Kentucky and its neighboring Southern states often get lumped together in the food category. Southern cuisine, however, is a blanket term that covers a diversely wide range of dishes that are nuanced in flavor, preparation and history. The Kentucky food scene is proof that Southern cooking is not only delicious, but downright unexpected, with something new around every corner. Here’s a look at some of the culinary specialties you can find along the Kentucky Great River Road.
You can’t go to the Bluegrass State without digging into some famous Kentucky barbecue. From beef brisket to dry-rubbed ribs to the more unique mutton barbecue you’ll find along the Ohio River in north-central Kentucky, there’s something for every barbecue-loving palate. When you’re traveling along the Kentucky Great River Road, don’t miss Kentucky Hillbilly BBQ in Wickliffe and Bardwell.
Burgoo is a Kentucky specialty. The dish is a hodgepodge of various meats, vegetables and spices, but it’s mostly a fun opportunity for ambitious chefs to put their skills to the test. Here’s a look at a few burgoo recipes you can try on your own.
A trip to Kentucky is incomplete without sampling some delicious bourbon. While most of the distilleries are concentrated in the center of the state, you can find products from Kentucky makers big and small (like those distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and the Kentucky Craft Bourbon Trail) throughout the state, including along the Great River Road.
But Kentucky’s expertise in spirits extends beyond bourbon. To get a better taste, check out The Moonshine Company in Paducah, just a short drive off the Kentucky Great River Road. This distillery is operated by the descendants of Uncle Mosey, whose white whiskey moonshine recipe was one of Al Capone’s favorites during the Prohibition Era.
This famous sandwich, invented at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, is a classic Kentucky dish that can be found throughout the state. An open-faced sandwich that consists of turkey, bacon, tomatoes and a generous helping of cheese, the Hot Brown should be on your must-eat list in Kentucky. Read more about the origin of this sandwich and find a recipe from its namesake hotel here.
There’s no shortage of scrumptious sides to complete your plate in Kentucky. With recipes like Silver Queen sweet corn and Kentucky Wonder green beans, you’ll want a second helping of vegetables. Don’t forget to order a bowl of white beans and corn bread. If you want to try something truly unique to Kentucky, ask for beaten biscuits. Making these rolls requires antique cookware and tedious mixing methods, but the result is unforgettable.
Kentucky is home to culinary experimentation, practice and perfection. From its barbeque to its burgoo and, of course, its bourbon, the Bluegrass State has plenty to offer to the foodie in every traveler.