The farm-to-table movement isn’t just a trend for big city restaurants.
Small-town eateries have also embraced locally sourced meats and produce as a way to boost the agricultural economy across the commonwealth.
KET’s The Local Traveler visited restaurants in Georgetown and Whitesburg to learn about what’s cooking in those communities.
Steaks and Cocktails in the Bluegrass
Georgetown is known as home to the massive Toyota plant that’s been rolling out cars for nearly three decades. But chef Justin Thompson wants the growing Scott County community to add to that automotive reputation.
“I think the biggest thing that we wanted to do coming in here was to make Georgetown a culinary destination,” Thompson says. “There are tons of amazing farmers here and it’s a small community that’s very tight-knit, and we wanted to become a part of that community.”
A veteran of the Lexington restaurant scene, Thompson decided to open Local Feed in downtown Georgetown in an old ice house built in 1880. The restaurant is on Water Street across from Royal Spring Park, which is where Rev. Elijah Craig drew water for the first bourbon whiskey distilled in the Kentucky territory.
Local Feed specializes in meats and produce raised in the commonwealth, including their grass-raised, corn-finished ribeye steaks from Black Haw Farms in western Kentucky. As for their popular burgers, Thompson says the restaurant grinds their own beef, bakes their own buns, and makes their own condiments from scratch. The menu also includes fried chicken, catfish, and ham along with sides of creamy grits, blackeyed peas, collard greens, and macaroni and cheese.
To wash down these southern-style favorites, Local Feed offers a wide selection of local beers, Kentucky bourbons, and craft cocktails. Bar manager Skip Brewer says one popular drink is the Hellfire and Limestone cocktail, which is made with Buffalo Trace bourbon, Ale-8-One soda, homemade ginger syrup, and Habanero Shrub bitters.
Take a Break for Some Art
About a block away from Local Feed is the High South Art House gallery, which is on North Broadway next to Georgetown City Hall. Owners Margie and David Rigney feature works made by Kentucky artists that sell for prices ranging from $3 to $500.
“We really wanted to make sure that our Art House was affordable for everyone,” David Rigney says. “It’s very affordable to come in here and purchase either a unique print, a unique piece of ceramic work, a unique painting, something that no one else is going to have.”
The Rigneys have worked hard to create a welcoming community for local artists. High South Art House also offers monthly classes, and artists can use the space as a working studio so patrons can watch the creative process in action. You might find ceramic pieces by Lexington potter Amanda Christianson, hand-crafted furniture and décor pieces by Nick Arlinghaus and Ryan Corrigan of Lakeside Woodworks in Georgetown, or watercolors by Lexington painter Katie Logan.
“One of the best things about being involved with an art gallery is the opportunity that you have to talk to people and meet people, and they get to see you do your work first-hand,” says Logan.
Burgers and Beer in the Mountains
When Tyler Ward returned to his hometown of Whitesburg after five years in Vermont, he realized there was no place to get a good craft beer in the mountain town of 2,000 people.
“Instead of complaining about it, [I decided to] open a great craft beer place,” says the attorney and entrepreneur Ward. “I believe people in the mountains deserve just as nice things as anywhere else in the world.”
And so The Thirsty Heifer was born in a Main Street space that was once home to the Courthouse Café.
Although they serve steaks, fish, and pizzas, the specialty at The Thirsty Heifer is burgers made with farm-to-table beef from JSW Farms in West Liberty, and served on buns baked daily at the restaurant. (They also offer a veggie burger for non-meat eaters.) Patrons can select their own burger toppings, or go with signature creations like the blue cheese and prosciutto burger, or the Holy Ghost Pepper Burger that comes with ghost pepper cheese as well as jalapeno, habanero, and chipotle peppers.
And where there are burgers, there must be fries and shakes. Ward says The Thirsty Heifer has French fries cut to order, then twice fried in beef tallow. Patrons can chose from four house-made seasoning blends to coat their fries: an Indian blend with cumin, turmeric, and curry; an Italian blend; a peppercorn blend; and something called the Holy Cow Hot and Spicy blend.
To counteract that heat, there are old-fashioned hand-spun milkshakes, including one that laced with Whitesburg’s own Kentucky Mist moonshine. The restaurant’s bar also features 16 premium craft and imported beers on tap.