Trip report: Central Kentucky fried chicken, chicken salad, and hot browns
My husband and I spent 4.5 days in Central Kentucky last week. We stayed at Beaumont Inn in Harrodsburg, one of our very favorite places in the world. They are currently doing some massive redecorating/renovation at the inn, but when it's all done, it will be spectacular. The dining room has had a nice makeover, while still retaining its essential character. In addition to the Old Owl Tavern, which has been open for a few years, they now have a separate pub, The Owl's Nest, which is cozy and very much like a Scottish/English pub. The Owl's Nest is open only Wed-Sat, 5 p.m. to closing.
We had dinner in the Old Owl Tavern our first night. My husband loved the Hot Brown. I tasted it, and agreed that it was very good. I had the fried chicken livers, which were fantastic. The entrees come with two sides. I like Beaumont Inn's green beans so much, I had two orders. In addition, the livers came with mashed potatoes, which were excellent, and chicken gravy. A great meal, out on the patio, and a great start to our vacation.
On Tuesday, we drove to Shelbyville and had lunch in the Science Hill Inn, which is in the same complex as the Wakefield-Scearce Galleries (beautiful, beautiful antique silver). The dining room is open for lunch Tue-Sun. I believe it is buffet on Sunday, but during the week, you order from a menu. My husband had chicken salad (which he enjoyed), and I had the Hot Brown, on my waitress' recommendation. It was excellent -- very good "real" turkey, and a delicious cheese sauce, with bacon and tomato slices. The meal came with hot water corn bread and biscuits. The corn bread was very good; the biscuits, so-so. I would eagerly return. Although it looks sort of fancy, you don't need to be dressed up, at least not during the week. That said, they seem to attract the business and ladies-who-lunch crowd, as well as gallery shoppers. Shelbyville is a neat little town, and we enjoyed walking around after lunch. There's a parking lot behind Science Hill, which is good to know, as street parking can be tight.
That evening, we went to Pleasant Hill - Shaker Village for dinner. This is another favorite of ours. They now have a beer and wine license, and have changed the menu a bit. The fabulous relish bowl that used to be included now has to be ordered (and paid for) separately, although pickled beets and pickled watermelon rind are free, on request. We got all of them, and they were as good as ever, especially the pickled okra. The appetizers/salads are no longer included with the entree price, either. I didn't mind, as I've always thought they served too much food, but others might be disappointed. I had fried chicken, which was OK, with carrots and green beans as my sides. I think they used to pan fry the chicken in iron skillets (at least that was the way it tasted when I first ate there some years ago); now it tastes deep-fried. It is OK, as I said, but nothing special. I'll probably try something different the next time I have dinner there. Macaroni and cheese was the casserole of the day, which my husband devoured. He had the four vegetable plate (the other vegetables were mashed potatoes and peas). They still serve the excellent corn sticks and hot rolls, and keep bringing more until you tell them to stop. Very good iced tea, also.
On Wednesday, we drove to Georgetown to visit the Old Friends retirement farm for race horses. It's run by a former Boston Globe reporter, and it is wonderful, if you are interested in race horses at all. Volunteers give tours that can last as long as you wish, and our tour guide had an encylopedic knowledge of the horses' histories. We stayed more than 2 hours. You need to call to reserve a tour at 10, 1 or 3.
On the way back to Harrodsburg, we stopped at the Parkette Drive-In in Lexington for a snack. My husband had a hot dog and fries; I had a chocolate milk shake and onion rings. It's not a fantastic culinary experience, but it's good for what it is, and the car hop service and vintage sign (and facility) are well worth a visit.
We had dinner in the dining room at Beaumont Inn both Wednesday and Thursday nights. I had fried chicken; spouse had country ham. It's what we always have, and was the same as ever -- very good. (I thought the food was slighly better on Wednesday night). Entrees come with two vegetables -- potatoes of some kind and a green vegetable -- plus their signature corn pudding.
I should mention that we also had the included "Southern Breakfast" every morning at Beaumont Inn. We're addicted to their cornmeal batter cakes and bacon. So good! I follow their batter cake recipe at home, but they never come out the same.
On Thursday, we went back to Pleasant Hill for lunch. (My husband loves Shaker Town.) There are a few hot entrees at lunchtime, like catfish and the day's special, which was salmon croquettes, but the food is mostly salads and sandwiches. The sandwiches (barbecue pork, chicken salad, french dip) are huge. My husband had chicken salad again, which he said was the best of his trip. (He'd also had a chicken salad sandwich at Litton's in Knoxville on Monday, which he enjoyed, but again, he said this one was the best.) Big chunks of chicken in the salad. I had the Shaker trio, which was fresh fruit, salad of the day (marinated mushrooms with broccoli and cauliflower), and country ham and biscuits. The biscuits were OK; the rest of the food was refreshing and excellent, as was the dessert of the day -- a chocolate tart, in an absolutely delicious, shatteringly delicate pastry crust (probably made with lard). Yummmm.
Friday, we drove back to Cincinnati, where I caught my flight back to Minneapolis. We stopped at the Greyhound Tavern in Ft. Mitchell for an early lunch - in fact, we opened the place up at 11 a.m. We both had what they call the "Greyhound Brown," which is a Hot Brown made with turkey only. They crumble the bacon rather than serving it in strips, and the tomato is sort of chopped up, too, I really like this Hot Brown. I'm not sure which is my favorite -- it's a close contest between Science Hill and Greyhound Tavern. (I think they are both better than at the Brown Hotel itself, I'm sorry to say.)
My husband was driving back to Minneapolis, so asked for a country ham sandwich "to go." Our waitress put in the order when she brought our Hot Browns, and brought the sandwich, packed very nicely (each component separately -- ham, roll, tomato, cole slaw, chips), to our table with our check. It really couldn't have been a nicer experience. My only complaint is that their ice tea tasted like it was made from a powder. They serve fried chicken family style on Monday and Tuesday evenings -- I'd love to try it some time.
One other thing: we bought some Pepsi Throwback (made with sugar, not HFCS) at the Kroger in Harrodsburg. It's not always easy to find, but we figured that since there's a Pepsi bottler in Harrodsburg, it would be available there, and it was. We're not Pepsi fans, as a rule -- we both prefer Coke -- but this Pepsi Throwback isn't bad at all.
On top of everything, we had beautiful weather the whole week -- sunny, 70s-to-low-80s, virtually no humidity, and no bugs.
It was a great trip!