What To Eat in Kentucky
Genuine Kentucky fried chicken is a crunchy/juicy/spicy swirl like nowhere else, at its best west of Louisville. Also in this area you will find one of the nation’s most colorful styles of barbecue, where king of the pit is not pork or beef but rather, mutton. Once you’ve tasted it, you understand the locals’ love for it. Louisville is home to the baroque American sandwich known as a hot brown, as well as to pie-and-cake-eater’s-heaven in the form of the Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen.
Following the barbecue trail west of Louisville along the Ohio River and south towards the Land Between the Lakes you will find an open-pit culture unlike anywhere else, where the main meat is mutton. Mature lamb makes for some big-flavored barbecue, and while its sharp sheep tang is undeniable, hours of smoke make its wallop as soft as a prize-fighter's glove.
Almost every place that serves barbecue in western Kentucky also offers the fork-thick vegetable soup/stew known as burgoo. Supposedly named when a Civil War cook with a speech impediment tried to say bird stew, burgoo traditionally contained meat from whatever small game the cook could get, usually including squirrel. Modern burgoo, a staple on Derby Day along with the mint julep, is made with barbecued mutton and also possibly chicken, pork or beef. Its thick and hearty character is similar to Brunswick stew, but it tends to be significantly spicier, verging into Creole gumbo territory.
The original Hot Brown, named for the Brown Hotel whose chef created it in the 1920s, was sliced turkey on white toast topped with Mornay sauce and parmesan cheese, broiled until bubbly. When removed from the broiler, the top was criss-crossed with bacon strips and lengths of pimiento pepper. The hotel's name became affixed to the dish, which has since become a Kentucky trademark, available in many alternate configurations: with ham in addition to the turkey, with tomatoes instead of pimientos, with crab meat instead of turkey; there even are hamburger hot browns and vegetarian hot browns.
Showing 9 results:
Pat's is a Bardstown, Kentucky, cafe favored by locals as well as travelers on the Kentucky bourbon trail. Hamburgers are a specialty. Breakfast, too.
Locals and regular travelers along the Cumberland Gap Parkway stop at Billy's for a $1 chili bun, lunch-counter eats, gas, and convenience-store needs.
A BBQ truck that parks along Rt. 25 in London, Kentucky, from March to October, Big Bad Wolf offers fantastic ribs, pork, chicken, even praiseworthy catfish.
Corbin, Kentucky's coffee house is a source for Counter Culture brewed coffee, pourover, & cold brew, and a sophisticated fried bologna breakfast sandwich.
Built in 1909 and affiliated with Berea College (which supplies much of the staff), the Boone Tavern serves great vintage hotel food with many modern twists.
Christian County, Kentucky, BBQ at its finest includes hot-sauced mutton, pulled pork and ribs, burgoo and hot slaw on the side, peach cobbler for dessert.
What some consider to be the world's best fried chicken is found in a humble Henderson, Kentucky, diner where locals gather for coffee & chat starting at 6am.
Exemplary western Kentucky BBQ at Owensboro's Old Hickory includes off-the-pit mutton, pork, ribs & chicken. Plus burgoo, beans & banana pudding.
In the old distiller's house on the Maker's Mark campus, Star Hill is a contemporary farm-to-table cafe featuring unique Kentucky eats and bourbon drinks.