The Root Beer Stand 129 18th St, Corbin, KY 40701

I did not see anybody get killed but in the rough and tumble railroad town of Corbin, Kentucky such an occurrence is not an infrequent one.

We wrote about the Murder At The Root Beer Stand in a previous report but on this visit our only concern was scoring a chili bun. A chili bun is a chili dog minus the dog. It’s a culinary peculiarity that you can only find in parts of Central Appalachia.

It is also delicious.

The Eastern Kentucky Chili Bun Trail: The Root Beer Stand In Corbin

Alicia At Birrieria Jalisco In Lexington Kentucky

We ate a lot of tacos in 2016. First and foremost, we start each day with a minimum of one taco, hot out of an 1800s-era cast-iron pan in our tiny 9th Ward kitchen here in New Orleans.

We have yet to find a Louisiana source that can even come close.

We ranged across two continents and half of the US eating tacos this year but during our end of year analysis we surmised that the finest of them all was served out of a tiny, taqueria in a forlorn strip-mall in Lexington Kentucky.

Field Report: Birrieria Jalisco (Lexington, Kentucky)

Glenda Smith Of The Snack Shack In Mt Vernon Kentucky

Glenda Smith Of The Snack Shack In Mt Vernon Kentucky

Once a year I drive up to Appalachia where I’ve been researching an Eastern Kentucky Chili Bun Trail for the past decade.

Corbin, Kentucky is the buckle of the chili bun belt but as you radiate outwards from that dusty little town you will encounter the regional specialty in a host of small villages like Barbourville, Manchester, Williamsburg and London.

For the uninitiated a chili bun is a chili dog minus the dog.

In my cross-hairs for my next pilgrimage: D&D Market in Stinking Creek, Kentucky. Coordinates 36.905605, -83.699637 if you’re looking for a roadtrip. Maybe I’ll run into you there and buy you a chili bun.

The backbone of a good country kitchen in the great state of Kentucky is the pinto bean. It’s transformed into Eastern Kentucky’s household staple dish: Soup Beans, on a nightly basis in thousands of rural households across the Highlands.

A few restaurants in the state carry soup beans but typically this is something you get only if you’re fortunate enough to eat Kentucky home cooking, not restaurant food.

I’ve eaten hundreds of gallons of soup beans since I was a kid. Most native Kentuckians have. They’re cheap, delicious and easy to make. My dad Russell Reeves’ recipe is the gold standard as he’s one of the great country cooks in the state. He can effortlessly knock out a kettle; he also puts out the best pone of cornbread you ever put down your gullet.

Russell Reeves Soup Bean Recipe in his own words.

“Well you get you a big kettle and you fill it up about 3/4 of the way with water from the tap. Throw a couple pounds of pinto beans in there along with a big, ol hamhock and bring your kettle to a boil. Let ‘er boil for a couple hours then lower it down to a simmer for a couple more hours. Once your beans are soft they’re done”

It’s been awhile since I made Soup Beans this way. I fancify my recipe a bit because I love an excuse to make homemade stock, pork stock to be precise. So here’s the way I make the very same dish. Ingredients:

5 lbs Pork Neckbones or Pig’s Feet [I prefer the feet but the neckbones work fine too]

1 bunch Celery

5 each Bay leaves

3 each Onions,sweet,quartered

3 T. Peppercorns,Black

6 quarts Water,municipal


Part 1

Heat oven to 300 degrees

Place pork in casserole pan

Roast 2 hours

Place half the vegetables in pan

Roast 1 hour longer

Part 2

Place pork, pepper, all vegetables, both raw and roasted and bay leaves in large vessel

Cover with 6 quarts municipal water

Bring to boil

Dip out 2 cups of boiling liquid and use it to deglaze the pan you roasted the meat and vegetables in [Absolutely crucial step, do not omit, Classic French methodology]

Add deglazing liquid to vessel

Reduce to simmer

Cook for 4 hours

Skim foam off surface as needed

Strain stock into large vessel through colander

Discard vegetable and bone matter

I like to refrigerate my stock at this point and let it sit overnight. In the morning you can remove the layer of fat off the surface and prepare to use your delicious, homemade stock. It’ll last about a week in the fridge or 5-6 months in the freezer.

Now that you’ve got your homemade pork stock you can commence to making the Soup Beans.

* Add two pounds pinto beans to four quarts of pork stock

* Bring to boil

* Cook at boil for two hours

* Reduce to simmer

* Simmer two hours more or til beans are tender

* Adjust flavors with salt and pepper

Voila! You now have one of the real genuine Mountain Soul Food dishes in your repertoire. Be sure and respect the tradition of Russell Reeves and serve your soup beans with a big hunk of fresh cornbread slathered with cows butter.

Bon Appetit y’all!/RLReevesJr

My grandmother’s Sunday dinner feasts are a thing of legend. I suspect they’re still a regular topic of discussion in Southeastern Kentucky to this day, over 20 years since her passing. .

Sunday morning is a busy time in the big five bedroom farm house my mamaw calls home. Breakfast must be prepared for six or so hungry eaters, dinner dishes must be started so they can simmer all morning long and then of course a nice dress must be donned in time to make morning service at Keck Baptist Church a few miles down the road.

After a good 2-3 hours of worship (depending on how loquacious the good reverend Damon Helton is feeling) mamaw comes home to put the finishing touches on the feast. While country hams, pot roasts, chicken and dumpling and a half dozen or so vegetables from the nearby garden are coveted by most of the family, I’m happy to have a big bowl of her amazing Northern Beans.

I reckon I must have gotten her bean gene as I love them in all their configurations but the Northern is still my favorite. I use it as the base for my Kentucky classic dish White Chili, but my typical preparation is much simpler. It’s a mimic of Nellie Sullivan’s version and it couldn’t be simpler. A handful of ingredients, love of the people you’re cooking for and patience are all you need.

Here’s my homage to cooked down Northern Beans a ala Nellie Sullivan.


2 lbs, Great Northern Beans

1 each, Ham Hock, a big one with plenty meat attached



Water, If you have access to well water from out in the country you’re a step ahead of the game


* Sort through and wash your beans

* Place in big kettle or crockpot with plenty water and ham hock

* Bring to boil

* Cook at boil for 1 hour

* Remove hockbone from cook pot, pull meat off bone, reserve, return bone to kettle

* Reduce heat and simmer til extremely tender

* Add reserved meat to beans

They must be “cooked down” which is to say cooked til they are beyond soft. The beans and ham coalescing until they are virtually indistinguishable from one another. This is the one bean dish I make that receives this treatment. It’s important

* Adjust flavors with salt and pepper

This dish needs to be served with a skillet of white meal corn bread hot from the oven. Please be observant of Mrs Sullivan’s tradition and put lots of cows butter on your hunk of corn bread and wash the whole affair down with a big glass of ice cold cow’s milk.

Eastern Kentucky cuisine has a few iconic dishes (soup beans, chili buns, corn bread, fried catfish, hot brown, burgoo et al) but perhaps none approaches the importance of the fried baloney sandwich.

I use it as a barometer when I’m traveling through the coalfields of Eastern Kentucky, hitting the roadside diners and gas stations in search of sustenance.

If the joint offers this dish then you know there are are some dyed-in-the-wool, old-school Kentucky cooks working thereabouts.

A good fried baloney sandwich must incorporate several elements in its construction.

They are as follows:

White bread: Sure there are some fancy lads out there who crow at dawn for whole wheat bread but they are far removed from the sensible country folk who know that white bread (Kerns bakery?) is THE foundation of a good fried baloney sandwich. Mayonnaise: My family split into two camps on this important issue. The maternal side (good people one and all except for this) championed Miracle Whip a vile substance that serves as a material comrade in arms with equally disgusting ketchup.

The paternal side loved the wholesome goodness of a well-made mayonnaise. Eggs, oil, perhaps a little salt. None of the weirdness I’ve come to associate with the factory of horrors issue; miracle whip. Sweet onion: A yellow onion, raised on southern soil, sliced just right is an essential component of the fried baloney sandwich.

That’s it. Yes, you may put cheese on a fried baloney sandwich but it turns into a different beast altogether. More on that later.

Fried Baloney Sandwich Recipe: Ingredients:

* 2 Slices Baloney, Thick cut, each slice lightly scored at the noon, 3pm, 6pm and 9 pm positions {prevents cupping of the meat}

* 2 Slices Bread, White * Onion, Sweet, Thinly sliced

* Mayonnaise, enough for spreading


* Heat cast iron pan til good and hot

* Place baloney in un-oiled pan

* Cook til nicely browned

* Spread a skift of mayonnaise on each slice of white bread

* Add thinly sliced sweet onion, some folks like it on the top, some like it on the bottom. Me I’m a top but if you’re a bottom that’s alright too.

* Add fried baloney

* Compact everything into the classic sandwich format

* Voila! Now you’re ready to eat one of the great delicacies of Kentucky cuisine: the fried baloney sandwich.

Typical side dishes for this treat are Grippos, Hussman or Charles brand potato chips, a dill pickle spear and an ice cold bottle of Pepsi Cola

An alternate version of this dish is the Fried Baloney Grilled Cheese.

Here’s how you do that: You must fry the baloney til crisp whilst separately constructing a rudimentary grilled cheese. Two slices of white bread,ample butter, American cheese (two slices). Grill open-faced til slightly warm. Place the crispy baloney between the two slices of bread, close the bread and mash with a spatula. Voila once again! Sometimes you might get tired of one or the other so you have a second classic Kentucky sandwich in your repertoire.

Bon Appetit y’all!/RLReevesJr