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Exploring Kentucky | Restaurants have delectable offerings planned for Thanksgiving

By Katherine Tandy Brown

Shandie's-Smorgasboard
The buffet at popular Shandie’s Restaurant in Paducah is one of the many good options Kentuckians have to enjoy a fine Thanksgiving dinner without cooking.

Thanksgiving is supposed to be a holiday, a time to enjoy family and/or friends, to be grateful and give thanks, to eat twice your normal daily intake of high-fat, high-carb goodies and to grow your belly as you sleep it off in the La-Z-Boy in front of a football game on TV. Unless, of course, you’re the cook – in which case you’re simply grateful when the day is over.

Why not change that pattern this year? A number of eateries across the state will happily prepare your meal, so you can eat and enjoy a real holiday.

For starters, 14 resort parks in the Kentucky state park system offer a traditional Thanksgiving buffet: turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, country-style green beans, candied yams, and pumpkin and pecan pie. Through the years, I’ve let Natural Bridge State Park in Slade fix my vittles, which are so tasty I swear a team of grandmothers must man the kitchen.

That park’s bonuses include the gorgeous Daniel Boone National Forest and hiking trails that range from a half-mile to 7.5 miles. So you can hike to the top of the park’s 65-foot-high namesake arch either before feasting to work up an appetite or after you’re stuffed to work off a few calories. It’s a win-win.

Dale Hollow State Resort Park in southern Kentucky’s Burkesville offers a holiday buffet that will be superb, I guarantee, and again, you can exercise before you overeat or afterward.

With a 28-acre lake and lush forests, the park boasts the longest 18-hole golf course in the Kentucky park system. Open all year, these links are hilly and challenging, with a new driving range to get you going. There’s also an 18-hole mini-golf course or hikers can check out 15 miles of trails on foot, horseback or mountain bike.

If you’re up for adventure sans exercise, head to Bardstown for a Murder Mystery on My Old Kentucky Dinner Train. All aboard for a four-course meal and the chance to become a sleuth. Thanksgiving dinner served in three historic rail cars can include prime rib, a Kentucky hot brown and bourbon pecan pie, plus vegetarian and vegan options.

Started in 1988, this cardinal-red choo-choo clackety-clacks along a 37-mile, 2.5-hour route past pure Kentucky – the only wooden trestle to survive the Civil War; Bernheim Forest; and the Jim Beam and Four Roses distilleries.

If the mention of bourbon got your attention, Proof on Main in Louisville’s 21c Museum Hotel will blow your mind with a choice of 75 different bourbons. Reserving a room at the hotel might help so you can sample to your taste buds’ delight. Don’t be looking for traditional Turkey Day fare here. Just scrumptious sustenance. Everything’s a la carte and diners are surrounded by art.

In Lexington, Wallace Station Deli on Old Frankfort Pike is surrounded by Thoroughbred horse farms. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the deli is housed in a refurbished turn-of-the-20th-century wooden building.

Expect real butter, Weisenberger Mill flour milled just spittin’ distance away, local veggies and premium meats here. The best news? You can order take-out traditional Thanksgiving dinner – the bird with dressing, taters’n’gravy and pumpkin pie. The deli also caters for crowds, private or corporate.

At another historic building – this one is in Paducah – you’ll hear about a resident ghost as you scarf down that drumstick. With previous lives as a dry-goods store, liquor dealer and distillery, the circa 1865 C.C. Cohen Building houses popular Shandie’s Restaurant and Bar. Its wide windows frame views of the city’s hip downtown while its Thanksgiving buffet mixes up traditional holiday offerings with yummy dishes such as hot-brown casserole.

You’ll probably be ogling the lovely English antiques and silver on a post-turkey stroll through Wakefield Scearce Gallery after stuffing yourself at the Science Hill Inn in Shelbyville.

Known for “Southern dining with a Kentucky focus,” Science Hill prides itself in using fresh ingredients from local farms. A basket of hot water biscuits and Southern cornbread will keep you busy until the main course arrives. Be sure to save room for dessert, which – with any luck – may include biscuit pudding with bourbon sauce.

Science Hill is a step back in time to the kinder, gentler era of your grandparents, when manners mattered and customer service meant pure gentility. Dress accordingly. You’ll look pretty – or handsome, as the case may be – even though your waistband may seem as if it’s shrunk a size.

Wherever you decide to tuck in your napkin for Thanksgiving dinner, be sure to call early for a reservation. And maybe wear those buffet pants with the elastic waist.

Katherine Tandy Brown is a correspondent for The Lane Report. She can be reached at [email protected]