No ribs. No chicken. And immaculate. This is a barbecue spot? You bet, honey. In a cinder block building painted what once was called wintergreen, we found lunch in Paducah, KY.
Sandwiches or bulk. Bottled sauce. Potato salad. Slaw.
Of course, that ignores the shelves in the center of the U, piled high with bags of potato chips, neatly stacked candy bars, and (oh, wait for it) Hostess snack cakes.
But that’s fine. Those sandwiches make it all worthwhile. No one any closer to St. Louis than The Pig in Fredericktown does them the way Starnes does, the white bread sharply brought to life in a grill press.
No mutton, alas, a disappointment in Kentucky. But the chopped pork or beef tucked inside each neat, individually wrapped sandwich, is moist and tasty, although we both think the pork superior. The surprise, though, is the bologna. Wafer-thin slices crumpled onto the bread show clear and delicious evidence of having been smoked.
"Sauce?" was the waitress’ query when we ordered. Well, yes, and each sandwich came lightly sprinkled with the thin, red, fairly hot sauce. (We added more.) The amount of meat on the bread may look inadequate to some St. Louis diners, but there is enough, with good, smoky, well-cooked flavor and an excellent meat-to-bread ratio.
The heat didn’t seem to deter a couple of very elderly regulars whose orders arrived -- including milk for one -- without them doing anything more than greeting the employees, and we realized this also scored as barbecue for the dentally impaired. Hooray for that!
Like most of the regulars, they received a casually tossed bag of potato chips for a side. We’d suggest the potato salad, yellow and slightly sweet with just a light hit of celery seed. When it comes to beverages, this is RC country, what we once knew as Royal Crown Cola. We skipped dessert, but one booth had a Twix bar and Hostess cupcakes.
Paducah comes around lunch time when you’re driving south from St. Louis. If you’re on I-24, exit at U.S. 60, Hinkleville Road, going east (towards the city). Hinkleville intersects with Joe Clifton Drive, across from a park, after about 2.5 miles. The restaurant is in the first block, on the left.
1008 Joe Clifton Drive, Paducah KY
Tues.-Sat. 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Difficult