Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Dairy Cheer Holds a Menu Secret That Runs Rings around Competitors

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Dairy Cheer Holds a Menu Secret That Runs Rings around Competitors

Article excerpt

For close to three decades now, I've been making the trek with my wife across the center of Kentucky and out through the easternmost tip of Pike County into Virginia on the way to her hometown. And for all that time, as we've navigated the Pikeville cut-through - that's where they carved a new channel through the mountains for the Cumberland River so it no longer floods the town - we've always said that someday we had to stop, just out of curiosity, at a near roadside restaurant. It has been a fixture in Pikeville seemingly forever.

Patty says it was there, looking just as it does now, in 1974 when she first made the trip from Grundy, Virginia, to Lexington, Kentucky, to attend graduate school at the University of Kentucky.

It attracts attention because of a sign that towers above the four-lane stretch of U.S. 23-460 proclaiming "Dairy Cheer - Home of the Smashburger."

She never stopped there. Neither had we, because it's only about an hour from her hometown. You get there too late when you're making the drive from Western Kentucky, and it comes up too early when you leave Grundy in the morning.

But on our last trip there a couple of weeks back, we didn't start home nearly until about noon, and we agreed that trip would be the occasion when we finally tried a Smashburger.

A caveat here: It's not to be confused with burgers from the relatively recent Smashburger chain out of Denver that now has outlets all across the country including some in Louisville and Lexington. Dairy Cheer, which at one time had several franchises mostly in Eastern Kentucky, was already the "Home of the Smashburger" while the principals of the new group were still in diapers, if they were even born.

While the luster has worn off the Dairy Cheer brand at many locations and only a few remain, the Pikeville restaurant is beloved and has a devoted following. Chris Smith, who purchased the restaurant from its original owner in the mid-1990s, sees only a bright future for it.

The Pikeville Dairy Cheer is caught in something of a time warp. It's straight out of the 1960s or, maybe, the' 70s. …

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