A Simple Choice
Its good to know what you like. I’ve spent several weekends in Paducah, Ky lately and after driving most of the morning to get there I don’t want to spend a lot of time deliberating over where to eat lunch. So I don’t. Most every time I am in Paducah we simply eat lunch at Starnes Barbecue.
Sometimes we stop in at Starnes near Noble Park. The mint green cinder block building on Joe Clifton Drive looks much the same as it did a half century ago. I love the old-fashioned diner style lunch counter. The menu is simple and posted on the wall.
I have always been suspicious of sandwiches but I like the Bar BQ Pork Sandwiches at Starnes without reservation. They are straightforward and offer no surprises. They include a fair portion of the meat of choice between two slices of toasted bread. The chopped pork is spiced according to your preference, hot or mild, indicating the amount of their signature sauce that is added to the meat.
At the counter your sandwich is brought to you wrapped in white paper. You can add potato salad or slaw if you like. Order it with chips and the waitress will pop open the bag for you as she serves them up beside the sandwich. Add a drink to complete your meal. Snacks, more chips and candy, along with bottled sauce, are also available for purchase behind the counter.
If You Want Dessert
If we find ourselves closer to the riverfront in downtown Paducah at lunch time we are likely to eat at d. Starnes on Broadway instead. It serves the same straightforward sandwiches made with the same style of Barbecue and the same sauce; it's just owned by a different branch of the Starnes family tree.
The downtown restaurant, one block from the river, attracts more of the tourist trade. It has a more studied appearance with an exposed brick interior and seating is available at not only a short lunch counter but also at comfortable booths and tables. Like on Joe Clifton Drive, the sandwiches at d. Starnes are served on toast but they are also served on a plate. Their menu also includes baked beans as well as ribs, soups and a variety of homemade pies.
Each has its charms. Both have a great BBQ sandwich at a reasonable price. If I had to choose I would probably go with the uniquely retro feel of the mint green cinder block building on Joe Clifton Drive. A wrapped sandwich with a bag of chips eaten at the counter is a fun way to enjoy a quick lunch.
On the other hand there are times when a slice of homemade pecan pie with a cup of coffee served down near the riverfront will make my day.
Don’t Forget the Sauce
Best of all, however, is the opportunity to pick up another bottle of Starnes Bar-B-Q Sauce. It’s the same at both Starnes locations and can be purchased by the bottle at either one. It is a vinegar based sauce that shakes on easily adding a deep tang to the meat and a wonderful spicy bite. It has a Tabasco like consistency and a perky peppery flavor that is spicy without being overwhelming. Take a bottle home and experiment. You will find many ways to use it. It will spice up a plate of eggs, add a little spark to a bowl of soup or infuse a marinade with a touch of pizzazz. It also makes a great gift. As my son confirms every time I ship him a bottle, "There are many uses."