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Kentucky’s Definitive Foods

From dinner trains to bourbon distilleries and barbecue buffets, Kentucky offers travelers a wealth of memorable places to eat.

The Bluegrass State has more than its share of signature flavors and distinctive dining venues. Here’s a sampler of some notable Kentucky favorites that will delight your group travelers.

My Old Kentucky Dinner Train


Groups can dine in a vintage train car rolling through the countryside surrounding Bardstown. The two-and-a-half-hour, 32-mile round-trip on My Old Kentucky Dinner Train begins at the depot in Bardstown and goes through Bernheim Forest to Limestone Springs. While passengers enjoy the scenery of bourbon rickhouses and serene countryside, they dine on a multi-course meal. After starting with a salad, they can choose from a long list of entrees on each seasonal menu, from a tender prime rib to bourbon fried chicken. The selection of desserts includes cheesecake, treasure pie (a Kentucky take on a pecan pie) and chocolate cake, among others. Lunch and dinner excursions are offered, as well as murder-mystery dinners and seasonal holiday experiences.

Holly Hill Inn


The impressive Greek Revival home built in Midway in 1845 that later became known as Holly Hill Inn is also the site of one of the region’s most esteemed restaurants. Owned and operated by six-time James Beard Foundation Award nominee Ouita Michel and her husband, Holly Hill Inn is one of several of Michel’s restaurants in central Kentucky. While the ambience of the historic inn is certainly a draw, Michel’s renowned culinary skills are the reason for its popularity. Menus change seasonally, with each month carrying delightful in-season additions prepared with local ingredients. Bourbon-flamed scallops and braised lamb shoulder are among the upscale offerings on September’s menu. The restaurant is also known for its expansive list of wines and bourbons to pair with each meal.

Moonlite Bar-B-Q


Some of the best barbecue in the state can be found on its western border. In Owensboro, Moonlite Bar-B-Q, a local staple since the 1960s, consistently impresses everyday diners and food critics alike with its tender, flavorful barbecue. Its legendary buffet, open for lunch and dinner, has an array of mouthwatering options, including barbecued mutton, beef brisket, chicken and pork, all smothered in the restaurant’s sweet and tangy signature sauce. Green beans, corn bread, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw and potato salad are just a few of the Southern sides to accompany the barbecue. Burgoo, a distinctive Kentucky soup, is also available. The menu features catfish and breaded shrimp as well. For dessert, various pies are served by the slice and can be topped with a scoop of ice cream.

Trustees’ Table at Shaker Village


The Shakers of Pleasant Hill were a religious community that lived off the land in the 19th century. Though none are living today, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill is now a National Historic Landmark that preserves their craftsmanship, music and way of life. It’s both a 3,000-acre resort and living history museum, and its restaurant, Trustees’ Table, serves visitors with scratch-made dishes that use ingredients from its farm. Its breakfast menu includes country-style breakfast items like buttermilk biscuits and sausage gravy; for lunch and dinner, an assortment of fresh salads, delicacies like fried okra and country fried chicken, and braised beef short ribs stock the menu. Diners can also try the Shaker Burger, catfish or a hand-cut pork chop.

BB Riverboats


A sunset dinner cruise with live entertainment and skyline views might be one of the best ways for groups to dine in style. BB Riverboats lets groups venturing to northern Kentucky do just that as they cruise along the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Newport. With onboard entertainment and other add-ons, a meal aboard the elegant riverboats is sure to please. Groups can opt for a general dinner buffet with items like braised beef short ribs, roasted chicken, whipped potatoes and seasonal vegetables, or select a themed dinner buffet, such as a New Orleans- or Riverside Fiesta-themed meal. Each cruise also offers a fully stocked bar for guests to enjoy. Groups can opt for a brunch or lunch cruise for a daytime cruising expedition, and other themed excursions are available for holidays.

The Kitchen Table at James B. Beam


Dining at a distillery lets groups enjoy an eclectic, bourbon-centric meal with a quintessentially Kentucky atmosphere. At the James B. Beam Distilling Company in Clermont, they’ll get just that. The Kitchen Table, the distillery’s recently opened, on-site restaurant, offers guests lunch and dinner service Wednesday through Sunday. Groups can start off with small plates of duck poppers, spiced pork rinds and pulled pork empanadas, accompanied by a selection of Jim Beam bourbon cocktails. The entrees range from comforting, familiar statewide staples, like catfish, burgers and smoked brisket, to pizzas with a crust made with the same yeast used in the company’s bourbon production. Bourbon balls and bourbon cake make a sweet finish to a delicious meal.