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Paducah serves up wide variety of new restaurants

BY GENEVIEVE POSTLETHWAIT gpostlethwait@paducahsun.com

T

he last year has been an eventful one for local restauranteurs looking to serve Paducah something fresh.

Seemingly one after the other, new Paducah eateries have opened their doors to hungry crowds, and the crowds just keep coming.

Though Paducah's newest local restaurants vary widely in terms of offerings and atmosphere, they all seem driven by a common mindset. Whether serving pasta, seafood or breakfast, they appreciate and honor tradition while giving diners something fresh, of-quality and uniquely Paducah.

"The addition of many new, unique and distinctive restaurants such as the Freight House, Italian Grill, the Twinkling Star, Nichols-Worth and Strickland's provide a diverse selection for the public to choose, but more importantly show the amazing talent of the chefs and the entrepreneurial spirit of our city," said Melinda Winchester, Paducah's downtown development specialist.

These newcomers to Paducah's dining scene are giving passers-through and locals alike good reason to venture past the mall area near I-24 and explore Paducah's Midtown and downtown neighborhoods.

Italian Grill on Broadway

@ 314 Broadway

Open since March 2015 | Tue-Fri 5-9 p.m. & Sat 4-9 p.m.

Italian Grill co-owners Joan and George Manganaro and Lauren Deboe pride themselves on serving a wide array of traditional Italian fare -- including lasagna and other pastas, pizzas, stromboli, calzones, steaks and salads -- every bit of it cooked from scratch daily. Making food fresh comes with a caveat, however.

"You make it fresh in the morning and it's good for all day, but when you run out, you're out," Joan said. "That's just one of those things about cooking everything fresh."

Though Italian Grill's simple yet chic two-story dining space on Broadway can seat nearly 200 people, it's always a good idea to call ahead and get a reservation. But even on a busy night without a reservation, it's worth the wait.

The Nichols-Worth Cafe

@ 2516 Bridge St.

Open since June 2015 | Tue-Sat 6-11 a.m.

Things are simple at the Nichols-Worth Cafe. The white, shotgun-style building on Bridge Street is so simple it's easy to miss if you aren't looking for the hand-painted sign out front. But if you're looking for a hearty, affordable breakfast and endless coffee, all served with a smile, Nichols-Worth is the place.

The diner is open only in the mornings, offering classic American fare. From eggs cooked any way you like to breakfast sandwiches, the menu is simple but well-seasoned. All meals are cooked-to-order, most cost less than $5, and all of the egg and omelet dishes come with fried potatoes and biscuits and gravy. Tax is included, just don't forget cash -- no debit or credit cards are accepted.

Owner and cook Charlie Nichols credits his parents, Mattie Greif and the late Larry Greif, for his culinary expertise. His first job as a teenager was in their restaurant, Greif's, on second and Broadway, serving the "who's who" of Paducah. The Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions clubs, "everybody who was anybody," ate at Greif's, Nichols said.

"See, I only know how to cook because I stole all (mom's) ideas and all her recipes and all her ways," Nichols said with a smile.

Freight House

@ 330 S. 3rd St.

Open since September 2015 | Tue -Thu 5-10 p.m. & Fri -Sat 5-11 p.m.

Located in the south end of the Paducah Commerce Center, Freight House offers Southern-style dishes cooked with local ingredients and a modern twist.

Its fare is on par with what you might find in fine dining establishments in much bigger cities, but it's delivered in a casual, welcoming atmosphere made special by little details. The bar-top was made from beams that once supported bay doors that lined one side of the century-old building, and the tiles above the open cooking line were salvaged from the old Hank Bros. Hardware store downtown. Little bits of Paducah history are here, there and everywhere at Freight House.

And while the farm-to-table restaurant's menu may fit on one printed page, it always packs a dizzying variety of flavors and combinations -- some familiar, some entirely new to most.

Think you're not a fan of pickled items? Pork rinds? Carp? Cauliflower? As owner and head chef Sara Bradley so often says, just try it. Try it soon, because Freight House's menu changes with the seasons. What's on the menu today could be gone tomorrow.

"People don't think they like things, but then they try them and love them," Bradley said. "No one else in Paducah cooks food the way we do, and nobody else has a wine list or a bourbon list like us."

Strickland's Seafood

@ 548 N. 32nd St.

Open since November 2015 | Mon-Sat 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.

When former Whaler's Catch manager Shawn Strickland got a chance to open up his own seafood place, he decided to keep things casual and focus on the food.

Strickland's looks and feels like a small seafood joint you might find in Florida, even though it's located between downtown and the mall area of landlocked Paducah.

Its menu features classic seafood dishes such as fresh oysters on a half shell, fried oysters, broiled bay scallops, shrimp served every way imaginable from coconut to peel-and-eat, crab cakes fresh salmon, tuna, mahi mahi and more. All of Strickland's seafood comes straight from the Gulf of Mexico.

"It's a very casual, moderately priced, good place to bring your family and (have) a good seafood dinner," Strickland said.

The Twinkling Star

@ 3100 Broadway

Open since May 2016 | Tue-Thu 11 a.m.-11 p.m. & Fri-Sat 11 a.m.-3 a.m.

The restaurant at the corner of 31st and Broadway has gone by more names than most can remember in the past decade, but this summer it reopened under the only name that ever seemed to stick: The Twinkling Star.

Father-daughter team Champ and Brook Webb revived the Paducah mainstay in the style of the Twinkling Star of the late 1970s and '80s, a sports bar with classic pub grub and a focus on live entertainment. It originally opened in 1934 as a diner.

"There's a lot of places in Paducah that have great food," Champ said. "We just want to have good food and great fun."

The reincarnated Twinkling Star boasts a full bar and 16 beer taps -- eight inside, eight outside -- featuring "something for everybody," from Bud Light to craft beer. When the weather's nice its patio is second to none for enjoying a burger, a beverage, or both, especially when a band's playing the outdoor stage.

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