With a great name like Prissy Polly’s, which made it into my barbecue joint name hall of fame, it’s tempting to be Pollyannaish about the quality of the barbecue. The fact that the restaurant is named after the founder’s mother makes it even better. But despite the great name, Polly’s suffers from an identity crisis. And, leaving the name aside, the food they serve is just okay.
Trying to Do Too Much
Instead of focusing on preparing one style of barbecue well, which is a difficult enough task, Polly’s tries to serve both Eastern- and Lexington-style ‘cue and does neither especially well. According to their own website:
“Originally Prissy Polly’s served only Eastern-style barbecue. This caused a bit of consternation among some of the local folks, who were accustomed to Lexington-style barbecue. To please the taste of those who preferred Lexington-style, Prissy Polly’s began to offer both styles of barbecue.”
I have to give Polly’s a lot of credit for being bold enough to start an Eastern-style BBQ joint in the heart of Lexington-style territory. And the Eastern-style ‘cue they serve is definitely the better of the types. I can’t really blame Polly’s for caving to local preferences either. Judging by the fact that they have stayed in business for 18 years and have a sparkling, large restaurant, adding Lexington-style ‘cue to the menu was the right decision. I simply don’t think their Lexington-style ‘cue is particularly good.
One, Two, Three Types of ‘Cue
Since Polly’s started out serving Eastern-style barbecue, let’s focus on that first. The biggest problem with Polly’s Eastern-style ‘cue is that it is not cooked over wood and the lack of care shows in a lack of flavor. Sadly, Polly has plenty of company in both the east and the west in terms of not using wood, but that doesn’t excuse them. Leaving that aside, Polly’s Eastern-style BBQ is moist and has decent flavor, which is enhanced by a slightly too salty but quite good vinegar/pepper sauce that accompanies it, though it appears to be machine chopped and is a bit mushy. I’d probably give their Eastern-style ‘cue a B- if I were grading it alone. Polly’s Lexington-style barbecue fares worse.
Polly’s actually offers two types of Lexington-style ‘cue. (Pay close attention, this gets a bit confusing.) Polly’s original Lexington-style BBQ is called “Original Lexington,” and they have served it for years. It features a rather thick, sweet dip that has as much in common with KC Masterpiece or Kraft as it does with traditional NC style sauces. Recently Polly’s added another Lexington-style dip option, this one called “Traditional Lexington.” The dip used for the newer traditional version is significantly better than the original recipe, as it is much thinner and more vinegar-based, though it is still too sweet for my palate. The Lexington-style ‘cue was too heavily sauced in the kitchen and needed no added dip at the table.
Both Eastern- and Lexington-style barbecues are available on a sandwich, on a plate, or in a tray. Note that I did not see trays listed on the slightly confusing menu behind the counter at which one orders, but trays are definitely available (grab a menu off a table and peruse it before going up to order). Other dishes offered include ribs, catfish, baked chicken, beef, burgers, and more. One item that caught my attention is the “BBQ Burrito.” I decided not to ask.
Since I had to sample multiple types of ‘cue in one visit, the only sides I tried were hush puppies and slaw. The hush puppies were fluffy and a bit sweet, roughly the consistency of funnel cake. They were a bit greasy–in a good way–and very easy going down. As would be expected of a joint that tries to cater to eastern and western tastes, slaw is available either as a creamy mayo-based “sweet slaw” with just a touch of mustard or a Lexington-style red “BBQ slaw.” Both were very finely chopped and tasted fairly good.
Additional barbecue-related sides available at Polly’s include many Eastern-style classics, such as boiled potatoes, green beans, Brunswick stew, fried okra, cabbage, and potato salad. Banana pudding and pecan pie are featured on the dessert menu.