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Homemade goodness at The Farmhouse Diner

An older gentleman had already become regular customer at The Farmhouse Diner in Salyersville, says co-owner Amanda Allen, when he pulled her aside for an emotional conversation. He told Allen his wife had died a few years before. He loved coming to the diner because, for the first time since she passed, he could eat gravy that reminded him of her cooking. 

It wasn’t the first time Amanda had heard that kind of story. Customers say her made-from-scratch country cooking takes them back to grandma’s house, or mom’s kitchen table. It’s just what Amanda hoped for when she opened the diner with her husband, Tony, and daughter, Clara, on November, 1, 2019.  

“At the time, in Salyersville, there was no mom and pop place,” says Amanda, a Licking Valley RECC consumer-member. “It was all chain restaurants.” When the restaurant opened, she says, community response was overwhelming. 

“It was wild, and I can remember the very first day that we ever opened, I was almost in tears,” she says. “The response was way bigger than I ever expected.” 

The following year brought additional hurdles, as COVID-19 shutdowns and staffing challenges forced the Allens to close the restaurant through the end of 2020. After reopening in January 2021, however, customers came back in force, “even bigger than before,” Amanda says. 

A family connection 

Opening a restaurant had long been a dream for the Allens. Amanda says her husband’s big family always gets together for the holidays, and dinners were always at their house.  

“We were feeding anywhere from 50 to 75 people, doing it pretty smoothly,” she says. “And so we would joke and say, “We should open a restaurant.” 

The restaurant is still a family effort. The Allen’s 16-year-old daughter, Clara, “can cook anything I can cook,” Amanda says, laughing. Clara makes the gravy on mornings she works at the restaurant, and pizzas “are her forte.” 

Amanda’s cooking style will be familiar to home cooks across the state—she doesn’t measure anything. She goes by instinct and feel, following what she learned from her mother, grandmother and mother-in-law. Tony’s aunt, Gloria Allen, is also part of the family connection, providing cheesecakes to The Farmhouse Diner through her own business, GrannyMade Cheesecake.  

Local roots 

In eastern Kentucky, “food is a way of life,” Amanda says. That’s one reason it was important for the Allens to open an independent restaurant that celebrates food, family and eastern Kentucky culture.  

“It’s a way of life,” she says. “When someone’s sick, or hurt, or when family comes in to visit from out of state, you cook.”  

The Farmhouse Diner sponsors local sports teams and caters events. There’s no strict divide between the personal and the professional, either.  

“I’m constantly at the funeral home,” Amanda says. “I cook, I send food, I do whatever—because they weren’t just our customers. They were our friends.” 

Beyond the restaurant, Tony serves on local boards and has been involved in local government. He also hosts a podcast, Appalachian Connection, linked at The Farmhouse Diner website, which explores Appalachian food, culture, and even unusual Appalachian words. 

On Fridays, the diner hosts informal jam sessions, where local musicians gather to “pick and sing together.” 

Customer favorites 

Whether they’re locals or out-of-towners, customers at The Farmhouse Diner love breakfast options like made-from-scratch biscuits and gravy, omelets, buttermilk biscuits, bacon, sausage, fried bologna and more. For lunch and dinner, a full menu offers hamburgers, pizza and sandwiches.  

In addition, a buffet, available 11 a.m.–8 p.m., offers a salad bar, homemade pizzas and rotating classics like chicken and dumplings, pot roast and meatloaf on Fridays. Cobblers, cheesecakes, cakes and pies, all made from scratch, round out a hearty meal. 

But it’s not just the food that’s made The Farmhouse Diner a staple in Salyersville. It’s also the deep community connection. “We literally know everybody in the county,” Amanda says. “If they walk in, I can tell you who they are.” 

Located at 1506 Royalton Road, The Farmhouse Diner is open 8 a.m.–8 p.m. Tuesday–Thursday, 8 a.m.–10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. on Sunday and closed Monday.  Learn more The Farmhouse Diner’s website and follow them on Facebook

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