A veteran of international hotel kitchens, newly appointed Executive Chef Josh Bettis upholds his philosophy of fine cuisine with fresh, quality ingredients while imbuing his upscale American fare with a local spin at The English Grill. The decor at his restaurant honors the elegance of the historic building in which it lives?the 90-year-old Brown Hotel?with varnished wood pillars, oak paneling, and stained-glass windows. In fact, Chef Bettis even cooks up the hotel's de facto trademark, the Hot Brown sandwich?an open-faced masterpiece stacked high with turkey, bacon, and a delicate Mornay sauce. Lauded by publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Southern Living Magazine, and the Travel Channel's Man vs. Food, the time-honored treat has been attracting guests for more than 85 years.
The Hot Brown isn't The English Grill's only epicurean triumph. Chef Bettis and his staff curate the seasonal menus with contemporary cuisine, complementing diverse flavors with the spicy corks of more than 200 wines. The English Grill has garnered a prestigious AAA Four-Diamond rating and impressed Esquire food and wine critic John Mariani so much that he has called it "one of the finest restaurants in the United States."
The Penguin's dueling pianos lock chords at nightfall in an effort to relive the greatest hits of the last 50 years. Talented musicians are flown in from around the country to ensure a fresh crop of faces and entertainment every week. Onstage, two baby-grand pianos sit opposite one other in front of entertainers ready to tap out any of thousands of songs from the past five decades, all committed to their mental jukeboxes.
Housed within the restored 1893 Fletcher House, The Bistro honors the spirit of Bowling Green's Fountain Square and historic downtown with a menu of refined American cuisine. However, in the American tradition, the chefs also look abroad for culinary inspiration, finding room for lots of dishes from Italy and other parts of the Mediterranean. Those influences shine through in dishes such as the chicken piccata and the lobster ravioli with champagne-leek cream sauce. Hand-cut rib eye steaks and herb-marinated pork chops represent a classic supper-club spirit, while beignets stuffed with crabmeat and shrimp and grits spiked with bloody-mary sauce celebrate The Bistro's Southern roots.
Walls of moss-green brick surround the rich cherry wood tables and chairs that fill the ground-level dining room, lit by glowing pendant lamps. A piano invites occasional live music, which drifts upstairs to a more intimate private dining space. Behind a rustic wooden bar lies a worldly collection of wines, which includes bottles from California and Oregon as well as France, Argentina, Australia, Italy, and Atlantis.
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Overlooking 400 acres of farmland and vineyards, the Acres of Land restaurant pairs well-crafted wine with hearty dishes that fuse fine dining and traditional country fare. Seasoned crab cakes seared in pans and dipped in roasted-red-pepper rémoulade prove just as amenable to new mouth and stomach habitats ($10). Dinner debaters can point to hand-cut, bacon-wrapped filet mignon topped with garlic-herb butter to show that beef, like monumental architecture, tastes better when enveloped in bacon ($26).
"Best Of" awards cover the glass doorway that leads into Gene's Restaurant, an eatery owned by the Thomason family for more than 30 years. Step through the doorway and into the dining room, and you might catch a whiff of the home-style breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that keeps winning those awards. The restaurant is known for dishes such as fried catfish, house-made meatloaf, and pit-barbecued meats. In the summer, feast on specialties such as homegrown tomatoes stuffed with tuna salad.