While I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Holland, Michigan, the food there was very similar to what I can get in my own area. However, traveling down South meant I would be able to partake in the delicious offerings of Southern fare, including trying some dishes that are distinctly unique to the state of Kentucky.
Our first night in Kentucky we stayed in the capital city of Frankfort, although we were on the outer perimeter and were surrounded by a glut of generic dining establishments, many of which were chains. We did eat at Miguels, which is apparently the best Mexican food in Frankfort. I would recommend it.
Prior to journeying South I did the most uninspiring Google search ever, which was “best fried chicken in Bardstown, Kentucky” (this is where the bed and breakfast we’d be staying at was located). Multiple sites I came across referenced Kurtz Retsaurant, a family owned business that has been serving up home cooked Southern fare since the 1930s according to its website. As luck would have it, Kurtz was literally across the street from our bed and breakfast. When staying in a small town/rural area, a car is usually required so not needing one in this instance was terrific.
I had never pegged a place like Kurtz as taking reservations, but our bed and breakfast hostess advised us to call as she said it could get busy on a Saturday night with the locals (she advised us to do the same with the other restaurant I planned to try). Thankfully we could make one without any issues for 6:30 PM. The decor at Kurtz is akin to stepping inside of your grandmother’s kitchen, and being a family style place, conversations were loud and plentiful. The menu is pretty extensive for a smaller run operation, but both D and I ended up ordering the skillet fried chicken, just different portion sizes (i.e. I went with the 1/4 chicken-$13.95, whereas D went with the 1/2 chicken-$16.95). Both meals came with mashed potatoes and milk gravy. Diners also have the option of paying $1 extra for white meat; I gladly did this.
All dinners come with hot bread, green beans, and spiced beets. (I had never eaten beets before in my life and was pleasantly surprised by how good they tasted.) The corn bread was delicious, so unlike the mix you get in the box from the supermarket. D had also ordered a cole slaw salad as a starter ($3). The food was predictable but delicious, and at a place like this that’s exactly what you want. And for dessert, D ordered himself biscuit bourbon pudding; he said you could really taste the bourbon. I was much too full to ingest anything more.
For our second night we dined in downtown Bardstown at a place called The Old Talbot Tavern, a famous dining/watering hole that was built in 1779 and has supposedly never closed in all that time. It also operates as a five-room bed and breakfast which attracts many individuals who are ghost hunters since the place is supposedly haunted.
It was at the Old Talbot Tavern that I was able to experience some Kentucky favorites including as an appetizer, burgoo, a type of stew ($4.95 for a cup). Traditional burgoo was made using whatever meats and vegetables were available (venison, squirrel, oppossum-that’s where its name of roadkill stew derived from); thankfully my burgoo came with meats more familiar to today’s palate. The ingredients are combined in order of cooking time required, so the meat goes into the pot first followed by the vegetables and then the thickening agents. Cider vinegar, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce or chili powder are common condiments.
For my entree I went with the Kentucky Hot Brown, a famous sandwich whose origins date back to the 1930s. It featured toast points with hand pulled turkey, ham and tomato and came in a bubbling Mornay sauce with cheddar cheese ($14.95). It was definitely a unique tasting sandwich, although it’s not one I could eat every day given its richness.
D was slightly disappointed as the dish he had his heart set on since there are so few places in Pittsburgh where one can get it-Country Fried Steak-was all sold out. He ended up choosing their version of Fried Chicken ($16.99) which was also fried in a cast iron skillet and came with green beans and mashed potatoes. Some other unique sounding dishes included the Mango-Bourbon Glazed Grilled Pork Chop and the Jim Beam Ribeye Steak. My second night of dining left me stuffed once more after finishing my meal and D abstained from dessert as well.
I really enjoyed both restaurants but especially the Old Talbot Tavern, since the historic ambiance was one of a kind.
NOTE: Both restaurants have abbreviated schedules during the months of January and February
Tips for visiting the Kentucky Bourbon Trail