close
close

Enjoy your meal! – Evansville Living Magazine

Enjoy your meal! – Evansville Living Magazine

You don’t have to take the word of longtime residents when they say that the restaurant scene in Henderson has never been better. All you have to do is notice all the cars parked on First, Second, Main and Water Streets most nights.

One resident jokes with a famous quote from Yogi Berra: “Nobody goes to eat in downtown Henderson anymore. It’s too crowded!”

In fact, the eight restaurants in the central business district that serve dinner can accommodate hundreds of people.

And more than ever, Henderson restaurants are collaborating, using each other’s ingredients for special dishes, incorporating locally grown produce, and sometimes even promoting each other’s special events.

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

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

Butcher’s Tavern by Zach Straw

And when her restaurant was having problems with its point-of-sale software system, Quinn Thomas from Rookies Sports Bar & Restaurant rushed around the corner to help.

“Every restaurant owner downtown has eaten with us,” says Aaron Nelson, “and we eat with them too.”

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

The heart of downtown dining is Rookies, known for specialties such as Arabic salad, flat iron steak and Southern-style catfish fillets. Owned and operated by three generations of the Thomas family since 1991, it occupies three neighboring buildings.

But in recent years, the number of nightlife options downtown has exploded, with the opening 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 domestic craft beer from Henderson Brewing Co. Bourbon fans will especially appreciate Hometown Roots and Cap & Cork, which each stock over 200 whiskeys and also make specialty cocktails.

Six downtown restaurants offer outdoor dining when the weather is nice, and three regularly host live music in the evenings.

Of course, people don’t just eat out in the evenings. At least six restaurants and sandwich shops downtown serve lunch, and several are popular breakfast spots.

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

Thomason’s Barbecue offers

Barbecue reigns supreme in Henderson. Southern Living magazine ranked Thomason’s Barbecue No. 2 on the state’s “best barbecue joints” list for April 2024. In May, a regional tourism campaign called the West Kentucky BBQ Belt launched, highlighting more than 40 restaurants in 15 Kentucky cities that specialize in slow-cooked barbecue. Five of them are in Henderson and serve barbecued pork, chicken, brisket — and Western Kentucky’s specialty, mutton. They are listed at www.wkybbq.com.

There are several Mexican restaurants in the city, including two – Bodega Market Luncheria & Grocery and Medina’s Taco Shop, both located in Henderson’s working-class East End neighborhood – that are praised for their particularly authentic cuisine.

There are also several options for Asian food, with Koi Asian Fusion offering a wide range of cuisines from sushi to curries.

There are plenty of pizzerias, including some that have been baking pies for decades. Fans of small eateries have plenty to choose from, including the historic Metzger’s Tavern, John Earl’s Ice House & Fine Foods and M&M Fish & Seafood. Those with an appetite for home cooking will find what they’re looking for at the Eastgate Family Restaurant or the Southern Flare Café.

Candy lovers have their pick of doughnut shops, while Coffee + Cream serves ice cream in scoop form (and plays an hour of live Christian worship music on many Saturday nights) and The Dairiette specializes in fancy desserts.

Photo provided by Bauer and Frenchman

Outside of Henderson, Farmer & Frenchman Winery & Café is a restaurant open for lunch and dinner that draws fans from across the tri-state area. The bulk of the menu is Italian, but seafood, steaks and daily specials are also standard. Patio dining is available nearly year-round.

There are places to stop for breakfast or lunch all over the country. Many of these are also village stores and some bear the name of the place. These include the Geneva Store, Mom’s Kitchen & Bakery, Cairo Country Café, Papaw’s Poole Mill Restaurant in Poole, the Niagara Store and three stores around Robards – Sugg’s General Store, Rockhouse Pizza and the North-South Truck Stop – Bryant’s Grocery (also known as the Hebbardsville Store) and Cagey’s General Store in Beals.


EAT WELL The Henderson Tourist Commission provides an online directory of area restaurants. For more information, visit hendersonky.org/attraction-category/where-to-dine/.