By Tisa Conway-Cunningham
Guess what folks, we have made it to 2024! Now 2023 is sitting pretty in our rearview mirrors, and we are well on our way to new beginnings. Let this year be the platform to spice up your life with new flavors and new adventures.
The city of Frankfort is growing all around us with the addition of new venues, restaurants, distilleries, and even a comedy club and fun center. Perhaps there is no time like the present to get reacquainted with our beautiful city. When I met my wife, Krystal Conway-Cunningham, I made it a thing to show her all of the unique places that Frankfort has to offer.
See, Krystal, is a city girl. She spent the first years of her life in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and her teenage years in Birmingham, Alabama, relocating to Frankfort, Kentucky, while attending Kentucky State University. So, she has been exposed to a lot of culture and flavor of several cities, so I knew it would be a task to impress her with our small-town offerings.
It was in this moment that I came up with the concept of, “Tour de Frankfort.” Each date, I would construct a fun adventure for us to take in sites, restaurants, libations and extra-curricular activities around the city. Keep in mind that we were both broke college students in undergraduate programs, so the challenge had some extra hurdles because we were balling on a budget.
During our first tour, Krystal and I visited the Old Capitol, the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History, the Kentucky Military History Museum, and our beautiful Kentucky State Capitol. We spent $8 per person to take in a vast history of Kentucky, from the beautiful landscapes and well-constructed buildings for famous notables, governors, first ladies and first settlers.
We made a day of it and worked up an appetite that could only be filled by Gibby’s. Here, I told her the history of the hot brown — Kentucky’s famous open-faced turkey sandwich, topped with tomatoes, bacon and a mornay cheese sauce, making for the gooey, messy and perfect morsel that kept us coming back for more and more. Coupled with some crispy, golden, crinkle-cut fries, and one meal for $11.99 was enough for both of us. It was the perfect ending to an official first date.
Tour number two continued with a stroll through the Liberty Hall gardens after we toured both Liberty Hall and the Orlando Brown House. Next, I took Krystal on her first boat tour up the Kentucky River. Our skipper shared with us the rich history connected to our part of the Kentucky River as we experienced Frankfort from the river view.
Back on land, we made our way to Buddy’s Pizza where we enjoyed the lunch special — huge pizza slices, salad and a drink. This made a delicious conclusion to tour two.
The list goes on and on. We went everywhere and got lost in adventures all over Frankfort. All I know is that being able to share my Frankfort with my new partner was so amazing. She fell in love with Frankfort, and as an added token we fell in love with each other. She has grown into a bit of a local connoisseur herself, but these tours sparked something in me that I thought had been lost a long time ago. It was during these tours that I allowed myself to get reacquainted with my city, and I fell back in love with our beautiful town.
I have this saying, “I travel for food.” Literally, every time we travel, my first plans include the restaurants we will visit and the dishes we cannot miss. I always find restaurants that we won’t be able to enjoy in Frankfort, and I make it a point to get the food on the itinerary before anything else is established. I mean, food is a necessity, so why not plan to nourish ourselves efficiently while traveling?
This is also true for our local fare. The food scene in the community is growing, as are the local restaurants that we have come to love. So, why not plan an outing centered around optimal culinary experiences? We have made a bad habit out of eating out, ordering the same dishes and missing the entire culinary experience that our restaurants are offering. In 2024, let’s try to change that by trying something new.
I love that every restaurant in Frankfort feels like they have the best burger in town. This year, I am challenging myself to go to all the places that say they have the best burger and try each of their burgers. This way, we as a community can finally put to rest who indeed has the best burger in town. Join me. Make it fun. Invite friends, family and any burger lover alike. There is nothing more fun than congregating in the name of food, and what better way to re-introduce yourself to a restaurant than with a little challenge?
If you are looking for a big burger, try Shelby’s Diner. They are huge and delicious. Melisa’s Diner, Main Street Diner and Tammy’s Diner have some amazing burger options as well. If you find yourself out on the water, stop by Benson Marina Restaurant and Willie’s Tiki Bar for an amazing burger experience. The options are endless. One thing is for sure, Frankfort restauranteurs know how to make an amazing burger. Operation, who has the best burger is a go.
Pizza lovers, I have not forgotten about you either. We have some amazing pizza spots, so get out there and enjoy some local pizza. The challenge here is to try new flavors. Try a crafted pizza that you have never thought about ordering. Don’t ponder too much on it. Go in, ask for a suggestion and order something new. Trust me, your taste buds will thank you.
Also, remember that pizza places have so much more on their menu. Even though the pizza is great, they may have a whole lot of dining options to suit any pallet. DaVinci’s signature salad is hands down, one of my favorite go-to salads when I have a craving for a good salad. The same is true for Locals Food Hub & Pizza Pub too. Their salads are amazing. Let’s not forget Buddy’s because I am in love with their lasagna. OMG, so delicious.
I could move on to the best sandwich, which Kentucky Coffeetree Café would be a good option for delicious sandwiches, homemade soups and coffee bliss. I could talk about Mortimer Bibb’s delicious spreads, soups and sandwiches. I could even continue by talking about Pops and Sons Diner and their delectable breakfast sandwiches that we all keep hearing about. Instead, I will leave you all to it. To explore new and tasty adventures in Frankfort.
This year, I challenge everyone to re-establish themselves in our community. Create your own “Tour de Frankfort” experiences by taking in everything that Frankfort has to offer. Tour a museum, attend a ballet, escape at Capital Escape and Axe Throwing, catch a comedy, release stress in a rage room or take in a tour on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. There are so many fun and interesting things here for us all to re-discover, so I encourage you to think outside of the box, really get to know this city, and for God’s sake please enjoy all of this good food our local restaurants are offering.
Italian Baked Eggs and Meatballs
For the meatballs:
1 pound ground beef 500g
½ cup panko breadcrumbs 25g
1 large egg
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
To make the Italian Baked Eggs and Meatballs:
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
1 14-ounce jar marinara sauce, homemade or store-bought
½ cup water
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (plus more for garnishing)
3-4 eggs at room temperature
basil roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Prepare the meatballs by combining the ground beef, breadcrumbs, egg, Dijon mustard, oregano, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Use your fingers to work the meatball mixture together. Work only until all the ingredients are evenly combined.
To shape the meatballs, pinch off a few tablespoons of the meatball mixture and shape them into balls with your hands. Heat olive oil in a cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Saute meatballs for about 5 minutes until nicely browned. The meatballs don’t need to be cooked through, they will get cooked completely in the oven.
Add marinara sauce and water to the meatballs and simmer for 2 minutes. Sprinkle parmesan on top and make 3-4 dents into the marinara sauce.
Crack eggs into dents. Season eggs with salt and pepper. Transfer cast iron pan to hot oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until eggs have desired consistency.
Garnish with basil and parmesan cheese, and serve with bread.