Shortly after forfeiting an hour back to the time zone gods heading east, I arrived in Lexington, KY around 8:00PM Monday night 7/7. I could tell you that the reason I didn't do much in the way of partying in Lexington on Monday night was because school was not in session and without the college scene in full force, Lexington is just another sleepy little city in the middle of God's country. However, truth be told, after a weekend of eating, drinking, ogling, and laughing my way through the SEC, I needed a night of Chick-fil-A and WWE Monday Night Raw in my hotel room. This was not necessarily a bad thing, as I got to see the new WWE Champion C.M. Punk (pictured here at the Wrestlemania press conference in Houston on June 25th; he looks a little like the drunk trail cook in "City Slickers") in his first title defense, I got to eat the grilled chicken salad with extra Honey Dijon dressing which is one of my favorites, and I got to fully experience the Fairfield Inn-Lexington, which has two -- count 'em, TWO -- treadmills and a continental breakfast to die for. All in all, life was pretty good in Lexington.
It only got better on Tuesday as I was able to make my way over to campus and chalk up my digestive experience for this leg of the trip -- a swing by Tolly Ho's, a 24 hour eatery right across the street from one of the bookstores on campus. This little dive (and I mean that in the most flattering way) came highly recommended from one of my listeners, Kerry Guidry. Kerry is a lawyer, so I knew that not only was I about to get a good burger, but there was probably a decent chance that I would slip and fall somewhere in this joint and have a shot at a six figure "pain and suffering" settlement. Bonus! So I parked my car on the street, and walked over to Tolly Ho's, keeping a watchful eye for any potholes on Tolly Ho property into which I might be able to trip and fall.
You can see the awning over the front door in the picture above, and you may even be able to make out the slogan on the front flap. It says "A UK Tradition Since 1971". Do the math, they've been around for about 37 years. How do you stay in business that long in the "greasy spoon" business? Well, the immediate knee jerk answer is "you cook great food", and I suppose that's partially true. But in Kentucky, you also can't get too caught up in modern technology. In other words, when new video games come out, if the ones you already have ain't broke, then don't swap 'em out. I can only assume this is the philosophy of the King Ho at Tolly Ho's because the first thing you notice about this place is it's decided 1984 feel, complete with all of your arcade favorites (multiple pinball machines, Galaga, Centipede, Ms. Pac Man, and yes the original Donkey Kong). I was half expecting Stacy from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" to come out and take my order, and for Damone to be selling Blue Oyster Cult tickets over by Space Invaders. Hell, even the TV in the upper corner of the room was playing "Days of Our Lives" and the character getting major screen time was "Bo" (portrayed in all of his worse-than-porn-acting glory by Peter Reckell), who was one of the main characters back during the Reagan Administration. To bring the 1980's references full circle, it was like I stepped out of a Delorean into the year 1985.
After resisting the temptation to drop about five dollars in Dig Dug, I strolled up to the counter to place my order. Knowing that the specialty of Tolly Ho's is their burger, I asked if there was any burger in particular that I should sample. The shapely tomcat behind the counter told me that I should choose between (from smallest to largest) the Tolly-Ho, the Super-Ho, and the Mega-Ho. (Basically, the difference between each was that with each level of Ho you went up, another 1/4 lb beef patty got added. There's a metaphor for something in there.) So in honor of most of my formal dates in college (if one of you is reading this, I don't mean you, I mean the other skanks), I went with the Mega-Ho. Three all beef patties of artery clogging goodness, topped with three slices of cheese, ketchup, mayo, mustard, lettuce, onions, tomato. Total fat grams, who cares? I'm on vacation.
I texted Kerry to let him know of my whereabouts and that I went with the Mega-Ho as my choice. He replied in about 30 seconds with a long soliloquy on how he and his buddies always ate there when they were drunk at three in the morning, and finished off the text message with "God, I miss the Ho." Indeed, Kerry. Don't we all ....
Kerry also told me to be sure to convey to the cashier that I am a "virgin ho", which I happily did even if that's the biggest lie this side of Roger telling us Andy misremembered. Well, apparently the phrase "virgin ho" has nothing to do with my sketchy intimacy track record, instead it is a moniker for those who are experiencing Tolly Ho's culinary delights for the first time. What did my status as "virgin ho" net me? Well, when it came time for me to pick up my order from the counter, the announcement that my burger was ready was adjoined with a spirited proclamation from the cashier as to my maiden voyage status into the world of ho-ism. The only thing missing was Jim Ross proclaiming that "GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY BUSINESS IS BY GOD ABOUT TO PICK UP!!"
After sheepishly waving at the other five patrons in the Ho (whose reactions ranged from indifferent to nonplussed) as if I were receiving an Academy Award, I took my tray back to my seat and dove into the Mega-Ho ... not unlike the Christmas Formal at Notre Dame back in 1989. Of course, my dates then never looked this beautiful ....
The key with any Mega-Ho (the burger or otherwise) is toasting the buns. The difference in taste when you have a Mega-Ho whose buns are toasted is palatable, noticeable, and quite frankly, a gift from the heavens. I will never, ever have a Mega-Ho with soft, squishy, uncooked buns. Ever.
You might think that it took me a while to down that tower of cholesterol you see to the left of this text. As Red in "The Shawshank Redemption" might say, I wish I could tell you that Sean fought the good fight, and that the Mega-Ho let him be. I wish I could tell you he didn't drop ten bucks into Donkey Kong and Q-bert. I wish I could tell you that - but Tolly Ho's ain't no fairy tale world.
TOLLY HO'S - LEXINGTON, KY
FOOD: THE MEGA-HO BURGER