By Ike Adams
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
If I was going to start up a new restaurant in say, Harlan, Whitesburg, Hazard or someplace up in the hills where the big trucks groan slowly up the hills loaded with black gold and the train gondolas rattle and rumble through the valleys several times a day, I’d give serious consideration giving it a name with coal in it. The Coal Bucket Café has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
Now, if I was going to open an eatery in say Paint Lick, Lancaster or some other location in Garrard County where we grow more tobacco per capita than another county in the state, I’d give serious consideration to calling it The Backer Wagon or maybe even better, The Backer Barn.
But, believe it or not, Lancaster does have a brand new restaurant, opened just last week, and it’s not named after tobacco. It is, in fact, called, drum-roll please — The Coal Bucket Café! So how bout that for reversal?
Even though the only coal to be found down here is the scant-few, stray, gravel-sized blocks alongside the roads that managed to fall off the big trucks hauling it from the mountains to the Dix River Power Plant there on Herrington Lake. I don’t even know anybody that heats with coal down here anymore even though I once did for nearly 20 years.
When I found about the new eatery and its name, I knew there had to be a story so I set about getting to the bottom of it. Turns out that The Coal Bucket was established and is owned by Garrard County Deputy Judge Executive, James Bushnell who moved here from Harlan County where his father still lives. The senior Mr. Bushnell has long been involved in a mine supply and equipment business in Harlan so coal has always played a big role in James’s life and he simply wanted something to make Lancaster feel and taste a little more like home.
I’m not sure that James realized that he was not the only mountain boy transplanted in Garrard County but the Coal Bucket Café sure does work for me. The menu so strongly resembles the restaurants that I grew up frequenting in Letcher County that I literally had a lump (no pun intended) in my throat when I had breakfast there last Friday. A breakfast that turned out to be the best restaurant meal I’ve had down here in a long, long time.
I’m also pretty sure that meal was prepared by Debbie Price at the long-gone Garrard Stockyards before they closed down several years ago. So you can imagine my surprise and absolute delight to walk into The Coal Bucket and be greeted by Debbie, who happens to be its manager, or, as she says, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. That’s when I knew I was in for a treat.
I had the “2 eggs, steak, biscuits and gravy” special and coffee, which, at $6 is the most expensive of the 20 entrees on the breakfast menu. I actually ordered the steak because Debbie has cooked for me so often over the years that she knows how I like my steak without even asking. In other words, if has been on the grill long enough to stop kicking and saying, “mooooo,” it’s done enough for me. In other words, everything turned out and tasted as perfect as perfect gets.
The Coal Bucket lunch and dinner menu has well over 30 items with specials on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. You can bet your last nickel that Loretta and I will be there two or three times a week. Hours are 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. till 3 p.m. Sunday. It’s located on Campbell Street across from the old Garrard Health Department, and there is more than ample, convenient parking.
The phone number is 859-792-1405.
If you plan to be in Garrard County, I promise you faithfully that you will not be disappointed if you eat at The Coal Bucket Café.