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Mar 1, 2010 08:29 AM

Eastern Kentucky Chili Bun Trail: Corbin, London, Williamsburg, Barbourville et al.

One of the great regional foods is the chili bun of communities like Williamsburg, Middlesboro, Corbin, London, Pineville, Barbourville and Somerset.

These are little Kentucky towns that have a deep appreciation for a few tablespoons of chili nestled into a hotdog bun. No dog needed. Just the chili.

Appropriate condiments are chopped sweet onion and Plochman's mustard [] from nearby Illinois.

I find Grippos potato chips to be the best side dish with a chili bun but crinkle cut fries and/or onion rings pair nicely as well.

As Pepsi is king in Kentucky it's also the typical beverage of choice to wash down your chili bun.

With Hall of Fame Chili Bun Parlors like The Dixie Dog, Mitchell Market and The Fad Pool Hall now shuttered for good it's time to appreciate what we have before it's gone.

In the next few weeks I'll be reporting on the current chili bun scene of Knox, Laurel, Whitley and Bell counties [Kentucky] but would love to read about where y'all are getting your chili bun fix in Eastern Kentucky these days.

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  1. The Dairy Hut in Harlan has a pretty good chili bun or dog, either one. They also have good hot fudge cake, if you need dessert!

    1. How does the one at the Root Beer Stand in Corbin measure up??


      1. This might be a bad question, but is the chili homemade, or just the stuff from a 2 1/2 can with embellishments?

        8 Replies
        1. re: shallots

          yes that is a bad question....the places mentioned are all homemade.

          1. re: shallots

            It's not inconceivable that there might be the occasional spot that serves heat and serve.

            But the prevalence of little granny women that like to be employed in the mountains is high. With that comes such goodness as homemade biscuits at unlikely sources such as run of the mill gas stations[ last week I had a pluperfect biscuit stuffed with country ham at a Marathon station by a state highway in Gray,Kentucky]. And of course homemade chili just about everywhere you find a chili bun on a menu.

            That's all part of the fun.

            Off topic: I believe you're a Knoxville hound? If so please get by Chandler's on Magnolia asap. Some of the best soul food I've ever had outside the great state of Alabama was served to me there last week.

            1. re: scrumptiouschef

              I'm northeast of Knoxville in Grainger County.
              Back at ya':
              Have you shopped at Ritter Farms, which is at the northeast end of Grainger County on US 11-W a couple of miles northeast after 25-E goes up to Kentucky.
              Ritter has produce grown on site, lots of things like sorghum (that they call molasses- but it's much milder than store bought molasses) and in summer they serve a $5 lunch usually the last days of the week and Saturday. It's where I get my Roma tomatoes for canning.

              1. re: shallots

                Ahhh yes, the legendary Grainger county tomatoes. Famous even as far away as Knox County Kentucky. I've taken US 11 many times as a break from I-75 but have never been to Ritter Farms.

                That northbound [ inspite of it being called East ] old 25 route is rife with roadside grocery stores serving chili buns.

                I'm fresh off a chili bun run throught the region and you're fairly near one of my favorites at King Grocery on Tackett Creek in Tennessee. Cecelia King has been at the craft since 1970 and definitely knows her way around a kitchen.

                My family always raised a little cane to go with the corn to make sweet feed for the cattle. We'd chop off little segments of the stalks and take them with our school lunches for a sweet fix.

                Love molasses. There used to be an old timer on Turkey Creek in Eastern Kentucky that made them the old fashioned way with a mule walking round and around to mill the grain.

                His were the best.

                If you take a visit to Knoxville hit Chandler's up. It's the real deal. Delicious soul food served out of a defunct Taco Bell.

                1. re: scrumptiouschef

                  They are actively widening 25E in Tennessee and at least three gas (+) old timey grocery stores have bitten the dust. I don't know if they'll come back, or not.

                  The Grainger Tomatoes are predominantly the cultivar 'Celebrity' and they just don't ship real well. Grow here like wonders. Someone on here in another thread suggested the tomato of choice used to be Luscious Lady but I haven't found anyone who remembers it. I am still asking, though.

                  I look forward to following your chili bun trail.

            2. I had the chili bun at The Root Beer Stand in Corbin yesterday. It was really good. I thought the chili was good and tasty with a bit of a garlic kick. Not much spice which I like in my chili it that was okay.

              I'm working on a blog post which I'll finish up next week.

              Thanks for the reco Hounds.


              3 Replies
              1. Maybe I wasn't reading before, or maybe it's available only at the Pal's in Rogersville TN, but I discovered that Chili Buns are on their menu.
                Mr. Shallots had already place our order and was almost past the ordering window when I saw the words "Chili dog" at the bottom of part of their menu.

                That's in Hawkins County, just off of 11-W and a county that is adjacent to Kentucky (with some of the worse roads known to mankind if you drive due north from Rogersville.)

                9 Replies
                1. re: shallots

                  Shallots; I,m in Barbourville, and am looking for some" Shallots" called RAKKYO in Japanese, Do you or anyone else out there in webland know where I can find a start of these bulbs. I ate them in Japan , and Vietnam, but can only find pickels In oriental food stores in Lexington and Knoxville. By the way they don't have flowers or seeds, have to start from the bulbs from what I have been told

                  1. re: roywest

                    The best resource for oriental seeds that I've found is Kitazawa Seed Company. Extraordinary catalog.
                    If they don't have Rakkyo, they might know a source.

                    1. re: shallots

                      Who would've ever thought an Appalachian chili bun trail thread would evolve thusly.

                      At any rate. Planning another trip to the great state of Kentucky.

                      Obviously I'll be getting my fair share of cornbread and soup beans from the family table but I'm going to need some some chili buns for the inbetweens.

                      The Rootbeer Stand is closed in Corbin til the end of March but that doesn't mean there's no chili to be had.

                      I'll be all over Mt. Vernon, Pineville, London, Manchester, Williamsburg, Barbourville and Jellico Tn and I'm looking for chili buns.

                      Can't wait to get up to Opal's in McKee to eat some very fine country ham.

                      Where are y'all getting your chili buns in Southeastern Kentucky these days?

                      1. re: scrumptiouschef

                        Didn't mean to step on your thread, typed in RAKKYO, and it took me to Shallots, rest is history. There is a place in Bimble that has about everything homemade , can't recall the name of the place, owner used to run the Travelers Inn, here in B'ville. Good food if you are in Southern Knox County. I'll ask around about the best homemade , I work part time at Knox Pawn Shop, surely somebody around there would know where to find good homemade chilli. Thanks Roy

                        1. re: roywest

                          You're talking about Country Village over on 1304.

                          It's good.

                          My dad likes to take me there when I visit.

                          Then there's Billy Bob's on the main street into Barbourville. Good chili buns, no sign telling you where you're eating.

                          Thelma's puts out a good meat and 3 but I've never had her chili buns.

                          Also, halfway to Pineville on 25 is a BP that had a little diner in it that puts out a good roast beef plate with scratch cornbread.

                          The Marathon station with the giant rooster statue over on 25 has good chili buns for under a dollar too.

                          Lots of good eating in the tri county region. Most of it is in peoples houses but you can scratch around a bit and find some good chow.

                          Too bad all the pool halls closed cause that's where all the really good chili buns were.

                          Man I'd love to have a chili bun from the Fad pool hall in Corbin.

                          Some guy from the Chicago daily came down when I was a kid and wrote a big article about how it was the best chili he'd ever had.

                          Too bad they closed.

                          Where are y'all getting your chili buns in Southeastern Kentucky these days?

                          1. re: scrumptiouschef

                            Houses Pool Hall on the corner of east 4th and Hill Street in London used to have my favorite but I am not sure if the are still open....I will have to check.

                            1. re: LaLa

                              Can someone elucidate on the pleasures of Pat's Pool Hall in Manchester?

                              I've never been and am wondering if it's worth a trip from Gray up there for a chili bun?

                              What's it like inside?

                              Nice and rickety?

                              Seeing as how it's an old school Kentucky pool hall I'm wondering how smoky the venue is as well [need to know because I might bring my dad]

                              1. re: scrumptiouschef

                                I prefer Pats used to be pretty smoky but I havent been in awhile. My aunt and uncle had a furniture store around the corner and I can remember as a youngster thinking I was pretty cool going in
                                It is a true dive.

                                1. re: scrumptiouschef

                                  Hey Chef.

                                  We're heading down to 'Bama for Easter and I'm pretty sure we're gonna take 75 on down. Where's the best place within reasonable driving distance for a chili bun??
                                  What's your favourite??