Campbell Lane
31W Bypass
31W South
Scottsville Road
Within an Hour

Bowling Green

Since 2000


German Greek Japanese Lunch Mexican Occasion Pizza Steak
Bowling Green is a surprising city. Its population is only 60,000 and for an hour in any direction are towns of 10,000 or less. Its only icons are Western Kentucky University and the Corvette factory. One would not expect great restaurants in such a place. But Duncan Hines (below right), who popularized the concept of "eating out," was born and raised in Bowling Green. He was not at first respected by the food establishment since he was not from New York and did not consider their restaurants automatically the best. He insisted on visiting and reviewing small town eateries which served the kind of food families fixed at home. He was the first food critic to consider ethnic and nationality food as legitimate cuisine, and he was just as happy in the backwoods South as he was in Chicago or Boston. The food critics of the Northeast were perplexed to find his books and restaurant guides selling hundreds of thousands of copies and restaurants he recommended enjoying great popularity.

What was happening was that Hines came along just as people were leaving the farm for paycheck jobs, and for the first time a Middle Class was rising with income and time to spend at restaurants. He rode the crest of that middle class wave to a prosperous career and lived to see the critics who dismissed him finally come around to his point of view. The Duncan Hines home can still be seen along 31North in the Northgate neighborhood. It now houses the Hardy Brothers Funeral Home. Its profile has been altered somewhat, but the building has been meticulously maintained. There's an annual Duncan Hines Festival, and his books, especially the classic Adventures in Good Eating, can still be bought, either in bookstores or online. He remains a towering figure in the world of food, cooking and restaurants.

While Hines was travelling the country reviewing restaurants, back home three places opened. The Glass Tower, on the north shore of the Barren River, brought big city elegance and exotic menu items to the steak and potatoes folk. The College Street Inn just down from the town square became one of the first great commercial cafeterias in the country. And over along Route 31W, across from where the Kroger now stands, The Hole In The Wall (glaring in bright sun at left) became a cult favorite among college students, Blacks and blue collar workers. It offered a basic menu and six tables and passed food out through a hole in the concrete block wall. Prices were dirt cheap. The food was a mix of Southern black, Kentucky mountain, and "Shantyboat." But the cooking was superb, and once Duncan Hines discovered the place on a visit home and wrote about it, you had to wait in line outside to send in your order and get your plate.


One of the curiosities of Bowling Green is the ethnic mix of its restaurants. There is only one locally owned family run Italian restaurant. Yes, there are Pizza outlets, and three national Italian chains, and many Family and Classic restaurants offer Italian entrees on their menus. But one would certainly expect more Italian restaurants in a city with seven thousand Italian residents.


Surprisingly, there are five Japanese, six Chinese and 12 Mexican restaurants. Western Kentucky is one of the Barbecue capitals of the world but has more Japanese outlets than Barbecue. Sushi, however, does not enjoy the popularity it does in the bigger cities. There's only one Seafood restaurant (although Fried Catfish is on almost every menu). Steak houses are big, Middle Eastern eateries are nonexistent, and there is only one Indian restaurant.

Ky Lake
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