Springtime is slowly but surely creeping up through the Ohio Valley. Soon, Louisville will be buzzing with the newness of spring and, of course, the Kentucky Derby. As the weather begins to warm and temperatures begin to steady, the itch to hit the road and see some of Kentucky’s most beautiful sites ensues. While on your sightseeing adventures, consider stopping by some of the small-town Kentucky eateries that are found throughout our great state.

There’s something about a diner that just feels like home — the warm smiles from the locals, fresh iced tea and, most of all, a comforting, home-cooked meal. The Midwest is known for its small-town dining options, and our great state of Kentucky is no exception. Here is the latest roundup of diners within a day’s drive of Louisville …

4 Small-Town Kentucky Eateries You Must Try

Miguel’s Pizza

1890 Natural Bridge Road, Slade, KY 40376 • (606) 663-1975
Hours: March 1 to November 30, every day from 7 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.

Miguel’s Pizza might not strike you as your typical diner. Located in the Red River Gorge, this rural pizza joint is the perfect stop to refuel along a road trip. Frequented by area rock climbers, campers and other outdoorsmen, this café offers delicious pizzas, wraps, salads, sandwiches and other menu items for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Perhaps one of the greatest features of this restaurant is the ability to customize each dish. From pizzas to omelets and salads to wraps, it’s the perfect place for meat-eaters, vegetarians and omnivores alike to find whatever they have a hankering for!

Miguel’s begins serving up breakfast, bright and early, from 7 a.m. until 11 a.m. The breakfast menu consists of eggs, omelets, breakfast wraps and sandwiches, as well as pancakes, French toast and more. Customize your eggs and omelets with an array of fresh vegetables, meats and cheeses.

So, what’s for lunch and dinner? Miguel’s is known for their extra-large slices of pizza. Of course, you can customize your slice just the way you want it. Don’t forget to wash it down with a Kentucky original — Ale-8-One.

small-town kentucky eateries
Miguel’s Pizza is the outdoor enthusiast’s staple in Red River Gorge, offering pizzas, wraps, salads and breakfast items to fuel your hike!

Rick’s White Light Diner

114 Bridge St., Frankfort, KY 40601 • (502) 696-9104
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Rick’s White Light Diner is a marvel. Located in Frankfort, Chef Rick brings Creole and Cajun flavors to the Bluegrass State. Tuesday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., choose anything from eggs Benedict and buckwheat pancakes to an authentic New Orleans muffaletta, crawfish étouffée or a Cajun-fried Mississippi catfish po’ boy for breakfast or lunch. Whatever you do, don’t forget the beignets!

Chef Rick discovered his knack for whipping up Cajun dishes in a roundabout way. “I joined the Navy in 1966 and reported for active duty in 1968,” he says. “I wound up cooking for the chief petty officers’ mess and really enjoyed this duty as I continued to learn about my future profession.” After the Navy, he studied at the Culinary Institute of America for two years, and then he returned to Lexington to begin his culinary career.

“Looking back, I realize I was being taught by the best chefs in the business,” Chef Rick explains.

Besides training at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, Chef Rick’s claim to fame for Rick’s White Light Diner is his appearance on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” in 2010. Chef Rick says that after the episode aired, business increased significantly, and people from around the world continue to make their way to his little diner in Kentucky.

RELATED: Cajun Recipes: Jambalaya, Gumbo, Red Beans & Rice

small-town kentucky eateries
Chef Rick from Rick’s White Light Diner serves up Cajun and Creole meals in Frankfort.
small-town kentucky eateries
As evidenced on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” Chef Rick experienced an interesting life that led him to his culinary career.


9606 Taylorsville Road, Louisville, KY 40299 • (502) 785-4273
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

Nestled right in the heart of J-town is one of the tastiest BBQ joints around. Giving a nod to our first responders, FDKY serves up great barbecue and sides for an affordable price — and “just like momma used to make ’em!”

Stop by for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. If you are short on time, whip through the drive-thru and see what FDKY has to offer.

With smoked pulled pork, brisket and shredded chicken, there is something on the menu for every barbecue lover. They have plenty of sides to pair with your choice of barbecue as well. Enjoy creamy macaroni and cheese, old-fashioned coleslaw, baked beans, onion rings and other tasty, classic sides. Grab one of their famous homemade sauces to douse your barbecue, and sop it all up with a fresh dinner roll! Don’t forget dessert. Try Derby pie, caramel pie or a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

small-town kentucky eateries
FDKY BBQ specializes in award-winning BBQ. Try the pulled pork sandwich with macaroni and cheese.
small-town kentucky eateries
FDKY BBQ gives a nod to first responders, hence the name.
small-town kentucky eateries
FDKY BBQ is the perfect solution for feeding a large group. Take advantage of their catering services for Derby parties, birthdays, meetings and more!

The Whistle Stop

216 E. Main St., P.O. Box 158, Glendale, KY 42740 • (270) 369-8586
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Call for winter hours

In just under an hour’s drive from Louisville, you could be sitting and soaking in the comforts and deliciousness of The Whistle Stop restaurant in Glendale. Wrapped in old traditions and shelves of antiques, The Whistle Stop dishes out some incredible Southern meals. Try the fried green tomatoes, country-fried steak or Kentucky’s famous Hot Brown.

This family-owned restaurant has been in business since 1975. If you think that this restaurant is strictly for local patrons, think again. Country music star Pam Tillis, KFC’s Colonel Harlan Sanders and actor Bill Murray have all dined at The Whistle Stop.

After filling your belly of all the Southern cooking you can stand, walk it off through the antiques and gifts shops around Glendale.

RELATED: Cheap Thrills: Louisville Chefs’ Favorite Cheap Eats

small-town kentucky eateries
The Whistle Stop restaurant has been around for more than 40 years in the historic town of Glendale.

There’s much to be said for Kentucky’s small-town dining. These eateries have big flavors — and big personality — to offer. Don’t miss out on these fabulous joints on your next great Bluegrass adventure!


Check out all our restaurant reviews and recipes in our Food and Dining section on StyleBlueprint!

About the Author
Anna Kate Goshko