Necessity is the mother of invention and so it was in 1907 that Nellie Frost, wife of Berea College president William Frost, decided after hosting 300 guests over an exhausting summer that the College should have a “tavern” or public inn for travelers. A little over a century later and Boone Tavern is still keeping with tradition by entertaining guests in a most charming way.
The city of Berea in Madison County is known as the Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky, so it seems rather fitting that Historic Boone Tavern was born of the hands-on hard work and dedication of Berea College students. The bricks were made in the College brickyard in 1907 and construction was carried out by the College Woodwork Department through completion in 1909. Today, Boone Tavern is still owned by Berea College and its students make up around 80% of the staff. Rooms at the hotel are completed with furniture handmade by students over the last 100 years. The College offers paid tuition for all students and those students are required to work at one of the College’s many departments on campus, creating a mutual dependency which, based on the respectful maturity of the students employed at Boone Tavern, seems to work quite well.
You enter the dining room under the gaze of the Tavern’s namesake, Daniel Boone, Appalachian explorer extraordinaire. I imagine being a frontiersman himself, he must approve of the Tavern’s commitment to using fresh, local Kentucky ingredients in the kitchen.
Once seated, you will be served the house specialty spoonbread, a corn meal based concoction that is so beloved, the city has an annual Spoonbread Festival. (If you’re thus inclined: September 16-18, 2011). Honestly, you just don’t get more Southern than spoonbread. My waitress was kind enough to share their recipe:
For dinner I chose the historical favorite, “Chicken Flakes in a Bird’s Nest.” Comfort food at its best.
Followed by a lovely chocolate dessert spoonbread…
Resident chef Jeffrey Newman is a Lexington native who studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. He manages to keep the sentimentality intact while adding in his personalized touches. (The shrimp appetizer came with a side of pickled watermelon tartar sauce which was an unexpected treat).
Boone Tavern is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and if its history isn’t intriguing enough, perhaps you will go for the charming locale or the Southern cuisine served with a side of hospitality. Whatever your reason, go.
Historic Boone Tavern
100 S Main St
Berea, Kentucky 40403