Belatedly… Bon Ton, Bourbon and Buffetbuster
… and it starts with a Bucket of Balls.
(apologies for formatting, I am pasting from Word and this is my first time doing so in the "new" forum format... it seems to have changed some of the hard returns!)
It all started with a BEEE-UUUU-Tee-Full day in Manchester NH. I drove up from Massachusetts to catch my flight to Chicago Midway, and in the deal I had arranged to park for free at a friend’s office next to the airport. Instead of going out to lunch before he dropped me off for the flight, we decided to take advantage of the gorgeous weather and go to the driving range nearby and hit a couple of buckets of balls. An hour or so later, I was at MHT ready to hop on Southwest 474 to Midway where I was meeting up with Buffetbuster, for a eatingful drinkingful weekend in Kentucky!!!
We talked a long time ago about our mutual desire to eat at the Bon Ton Mini Mart. And BB finally made a plan, contacting the Bon Ton’s most loyal (and famous) patron, Louis, who is also a regular RFer and a Henderson KY resident. BB arranged to meet up with Louis on the last Saturday in April, and happily he invited me along. BB also asked me to write the trip report, so those of you who might be disappointed that this is not his own hand should know that (a) I was coerced [J
], and (b) he will have something to say here (I hope!!).
My uneventful flight landed at Midway and the very first thing I noticed – since it was my first time at this airport – was the plethora of food offerings! And really decent options - even good to great options.
As I told BB, I reckon Midway has more eating choice per airplane gate than any other airport, anywhere! We grabbed two dogs at his favorite place to share at the gate: a Superdawg and a Woder(?)dawg. At the gate we plopped down next to some young men who turned out to have been on my flight from MHT. (We took photos of us & the kids, but they must be on BB’s camera because they didn’t come home with me! I never delete anything so am at a loss!)
Here are our dawgs (gotta spell that right!)… (again, missing pics! Not sure why… all the photos I downloaded are actually sequential!)
A delayed departure meant a late arrival in Louisville, and disappointingly we missed the view from the plane of the event scheduled for this start to Derby Week, the “Balloon Glow”. But we saw the traffic snarl-aftermath! Apparently a hot air balloon had broken off its tether and come a bit close to an airplane, so they shut down a little early. Oh well. We grabbed the rental car and went to our hotel. (Hey! Don’t even think you’re going to go there, people! We had separate rooms!) Not 8 hours of sleep later we were up, out and on the road to Henderson, to meet Louis and hit the Bon Ton.
I think we arrived at about 8:30-8:45am, gaining an hour as we drove into Central Daylight Time (CDT). We found him no problem and, as he was generously chauffeuring us around all day, we jumped in his car and went off to the Bon Ton. When we arrived a few minutes later, it was obvious we were in for a treat – the parking lot was packed – mostly with pick-ups! (IMHO a very good sign.) Then again, as Louis is one of Jane & Michael’s best taste-suggesters, and Bon Ton is a favorite of theirs, we pretty much expected goodness, if not greatness. I believe it lived up to its reputation. That first bite for me was as described by Michael in his review: http://www.roadfood.com/R.../343/bon-ton-mini-mart
My biscuits were also fantastic. And Louis is such a regular (apparently averaging 6 days/week there), they let him bring in some fantastic baked beans from a BBQ place down the road called Thomason’s. These beans were so good, in my book they rivaled my all-time faves from the Ridgewood in TN. (That is HIGH praise!) Terrific stuff. Louis even has his own coffee made there. I added biscuits and gravy to my meal, as I came hungry and love B&G. The biscuits were delicious, just moist enough and flaky enough. The gravy was good but nothing special, though I was more than happy with the whole meal!
Owner of the fried chicken’s secret recipe:
Atmosphere etc… and Louis has to remind me of the waitress’ name (she was great)…
We finished off with pie (dear readers, you are not surprised!)… happily Louis had asked in advance that they make their Kool-Aid pie, which was delicious (we had orange), and we shared a slice of fantastic chess pie as well. That chess pie was as good as any I, or BB, had ever had.
Good company came in as we were on the way out:
As full as we were, we had a lonnnnng roadfooding day ahead, so we finished off and headed out of Henderson, southbound to both Sebree, KY and to a tiny place near the Tennessee border where we were meeting venerable RFer Poverty Pete, who rode his bike up from Nashville to share a meal with us.
As we left town we passed where the beans came from, also reviewed here: http://www.roadfood.com/R...779/thomasons-barbecue
On the way to meet Poverty Pete, we had a stop in the tiny town of Sebree, to visit a neat old place that’s a pharmacy and old time soda fountain (reviewed here as well), Bell’s Pharmacy. http://www.roadfood.com/R.../3477/bells-drug-store
Louis was worried they wouldn’t have their famous Orange-ade available (not usually a weekend thing), but we were in luck!!!!! We watched the young lady squeezing the oranges and stirring up our drinks, had a look around the store and tiny town, and hit the road again. Delicious and refreshing, it was a great way to wash down the amazing fried chicken on the way to some terrific BBQ. What a neat old American town. A freight train even went through (a block away) while we were having our look around.
Appropriate sign for RFers:
Making the good stuff & close-ups:
We drove south through Hopkinsville (natives: “Hoptown”) and then headed down a two-lane highway rolling through southern Kentucky toward Tennessee.
Destination: Knockum Hill BBQ. We were a little late and BB had asked Pete to grab us an order of the pork ribs, in case they ran out! (When he arrived he heard a group of 40 was expected behind him!) Thankfully he took care of us, and though still a bit full from “breakfast”, we managed to share a huge pork rib, some slaw and some local “Bergoo”. This place is a biker heaven, as you could tell immediately on arrival! Beautiful roads, great food, loads of outdoor seating… on an 80+ degree day, what’s not to love?! Besides, it was the most absolutely dripping moist pork I had ever seen. YUM! It’s essentially in the owner’s backyard, only open Fridays and Saturdays, and really almost in the middle of nowhere, as you can see.
Knockum Hill outside:
And the good stuff:
Signs seen at KHbbq:
The RF gang:
We outlasted the biker crowd – I think the big group was a Harley-riding bunch from one state or the other (KY/TN) – and we sat enjoying the company, the weather and the food. (In all honesty I was still pretty full from the Bon-Ton, but I partook of enough of the good stuff to get the point of why we were there.) I had a swing in one of the many swings before we parted ways with Poverty Pete again and headed back up to Hoptown.
In Hoptown (Hopkinsville), we were headed to the oldest of the local Ferrell’s (hamburger joints).
I know the boys weren’t too hungry at this stage, but I’d got some inside scoop on Ferrell’s before our visit… “If you get the chili, it’s on the thin side, so take *both* packets of crackers they give you and crumble them into it”. And so I did. I am also a grilled cheese connoisseur, so I ordered one of each (to share with BB, of course). The chili was yummy with the crackers, and the grilled cheese was basic but very good – and price-wise the best bargain I have seen in an American grilled cheese over the past coupla years. Only a buck seventy-five! Also got a photo of the owner with the nifty old clock.
The chili and the cheese…
But, no rest for the wicked… we are off from Hoptown and Ferrell’s, leaving the skate-boarding posse of local preteens behind, and we are headed to the Land Between the Lakes. (Although he will never read this, I have to give a nod to an old flame who grew up out there – he calls it the “Land Between the Rivers”, since really they are dammed up fake lakes. Fair ‘nuff.) We drove up into the middle of the LBL and north to Grand Rivers, KY – home of what is apparently Kentucky’s favorite restaurant destination: Patti’s. WHAT an experience!!!!
Patti’s is unabashedly a bit on the commercial side (if I may say so), but popular for several reasons: sprawling old-time restaurant with wait staff in period clothing, gift shops and gardened ground all around, a nifty mill wheel in the midst, a wedding chapel, a mini-golf course (and I think perhaps a petting zoo – I should look that up…), and DRUMROLL for RFers… the 2 inch pork chop. That baby is BIG. But for me it was not the highlight of the stop. In fact, I didn’t even eat one. (I had a hot brown, my first, not deemed to be of superior status by BB, but tasty for my first try.) The highlight was that it was Prom Night. In fact, the old flame’s high school no less: Marshall County High. And if you have not seen prom in Kentucky, you have NOT seen prom. I thought we did it up well in California… we can’t hold a candle to KY! I have never seen dresses like that, hair like that, shoes/make-up/spray-tans like that… dates who ALL wore ties and cumberbunds and vests to match – exactly – their dates’ dresses. And the women carried BOUQUETS. No corsages for these folks… full-on bouquets. Wow. Okay, I will get back to the food now, but suffice to say this was an experience. Make that a capital “E”.
Great view porch seats:
Fun method of serving bread:
Food: (oh is that why you are here?!) We had a long wait for an outdoor table (loved it, great weather, great views of fountain/gardens, and of prom-goers). Service was excellent. Sweet tea was great, and bottomless. Bread was just okay but scores an “A” for me on presentation: it came in flower pots. I didn’t have the pork, but I was told it was very good. I think BB said it was really hard to compare though, since we had just had such an amazing pork experience at Knockum Hill. I was so full, I could not eat dessert. But BB and Louis made a valiant effort.
The HUGE Pork chop:
My Hot Brown: (yes they put homemade chips on it, odd perhaps?!)
Dessert we missed:
And we still were not done. (You know this is a BuffetBusting trip, and besides Louis is no slouch about food choices and wanted us to have the full experience in his neck of the woods!)
More to come in 30 secs or so...
post edited by cecif - 2009/08/10 23:45:56