Nettie Parker likes to say she’s fed just about every kid in the county—and if she’s exaggerating, it’s not by much.
Throughout her 45-year food service career in Breckinridge County Schools, Nettie fed thousands of kids, not to mention superintendents and teachers. By the end of her school career, she was feeding their grandchildren. “I’ve pretty well memorized all of them, and I can look at their eyes and say, ‘Who do you belong to?’” she says.
After retirement, Nettie decided to cook up something new. Jerry Dubree, a lifelong friend, floated the idea of opening a restaurant.
“It’s always been a dream that, one day, maybe God would allow me to have a restaurant,” Nettie remembers. “And I said, ‘Lord, I guess I’d like to try it.’”
Jerry had seen a 120-year-old downtown building for sale. He waited until the price was right, then made the purchase. Jerry, his wife, Ovaleria, and other family members worked on the building for about two years. They succeeded in restoring a piece of Hardinsburg history—one of just a few from its period that survive. The spacious interior seats 151 guests, with an upstairs room accommodating about 70 for special events.
Nettie’s Restaurant opened to the public in February 2023, offering made-from-scratch comfort food in a family atmosphere. Customers love dishes like meatloaf, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, fresh greens and cabbage and fried cornbread (recipe below). For dessert, there’s cake, pie, cobbler and cheesecake, and for drinks, Pepsi products, Ale-8-One, coffee, tea and milk.
Nettie and her six siblings were raised by her grandmother after her father had a stroke at 26 and her mother had a “nervous breakdown.” She started cooking for her family at 14, gleaning wisdom from her grandmother and the older folks in her community. “I wanted to learn everything that an elderly person knew that could make me a better cook,” she says. The most important lesson? “Cook it with love.”
That love comes through in the restaurant, which Nettie wanted to feel like home away from home.
“We wanted an atmosphere where you didn’t have to feel like you had to dress up and act a certain way,” she says. “We wanted to make it where you wanted to come back, and we wanted you to smile, and if you didn’t get enough to eat, we wanted you to ask.”
A longtime Meade County RECC member, Jerry says he became one the area’s first three-phase electric customers when he opened Commonwealth Machining in 1993. “Nobody had it around here, but (the co-op) worked with me and got me all set up,” he says. Nettie’s Restaurant is served by the cooperative as well, and Jerry says the co-op “has just been great,” from the renovation through the opening of the restaurant.
Located at 230 South Main Street in Hardinsburg, Nettie’s Restaurant is open 11 a.m.–8 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday.