The Bluegrass, Blues and Barbecue region of western Kentucky combines two things the Bluegrass State does best: folk music and barbecue. Many legends have called these rolling green hills home over the years, from Bill Monroe, the Father of Bluegrass Music, to John James Audubon, one of the world’s greatest naturalists. Beyond the region’s rich music history, travelers are sure to encounter mouthwatering barbecue in nearly every town they visit, from beef brisket to barbecue mutton and sliced pork shoulder. The city of Owensboro takes the crown as Barbecue Capital of the World. During the city’s International Barbecue Festival each spring, locals prepare over 600 pounds of mutton, 400 pounds of pork, 300 whole chickens and 60 gallons of burgoo.
Signature Flavors: To make true western-Kentucky-style barbecue, local chefs slow-roast whole pork shoulders over a bed of hickory coals in a masonry pit for at least 12 hours, producing a smoky flavor and an extra-juicy texture. The meat is traditionally seasoned with a vinegar-pepper sauce, though sauce recipes vary by county.
Often featured at family gatherings and other large events, burgoo is a spicy, robust stew that combines a range of pork, chicken, beef, potatoes, onions, tomatoes and cabbage — everything but the kitchen sink — with an occasional splash of bourbon. The stew is now eaten around the state and is considered a signature dish at the Kentucky Derby in Louisville.
Great Group Restaurants: Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn is a legendary staple of Owensboro; there, guests can enjoy a splendid buffet of traditional Kentucky fare such as barbecued mutton, burgoo, fried catfish, corn muffins and banana salad. Other choice venues include the award-winning Old Hickory Bar-B-Q and the Miller House in Owensboro’s historic downtown district.
Must-See Attractions: Coming this fall, the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro will become the world’s first facility dedicated to the bluegrass genre. Groups can learn more about Monroe’s illustrious career and personal life at his childhood home in Rosine. The Muhlenberg Music Museum in Central City commemorates local music icons such as the Everly Brothers, Jim Walker and Merle Travis.