America would not be what it is today if it wasn't for the railroad. As the first large means of transportation from one side of the country to the other, trains have always had an important part in American society. It boosted the industrial revolution in the early 1800s, sped up the mail service astronomically, and in the 1940s, was the main transportation method for sending WWII soldiers to the coasts to fight in the Pacific Theater and European Theater.
Once the war ended, train companies saw their passenger count plummet. More people were using their own automobiles to explore the country as well as take vacations to far off places using airplanes. While the railroad industry has changed significantly in the past few decades, some train companies are bringing back the thrill of riding on a luxurious train. For over 30 years, the R.J. Corman Railroad Company has been serving up bourbon and dinner in a stylish 1940s railcar.
Step back in time on My Old Kentucky Dinner Train. Located in Bardstown, the bourbon capital of the world, My Old Kentucky Dinner Train brings guests back to the time when train travel was leisurely and train riders would dress for dinner in the dining cars.
My Experience on the My Old Kentucky Dinner Train
My husband and I started our train ride at the Limestone Depot, located only minutes from downtown Bardstown. Constructed in 1860 and used as a passenger and freight depot until 1953, the train depot instantly transports you to the past. The dark wood invites passengers in as framed historical photos tell the story of the depot. Before boarding, make sure to pick up a classic Kentucky cocktail at the bar. I opted for an Old-Fashioned using one of the local bourbons.
When our drinks were halfway empty our names were called and we were escorted onto our car. Lush dining tables lined the car as large windows framed the Kentucky countryside. Tables are usually reserved for four people, so there's a chance you'll end up sitting with other people. My husband is very social, so he didn't mind this at all!
Once seated we were presented with a shrimp cocktail and a charcuterie board that we ordered in advance. For $22 we received 8 large shrimp, cocktail sauce, and lemons. A little steep, but nevertheless it was a fun addition to our meal. The charcuterie board was a $20 upgrade and included a selection of cured meats, cheese, olives, fruits, and nuts. It can serve up to four, so we ended up sharing it with our tablemates.
If you do not want to opt for the upgrade, passengers receive a bowl of pimento cheese with either crackers or bread to snack on.
As for drinks, the train has a full bar that focuses mainly on bourbon drinks. We both ordered a bourbon lemonade cocktail, which was specialty-crafted for the evening.
There are plenty of seasonal dinner entrées to choose from including prime rib, chicken, pork, salmon, and a vegetarian pasta entree. Each entrée also comes with the train's signature Gold Spike Salad which is a house salad topped with its signature gold spike dressing.
My husband and I both ordered the prime rib which was slow-roasted and served with a baked potato, steamed vegetables, and au jus sauce. The portion was substantial ( I couldn't finish it all!) and the meat was perfectly pink and tender. I felt the vegetables could have used a bit more salt, but I also like heavily seasoned food.
After our plates were whisked away, a Master Distiller spoke about the best way to taste whiskey while servers dropped whiskey samples at the tables. This excursion was focused on Jim Beam and we got to try four different bourbons ranging in age. Like movie magic, the tasting coincided with our location. When we looked out the window, the Jim Beam distillery stood tall among the cornfields.
The best way to taste bourbon, according to the Master Distiller, is to do the "Kentucky Chew"
- Observe the color
- Breathe in the aroma
- Sip the bourbon, making sure to chew the liquor to get the flavors.
Once our tasting was done it was time for dessert. I opted for the derby pie while my husband picked out the lemon berry cake. After taking bites of both we both agreed the derby pie loaded with chocolate and walnuts was the better choice.
By the time we were finished with dessert, we were heading back to the station, passing wheat fields and bourbon warehouses 6 stories high. The 2 1/2 hour trip was finally complete. Overall the experience was fun and relaxing. The food exceeded expectations and the drinks were all on-point.
Would I go again? Yes, but probably a different excursion. Along with bourbon excursions, My Old Kentucky Dinner Train hosts lunch, dinner, wine, and murder mystery excursions.
READ MORE: Ultimate Kentucky Bourbon Trail Guide
This post was originally published on May 6th, 2019.