Andy and I have only been in Pikeville for 2 years, so you might still call us Hillbilly Days novices. However, both years we have hit ‘Billy Days hard. I might have mentioned before that our unofficial family motto is “Go Hard or Go Home”. Anything we do, we tend to do it hardcore whether it is eating healthy (Paleo February) or enjoying the best fried food Eastern Kentucky has to offer. Last year, I was off of work and had plenty of time to explore. This year, we only took a day but we had an intentional plan of attack. So if you don’t have a lot of time, and just want to hit the highlights, here it is.
The Official French Family
Hillbilly Days Food Guide
One important note before you get started with the Hillbilly Days food: $$$$
Either decide how much you are going to spend beforehand and only take that much in cash and stop eating when it is gone OR simply ignore the large amount of money flying out of your hand with each stand you walk by. There is no middle ground.
The Elite Tour
I mean anybody can go through Hillbilly Days and grab a hot dog, but you want the elite food experience. You don’t just want average fair food, you want the best food. Andy and I want to spend our day of food extravaganza only on the very best stuff. The end of the day stomach explosion needs to be worth it. This list is just the really good stuff; the things you will buy every year, multiple times. (I have listed things on the elite tour in order starting with our most favorite.)
As far as we’ve found, there’s only one truck that sells cinnamon rolls, and they are absolutely delicious. If you only buy one thing, this is it. My favorite thing to do is to get to Hillbilly Days before the crowds while most of the trucks are still setting up and grab a cinnamon roll. You won’t regret it. Be warned that if you try to eat another dessert right after the cinnamon roll, it will pale in comparison.
The truck is located on Main St just to the right of the old courthouse.
If you haven’t figured it out, we have a sweet spot for homemade baked goods. The next stop on the tour is the KYCOM Mission Trip booth. They sell other food, but the highlight at this booth is the homemade cupcakes. One of Andy’s classmates is a phenomenal baker and donates her cupcakes to be sold and the proceeds go towards the summer mission trip to the Dominican Republic. These are a must-get this year because his classmate will be moving to do her rotations next year, so you won’t see them again. My personal favorite is the cookie dough cupcake.
This year, their booth is located on Main St., directly across from the Medical Leader.
Surprise, surprise, our top three contains only baked goods. What can I say? We like the good stuff. This tent was a new one this year, and we’re already hoping that they decide to come back next year. Much to the relief of our waistlines, the Pikeville area does not have a doughnut shop so we were super excited to see these. I loved that you could watch them make the doughnuts and get one hot and fresh. The ladies working here were very friendly and nice.
Their tent is on Hambley Blvd. to the left of the red traincar.
The “Big Bud”
The next item on your elite tour is the “Big Bud”. One of my co-workers lives for this sandwich. He gets so many each year that the owner just keeps a tab for him. They call it the Big Bud for a reason – it has pork tenderloin, country ham, sausage, bacon, a fried egg, and cheese. For the $5 price tag, I think it is the best value in the entire festival. If you aren’t feeling like having a heart attack, they also sell a pork tenderloin sandwich that is delicious. I think this truck is one of the hidden gems of Hillbilly Days.
The truck is located at the end of Main St. in front of the new courthouse.
If Gyros are your thing, you need to go to the tent set up across from the parking garage near the Methodist church parking lot. The people who run this tent are actually Greek and told us that they have been coming to Hillbilly Days for 37 years. Andy has been there both years and loved it; it is one of his must-have items.
Now that you’ve had some protein, time to go back to the sweets. If you are getting a strawberry shortcake, it is very important that you go to the right stand. Most of the vendors will use a pre-packaged cake, put canned strawberries on top, and spray on some whipped cream. That’s okay, but the best vendor blows all of that out of the water.
You need to go to the Strawberry Express. Their strawberry shortcake is a homemade cake, covered with strawberries, topped with ice cream, whipped cream and nuts. It is on Main St. almost to the new courthouse, right across from BB&T.
Honorable Mentions/General Advice
Well that was our top 6 Hillbilly Days food items, but there is plenty more food to be had that is also very enjoyable. If you’ve still got some cash and aren’t so full that you’re going to be sick yet, you might want to check these out.
One of my favorite fair foods is funnel cake. It didn’t make the elite list because you can literally buy it on every street. Personally, I like just the classic funnel cake with powered sugar, but if you are looking to mix it up this is what I recommend. Either go to Hoop’s Funnel Cakes near Big Sandy and get a red velvet funnel cake, or go to the funnel cake stand just past Miss Piggy’s on Hambley Blvd and get a Reese’s Funnel Cake.
Lemonade is another item that you can buy at almost every stand but here’s our advice – buy it from one of the trucks that is shaped like a lemon. I mean, if you going to be at a fair and buy fresh squeezed lemonade, it might as well be from the lemon truck, right?
Barbecue is one of my favorite meals at Hillbilly Days. Most people love Miss Piggy’s Pork Shop on Hambley Blvd, across from the 99 but I think it is a bit overrated. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is tasty but it doesn’t live up to the hype for me. If you do go there, get the riblet sandwich or the pork chop sandwich. Personally, we think the better BBQ place is down the street a little ways at Big Blue Smokehouse. I think Big Blue has better food, better price, and shorter line. So for me it is a win-win-win. You can also get an actual rack of ribs at Big Blue, one of my personal favorites.
Another Hillbilly Days staple. I know people who rave and rave about the steak tips at Mr. Beefy’s all year long. It is certainly a meal that you won’t be disappointed with. My tip – make sure you shake on some extra seasoning before enjoying your sandwich.They have it out on a little table next to the tent.
You just can’t go wrong with fried cheese. As far as I know, there is only one booth that sells cheese curds and it is right in front of the Big Sandy parking lot. If you ask for it, you can get marinara dipping sauce that makes them even better.
Another fair staple is ice cream. If you have a craving for something cold and creamy, your best bet is the ice cream tent just a couple vendors down from the doughnuts. Better yet, grab a doughnut and then go to this place and top it off with some ice cream.
Lastly, a couple places that I’ve heard people rave about but haven’t had a chance to eat at myself. One is “Chicken on a Stick” directly across from the Expo on Main St. The other is “Bourbon Chicken” on Hambley Blvd. It is on the UPIKE side of the street in front of the apartment complex, not quite all the way to Jenny Wiley.
Well that’s all I’ve got. What are some of your favorites?