Friends Drift Inn – A History

The Original Friends Drift Inn Backstory

Photo collage of life on the riverbank

Picture yourself on the banks of a beautiful river, right splat in the middle of a hot Kentucky summer. It is the late 1950’s. The Delta Queen paddleboat gracefully navigates the waters; her calliope echoing off green mountain bluffs.The garden is full of glory; heirloom beans, tomatoes, peppers and trailing vines of cucumbers and cushaws. The orchard trees are laden with apples, pears and peaches. Hives of bees buzz with activity.

Across the river, Indiana corn waves in merriment. On the highway, cars rumble making trips from Cincinnati to Louisville.

Can you hear chicken frying? Do you smell fresh baked apple pie?

Folks are talking ….a jumble of Southern Y’alls and Yankee You Whos? Yes, that’s laughter you hear. There’s always good natured banter at Friends Drift Inn.

Welcome to the Friends Drift Inn of days past.

In the 1950’s, Friends Drift Inn was a typical family diner run by anything but typical owners, the Friends. My grandparents welcomed travelers to a slice of paradise along US 42. 

The tablecloths? Real cotton red and white checked. Thanks for noticing!

The flowers? Grown in our gardens, as were many of the fresh ingredients. 

Friends Drift Inn orginal dinner bell

Yes, that is a dinner bell near the picnic tables. 

That little girl spinning wildly on the counter’s red vinyl seats? That’s me…watching Grandpa flip pancakes, fry bacon, and asking Grandma to warm up some of our Friends Drift Inn honey.

And the menu?

Well, Grandma called it a “Grant meets Lee” compromise…offering dishes from European influenced Ohio and Indiana tables and Kentucky down home groaning boards. 

It wasn’t a compromise really. It was the best of both worlds.

Vegetables, fruits and honey were produced in the family garden and orchard.  Meat came from the local butcher. Sorghum was made by relatives in the Kentucky mountains.

Visitors could expect hearty breakfasts, on the go lunches, and leisurely evening meals. Hot coffee, freshly brewed sweet tea and cherry Coca-Colas refreshed the road weary travelers making the trek from Cincinnati to Louisville, and back again.

Blue Plate specials kept business travelers, tourists, and locals coming back for more.

Life on the riverbank, it was all good. Friends literally drifted in.

Grandma, never met a stranger. She worked the front of the house. Grandpa kept the burners running hot to produce simple comfort food. They were a formidable team and I loved them.

But then came the waves of progress. Once the interstate opened, business slowed. By the late 1960’s Friends Drift Inn, our family diner shut off the lights.

Continue to Friends Drift Inn Farm – A New Beginning

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Friends Drift Inn Farm
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Friends Drift Inn Farm Manifesto
Friends Drift Inn Farm At A Glance

About the Author

Joyce Friend Pinson is a regional farm-to-table columnist for the Appalachian-News Express. She is a local television host. Her column show and blog, Friends Drift Inn, explores food, gardening, and real life farm-to-table stories from the perspective of a baby boomer in Appalachia. Joyce has a background in agriculture, media, and small business. Joyce is an heirloom gardening addict and home canner. She has a penchant for big hats, pointy toed shoes, and bourbon. Along with her husband Charlie, Joyce really does live in a barn where they ballroom dance. And laugh. And cook. And giggle.