Chuck, Helen, and Dixon Dedman, owners of the Beaumont Inn in Harrodsburg, got word earlier this year that the property’s restaurant had been named by industry publication FSR Magazine to their list of 100 top historic restaurants in the United States.
Saluted as one of America’s “legends and landmarks,” Beaumont Inn found itself in the exalted company of Delmonico’s in New York, Antoine’s in New Orleans and John’s Grill in San Francisco.
It was the second major honor in two years for the restaurant. In 2015, the Southern-inspired dining room received a James Beard America’s Classics Award. The Beard Foundation, which has given out the awards since 1998, does so in recognition of “regional restaurants whose timeless appeal is enhanced by serving quality food that reflects the character of their communities.”
Beaumont Inn has gone from serving food to privileged young ladies when it was the Greenville Institute (opened in 1845) to serving generations of Bluegrass residents and visitors since the opening of the restaurant in 1919. Through it all, its approach has been, “Why tamper with recipes that have served you well for nearly a century?”
I had an opportunity to test that theory on a recent dinner outing with three companions. We started off with the bountiful Kentucky cheese plate — at $12, ample for the four of us.
The plate offers an assortment of commonwealth specialties, including Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheeses (from Barren County in Western Kentucky), thin-sliced country ham, house pickles and Helen’s own honey, produced on premises.
If you are going to go for a starter other than the cheese plate, it should probably be the fried green tomatoes with house pimento cheese (yum), Creole mustard vinaigrette and house-smoked bacon ($10).
There are a couple of salad options and a homemade soup du jour, ranging in price from $3 to $6, but I skipped that an went straight to the signature entree.
The “Classic Beaumont Dinner,” $22, is reason enough to come here. It features the inn’s famous “yellow-legged fried chicken,” two-year-old Kentucky cured country ham (matured in the inn’s own aging house), creamy corn pudding, house-seasoned green beans and fluffy yeast rolls.
The recipes for the first three, I was told by our server, haven’t changed since 1919. No one seems to be complaining.
The chicken is perfection and the corn pudding melts in your mouth. I wasn’t as fond of the ham and the green beans The first was too salty for me, and the second, I thought, was over-seasoned.
I’m sure that says more about my personal tastes than it does the dishes, because one of my dining companions reminded me that country ham is supposed to be salty, and the green beans were cooked just the way most salt-loving diners would expect them to be.
Dinner menus change weekly (although the signature dishes remain a constant). Other taste of Kentucky entrees worth a try are the hickory-smoked brisket with vinegar-braised kale and black-eyed peas ($28), and the Marksbury Farm pork chop with ember-roasted carrot purée and bourbon-poached cherries ($26).
If you would like your bourbon in something other than cherries, you should know that Dixon Dedman, a bourbon aficionado, has made it possible for like-minded customers to enjoy rare and vintage brands. Beaumont Inn is one of the few area restaurants to have 15-, 20- and 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle available by the glass.
You can sign up for a private profile tasting ($40) or a more in-depth ultra-premium sampling ($70) with Dixon, who will introduce you to some of his rare bourbons.
Beaumont Inn also is also open for lunch, where Southern staples again dominate the menu: pulled pork barbecue with homemade pickles ($10); Southern-fried catfish with homemade tartar sauce, and chicken croquettes with cream sauce just like our mothers made it ($12). It’s also open for Sunday brunch, where for $15.95, you get a starter and an entree.
The classic ambience recognized by the Beard Award is free.
Patti Nickell is a Lexington-based travel and food writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Address: 638 Beaumont Inn Road, Harrodsburg
Hours: Lunch, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Weds.-Fri. Dinner seatings 6, 6:30 and 7 p.m. Weds., Thurs.; 6, 6:30, 7 and 7:30 p.m. Fri., Sat. Brunch 11 a.m.–1:30 p.m. Sun.
Payment: Cash, major credit cards