Good Eats in Kentucky’s Great River Road Region
By: Christopher Hildebrand
This is where the South begins – and where Southern eating shines – at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers in Western Kentucky. Surrounded by wetlands dense with ancient cypress, generations of families cleared the land for farms in these low-rolling hills and carved out farm-to-market roads that still wind through the countryside.
Before Eisenhower’s interstate stitched the country together, two-lane highways and county roads were its main thoroughfares. Kentucky’s Great River Road region is full of these routes – with some good eats to enjoy along the way.
The town of La Center has Smokey D's Family Restaurant where you'll find barbecue, catfish and frog legs on the buffet, along with David's new spicy chicken sandwich. Barlow is famous for home-cooked fried chicken at Betty's Restaurant, and it's no surprise Kentucky is known for fried chicken. In Bardwell, try the blackened salmon at 51 Grill Restaurant. Looking for pie? At Luke’s Restaurant in Arlington, you can enjoy a weekend seafood buffet and belly up to the counter for a piece of homemade pie.
Barbecue – a staple on the road – can be found in small roadhouses along a stretch of corn or smack-dab in the heart of town. Along Highway 51 in Bardwell and Clinton, look for the Kentucky Hillbilly Barbecue food truck or venture to the restaurant's permanent location in Wickliffe. In Clinton, find Sugar and Spice Cafe for family-style cooking.
Come Sit a Spell
In Cayce – home to American folk hero Casey Jones – the porch of Cayce Café (painted in Kentucky Wildcat blue) beckons travelers to relax after lunch and watch the world go by. Visit Hickman, where the Dorena-Hickman Ferry is docked, and stop by Hub’s – offering the most variety in 50 miles. Famed for its blackened steak and blackened oysters, the restaurant also features alligator on the menu. This place stays busy for good reason, so plan ahead.
East in the railroad town of Fulton, The Keg Bar and Grill is an iconic eatery that has been in business since 1939, but offers a modern touch. Steaks rule the menu, but if you’d like a few veggies with your meat, don’t miss the BBQ salad.
Pop into any of these places for a quick bite or stick around to soak up the sights and sounds of Kentucky’s Great River Road.