Small Town Charm

Small Town Charm

4 stops in Paducah, Kentucky

Words by Zoe Dannenmueller
Photos by @zoedannenmuellerphotography

Meet Paducah—a quaint, yet bustling artistic town located in western Kentucky alongside the shores of the Ohio river. Boasting creative adventure, Paducah is thoughtfully infused with ornate art galleries, Southern cuisine, and a tightly knit community many call home, such as myself. 

Despite parting ways in my early 20s, Paducah’s historic downtown bones have remained the same upon every return. Now a permanent local resident, I sit back with a cheeky grin, smoky bourbon in hand, knowing the best is yet to come for my picturesque hometown.

Perfectly placed cobblestones, delicate architecture, and zesty whiffs of barbeque and freshly baked bread lofting high above the oak trees onto Market House Square—sights and smells I’ve grown extremely fond of throughout my years. With dainty boutiques and trendy cafés at my fingertips to enjoy, my shoulders relax with ease and my taste buds begin to tingle once more as the sense of nostalgia reels me in for yet another day of exploration.

Stop #1:

My inner childlike sense of wonder whisks me off to my very first stop of the day—Pipers Tea & Coffee, nestled amongst a brewery and pizza shop in an old Coca-Cola factory. Husband-and-wife duo Peter and Amber Barnett have found sweet success pouring up signature coffees and tea with distinctive flavors such as orange cold foam and house-made strawberry mint syrup. 

To drink: salted caramel oat milk latte.

Stop #2:

Kirchhoff’s Bakery & Deli. Combining old-world recipes and a modern-day dream, this fifth-generation-owned bakery and deli has been serving up fresh artisan breads, flaky pastries, and mile-high sandwiches for over 100 years. I adore reminiscing about my first job within these walls, as happy memories of slicing thick sourdough bread and ciabatta come flooding back with every visit—a chapter of my life my stomach will never quite forget. 

To eat: grilled brie with bacon and tomato sandwich, French dip, Elvis cookies. 

To drink: Ice cold lemonade or cream soda. 

Stop #3:

Frenchtown Station. Think vintage garden meets industrial cool. This once 1930s filling station is now home to a unique shopping and retail space for the ultra antique home and garden lover. Walking into Chris and Ginny Hutson’s shop, which is frequently refreshed and ever-changing, is an absolutely stimulating experience, with rustic pillows, lamps, and floral décor perfectly peppered throughout. Tip: Don’t forget to stop next door to sister store Slim’s Frenchtown Mercantile: a restored iconic Paducah diner carefully curating 21st century mercantile, offering upscale home goods from candles and local art to literature and casual wear. 

Stop #4:

Freight House. Led by season 16 Top Chef runner-up chef/proprietor Sara Bradley, Freight House has been serving up customary Southern flavors with a contemporary twist since 2015. Sourcing local and seasonal ingredients, Chef Bradley and team bring rich character and punches of flavor to head-turning dishes, such as barbeque spiced carrots, Kentucky silver carp, and bacon fat cornbread. Cap the evening off with a craft cocktail or after-dinner bourbon flight in an iconic, historical space.

To eat: Deviled eggs with jalapeño raspberry jam, feta and pistachio dip, crispy pork belly, and braised pork shoulder. 

To drink: lord baelish and oh brother, where art thou.