I don’t pretend to know exactly what makes a successful restaurant. There are some basics: Good food, good service, reasonable prices and having a good profit margin. However there is one attribute that may be the most important of all:
Some locations are cursed, if you believe in such a thing. No matter the quality, no matter the reviews and accolades, a business just can not thrive there.
Since I moved to Lexington in 2006, 286 Southland Drive has been – no less than - five businesses. I can only remember two of them: Trumps and Shooters, and I never went inside Trumps. Shooters was actually not a bad bar, but sadly it couldn’t stay open relying on just three paying customers, so they, too, had to go.
When a building rotates business, it creates a stigma that’s difficult to shake off. People don’t trust a location that’s constantly changing styles, even though the majority of the time it’s also changing owners and staff. It turns into one of those places that you drive pass, saying to yourself or anyway around you ”Huh, that’s a chicken place now.”
Located right next to the train tracks on Southland, it’s easy to overlook. If you’re driving towards Nicholasville Road, you wouldn’t notice it was there until the last second. Coming from Nicholasville Road, it’s death trying to make a left into the parking lot because traffic is constant and there is no stop light.
Two things made me decide to try Crossroads. One of those reasons was my friends and coworkers had heard good things about it (but not gone there themselves.) The other was a sign from God…or rather, a billboard. Right above Crossroads was a sign for Wild Turkey American Honey, which is one of my favorite drinks. I knew it didn’t necessarily mean Crossroads offered American Honey (they do) but it still caught my attention.
The first thing I noticed about Crossroad was that it doesn’t look or feel like a restaurant. They have a high ceiling, lots of open room, and small booths which have tables that for some reason don’t reach the end of the booth, so you can’t fit five people in there. Near the entrance there is a chalkboard with the specials, and while I do like it, I would also like a piece of paper with my menu advertising what’s available. That way I don’t have to get up every time I want to check my options.
That’s all small potatoes compared with the most important part of any establishment: the food. On the first visit I ordered the “Bubba Tubba”: a pulled pork sandwich with bacon, cole slaw, tomatoes and cheddar cheese on a roll with a side of their hand-cut fries. It also comes with your choice of sauce, mine being Spicy Memphis. Kat ordered the chicken sandwich, with an appetizer of fried pickles.
I can appreciate the presentation of this dish. It came with a small side of, what I believe to be, Remoulade. You may notice they’re sliced the long way, which I’ve never seen before for fried pickles; I’ve only seen pickles fried as chips. The problem with this long-cut method is that the pickle is still piping hot, making it difficult to pick up, plus it fell apart whenever you tried to take a bite. The breading slid off on nearly every attempt. I can see one advantage for doing this: when you let the pickle cool a little bit, it eventually becomes crunchy, as compared to chips which become soggy over time.
The Bubba Tubba…was divine. Words (at least not mine) can not give justice to this slice of heaven. Hyperbole? Not at all. In fact, I didn’t even use the Spicy Memphis sauce, as it was off to the side. The pork was juicy, tender…just perfect. Stop reading this and go get one.
If you’re still here, we need to talk about the REAL star of Crossroads: the fries. I would go back daily just for some hand-cut fries. I’ve been to Crossroads about five times now, and not once have I had an overcooked or undercooked fry. They’re also perfectly seasoned; much better than any fast food fry or anywhere else in town that I can think of.
For a to-go order, I got the fried catfish sandwich, which comes with Remoulade, lettuce, tomato and onion on a toasted roll. This, too, blew me away. You wouldn’t think something as simple as fried catfish would be worth such praise, but it’s really easy to screw up something like this, plus just because a dish is simple doesn’t mean it can’t be superb. It wasn’t “busy”; it was just a good, simple sandwich that was completely satisfying. If I wasn’t required to diversify my orders for the blog, I would have ordered this or the Bubba Tubba on every visit.
Pick anything else on the menu - whether it’s the sautéed chicken breast (served over cheddar cheese grits with ham, garlic, onions, corn, tomatoes, basil and mushrooms), fried chicken cordon bleu, a house salad (fresh – really fresh) or even the mac & cheese or Hoppin’ John (black-eyed peas, ham, rice, onions) - and you will not be disappointed. The only thing that was even slightly disappointing was The Crossroad Burger.
The burger is three patties with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and a side of fries. I got mine with bleu cheese crumbles, but I was hoping for more. When they say “three patties” I was thinking it would be three regular sized patties. These were more like patties you would get at Steak & Shake in terms of thickness. It was also a little dry, but that’s only one dish from the menu. Considering their track records with me, I’m sure it was just an aberration.
Finally, I would be remiss to not mention the service. Whether it’s Franny, Bryan or any one else there, I have never had bad service. They’re very attentive, funny and know all the details on the dishes they serve. I also enjoy that they offer $1 pints on Tuesdays every time the train goes by.
Yet with all of this, I look around and not once did I see a restaurant that was near capacity. The bar does well, but the restaurant part seems to be dying a slow death. It’s a shame. Crossroads deserves so much more than this. Go check it out, bring your family and help out one of the gems of Lexington. I hope Crossroads becomes the place breaks the curse of 286 Southland.