I don’t usually review restaurants…the purpose of my blog is to encourage people to eat in. (Although, would I love to be a restaurant reviewer? Hell, yeah!). But I had an unexpected experience last night which inspired me to temporarily stray from my typical 2peasinapod path and write about a particular deserved restaurant, even though a majority of my readership will likely never get to experience the subtle glories of The Blue Raven. Why, you ask? Because it’s located in the slightly obscure town of Pikeville, Kentucky (pop. 6800).
Yep, that’s right, Pikeville. Our overnight-destination for the first leg of our road trip from my parents’ house in Asheville back home to Chicago. Never heard of of Pikeville? Yeah, that makes two of us. So, you can imagine my surprise in discovering a truly outstanding and review-worthy destination hidden amongst the egregious over-abundance of fast-food restaurants at this particular exit on Hwy. 26. No lie — if you do a Yelp search for the best restaurants in Pikeville, the only ones that get a 5-star rating are Subway, Captain D’s Seafood (if you’re from the South, you know what I’m talking about), and some “East Coast” sub shop I’ve never heard of. Straight up. Surprisingly, Mike and I were looking for something a little more upscale and, uh, healthy.
Blue Raven received only four stars on Yelp, but the menu looked pretty darn good, and they had a wine list which admittedly helped their cause, so we decided to give it a go. The cool, industrial-chic interior probably wouldn’t turn heads in any major “foodie” city, but it was certainly unexpected and much-appreciated in Pikeville. We later learned that many of the building materials had been reclaimed from the chef/owner’s family property, which made it even more charming.
Our server, Kayla, was nothing short of adorable, full of welcoming smiles and enthusiasm. It’s truly refreshing to find someone who enjoys her work and believes in the product she is selling.
Having consumed an over-sized and caloric lunch earlier in the day, I decided to go light and order the goat cheese salad and the soup of the day which happened to be a delicious house-made smoked chicken and black bean concoction that was well-balanced and nicely seasoned. Based on the Yelp reviews, Mike ordered the maple-brined pork chop, a potentially risky move because Mike happens to make one of the world’s best pork chops (in my opinion), so the competition is fierce.
The first layer of doubt was lifted as soon as Kayla brought a basket of their house-made mini corn muffins, the likes of which I haven’t had in years. I grew up in the South, and I know a good corn muffin when I taste one. And these weren’t good, they were divine!! Light, moist, and sweet without being too sweet…not dry or dense as they all too often can be. Encased in a golden halo of crispness around the edges, these were delectable mounds of buttery goodness. I could’ve eaten an entire basket of them.
Mike’s pork chop was expertly brined to produce an impressively juicy but not at all salty chop cooked perfectly to medium rare, as he had requested. It was served with a tiny skillet of mac ‘n cheese that was ooey gooey perfection. Kayla informed us that Chef Corbin makes every effort to source his ingredients locally, and it really shows. While the prices may be slightly elevated for the area, the quality of the ingredients and the preparation make it very worth it.
All of these elements added up to a very memorable meal. I would go so far as to say that chef Corbin could make a real go of it in a bigger market. Personally, I wish he’d pack up his kitchen tools and open up shop in Evanston, just so I could go back for more of those damn good corn muffins! If you ever find yourself in eastern Kentucky looking for some tasty vittles, make your way to The Blue Raven.