Root Beer Stand

Drive-In | Hot Dog
legendary
Worth driving from anywhere!
Michael Stern | August 09, 2018
Save

First, house-made root beer: It is an ingenuous, uncomplicated draft, sweet enough but not overly so, just hinting of sarsparilla. It arrives in a thick glass mug sheathed in frost. An ideal companion for burgers and hot dogs, it’s also the right medium for a float of vanilla ice cream.

While root beer is universally American, the chili bun is uniquely regional; and it’s the opinion of more than a few experts on the subject that the chili bun served here is one of Eastern Kentucky’s best. I’ve had none better.

The concept of a chili bun is simplicity itself: a chili dog without the dog. Yellow mustard and chopped onions are usual condiments, most often put into the bun before the chili, meaning that you don’t see them when you unfurl the wax paper to behold the clever little sandwich. But they’re there; and they are important, the mustard adding picnic zest, the onions delivering sweet crunch. The chili itself is beefy, beanless, thick and savory, just a little bit spicy. Cheap as it is (about $1 per bun), it has a luxurious quality that sparkles in an impeccably fresh, soft bun.

The same good chili is, of course, the right stuff atop a hot dog, although its aristocratic mien tends to eclipse the pale little weenie down below.

The Root Beer Stand is a genuine drive-in with car-hop service. I arrived early and was taken care of instantaneously. But in the evening, especially on weekends, expect to wait a while.

Note that the Root Beer Stand is open only from late Spring to early Autumn.

What to Eat
Root Beer Stand, Chili Dog
Chili Dog
Must-Try
Expertly made chili dog has onions secreted below.
Root Beer Stand, Chili Bun
Chili Bun
Must-Try
Kentucky chili bun at its best
Root Beer Stand, Root Beer
Root Beer
Must-Try
Mugs arrive well-frosted.
Directions and Hours
Information
Seasons
Summer
Meals Served
Lunch, Dinner
Credit Cards Accepted
No
Alcohol Served
No
Outdoor Seating
Yes

Other Nearby Restaurants

  • Billy’s One Stop

    Barbourville, Kentucky

    Locals and regular travelers along the Cumberland Gap Parkway stop at Billy’s for a $1 chili bun, lunch-counter eats, gas, and convenience-store needs.

  • Big Bad Wolf BBQ

    London, Kentucky

    A BBQ truck that parks along Rt. 25 in London, Kentucky, from March to October, Big Bad Wolf offers fantastic ribs, pork, chicken, even praiseworthy catfish.

  • You and Me Coffee and Tea

    Corbin, Kentucky

    Corbin, Kentucky’s coffee house is a source for Counter Culture brewed coffee, pourover, & cold brew, and a sophisticated fried bologna breakfast sandwich.

  • Boone Tavern

    Berea, Kentucky

    Built in 1909 and affiliated with Berea College (which supplies much of the staff), the Boone Tavern serves great vintage hotel food with many modern twists.

  • Heavy’s Barbecue, Canoe and Camp

    Harrogate, Tennessee

    Decor at Heavy’s is taxidermy and dollar bills. The food is sweet-sauced Tennessee barbecued pork sided by cole slaw and crisp-fried okra.

  • Sanders Cafe (Original KFC)

    Corbin, Kentucky

    Sanders’ food is basic KFC, but the place is culinary history. This is where Harlan Sanders first served what was delicious chicken.