10 Nostalgic Foods That Bring Back Awesome Owensboro KY Memories
Recently I was having a conversation with our own Ashley Sollars, Digital Managing Editor extraordinaire, and we drifted into a discussion about foods we loved growing up in Owensboro. We're 16 years apart, but we were still on the same page.
Research has shown that SCENTS are the strongest memory triggers. I'm guessing music is a close second with flavors not far behind. I was certainly taking a tasty stroll down memory lane as we were talking. And we both almost said "CHERRY ICEES FROM K-MART" at the exact same time.
When I did an informal Facebook poll, cherry Icees came up there, as well. Listen, I don't think it was POSSIBLE to walk out of K-mart in Wesleyan Park Plaza without getting an Icee. It's certainly hard to do it at Meijer in 2023. (By the way, nice touch, Meijer.)
But that informal survey also revealed some wonderful "back in the day" foods that I'd almost forgotten, like Dixie Cream Donuts. My strongest memory of those delightful treats revolves around my grandfather. He'd snag a box of "day-olds" on his way home from church--they'd really only been there since that morning--and bring them over to the house.
Speaking of my grandfather, when I would stay with him while Mom and Dad were at work, he would take me to Blandford's Drive-In next to Elmwood Cemetery. I drove by there the other day, and it's something else now--I can't remember what--but Blandford memories always come back. However, I always got a hamburger and chili. Bob Weikel mentioned Blandford's bean soup and cornbread. I LOVE bean soup and cornbread but never had it at Blandford's. I guarantee you I missed out.
Pizza Roma was an inevitable suggestion. Dad used to get a big pizza from the old 25th Street location and bring it home when he got off work. I called it a "tent pizza" because that's what it looked like, with the pepperoncinis at the bottom of the "tent pole."
I mentioned Wesleyan Park Plaza earlier. Well, that's where Owensboro's one and only Sir Beef was located. It was a huge family favorite; we ate there all the time. The LAST time I ate at Sir Beef was in Evansville. It was maybe 15-20 years ago, and it was all alone in the parking lot of one of those Green River Road strip malls. It wasn't as good as when I was a kid, but nostalgia carried the day.
In downtown Owensboro, where the judicial center is now, there was a department store called Kresge's with the most amazing lunch counter/cafeteria in town. While everything they offered was next-level, Kresge's was likely most famous for their strawberry pie. Thanks to Steve Young for that memory jog.
There are quite a few sweet treats on this list, but maybe they just create stronger memories than the savory ones. In the Facebook survey, when Tim Hayden mentioned Dennis & Akers ice cream and then Stephanie McDonald chimed in specifying BUTTER PECAN ice cream, I may have teared up a little. We lived within easy bike-riding distance of D&A when I was a kid, and that ice cream was always a summertime favorite. Plus those SINGLE scoops were as big as my head.
Speaking of sweets my old friend Susan Fulkerson Clark brought up something that is not in any of my memory banks. When she was young, she used to get Shirley Temples--the most famous virgin bar drink of all time--at Gabe's Restaurant. They CAN be pretty sweet, but they make great summer drinks. If you have grenadine, Sprite/7UP, ginger ale, and Maraschino cherries, you're good to go.
Another old friend, Kelly G, ALSO came up with something I never had, even though I saw it a million times--Baked Alaska at the Executive Inn Patio Dining Room. I can see it now, right there at the end of the buffet line. But I'd had Baked Alaska at a restaurant in New Orleans and found it to be, well, a little boring. But it always LOOKED sensational.
And Kelly asked me what MY choice would be, and since we already covered Icees, I'm going with Fudge Sicles from the concession stand at Miller Lake. You could get them anywhere, but they never tasted better than when they were part of a day of swimming at my favorite childhood lake.
Finally, we come to an iconic burger joint that's provided amazing memories for generations of Owensboroans, western Kentuckians, southern Hoosiers, and just about anyone who want to kick it old school. Yes, The Big Dipper. Burgers, chuckwagons, those milkshakes (gracious sakes), tater gems, and my personal favorite...the grilled tuna fish sandwich.
Well now I'm hungry. Thing is, all any of us can get from this list now are Icees and Big Dipper menu items. Sure, strawberry pies, bean soup, cornbread, donuts, and pizza can be found in any number of locations.
They just won't come equipped with all those great memories.