I grew up in northern Davidson County, and have dined dozens (if not hundreds) of times at Yarborough's over the past few decades. If you make a visit to Lexington, you must go. After all, Yarborough's is a local institution, in business since 1940.
Yarborough's Restaurant is Davidson County's place "to see and be seen." Local politicians, wealthy businesspeople, and other grandees (and wannabes) frequent the establishment. As such, there is usually a wait for a table on Friday and Saturday nights; however, the restaurant does take reservations and call-ahead seating. There are three large dining rooms, and numerous smaller rooms throughout the restaurant. The decor has not changed since the 1970s: dark, wood paneled walls, kitschy Bob Timberlake artwork, and brass lighting fixtures are featured in every room. Since Yarborough's passes for fine dining in these parts, the irony will not be lost on any sophisticated diner.
Yarborough's specializes in steak and seafood, though sandwiches are also on the menu (I've never had a sandwich there). In my experience, the steaks are very good and the seafood is very poor. All of the steaks, especially the filet mignon, are properly prepared and fork-tender; certainly not to Ruth Chris standards, but much better than Outback or Lone Star. Yarborough's also offers extremely large cuts of premium beef: 12 ounce filets are on the menu, and diners can special-order one-pound portions! Unfortunately, I have been consistently disappointed with Yarborough's seafood offerings. The crab cakes contain too much filler and too little crab flavor. The lobster tails are skimpy and extremely overcooked (I did not know lobster meat could turn into leather, but they manage to do it here). Likewise, the flounder is overcooked and tasteless.
Diners may select two side items to accompany their meat or seafood: soups, salads, french fries, broasted potatoes, baked potatoes, twice-baked potatoes, and daily veg make up the choices. The French Onion Soup is above average, but lacks flavor complexity and the all-important melted Gruyère topping. The twice-baked potato, loaded with cheddar, is quite good and satisfying, in that "comfort food" sort of way.
Desserts are simple but well executed: the homemade apple cake with ice cream and caramel topping fills my sweet tooth quite well, and is large enough to be shared with another person.
Despite Yarborough's local reputation of being a "fine" restaurant, most of the servers are a bit rough around the edges. Some of the servers (they are still called "waitresses" here) are attentive and efficient in their jobs, while others are barely functional. They are all "down home," bubbly types, though a few of them appear to have just arrived from the local trailer park.
Prices are mostly moderate: steak and seafood entrees start at $10.99. The "premium" meats, filet mignon and lobster tail, are market priced, and you will do well to inquire before you order. For instance, I was once charged $32.99 for a single (barely edible) lobster tail side. Usually, the 8 ounce filet mignon is in the $17.99 to $22.99 range. If you stay away from the seafood, I think you will find Yarborough's to be a good value for money.
Note: Yarborough's is a bit challenging to find. The restaurant is located on a street that runs parallel to the highway. You have to travel past the restaurant on the highway, take the next exit, and then backtrack down a dead-end road to find the place. As the parking lots are small, you will probably have to park along the dead-end road and walk a short distance to the entrance. However, I think the unique experience is worth it!
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