Perhaps the most world-renowned small town in Kentucky is Berea. We stopped there for the day recently and enjoyed a meal at the Historic Boone Tavern Hotel and Restaurant and a little shopping in this college town.
Berea College, one of the first interracial schools in the United States, was founded in 1855. This town grew up around a college that values learning, labor and service. Every student has a job and receives full tuition scholarship upon acceptance. This unique learning experience has made Berea a mecca for arts and crafts, as many of these skills are taught at the school.
About fifty years after the founding of the college, one work project taken on by the students was the building of Boone Tavern - a place where guests of the school could be cared for with accommodations and food. That project included students making the bricks, laying them, creating items to fill the Tavern and working there to take care of the guests. That tradition continues today as students work at the hotel and restaurant inside the Tavern.
Not only is it an inspiring place, it is beautiful. And the food is delicious. When you are in Berea, a meal at the tavern is a must. Their signature dish is Chicken Flakes in a Birds Nest. It is tasty, as are most items on the menu. Our group had the chicken flakes meal, a catfish sandwich, a cheeseburger and a salad. Also, every meal starts with spoonbread and don't shy away from enjoying it with butter.
The accommodations at the Tavern are boutique type rooms, each a bit different with handcrafted furnishings. We did not spend the night in Berea, but this will be our choice when we come back.
The arts and crafts available in Berea really are spectacular. From fine jewelry, sculpture and painting to pottery, fabrics and blown glass - the shops feel more like juried galleries than simple storefronts. We brought home a hand-made fabric clutch ball for a young one from Appalachian Fireside Gallery, as well as a few varieties of candles from the So-Yum Candle Company. We also found a few items from Kentucky Artisan Center.
Our after meal sweet was some homemade chocolates from the Berea Fudge Shoppe. Kentucky is well known for bourbon and bourbon balls, but these moonshine balls were a neat spin on that Kentucky candy - plus they were very strong. Be prepared.
While in Berea there are also many trails to enjoy as this town prides itself on developing outdoor opportunities for their community and those who visit.If you're in the area, check out our travel journals about Lexington, Wilmore, or even the Cumberland Falls/Lake Cumberland area.