Boone Tavern

Restaurant review of Boone Tavern in Berea KY, Central Kentucky restaurant review of Boone Tavern,
Review guidelines:
1 Fork = I would rather eat dog food.
2 Forks = I would eat there if I was starving.
3 Forks = Not bad; someplace I would occasionally consider eating.
4 Forks = A good place to eat; I will put it into my rotation of places I dine frequently.
5 Forks = One of my all time favorites!

One caveat to note – I am allergic to fish and seafood, so if you are looking for those recommendations, you will have to consult someone else.

Because I have a daughter-in-law with Celiac and a really good friend who is Vegetarian, I will try to point out whether those options are present when I review a restaurant.

October 14, 2015 - Dinner

Boone Tavern
100 Main Street North
Berea, KY 40403
Restaurant review of Boone Tavern in Berea KY, Central Kentucky restaurant review of Boone Tavern,
Actually, 2.5 Forks = I might give them the benefit of another try, but not anytime soon.

Historic Boone Tavern Hotel and Restaurant has been in operation since 1907. It was built at the suggestion of the wife of the Berea College president at the time. Boone Tavern is owned by Berea College and students make up about 50% of the staff at the hotel and restaurant. Guest rooms feature solid wood furniture made by students of the college. Berea is a work college whose students are required to work at least ten hours per week at Boone Tavern or another college department or work area in exchange for receiving a tuition-free college education. In 2008 the college undertook an extensive renovation project on Boone Tavern at an estimated cost of $9.6 million, with the aim of converting it into Kentucky's first LEED-certified hotel while preserving its historic character. The renovation was projected to be completed in May 2009.

Under the direction of Richard T. Hougen, who headed the restaurant for 35 years beginning in 1940 and published three cookbooks, Boone Tavern established a reputation for fine Southern cooking. My mother owned all three of Hougen’s cookbooks and passed them on to me. At the height of Boone Tavern’s menu were favorites such as the famous spoonbread, a fluffy cornbread soufflĂ©-like side dish served warm and accompanied by butter and/or honey. In addition, diners were passed a relish tray at the beginning of the meal which is a very southern tradition. Entrees typically included turkey and dressing (the real Thanksgiving kind), a wonderful concoction called “Chicken Flakes in Birds Nest”, and many other traditional southern meals. The Birds Nest consisted of shredded potatoes, formed in the shape of a nest and deep fried. The filling was a creamed chicken. Other than the spoonbread, all the traditional menu items are gone. Several chefs ago, the menu was revamped in an attempt to modernize the fare. Some things are better left alone.

The occasion for the visit was to entertain my cousin and her husband from CO. We were working our way through a list of must-haves for KY food. We made a reservation for 7pm. The dining room was only half full during our visit. We waited about 20 minutes after being seated before being acknowledged by a server. After ordering, we waited about 45 minutes for our food. During that time, we were lucky to get one small serving of spoonbread. The guests loved it, but it is clear that the spoonbread which made Boone Tavern so famous has become an afterthought. I was still full from lunch, so I ordered soup and salad. My soup was a pimento soup and it was good. The salad was the KY wedge salad which was good, but nothing special. My cousin chose the braised spring rabbit pot pie - locally raised rabbit, slow cooked with cipollini onions, baby carrots, sweet peas, fennel dijon mustard and white wine gravy, served on gorgonzola cheese biscuits. She said her food was excellent. Her husband chose the slow roasted local lamb, shaved and served with goat cheese smashed potatoes, summer squash and carrot threads, and sweet and sour green tomato relish. He liked his meal also.

Dinner including tax and tip was approximately $75. Service, as I mentioned before was abysmal. For natives like me who have never moved on from the traditional menu offerings of the past, combined with the bad service equates to a very low review score. It is unfortunate that Boone Tavern is presenting such poor execution to tourists who arrive with high expectations based on a long tradition of excellence. Check out their hours of operation and menus at:

Gluten Free Options – none advertised.
Vegetarian Options – none advertised.

Restaurant reviews, Central Kentucky restaurant reviews, Central Kentucky,