Frankfort’s rich history predates the civil war, and the city houses some of the oldest churches in the United States, along with a mural project to celebrate its past. Whether you are exploring the city’s heritage or enjoying the outdoor activities, here are the 10 best local restaurants in which you can explore the real taste of Kentucky.
Garcia’s Exterior Courtesy of Garcia’s
Restaurant, Seafood, Mexican, $$$
Since 2005, Garcia’s has cemented its place as Frankfort’s home of authentic Mexican food, and regularly plays host to locals. The menu features Mexican favorites such as fajitas and taco platters, and the variety of dishes and sauces on offer is truly impressive. Garcia’s is a perfect destination for those who like a their fare spicy, but also accommodates those who like their Mexican food with less of a kick. Their selection of local meat comes courtesy of Critchfield Meats and their seasonal vegetables are locally grown. They also serve up a wide variety of fresh seafood.
Adelia’s Bakery & Caféis a small, family owned and run cafe which has been serving Frankfort for over 30 years, and its popularity isn’t showing signs of waning any time soon. It serves up some of the best soups, salads and sandwiches in the city, and is popular both for eat-in and drive-through dining. Grilled panini and deli-style sandwiches are all made-to-order, and the menu takes influence both from the deep south and south of the border. Their desserts are some of the most talked about in the city, and all are handmade on the premises. You’ll have a tough time picking just one of the pies.
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Jim's Seafood Exterior | Courtesy of Jim's Seafood
Overlooking the Kentucky River, Cliffside Diner is perfectly positioned for a day of sightseeing in the city. It is one of the most popular eating destinations in town, so expect a wait for a table during lunch and dinner hours. Though it has faced closure several times in the past, this 75 year old diner has certainly cemented its place as one of Kentucky’s foremost dining institutions. Styled like a 50s diner, it is decorated with authentic memorabilia from its long history. Expect classic diner-style food at Cliffside, and no trip to Frankfort is complete without trying the diner’s signature Frankforter!
With some of the most dramatic views in all of Frankfort, Jim’s Seafood proudly proclaims to be the ‘best restaurant by a dam site’. The restaurant overlooks the Kentucky River, and, as its name suggests, a dam. Naturally, seats by the window and on the patio are particularly popular among diners. The restaurant is built on the site of the last hemp factory to operate in Kentucky, which closed in 1952. The restaurant has been open for over 35 years, and its family atmosphere and family-run charm has made it a Frankfort favorite. For a taste of the sea, this is the place to visit. All food is made using old family recipes and the freshest ingredients, including frog legs, lobster, crab and scallops, all served with or without steak. Enjoy some old-school Kentucky eating.
Named after the famous former state tree, the Kentucky Coffeetree Café takes pride in serving the local community with fresh, tasty food and choice drinks, in a dynamic and creative environment. Situated in Frankfort’s historic downtown and across the street from the Old Capitol Building, the cafe is a good stopping point day or night for those who are looking to take in some of the city’s culture. It hosts regular live music shows, and on occasion, performing artists outside to liven up your dining or drinking experience. The menu features homemade soups, salads and sandwiches, which can be accompanied by organic coffee or a selection of imported beers, microbrews, cocktails, and wines.
Rick's White Light Diner Interior | Courtesy of Rick's White Light Diner
Poppy’s Bakery is Frankfort’s premier destination for dessert lovers. It serves both as a popular bakery and sit-in restaurant, with diners and customers being able to admire and sample the vast array of baked goods and custom cakes on display within the store. It serves up one of the largest varieties of bakery treats in the state, with the selection including cakes, cupcakes, brownies, pastries, doughnuts, muffins, breads, and the self-proclaimed ‘best pies in town.’ The restaurant is popular during breakfast, with many opting for coffee and doughnuts to start their day. During lunchtime there is a light menu on offer, which diners more often than not top off with a sweet treat. Taste food made by those who really care about quality baking.
Rick’s White Light Diner is a Frankfort institution which has risen to national prominence over the past half decade following its appearance on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives. The current diner was built in 1943 after being first established in 1929, and remains as Frankfort’s oldest restaurant. The inside is small and decorated with a range of Kentucky memorabilia from over the decades. On the menu, Chef Rick Paul has crafted a range of traditional Cajun and Creole dishes, all given their own White Light twist. Expect po’ boys, pies, burgers and barbecue dishes, made with local meat and seafood to ensure freshness in line with the southern traditions.
Situated within Wilson Nurseries, freshness is certainly the order of the day at Sage Garden Café. The restaurant offers one of the most extensive lunch menus in the city, with salads, soups, sandwiches, burgers, Kentucky favorites such as shrimp and grits, and tapas options being some of the dishes on the cards. The restaurant’s vision is to illustrate the connection between garden and plate, and both the surroundings and the fresh ingredients perfectly showcase this ideology. The cafe also offers coffees, teas and seasonings and sauces to take home. It’s the perfect choice for fresh, healthy dining.
With views of the Old Capitol grounds, Serafini serves up a mix of new American and Italian dishes to showcase its dual heritage. The interior offers an intimate and refined dining space with a mixture of booths and wooden tables, and the outdoor seating area is popular for those who want to take in Frankfort’s bustling center during the warmer months. The menu is a balanced mix of new American dishes, such as shrimp and grits and filet mignon, and Italian dishes including pastas and bruschetta, showcasing a variety of combined influences. In addition to the high quality food, the extensive wine and bourbon lists are also a big draw for fans of the harder stuff.
No list of restaurants in the South is complete without including a barbecue joint. Staxx BBQ is a family-owned restaurant serving up good old-fashioned barbecue goodness. All the meat is freshly smoked on site and the main menu features ribs, pulled pork, briskets, wings and tenders. Their sides include fries, beans, slaw, potato salad and mac ‘n’ cheese to accompany the meaty mains, and their ice-cold beer rounds off the barbecue experience. The inside is quite simple, with many tables having long benches for seating as well as several pictures from the city’s past as decoration.