Heather Hannan was raised in Burkesville, a small town on the Cumberland River in south-central Kentucky. She grew up buying ice cream and “fresh orange”—a drink of fresh orange juice, simple syrup, and water—at Smith Pharmacy, a fixture on the courthouse square that had served floats, sundaes, and sodas to generations of Cumberland County families.
But when Heather and her husband, David, moved to Burkesville after living and working for more than a decade in the Cayman Islands, the pharmacy was closed. “Both of us have always cooked a lot,” says Heather. “We sort of always had this little dream to open a café.”
That was the genesis of Annie Ruby’s Café, named for Heather’s grandmother, and served by Tri-County Electric cooperative. “We don’t serve hamburgers and french fries,” says Heather. “Our type of food is fresh and homemade.” The Hannans restored the soda fountain, serving all the old-time favorites.
Homemade breakfast might consist of biscuits with chocolate gravy. “That’s kind of a favorite around here,” says Heather.
Pimiento cheese and homemade chicken salad are lunch-menu standards. The café is known for its dry-rubbed smoked meat specials. David Hannan smokes brisket, ribs, or pork shoulder with a mix of hickory and cherry wood. Sauce may be served on the side, says Heather, because the meat tastes so good on its own, many people don’t want sauce on it.
Seasons guide some of the menu items. Panini fillings and soups change daily, often featuring local produce. And when tomatoes are in season, Heather serves her famous tomato pie. (Watch the pie being made on Kentucky Life; search for “Annie Ruby’s” at www.ket.org/kentuckylife/search.html to locate the video.)
The café, at 204 Court House Square, serves breakfast from 7-10 a.m. and lunch from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Monday through Friday. You can find daily menus at
Facebook.com/AnnieRubysCafe, or call (270) 864-2664.
Annie Ruby’s Taco Soup
1 lb ground beef or ground turkey
1/4 C chopped onion
1 (46-oz) can tomato juice
1 (10-oz) can Rotel or other brand tomatoes with green chilies
1 (14- to 16-oz) can corn
1 (14- to 16-oz) can black beans
1 (14- to 16-oz) can chili beans
1 (14- to 16-oz) can pinto beans
1 pkg. Hidden Valley ranch dressing mix
1 pkg. taco seasoning
Sour cream, shredded cheese, tortilla chips
Combine meat and onion in a wide, deep, heavy pot over medium heat. Brown the meat, breaking it up as it cooks. Drain any excess fat. Add juice, tomatoes, corn, beans, and seasoning mixes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with sour cream, shredded cheese, and chips, as desired. Serves 10-12.
Slow-braised Beef Shoulder
Recipe by Sarah Fritschner
2-3 lb chuck, blade, or other beef shoulder roast
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
4 C chicken broth
Trim meat of fat. Pat meat dry and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. In a heavy, wide skillet, heat vegetable oil over high heat. When oil is hot, add meat and brown well on both sides. Place browned meat in a heavy, deep pot such as a Dutch oven or an electric slow cooker. Add onions to skillet and reduce heat to medium high. Cook, stirring often, about 10 minutes until they reduce in size and begin to soften (adjust heat so they don’t burn). Add garlic and cook 5 more minutes. Add onions and garlic to meat. Add thyme and chicken broth and cover. If cooking in an oven-safe pot, place in a 300° oven for 3 hours, or until the meat is very tender. If cooking in a slow cooker, cook 8 hours (or so) on low. Taste and add salt if necessary. Serves 6.
SARAH FRITSCHNER coordinates Louisville Farm to Table, a program bringing more Kentucky-grown food into local homes, restaurants, and institutions.