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Big Time Restaurants In Kentucky Small Towns

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While Eater Louisville has mostly focused on the restaurants and entertainment venues in Louisville, we occasionally wander outside our borders to report on restaurants in our region. This time we thought it might be nice to mention some places outside of the state's major cities (yes, we're including Lexington) and give folks an idea of what's going on in smaller towns (or "cities"—sorry, Bowling Green!). Some good food is going down in Kentucky's small towns, and Eater is happy let people know about it. As always any additions, observations or objections are welcome.



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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

DiFabio's Casapela

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Laura and Peter DiFabio opened their Madisonville restaurant in 1995, bringing real Italian food to an otherwise fast food-heavy town in Western Kentucky. The desserts are always house-made and, in summer, many of the vegetables and herbs come from Laura’s garden. [Photo: Facebook]

Commonwealth Kitchen & Bar

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CKB describes itself as “not quite a bar and not quite a restaurant,” with a “casual-meets-refined atmosphere that welcomes beer drinkers, wine snobs, non-fussy eaters, and foodies alike.” Possibly Western Kentucky’s first gastropub, it offers small plates including eccentric egg rolls, Brussels sprouts and roasted cauliflower. [Photo: Facebook]

Bill's Restaurant

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Leitchfield native Bill Hughes got a degree from Johnson & Wales in Charleston, SC, ran a restaurant for many years, then left the kitchen to be a stockbroker in Owensboro, Kentucky. Thankfully for Owensboro Bill returned to his senses and went back to the restaurant business, opening a small place in a former candy store, now decorated with historic Owensboro scenes and pantings by Bowling Green artist David Jones. Bill offers a constantly-changing menu covering an eclectic range of culinary influences often featuring local meats and produce as well as some seafood dishes reflecting Bill’s Charleston training. [Photo: Facebook]

Home Cafe and Marketplace

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Josh and Chelsey Poling opened Home Cafe and Marketplace in 2011. Josh Poling told a local newspaper: “[W]e knew we wanted to work as much as we could with local farmers and share and bring their food to the table. That’s pretty much it.” Home Cafe and Marketplace bills itself as “a full service café” with pizzas, sandwiches, salads and desserts, using “only the freshest ingredients and sourc[ing] as much product locally as possible.” [Photo: Facebook]

The Bluebird

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In 2012, Executive Chef William Hawkins partnered with the Correll family to open one of Central Kentucky’s first small town farm-to-table restaurants. The Lexington Herald-Leader calls it “a place where neighbors gather and visitors can relax in wood booths lit by glass pendant lights designed by [internationally known Danville glass artist] Stephen Rolfe Powell” and continues: “There are no interior walls, so you can watch all the kitchen magic from your table. The cuisine is based on locally sourced ingredients, some picked fresh from a vegetable garden … [the chef] has planted in town.” [Photo: Bluebird official site]

Heirloom

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Esquire’s John Mariani visited in 2011, noting: “The menu is modeled on French and California lines, and if you're touring the area, stop by for a terrific crab-cake sandwich with jalapeño slaw and perfect French fries, or some superlative buttermilk-brined fried chicken with mashed Yukon potatoes laced with a sage sauce and arugula.” Too bad Mariani missed the best dish, the chicken livers served with ricotta ravioli, lemon, garlic, basil and crème fraiche, which even liver-haters can’t resist. [Photo: Facebook]

Holly Hill Inn

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The flagship of chef Ouita Michel’s Lexington area mini-empire is this old home in Midway. Since 2001, Michel has been using locally sourced foods to “sustain Bluegrass family farms.” Southern Living Magazine describes the food as “local luxe” which is “not fussy” but “just fine.” [Photo: Facebook]

Red River Rockhouse

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This Wolfe County “eclectic American café,” in the heart of the Red River Gorge, was started in 2011 by Chicago rock climbers and professional photographers, Aaron Brouwer and wife, Tina Carter. Serving breakfast, burgers, vegetarian and vegan options from local and sustainable sources, the Rockhouse recently added wine service to its wide selection of beers. [Photo: Facebook]

Blue Raven Restaurant & Pub

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Pikeville native Matt Corbin returned home after culinary school to open The Blue Raven, serving “Pub Style Appalachian Cuisine”—“Kentucky and Appalachia staples with unique twists that showcase quality ingredients and food preparation.” Many ingredients are local, even some from Corbin’s own farm. One Yelper says: “Best restaurant in Eastern Kentucky and whatever you consider to be second place isn't even close.” [Photo: Facebook]

DiFabio's Casapela

Laura and Peter DiFabio opened their Madisonville restaurant in 1995, bringing real Italian food to an otherwise fast food-heavy town in Western Kentucky. The desserts are always house-made and, in summer, many of the vegetables and herbs come from Laura’s garden. [Photo: Facebook]

Commonwealth Kitchen & Bar

CKB describes itself as “not quite a bar and not quite a restaurant,” with a “casual-meets-refined atmosphere that welcomes beer drinkers, wine snobs, non-fussy eaters, and foodies alike.” Possibly Western Kentucky’s first gastropub, it offers small plates including eccentric egg rolls, Brussels sprouts and roasted cauliflower. [Photo: Facebook]

Bill's Restaurant

Leitchfield native Bill Hughes got a degree from Johnson & Wales in Charleston, SC, ran a restaurant for many years, then left the kitchen to be a stockbroker in Owensboro, Kentucky. Thankfully for Owensboro Bill returned to his senses and went back to the restaurant business, opening a small place in a former candy store, now decorated with historic Owensboro scenes and pantings by Bowling Green artist David Jones. Bill offers a constantly-changing menu covering an eclectic range of culinary influences often featuring local meats and produce as well as some seafood dishes reflecting Bill’s Charleston training. [Photo: Facebook]

Home Cafe and Marketplace

Josh and Chelsey Poling opened Home Cafe and Marketplace in 2011. Josh Poling told a local newspaper: “[W]e knew we wanted to work as much as we could with local farmers and share and bring their food to the table. That’s pretty much it.” Home Cafe and Marketplace bills itself as “a full service café” with pizzas, sandwiches, salads and desserts, using “only the freshest ingredients and sourc[ing] as much product locally as possible.” [Photo: Facebook]

The Bluebird

In 2012, Executive Chef William Hawkins partnered with the Correll family to open one of Central Kentucky’s first small town farm-to-table restaurants. The Lexington Herald-Leader calls it “a place where neighbors gather and visitors can relax in wood booths lit by glass pendant lights designed by [internationally known Danville glass artist] Stephen Rolfe Powell” and continues: “There are no interior walls, so you can watch all the kitchen magic from your table. The cuisine is based on locally sourced ingredients, some picked fresh from a vegetable garden … [the chef] has planted in town.” [Photo: Bluebird official site]

Heirloom

Esquire’s John Mariani visited in 2011, noting: “The menu is modeled on French and California lines, and if you're touring the area, stop by for a terrific crab-cake sandwich with jalapeño slaw and perfect French fries, or some superlative buttermilk-brined fried chicken with mashed Yukon potatoes laced with a sage sauce and arugula.” Too bad Mariani missed the best dish, the chicken livers served with ricotta ravioli, lemon, garlic, basil and crème fraiche, which even liver-haters can’t resist. [Photo: Facebook]

Holly Hill Inn

The flagship of chef Ouita Michel’s Lexington area mini-empire is this old home in Midway. Since 2001, Michel has been using locally sourced foods to “sustain Bluegrass family farms.” Southern Living Magazine describes the food as “local luxe” which is “not fussy” but “just fine.” [Photo: Facebook]

Red River Rockhouse

This Wolfe County “eclectic American café,” in the heart of the Red River Gorge, was started in 2011 by Chicago rock climbers and professional photographers, Aaron Brouwer and wife, Tina Carter. Serving breakfast, burgers, vegetarian and vegan options from local and sustainable sources, the Rockhouse recently added wine service to its wide selection of beers. [Photo: Facebook]

Blue Raven Restaurant & Pub

Pikeville native Matt Corbin returned home after culinary school to open The Blue Raven, serving “Pub Style Appalachian Cuisine”—“Kentucky and Appalachia staples with unique twists that showcase quality ingredients and food preparation.” Many ingredients are local, even some from Corbin’s own farm. One Yelper says: “Best restaurant in Eastern Kentucky and whatever you consider to be second place isn't even close.” [Photo: Facebook]