BY JANET STEINBERG
Part 3 of a Series
Hot Browns and Po-Boys…fried green tomatoes and bourbon pie!
The dining scene in small-town Frankfort, Kentucky (the 4th smallest capital city in the US) is down-home, yet down right delicious. On a recent visit, I did not find sophisticated restaurants with Michelin stars, starched linen tablecloths, and white-gloved waiters. However, what I did find were fun diners, locally owned bistros, and Mom & Pop restaurants, with food that would please even the most sophisticated palate. My first dinner in Frankfort had to be that of the traditional Kentucky favorite, the Hot Brown.
HOT BROWN is not a fashion statement…not a trendy color to wear to an autumn dinner party. Hot Brown is dinner! It is a culinary concoction dating back to the 1920’s when it was created at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. The Hot Brown has survived for almost a century and has since become a ‘Kentucky Thing’.
|GIBBY’S HOT BROWN|
In Frankfort, this open-faced, magical meld of turkey, fresh tomato slices, creamy white cheese sauce and finished off with cheddar cheese and bacon, is the signature dish at GIBBY’S, a laid –back, family-owned restaurant that reputedly serves the Best Hot Brown in Frankfort. And, of course, the traditional Kentucky Hot Brown should be paired with Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, a unique sipping beer that is aged in freshly decanted bourbon barrels from Kentucky distilleries.
Michael Gibson established Gibby’s in 1955 when he was 23 years old. Michael had nothing more than a dream, a few years of food industry experience and a credit card with a $500 limit. Gibby’s started as a walk-in, carryout establishment that shared its space with a local donut store. Once customers were established, Michael began expanding. Gibby’s opened in its current location in 2004 and has remained a Frankfort favorite ever since. The affable Michael Gibson’s philosophy is commitment to excellence…following Henry Ford’s statement that “quality means doing it right when no one is looking”.
THE AFFABLE MICHAEL GIBSON
PO-BOYS are a must-try at RICK’S WHITE LIGHT DINER located in the Frankfort Historic District. There’s the Scallop Po-Boy, the Shrimp Po-Boy, the Cajun Andouille Sausage Po-Boy, the Alligator Po-Boy and the Oyster Po-Boy. I couldn’t try them all, but as the saying goes: “You pays your money and youtakes your choice”.
|OYSTER PO-BOY AT RICK’S|
Once featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive Ins and Dives, Rick’s White Light Diner is small, offbeat and quirky. It is also good eating’ and fun! In his kitschy, memorabilia-decorated diner, Chef/owner Rick Paul has captured the spirit of popular Cajun and Creole dishes. RICK’S is a culinary experience…a fun happening. However, be advised that restrooms are not accessible (down basement steps) and, when I asked for a glass of water, I was presented with a plastic bottle of water and a $2 water charge on my bill.
|RICK’S WHITE LIGHT DINER IS OFFBEAT AND QUIRKY|
FRIED GREEN TOMATOES: The best ever Fried Green Tomatoes, with Roasted Tomato Jam and a Balsamic reduction, are served up at SERAFINI RESTAURANT, a Frankfort favorite that has topped the city’s restaurant list for fourteen years. Two appetizers…the Fried Green Tomatoes, and an order of Fried Oysters, served with a yummy chili plum sauce, were more than enough for a memorable dinner.
|SERAFINI’S FRIED GREEN TOMATOES AND FRIED OYSTERS|
While the elegant proprietor Wayne Masterson (who also owns Portofino in Lexington, Kentucky) is the restaurateur often selected to orchestrate Kentucky State Dinners, it was the affable manager/bartender Carlos Ceballos who poured me my first tastes of Kentucky Moonshine with names like Buffalo Trace White Dog, Devil John No. 9, Jim Beam Jacob’s Ghost and MBR Blackdog. Frankly, I’ll stick to bourbon!
|CARLOS CEBALLOS OFFERS A CHOICE OF KENTUCKY MOONSHINE|
BOURBON BALLS are a Southern delicacy, invented by Ruth Hanley Booe of Rebecca Ruth Candy in 1938. Today, REBECCA RUTH CANDIES still uses recipes from the early 1900’s to make their famous 100-proof candy. Rebecca Ruth’s bite-sized confections were the first candy to incorporate bourbon and dark chocolate. Rebecca Ruth Candy is still a Booe family-run business. The younger generations have expanded the factory, included factory tours, increased candy production and developed additional liquor-filled chocolates, including rum, scotch, cognac, and Kentucky Irish Coffee.
|FACTORY TOURS AVAILABLE AT REBECCA RUTH|
At Rebecca Ruth you can also assuage your sweet tooth with other boozy treats such as crunchy, sweet BOURBON BRITTLE that comes in 2-ounce bags or a 16-pack of individually bagged brittle made with your choice of bourbon brands. The Triple Crown Assortment packs a boastful supply of their famous Bourbon Ball chocolates with an assortment of liquor-free milk chocolates and an assortment of liquor-free dark chocolates. A complete triumvirate to satisfy every taste.
BOURBON CANDY FOR EVERY TASTE AT REBECCA RUTH
If perchance you are bourbon-ed out by now, take time out for a great Mexican meal at LA FIESTA GRANDE, a colorful, happy place on St. Clair Street in downtown Frankfort. The SHRIMP FAJITAS are worth the time and the very reasonable price. They are served on a sizzling platter with sautéed onions, and green peppers, garnished with lettuce, guacamole, pico de gallo, and sour cream, and served with Mexican rice, refried beans and plenty of flour tortillas.
|LA FIESTA GRANDE…A COLORFUL, HAPPY PLACE|
Top off your meal with an order of SOPAPILLA…a flour tortilla deep-fried to a golden brown and topped with sugar, cinnamon, whipped cream and chocolate.
SOPAPILLA AT LA FIESTA GRANDE
Just in case you haven’t had enough bourbon by now, you can always make one last stop at BOURBON ON MAIN, located on the Kentucky River in Historic Downtown Frankfort. Bourbon on Main is the dream of Frankfort natives who live and breathe bourbon and love to share their passion.
When in Frankfort, just say the word. You name it, and they’ll put bourbon in it!
PHOTOS by JANET STEINBERG
JANET STEINBERG is the winner of 43 national Travel Writer Awards and is a Travel Consultant with The Travel Authority in Cincinnati, Ohio