Bardstown: All Aboard My Old Kentucky Dinner Train
by Alan Cornett
It’s not every day that one gets dinner on a train. My sister decided to organize a family outing for our mother’s birthday recently and Bardstown’s My Old Kentucky Dinner Train seemed like the right special dinner venue. We took the standard two hour trip at lunch time on a Saturday. (The Dinner Train also hosts murder mystery rides–which sound like a blast–bourbon excursions, and other specialty rides from time to time.)
Once you board, you are seated at tables of four. On our ride it was a full house, which means that if you go as only a couple you’re going to be seated with strangers. That table is your home for the next two hours.
The Dinner Train menu offers a limited number of options for each course–hey, you’re on a train!–that rotate seasonally. After the salad (good), I had decided on the Hot Brown as the appropriate entree for My Old Kentucky Dinner Train. If you’re going to fly the flag of “My Old Kentucky” in Bardstown, you need to get the Hot Brown right.
And they passed the test. The Hot Brown checked all the right boxes with its gooey cheesy bacony goodness. If you like a Hot Brown–and if you don’t, why are you even riding a Kentucky dinner train?–you’ll be content.
After the Hot Brown, I decided to go all-in on Kentucky cuisine and opted for the Derby Pie. This is the real-deal trademarked Derby Pie® with Kern’s baked into the crust. I’m not only a fan of “Derby pie” by other names, but I do like the official Kern’s variety, which I’ve purchased in a pinch when I couldn’t make my own. But the key to making a Kern’s Derby Pie great is heating it in the oven. Yes, they do come pre-baked, but you want them warm with melted chocolate.
But that’s not what you get on the Dinner Train. You get a Kern’s Derby Pie straight out of the box. Now, I get that logistically heating all those pies on a train might not be the easiest thing, but even a zap in the microwave would have helped. So, the pie tasted fine but left room for improvement.
I think the dessert to shoot for on the Dinner Train is the apple dumpling. It’s a whole peeled and cored apple baked in a pastry crust and covered in caramel sauce. I looked jealously at the dumplings others were served, and was able to sneak a couple of bites through distraction techniques.
But ultimately the real reason you ride My Old Kentucky Dinner Train is because you want to ride a train. Everyone has nostalgia for the elegant days of rail travel. The ride offers beautifully restored train cars from the 1940s for an authentic retro train experience.
The train leaves the depot in downtown Bardstown, and after a drive through an industrial area, eventually riding by large distillery warehouses (no, they don’t stop or give samples) and into lovely Bernheim Forest. The main frustration are the somewhat vague announcements over the loudspeaker about approaching attractions, but you’re never quite sure on which side of the train to expect them or exactly when they appear. Granted, you don’t want a train guide blaring through the loudspeaker the whole way, but a little more detail would be nice.
For Kentucky dining, My Old Kentucky Dinner Train offers a unique and worthwhile experience. The food is tasty and the ride is scenic and relaxing. You certainly won’t find anything like My Old Kentucky Dinner Train anywhere else in the Commonwealth.