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The Wrigley in Corbin celebrates eastern Kentucky roots 

“There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there,” essayist G.K. Chesterton wrote. “The other is to walk round the whole world till we come back to the same place.”

Kristin Smith chose option two. Founder and chef at The Wrigley Taproom & Eatery in Corbin, Smith is a sixth-generation farmer and Williamsburg native who spent several years doing mission work in Asia after college and attended graduate school in San Francisco. But the world traveler found herself with a homesickness she couldn’t shake.

“I just have a really special family and ties to the land, and I don’t think I realized how special our Appalachian culture and my identity to that was until I left,” Smith says. She still loves to travel, and says she works hard so she can continue to see as much of the world as possible. But home is where her heart is. 

“The river fog in eastern Kentucky—I will compare it to about anywhere else that I have lived or seen across the world,” Smith says. “Hardly anything can compare to sitting on the porch and watching that river fog rise off the Cumberland River into the Appalachian mountains.”

After returning home, Smith took over the family farm, Faulkner Bent, shifting the business away from stockyard production. Instead, she partnered with a local processor and sold meat at the Whitley County Farmers Market, which she also helped create. 

“From there, I really wanted people to taste the difference, and to increase my sales, and so I started cooking,” she says. “And honestly, that’s what people wanted more.” 

Smith sold farm-raised food at the farmers market for five years. The lines were long, and she couldn’t keep up with demand—so a brick-and-mortar store became the next logical step.

Founded in 2014 to answer that demand, The Wrigley has become an eastern Kentucky destination for farm-to-fork food. Smith’s customer base is so loyal that, during the pandemic shutdown, group carry-out orders came from as far away as Hazard. Smith knows her regulars by name—among them, Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, who told Smith the restaurant’s table 34 has hatched more good ideas than any other place in the state.

And the food? Think Kentucky comfort with a twist—for example, the Baloney Holler sandwich with fried bologna, American cheese, honey mustard, house-made mayo and Grippos on Texas toast. For something lighter, try the seasonal Buddha bowl with toasted almond chicken breast and roasted strawberry tahini dressing (dressing recipe below).

Hospitality is at the center of the restaurant, literally and figuratively, in the form of a 22-foot community table made from wood recovered from a historic barn on Smith’s family farm.

“Everyone is welcome, no matter your political stance, no matter the color of your skin, no matter your gender,” Smith says. “Everyone is welcome, and you belong here. That’s my current mission. I think it’s what most fulfills me.”

Located at 207 S Main Street in Corbin, The Wrigley is open 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Tuesday–Thursday, 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.–10 p.m. Saturday and closed Sunday and Monday. 

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