When I was a kid, my handle on my father’s cb radio was ‘Old Hickory’. I’d sneak out to his Country Squire station wagon and lay down in the front seat to talk to all my trucker buddies who were passing by on I-75 in rural Kentucky. I can still smell the leather seats.
Jackson County, Kentucky is named after Andrew ‘Old Hickory’ Jackson, and it’s one of the prettiest places in all of Appalachia. McKee, formerly ‘Yellow Dog’, is the county seat, and sits 10 minutes to the south and east of where Sandgap is located.
I’ve traversed that region since I was kid competing against other children in regional, public-speaking competitions held across Eastern Kentucky. When I turned 16 I bought a purple 1973 Honda CB-350 motorbike and began touring around the area on my own.
Frosty-Ette Drive In, established in 1953, often caught my attention but I had never stopped in until last month when business carried me to nearby Berea.
I’m always on the hunt for fresh chili buns for my long-running Eastern Kentucky Chili Bun Trail series, and as it happens Frosty-Ette has a good one. Fresh ground beef has been lightly simmered with just a whisper of chili seasoning, then piled up good and heavy on a steamed, warm bun. Unless you ask for condiments you will not receive any but it’s an error quickly remedied with the lady at the order window.
Once I has applied some ballpark mustard, and chopped white onions this chili bun practically sang. A hamburger came dressed with mayonnaise, mustard, onions, tomatoes and pickles. The lady grill cook has a touch as light as a hummingbird as this is one juicy burger; it’s a perfect medium. When her skills are praised she responds with a ‘hush it, you’re gonna give me the big head”
An orange-creme dessert shake is one of the finest I’ve had in recent memory.
I’m in the area for the big Appalachian Food Summit held at nearby Berea College. It’s a gathering of scholars, writers and eaters who are interested in the foodways of the region. As I buy a couple dozen farm eggs I can’t help but wonder what the thinkers back at the conference would order at this tucked-away little gem of a restaurant.
Jackson County is the birthplace of the Grand Ole Opry star “Stringbean” Akemon
Frosty-Ette Drive In
US 421 N
Hours of Operation:
7 days a week