I am very proud to bring the second installment of my guides to the Commonwealth of Kentucky to you today!
Recently, I had the privilege of spending two days with the team at Berea Tourism – and let me tell you, it was a treat!
To quote Berea Tourism, “Located just south of Lexington, KY, Berea is home to a thriving population of weavers, instrument makers, furniture artisans, jewelry designers, glass workers, potters, painters, sculptors, and musicians. The story of Berea’s artisan community is interwoven with the historic Berea College, the first interracial and coeducational college in the South. Berea has a longstanding tradition of diversity, social justice, environmental responsibility, and community service. Both college and town are committed to the practice of sustainability and conservation.”
Berea is, to understate, a cultural mecca of Kentucky; there isn’t another town in our Commonwealth that rivals the originality of the city. Visit with a hunger for art and an appetite for local food – you will be pleased, to say the least.
I started off the afternoon at the office of Berea Tourism. Upon meeting the staff, we ventured over to Honeysuckle Vine, a fantastic shop located beside the office.
Afterwards, I visited Happy Meadow Natural Foods. At this store, they are “dedicated to bringing you high quality natural foods and supplements and all the information you need to make healthy lifestyle decisions.” Be sure to browse the wide array of vitamins, local offerings, along with interesting foods, snacks, and spices!
Next on the agenda was lunch at the Kentucky Artisan Center. “The Kentucky Artisan Center celebrates Kentucky’s artisans through sales, exhibits and displays, events, demonstrations, and information about Berea and other Kentucky destinations. The Kentucky Artisan Center is a great place to experience Kentucky hospitality and see the array of Kentucky’s creative works and products. The Kentucky Artisan Center is a state agency in the Tourism, Arts, & Heritage Cabinet of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”
Along with that, there is a delicious, full-service cafe located in the center that is sure to please!
Corn pudding, a classic.
The Artisan Blend Tea is SO good; be sure to grab a container to bring home! This pitcher was sweetened with honey, which was a great compliment.
Each month there is a new burger offered at the center; this month, it is a delicious burger topped with a fried green tomato. Divine!
Buttermilk pie — need I say more?
Delicious strawberry cake, which features fresh strawberries in the batter.
Don’t miss out on the Old Town Amish Store while you’re in town! “Come inside and breathe in the smells of fresh baked breads and slow smoked BBQ. We have a unique store featuring Amish country favorites, such as hand rolled butter, a diverse selection of cheese, and bulk foods galore.”
The highlight was their molasses cookie — there are no adequate words, y’all.
If you order one of their popular sandwiches, be sure to get it with Amish Butter Cheese – it’s creamy and delicious, just as the name would suggest.
If you are in the mood for catfish, look no further than the Dinner Bell Restaurant – a Berea tradition for almost thirty years! I tried both the grilled and fried versions; both were delicious!
After a day of shopping, there’s nothing more refreshing than a cup of coffee. For that, you must go to Berea Coffee & Tea! The space is calm, relaxing, and so cute; they offer a full line of drinks, along with small bites and sandwiches.
Next to Berea Coffee & Tea is Papaleno’s, one of my favorite restaurants in Berea. If you want Italian food — look no further. Located in the central area downtown near the college, this is a must-stop eatery!
Check out that butter!
Lasagna — it’s so good that you’ll want a second order!
Papaleno’s and Berea Coffee & Tea are located near Boone Tavern – a historic hotel in the heart of Berea. Inside, there is an amazing restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’m excited to tell you more about my time here – stay tuned for my next post!
The next day started off with breakfast at Native Bagel Company, another favorite of mine. They make their bagels like the New Yorkers do (which, as we all know, is the best method) – an 18 hour fermentation process to draw out maximum flavor. What makes Native Bagel Company special is that they add a Kentucky touch to the process. The secret? They boil the bagels in water infused with a touch of sorghum syrup.
After breakfast, I visited Sustainable Berea to tour their gardens and to learn more about their mission. To say that I was impressed would be a colossal understatement. To quote, “In 2005, now executive director Cheyenne Olson and other community members in Berea, KY, grew concerned about overpopulation, food production, degradation of the environment, dwindling water supplies, climate change, species extinction, sky-rocketing national debt, and the need to embrace alternative sources of energy. Berea, unfortunately, was lacking in many of these areas, so in the fall of 2005, 15 people met in the conference room of a local church to share their concerns regarding energy, climate and economy, and to discuss what might be done to prepare the city of Berea for these challenges. Following a brief period operating as the Berea Outpost (under the Post Carbon Institute), this group became Sustainable Berea and eventually the 13th official Transition Initiative in the United States.”
The farm itself is impressive. “The Urban Farm’s main mission is to produce high-quality food for residents and visitors in a manner that restores the land, educates youth and adults, provides a neighborhood gathering place, increases food security, promotes local economic development, and improves the health and quality of life of the community.”
While sustainability is at the farm’s core, they also share a passion for bettering the community and the lives of those that inhabit it. “Sustainable Berea has partnered with Liberty Place Recovery Center for Women in Richmond, KY to create a curriculum that spans four weeks to teach financial literacy, entrepreneurship, workplace expectations, building leadership and communication skills, and learning to use computers. The four women selected for each 4-week class will also engage in paid work for the Berea Urban Farm. The program is partially funded with a grant from the USDA and will run through the summer of 2019. At its completion, more than 30 women will have been trained.”
It was only fitting to then visit the Berea College Farm Store, “an experiential learning laboratory for undergraduates in local food systems and value-added agriculture.
The Berea College Farm is one of the oldest continuously operating student educational farms in the United States. It raises a wide variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs, grains, beans, mushrooms, honey, pork, beef, chicken, goat, fish, and more – all produced by students gaining hands-on farming experience while working their way through college. Much of the cropland is USDA certified organic and the Farm maintains animal-welfare certifications on several of the livestock enterprises.”
I got to have lunch with Dr. Sean Clark, the director of the farm; he is also a professor of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Clarence M. Clark Chair in Mountain Agriculture at Berea College. His passion was obvious — and it made me really excited to be at the store. They are doing great things for the community; we, as Kentuckians, should be both proud and in awe of their work.
A delicious Cuban.
To visit Berea without a stop at Noodle Nirvana is, at its core, erroneous. The menu, including the curry bowl that I had, is both expansive and delicious. I was honored to sit down with owner Mae Suramek, who shared her passion for food, culture, and philanthropy.
A socially-conscious business is one to take note of; however, when they serve up food this delicious, it’s a win-win in my book. Be sure to drop in – you’ll be thankful you did!
My last stop in Berea was for a delicious meal at Hitz BBQ. I love BBQ very much – in fact, I hold it to a high standard. Hitz, to say the very least, surpassed my standards. The sides – including loaded potato salad and the best macaroni and cheese – stood up to the meat, a true test of a BBQ restaurant in my book. The brisket, pulled pork, and hoecakes were mouthwatering.
The highlight, however, was the candied pork belly. Y’all – I’ll drop the microphone on that one.
I cannot thank Berea Tourism enough for a fabulous two days. If you are not currently planning a trip to Berea, take it from me – you are missing one of Kentucky’s diamonds.
As always, Happy Eating, Happy Traveling, Happy Living!
Y’all come back now, ya hear?
FTC: This is a commissioned post; all opinions, however, are my own.