Bon Appetit!

The dining scene is booming in Downtown Henderson and beyond

You don’t have to take longtime residents’ word for it when they say Henderson’s restaurant scene has never been brighter. All you must do is take note of all the cars parked on First, Second, Main, and Water streets most evenings.

One resident, borrowing a famous phrase from Yogi Berra, jokes, “Nobody goes to Downtown Henderson to eat anymore. It’s too crowded!”

In truth, the eight restaurants serving dinner in the central business district can seat hundreds of people.

And more than ever before, Henderson restaurants are collaborating, using one another’s ingredients for special dishes as well as incorporating locally grown produce. They sometimes even promote each other’s special events.

The cooperation between restaurants astonished Aaron Nelson, a partner in the new Cap & Cork restaurant Downtown. For example, Cap & Cork uses cold brew coffee and coffee grounds from the Antler Specialty Goods coffee shop for its espresso martini cocktails.

“We’re using Thomason’s (Barbecue) baked beans this week and use their barbecue sauce in our aioli,” Nelson’s wife, Heather, said in June.

Metzger’s Tavern by Zach Straw

And when their restaurant was having difficulties with its point-of-sale software system, Quinn Thomas from around the corner at Rookies Sports Bar & Restaurant hustled over to help.

“Every Downtown restaurant owner has been to our place to eat,” Aaron Nelson says, “and we eat at theirs, too.”

“I knew that Henderson was close-knit, and Downtown was close-knit,” he says. “I love the camaraderie.”

The anchor of Downtown dining is Rookies, renowned for specialties such as Arabian salad, flat iron steak, and Southern- style catfish filets. It’s been owned and operated by three generations of the Thomas family since 1991 and today occupies three adjacent buildings.

But in just the past several years, the evening dining options Downtown have, well, mushroomed with the openings of the seasonal On Deck Riverside Bar & Grill as well as Tacoholics, Rockhouse on the River, Hometown Roots, Homer’s Barbecue, Cap & Cork, and Olea Bar & Grill.

All operate full-service bars, and some offer hometown craft beers from Henderson Brewing Co. Bourbon fans will particularly appreciate Hometown Roots and Cap & Cork, which each stock 200 or more brands of whiskey and also prepare specialty cocktails.

Six Downtown eateries have outdoor dining options in good weather, and three periodically offer live music at night.

Of course, folks don’t just eat in the evening. At least six Downtown restaurants and sandwich shops serve lunch, and a couple are popular breakfast spots.


Coffee lovers gravitate to Roast Coffee Bar, Antler Specialty Goods, and Coffee + Cream.

Thomason’s Barbecue provided

Barbecue reigns in Henderson. Southern Living magazine in April 2024 ranked Thomason’s Barbecue as No. 2 on a list of the state’s “Best BBQ Joints.”A regional tourism promotion, the West Kentucky BBQ Belt, kicked off in May, highlighting more than 40 restaurants in 15 Kentucky cities that specialize in slow-cooked barbecue. Five are located in Henderson, serving barbecued pork, chicken, brisket – and Western Kentucky’s specialty, mutton. They’re listed at

There are multiple Mexican restaurants around town, including two – Bodega Market Luncheria & Grocery and Medina’s Taco Shop, both located in Henderson’s working-class East End – that are praised for serving particularly authentic cuisine.

Likewise, there are several choices for Asian food, with Koi Asian Fusion offering a range of cuisines, from sushi to curries.

There are pizza shops galore, including some that have been baking pies for decades. Fans of hole-in-the-wall establishments have plenty to choose from: historic Metzger’s Tavern, John Earl’s Ice House & Fine Foods, and M&M Fish & Seafood among them. Those craving homestyle meals gravitate to Eastgate Family Restaurant or Southern Flare Café.

Sweets lovers have a selection of doughnut shops, while Coffee + Cream serves hard-scooped ice cream (and, on many Saturday evenings, an hour of live Christian praise music) and The Dairiette specializes in over-the-top desserts.

Farmer & Frenchman photo provided

Outside Henderson, Farmer & Frenchman Winery & Café is a dining destination open for lunch and dinner that draws fans from across the Tri-State. The core of its menu is Italian, but seafood, steaks and daily specials are staples as well. Patio dining is available much of the year.

The countryside is dotted with places to grab breakfast or lunch – many of which double as country stores and several bearing their place name – including the Geneva Store, Mom’s Kitchen & Bakery, the Cairo Country Café, Papaw’s Poole Mill Restaurant at Poole, the Niagara Store, three spots around Robards – Sugg’s General Store, Rockhouse Pizza, and the North-South Truck Stop – Bryant’s Grocery (a.k.a. the Hebbardsville Store) and Cagey’s General Store at Beals.

EAT WELL The Henderson Tourist Commission offers an online directory of area eateries. See for details.

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Maggie Valenti
Maggie Valenti
Maggie Valenti joined Tucker Publishing Group in September 2022 as a staff writer. She graduated from Gettysburg College in 2020 with a bachelors degree in English. A Connecticut native, Maggie has ridden horses for 15 years and has hunt seat competition experience on the East Coast.

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