Just past the front door of the Tousey House Tavern in Burlington, Kentucky, if you look to the left you will see a framed sign hanging on the wall:
“A restaurant serving good food at fair prices is a gift of civilized fellowship to the community, a meeting place, a source of nourishment, a center for socializing, a refuge from the knocks and blows and indignities of the outside world. A good restaurant is a reflection of its owner’s spirit and a source of joy for its customers.” This sign embodies everything about the place and when I read that upon our arrival, I got really excited.
Now, truth be told, I always get a little giddy walking into a nice restaurant because of the anticipation of putting delicious food in my mouth. But this statement they have prominently displayed at the entrance of their establishment told me that these people get it. What I mean by that is they understand the correlation between good food, paramount service, and the community that exists when people dine together. For them, and many people, dining is an experience in which you want to walk away with more than just a full belly, you want to walk away with a fond memory of time and money well spent. A fond memory is exactly what we have after our visit to the Tousey House Tavern.
Burlington, Kentucky is a small town of about 16,000 located just southwest of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Never having visited the area before, Leigh and I were thrilled to be invited by Josh Kimmel, Manager and Director of Events, to come and dine. We, of course, were happy to oblige and found the perfect place to stay at the Willis Graves B&B just down the road. Read our blog for more details about our stay. Even though the Tousey House is only an hour from Lexington, we wanted to be able to fully enjoy the town and turn it into a girlfriend getaway by inviting our BFF Jerri down from Ohio. That’s one of the best things about Burlington is its close proximity to Louisville, Lexington and Cincinnati!
We arrived in a downpour of biblical proportions. We seriously considered borrowing the Ark from The Ark Encounter to get us to dinner that evening. The warm inviting glow of the candles in the windows of the two-story federalist style former home that dates to 1822 beckoned us inside from the rain. We were welcomed by their very friendly staff and escorted up the stairs, past rooms filled with people laughing and talking, blissfully ignoring the harsh weather on the other side of the front door. Our table was in the corner of a large room next to the window, draped in white linen and set with fine china, a very substantial menu at each place. Soon after, our server JP arrived to greet us and take our drink orders. As an aside, I think servers at the Tousey House should be called tour guides because they really are taking you on a tour of the plentiful food and beverage options, advising you of the specials like Prime Rib Saturday, and which wine would best compliment your food choices. They serve you, yes, but like any good tour guide, you leave knowing a whole heck of a lot more than you would have without their help. Knowledgeable and attentive, JP exuded southern hospitality, even going to the length of learning each of our names. We can’t say enough about the service he displayed on our visit. Every restaurant should strive to attract this type of talent.
Once we made our appetizer and entrée selections, we were able to have a wonderful conversation while we saw plate after plate of mouth-watering food being brought to our fellow diners. The prime rib was ginormous; the fried chicken looked like something out of grandma’s kitchen and the Alaskan halibut looked like it had just been plucked from the ice cold waters of the Pacific Ocean. The most difficult task was settling on one item. The good part about dining with female friends is we all adhere to the unspoken code of “what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is yours”. The three of us chose different entrees and waited with anticipation for them to arrive.
After we had finished the delicious corn fritter appetizers, the main dishes came piping hot from the kitchen and, man, were they a sight to behold. I went with the salmon served over roasted veggies, Leigh had the shrimp over pasta, and Jerri couldn’t resist the hot brown. Having tried all three, I have to tell you that there are no bad choices here! Fresh, plentiful and flavorful would be the words I would use to describe the food. It was so hard to not devour every last bite, but we wanted to save room for dessert. I’m a firm believer that every meal should end with something sweet. Check out the picture of our cake. Wowza!
My only suggestion to Chef Jonathan Weiss would be to please include a pair of elastic pants with every meal because you are not going to want to stop eating, and you certainly don’t want pants that are too tight to stand in your way. Everything was top-notch! Leaving the restaurant, JP reminded us that they also have a Sunday brunch consisting of banana bread French toast, chicken and waffles, and something called a Breakfast Brown which is described as a buttermilk biscuit covered in sausage gravy, scrambled eggs, melted cheese and topped with ham, tomatoes and bacon. An incredible take on a hot brown, no doubt about it! We promise to do a return visit and take in the brunch so we can report back to everyone.
I almost forgot to mention the incredible selection of bourbon they have there. Flights of famous brands can be yours. In addition, the Tousey House Tavern is on the B-line, which is northern Kentucky’s version of the Bourbon Trail. They will give you a cute passport which you can take with you to one of the other participating restaurants or distilleries. Complete the B-line and you get free bourbon swag! It’s a fun way to spend a weekend or a week. Just be sure that the Tousey House Tavern is one of the places you visit. These people know their bourbon. No wonder as the owner, Butch Wainscott, knows the Vanwinkles. Yes, those Vanwinkles. Josh was even kind enough to offer us a sip of the select barrel pick of New Riff, making us feel extremely special.
You, too, can experience this special treatment by making your reservation at the Tousey House Tavern. We guarantee you will walk away with more than just a full stomach, you will carry with you a very happy memory.