Paula's Hot Biscuit
Paula's Hot Biscuit
It's funny the things you go looking for. I couldn't wait go “get away” from the small town and rural area where I grew up. And I'm happy as can be in Louisville, the perfect-sized city. But the older I get, the more drawn I am to find communities that still feel like a small town. Actually, maybe it's not so much the getting older. Maybe it's the miles I log. Last year I spent nearly two months total out of country, and lots of time, too, in big U.S. cities from coast to coast. In every place I visited I looked for what's unique to the area – what can I not find anywhere else?
Homogenization is a dread disease. “The modern traveler is less surprised than he cares to admit,” said Claude Levi-Strauss in 1955 (thanks to Paul Theroux for turning me on to that quote in The Tao of Travel). As bland chains continue to squeeze out locally owned businesses the world over, I find delight anywhere with a lack of Goliaths, and am intrigued by small, local businesses that thrive in the face of the steamroller that is our modern consumer culture. And that's the best part of my 120 Eats series – I get to go visit these dwindling treasures. I don't mean the Brooklyn-esque, trendy, artisan, curated, choose-your-hipster-approved-adjective shops in cities. I mean the places where people have been working their arses off for years to run a business that the community loves and will support even when they can get a product cheaper from a chain.
I was thrilled to find two such places flourishing in Hodgenville this past weekend. You'll read more about Paula's Hot Biscuit in an upcoming issue, but I'll tell you now, this was the real deal. Have you ever seen Chevy Chase's Funny Farm? This is what a city person might dream of when they're trying to imagine small town America. But it's real – it's not manufactured or faux nostalgic. It's just a busy, family-owned restaurant serving up plates of not-fancy food cooked with love to people who come back day after day, year after year.
Same thing around the corner on the town square at LaHa's Red Castle Burgers. In 1934, when this little counter-seating-only joint selling burgers by the sack opened, the name White Castle was taken. The owner evidently had a penchant for red lipstick, so Red Castle was born. The same family, a couple generations later, still runs the place, and it was hopping in the middle of a Saturday afternoon when I went in. Carry out and call-in orders kept the grill (a fixture since the 50s) sizzling while a few guys in caps perched at the counter putting away the little burgers on soft buns served on wax paper. I don't know what a burger costs at a chain restaurant, but at $1.45, I thought these were a pretty good deal.
I'm halfway through the 120 Eats series,and I hope at the end of this four year project every single place we've featured is still going strong. I also hope you don't just read about them – why not plan a trip? Head out one weekend and look for what's unique, what's different in each of our counties. There's still plenty to be found, if you know where to look.