During my recent trip to Bowling Green, KY to see a new dealer in the area, I decided to spend the night after driving around the town for awhile. Bowling Green is the home to Western Kentucky University, a beautiful and very old school that sits on a hill on the southwest side of town. Northeast of campus is Bowling Green's downtown area, a quaint area with an old time courthouse square known as The District. It was in The District where I found a place to eat that evening - Mariah's (see map).
Mariah's is located in what is the oldest standing brick structure in Bowling Green. The original building was built in 1818 by George and Elizabeth Moore as their home. They had five children, the youngest of which - Mariah - never married and lived in the house all of her life until her death in 1888. Thus, it became known locally as The Mariah Moore House. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the late 70's, Rick Kelley and David Sears bought the Moore house and decided to turn it into an elegant dining establishment. They stripped the wood down to the original floor, the original brick walls were exposed and the fireplaces were refurbished. Mariah's 1818 restaurant opened for business in 1979.
The restaurant expanded in the early 90's, adding more dining, a kitchen area and a bar. The wood bar in the bar area was built in the 1880's by the Brunswick corporation and refurbished after being bought from an old saloon in the Chicago area.
In 1995, a devastating fire virtually wiped out Mariah's. Rick Kelley made a decision in 1996 to rebuild the restaurant. It turned out that much of the original stone walls were in great shape, so Kelley rebuilt the restaurant using the shell of the original bricks. Even the antique bar was salvaged and refinished. Mariah's building has quite the history behind it.
There's a nice parking lot next to Mariah's (and one across the street) and it was no problem finding a parking spot that night around 7:30. A rather large party of formal-dressed college-aged girls was milling about the front entrance and the lobby of Mariah's. I don't quite know why a large group of very pretty Southern girls would be dressed up in formal gowns on a weekday evening, but they were dressed to the hilt.
Through the large mass of girls who were waiting for their limo-bus to pick them up, I found a hostess to get a seat. She put me in an old wooden booth in the main dining room and gave me a menu. The dining area of Mariah's was large, but comfy and homey at the same time. It was a pretty neat building, to say the least.
After about a couple minutes, my waiter showed up. He apologized for being a bit tardy as he was one of the waiters assigned to the large group of girls who had been in the banquet area of Mariah's. I asked him what was up with all the girls all dressed up and he said, "It was some sort of a cotillion party they have at the university. The girls all dress up and learn the social graces. That type of thing."
I said, "Well, I'm truly in the south."
He laughed and said, "That you are, sir."
After some further small talk, he gave me the nightly specials and then told me he'd give me a few minutes to look over the menu. I had him bring me a beer while I was perusing the offerings Mariah's had to offer.
A lot of things turned my head when I saw them in the menu. Mariah's looked like it catered to a wide body of people as they served sandwiches, salads, stir fry, pasta, entrees of fish, beef, and chicken and they also had some stir-fry items on the menu. I was torn between a number of items, so the waiter left off my beer and told me he'd give me a few minutes.
After a bit, I figured out what I wanted - I got the tri-color penne pasta, topped with shrimp and then covered with a spicy Cajun Alfredo sauce. The spicy Cajun Alfredo sauce was the deal-breaker for me. Along with the pasta dish, I also ordered a dinner salad with their homemade Catalina French dressing.
After a few minutes, the waiter brought my salad out. I have to say that Catalina French is probably my all-time favorite type of dressing. The sweet and tangy combination just makes my taste buds dance. Along with the salad came some home-baked bread served with honey-cinnamon butter. Oh my God, was that a great combination with the bread.
About 10 minutes after I finished my salad, my entree showed up at the table. The penne pasta was cooked perfectly, the sauce was rich, but the Cajun spices didn't overpower the taste and the shrimp - about seven or eight total - were wonderful, as well. It was a great meal. I was overly impressed with the pasta dish and immediately wondered if I could make something like this at home.
I finished up my dinner and waited for the waiter to show up. He came back and asked, "All finished? How did you like it?"
I said, "It was just excellent."
He said, "You probably wouldn't want to see the dessert menu, would you?"
I said, "No, I don't think so tonight."
He said, "I can't even tempt you into some of our homemade bread pudding?"
That got my attention. I said, "All right - tell me more."
He described it as a bourbon-soaked bread pudding drizzled with chocolate sauce and topped with a dusting of cocoa. I was nearly salivating by the time he was finished with his description. I said, "All right, I'll take one of those."
I was already pretty full, and I'm not usually a dessert type of person, but that just sounded great.
And it was great. The bread pudding was moist and delectable. The drizzled chocolate syrup and the powdered cocoa didn't detract from the taste of the bread pudding. God, I was in heaven. I was also thoroughly stuffed and hurting by the time I finished what I could of the dessert.
I'm telling you, Mariah's was very, very good. The whole experience - the restaurant itself, the food, the service - was excellent. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to find the place just by driving around and looking at the town. I'm hoping to make it back to Mariah's at some point in the future because there were other great things on the menu that I'd like to try. Southern Kentucky is pretty country, Bowling Green is a nice little city and Mariah's is a wonderful restaurant. (Photo courtesy Popeye Express.com)
(Update - The company that owned Mariah's, Mills Family Realty - who was developing projects around the Bowling Green area - was hit with liens of over $2 million dollars in early 2015 forcing them to close Mariah's until further notice. It is still closed as of mid-2015.)