my trip to Owensboro, Bowling Green, etc.
This was April 5 to 9 but I was a bit slow in writing it up.
Moonlite Bar-B-Q, Owensboro.
Still a classic, even though I was disappointed to learn that fried chicken was only available Sundays. The mutton isn’t the best in town, but still pretty good. I enjoyed the pork and beef. Catfish “fiddlers” - almost the entire fish, and with bones - are available Thursday and Friday nights. A broccoli-with-cheese dish was surprisingly good. Knowing that dessert was the strong point, I saved plenty of room for banana pudding, blackberry cobbler, pecan pie and banana salad. The cobbler is the must-have. This is the only restaurant where I’ve encountered sorghum.
Red Geranium, New Harmony, Indiana.
Foolishly, I trusted the random Web site claiming that Main Cafe - praised elsewhere for its tenderloin - was open until 2PM on Saturday. It was actually 1. So I missed out. Then a nearby deli that had a sign for smoked pork chops revealed they were out of them.
So I tried Red Geranium even though it looked too fancy. One problem with the lunch menu overall was that there wasn’t enough middle ground between generic-type $6.95 items like burgers and $16 upscale entries. I got the chicken salad melt - good chicken salad, great tomatoes, but why was the cheese not melted? The soup of the day, vegetable bisque, was very good. I think there was red pepper and butter but I don’t know what else. The ambience and architecture were beautiful for those who are into such things. The service was pleasant.
Railway Cafe, Mount Vernon, Indiana. (shows up as Rail Roadhouse on Yellow Pages.)
They had breakfast, basic items like burgers, and I believe some pizza selections, but the choice was obvious for me - the grilled pork tenderloin sandwich. This was o.k., not memorable. Fries were good. But it’s still worth a visit for the classic smalltown vibe. The setting is ideal; right by the tracks with grain elevators (?) in the background.
Bon Ton Mini Mart, Henderson, Kentucky.
Great fried chicken. Great crunch on the outside, juicyness on the inside. Get the half chicken.
Old Hickory, Owensboro.
Excellent mutton - the meat is perfect, so is the smokyness, and the sauce. On previous trips I’ve also liked the non-mutton items, but considering how hard it is to find mutton, why not stick with the most unique and memorable item? As for sides, potato salad was good, beans were generic.
Blue Jays Cafe, Sacramento.
Ugh. I was drawn to the sign that proclaimed this spot to the “home of the pork bellys.” There were no pork bellies on the menu; there was a tenderloin listed. I ordered that and a few minutes later they said they were out. A breaded pork chop was the suggested alternative.
The sandwich arrived quickly. Some people consider that a warming sign, but, hey, if heat lamps make it taste good, I’m not always a purist. The breading was good but I bit into the pork chop I was alarmed by the decreasing temperature. The interior turned out to be cold and uncooked. Umm, no pork sushi for me thanks! The waitress had seemed pleasant but I just wanted to skip town. Any place that would serve uncooked pork could not be reasoned with.
Chaney-s Bar-B-Q, Central City, Kentucky.
The pork sandwich had a very good texture. The meat and the sauce had decent flavors. If you’re in town it’s worth a shot but don’t drive too far out of your way.
Spilt Tree Barbecue, Bowling Green, Kentucky.
This town was big enough so that I didn’t know where everything was, but not big enough to have hundreds of options. There was one strong no vote, and one yes vote, on Chowhound. I was in a hurry to get to Grindhouse on time and I knew this place was sort of nearby.
I cannot explain Split Tree’s continued existence. The ribs had a strange glazed texture and were mostly flavorless. The sliced pork wasn’t much better. Yet the sauce was very good. You would get far better ribs at any chain restaurant.
Donita’s Country Diner, Bowling Green.
The entire downtown was closed for Easter, even Subway. I drove around a bit and found this place. The fried chicken was merely average (which is way below average for the region.) But the hash brown casserole was impressive.
Beijing Restaurant, Bowling Green.
Mindful of the Easter closures and not eager for too much roaming, I selected this buffet place since it was near the motel. It pains me to say this because all of the employees were so friendly, but it is quite skippable. Even the old standbys of low-end buffets, like egg rolls and crab rangoon, were below average.
If you happen to wind up here, the best items were the pepper steak and the string beans.
Mary’s Home Cooking, Bowling Green.
The packed parking lot at 10:40AM was a good sign. It was a tough decision to skip the fried chicken but I was over my quota for the trip. So I got the pork tenderloin - smallish, but great. The three sides were white beans (decent) and a killer one-two punch of “cheesy potatoes” and expertly prepared turnip greens.
Whitt’s Barbecue, Lebanon, Tennessee.
I wasn’t eager to visit a chain, but I was running out of time on the way to the airport. (Tangent: I was outraged about the barbecue joint south of Barren River Lake that had a sign up about being 1/4 mile from the road and it was actually 2.6 miles.)
But Whitt’s was a pleasant surprise. I had never had ribs like that before. The taste was peppery. It wasn’t quite a dry rub but it certainly wasn’t barbecue sauce. And the pork sandwich was outstanding.