazine named Indi’s to its “Best Late-Night Food in the U.S.A.” list.
This. Is. Not. Health. Food.
My personal favorite meal is the spicy chicken (dark meat), potato wedges and a roll. The chicken is perfectly cooked and has a nice heat. They claim to use West Indian spices — I’m not exactly sure what that means, but it tastes like hot sauce to me. The wedges are fried in a spiced batter, and the roll is as basic as it gets. The combination is amazing. (Note the lack of anything healthy, whatsoever.)
If you like white(ish) meat, try the keel. An Internet search may still leave you confused as to what exactly a keel is, but allegedly it is in the vicinity of the bone between the breasts.
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1230 East New Circle Road (859) 254-8723
Most of the retro drive-ins are gone today, but Parkette remains. The restaurant opened in 1951, with the now-famous sign erected in 1957. The Belt Line Highway (now New Circle Road) was a dirt and gravel road that ran from Broadway to Liberty Road. Current owners Randy and Jeff Kaplan have done a remarkable job remodeling this icon and recently completely remodeled the interior in a retro-’50s style.
All of the retro fun aside, we’re here for the fried chicken. Originally called “Kentucky Fried Chicken,” Parkette makes theirs fresh. Cut, battered, dipped and fried in lard, it comes out crispy and piping hot, and served with a side of gravy, fries or tots (go with the tots), plus a hot roll and cole slaw. A “1/2 mixed” (leg, thigh and breast) will set you backa mere $8.99. You can also substitute homemade onion rings for $1.50.
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1074 Merrick Drive (859) 269-5417
Merrick Inn has been a Lexington tradition for 40 years. When it comes to upscale Southern cuisine, this is the place. Located in the Lansdowne-Merrick neighborhood in the farmhouse of a former horse farm, the dining rooms are serious old Kentucky, while the patio is modern and casual.
Merrick’s name is synonymous with fried chicken. By far, its most well-known dish, the chicken, lives up to its reputation. A large portion and cooked to perfection, it never disappoints. I don’t know their recipe, and I know they won’t tell me. It doesn’t matter. If I want it, I’m going there anyway.
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3854 Old Frankfort Pike (859) 846-5161
Chris and (James Beard Award nominee) Ouita Michel have made a career out of creating destination restaurants in the Bluegrass. The owners of Holly Hill Inn, Windy Corner Market, Smithtown Seafood and The Midway School Bakery opened this restaurant in 2003 on scenic Old Frankfort Pike in a former country store.
Fair warning: Fried chicken is not on the regular menu. Monday night is Wallace Station’s fried chicken night. Get there early because it often sells out.
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348 Southland Drive (859) 278-9424
Winchell’s is an extremely casual neighborhood restaurant and sports bar that is packed morning, noon and night. And for good reason. Its motto of “Better Food, More Televisions” doesn’t really do the place justice. Owned by Culinary Institute of America grads Eric “Abe” Lansdale and Graham Waller, the restaurant strives to “make the people of Kentucky proud by serving fresh, homemade food in a casual and friendly environment.”
On the plate you get a well-seasoned half chicken fried to perfection with gravy, mashed potatoes and green beans. This is also one of the rare places that serves fried chicken livers anymore.
Kick back, eat some chicken, grab a beer and take in a game. You’ve found a great neighborhood joint.