Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, June 24, 2022

River City: Made in the shade: Treat yourself at Kenny’s Southside

The Double Stack Burger at Kenny’s Sandwich Shop is a steaming wonder made from ground brisket. - Photographs provided

It seems like only yesterday when Kenny’s Southside Sandwiches opened in the Market Street spot where Porker’s Bar-B-Que served patrons for more than 25 years before closing in 2017.

Always on the hunt for new eateries, I remember it piquing my interest as I drove by. Without knowing anything about the food or staff, I spotted the large shade tree that stood over its patio and thought it looked like the best lunch spot in town.

Four years and one pandemic later, I was boring my Uber driver with idle chitchat when he asked where he was taking me.

When I said Kenny’s, he perked up.

“I’ve eaten there,” he said, sounding excited. And then he told me about everything he’d ordered – in detail.

From the Croque Madame – a breakfast sandwich with city ham, Gruyere, bechamel, egg and herbs on sourdough – to the avocado toast, he described each item like he was reliving a meal at a fine restaurant. Clearly, the place made an impression on him.

This in turn made me wish I was going to eat breakfast instead of lunch and glower at the Friday traffic that was slowing his progress.

My Uber driver’s radiant account of his meals at Kenny’s made sense given the pedigree behind the place. The spot takes its name from its owner, Kenny Burnap, a longtime sous chef at St. John’s Restaurant.

As the story goes, when Burnap saw the space was available, he and Josh Carter, owner of St. John’s, seized the opportunity to showcase Burnap’s skill with meats and side dishes in a casual venue.

The server relayed these details to me as I perused a pair of menus, one of which listed the daily staples and the other of which outlined a number of specials, each of which sounded special indeed.

I came close to ordering the Summer Veggie Melt, a vegetarian’s dreamwich featuring Food Hub’s zucchini, cauliflower, Signal Mountain Farm’s tomatoes, housemade ricotta, provolone and basil-arugula pesto. (Note the use of local ingredients where possible.) It sounded good.

But I couldn’t get what the server had said about Burnap’s knack for preparing great meats out of my head, so I asked her about the Double Stack Burger. When she said it was made from ground brisket, I was sold.

After selecting potato salad for my side, I settled in for the wait and looked through the window at the patio. It was too hot to eat outside, even in the shade, and I made plans to return to Kenny’s when the temperature was below sizzling. It just looked like the best lunch spot in town.

I was comfortable inside, though, and not only because the temperature in the dining area was cool. There’s ample space between the tables to be alone with your thoughts, or smartphone, and the decor is sparse but nice.

Speaking of sizzling, my Double Stack was a steaming wonder when it arrived. Imagine two patties of seared beef covered in melted cheddar and slipped – along with your choice of condiments – between the two halves a toasted bun. If you don’t get the picture, then look at the picture.

To my relief, the Double Stack tasted as good as it looked. Apparently, Burnap’s gifts include preparing burgers that are not only perfectly singed and thoroughly cooked but also as tender and juicy as they come. His experience in fine dining is not wasted on his casual venue.

I was going to nitpick about the size of the Double Stack, which left me wanting more, but then I realized I complained about the same thing in my last two restaurant write-ups. Clearly, this issue lies with me and not Chattanooga’s generous dining establishments.

Although the sidewalk sign outside Kenny’s indicates it’s open Tuesday through Sunday, it’s actually open Wednesday through Sunday 8 a.m.-3 p.m.

But not to worry, as that still gives you five days each week to experience the delicious food at this truly special place.

And if you happen to visit Kenny’s on a day when the temperature outside is tolerable, try eating on the patio. It just looks like the best lunch spot in town.