It’s Thursday evening in Paducah, or maybe it’s Friday, or Saturday, any of those three evenings will do. Cars are lined up on the exit ramp from I-24, they are 25 cars deep in the turn lane at the first traffic light towards the mall, forty cars at a minimum are lined up between Wal Mart and the mall. If you could look in the cars, at the faces of the people, there would be few smiles. Instead jaws would be set eyes would be steely. For once again it is time to go to work. We are Paducah. We eat out at restaurants. It is what we do.
I have lived a whole bunch of places, moved to a whole bunch of towns. And to coin a phrase from my Georgia upbringing, I aint nevah seen folk flock to the restaurants like Paducah folk. When we get anywhere CLOSE to the weekend it as if some secret signal goes out to each of us wherever we may be. And the signal sends us the following message, “I am starving, and mama aint bout to dirty no dishes.”
It’s a thing of beauty really; the way that we school one restaurant chain after another. “What, you thought you were going to come up here in OUR town and just non-chalantly build an Outback or a Texas Road House and think you are going to run it like you do in other towns in the US?? You better think again. You better install the extra large beef cooler in that bad boy cause we’re comin and we’re bringin the WHOLE family including great-grandma.”
I can only think of one exception. They foolishly tried to open an Atlanta Bread company here. They built it too far from the interstate for the foreigners (people from outside Western Kentucky) to be able to see. They tried to serve us things like soup and….well…lettuce. We bankrupted them. Meanwhile the Mexican place next door, AND a Logans Roadhouse, AND a Texas Roadhouse who all opened at the same time were packed every night. But then, they had the good business sense to serve meat in large quantities.
Speaking of meat, Paducah downtown is not to be overlooked either. Along with Max’s, Tribeca, Whaler’s and others, they opened a place down there whose menu consists solely of meat skewered on a Sword. After they opened the GDP of Argentina increased 5%.
Of course you can’t discuss eating out in Paducah and fail to mention Bar B Cue on the river. I observed something down there that made me proud of my fellow Paduchians. There was smoked everything, pulled pork, ribs, chicken and it was smoked with hickory, mesquite, you name it. But even in the midst of all the smell of smoked meat goodness, one little vendor thought he could pull a fast one.
It was only minutes after he fired up his equipment that people from all around the downtown area sensed it. In the midst of all the smoke our finely tuned olfactory organs detected it instantly. It was the smell of flour and sugar….and it was being fried. Funnel Cakes. There was a mad rush. Sure, we may have just eaten three pounds of pork but we were not to be denied. Too greasy you say? Who do you think you are talking to? We are Paducah. We were raised on Red’s donuts. “Listen here Mr. Vendor, don’t think you are going to bring that little rig in here and not be inundated with customer demand the likes of which you have never imagined.”
You cant HAUL enough flour and sugar in that little trailer to satisfy us pal. We’ll make a run on you and…shut…yo….butt….DOWN!
Personally, I am not a fan of funnel cakes but I had to smile slightly as I saw the look of abject terror on the looks of the people inside the funnel cake trailer, barely visible behind a cloud of confectionary sugar as they frantically shook it on yet another order whilst looking out on a line that snaked to somewhere past Ledbetter.
Lastly, and most recently, we humbled the Chick Fil’ A corporation. It was one thing to put a chunk of fried chicken on a buttered bun and offer free mayonnaise when you were safely protected inside the mall. But to put another one out there in our face where we can just drive our SUV’s up to it…Mr. Cathey, you ain’t got enough chickens in chicken houses all over this great U S of A to keep up with what we’re brining.
Apparently, there are some people from around the country that camp out waiting for the opening of Chick Fil A resturaunts so they can make a run on some kind of coupon the chain offers. They tried to pull that off here. Are you kidding me? First we ordered up some 99.9 degree weather. Then while the campers were getting dehydrated we sat in the air conditioning. No danger of us missing out. We can hear scissors cut through a grand opening ribbon from five miles away. Corporate records have since been broken at Chick Fil A. They tried to get cute and put in a double drive through so that they could keep up with us. Please….that’s the equivalent of an amusement park ride for us. We’ll just go through twice. Might was well take home a meal for tomorrow as well.
Even now, there are whole families that have never left Chick Fil A playland. Rumor has it that they have no intention of leaving till they bring back the peach milkshake.
We are Paducah and we eat out. It’s what we do.