Kentucky Tourism
Back to Stories

Fine Dining at Kentucky Parks

Find fine dining at Kentucky State Resort Parks


What comes to mind when thinking about Kentucky State Parks? Probably images of scenic landscapes, cozy lodges and memories of awesome outdoor adventures like hiking, biking, camping, golfing, swimming, fishing or boating. But what about fine dining? If you don’t associate top-notch sit-down meals with Kentucky’s State Parks, you should start. 17 of Kentucky’s 52 state parks are Resort Parks with high-caliber chefs and restaurants worth visiting!

For proof, read these recent online reviews from park visitors: “The catfish is wonderful … The food was delicious … lodge dining well above average … wonderful chef … food was spectacular … freshly prepared … Kentucky state parks banana pudding is the best!”

Driftwood Restaurant’s Chef Rick Lenoir, of Barren River Lake State Resort Park in Lucas, explains that each park lodge chef adds their own special touches to the food and all are strong supporters of the Kentucky Proud program–committed to using locally-sourced ingredients such as beef, buffalo, catfish and produce.

Regarding the high praise for banana pudding, Chef Rick said each lodge “makes its own custard and meringue from scratch,” adding that the parks in eastern KY seem to prefer their banana pudding served warm while the western Kentucky parks like it cold.

Guests at Kentucky State Resort Parks can partake of the buffet or order off the menu. The same standard breakfast, lunch, dinner and kids menus are found at each of the state resort parks (see below). The menus feature contemporary classics including fried green tomatoes, buffalo strips and cheese sticks as well as signature Kentucky dishes such as Kentucky Hot Brown, country ham cured by a Kentucky Proud supplier and scrumptious fried catfish. Chef Rick says he uses a Kentucky Proud seasoned breading mix on the fresh farm catfish he serves at Barren River Lake. “It’s one of our most popular entrees.”

Location, popular demand and seasonality account for some other differences between state park restaurants. Chef Rick can easily get buffalo and produce from a number of nearby farms, while parks in more remote areas may have a smaller selection of products available to them.

All Kentucky State Resort Parks do a large traditional Thanksgiving buffet for which reservations are often booked way in advance. Some park lodges hold special monthly or seasonal meals such as Friday night seafood buffets, Buffalo and Wild Game nights, farm-to-market meet and greets, Prime Rib Valentine’s Day dinners or outdoor BBQ buffets.

These special menus and buffets are where the chefs can really shine and add their own creative touches. For example, Chef Rick created Scottish-themed dishes when the Highland Games were held nearby, and his savory carrot soufflé and heirloom tomato tarts appear in the occasional buffet.

Peruse the Kentucky State Resort Park menus below to find your appetite. Keep in mind that diners do not need to be guests of a park’s lodge to partake of its delicious cuisine. Bon Appetit!
For more information about KY State Resort Parks Dining, visit the desired state park of your choice and click on the dining tab.