Since opening in 1937, Kurtz Restaurant in Bardstown, Ky., has become known for — among many other things — its pie safe and what’s inside.
The pie safe doors are swung wide open to showcase a tempting array of cobblers, puddings and pies. “This is the most photographed spot in the restaurant,” says Marilyn Kurtz Dick, its 81-year-old owner. She says that visitors often tell her about pie safes used as bars or for displaying dishes. Kurtz’s is always filled with homemade pies, baked every morning, she adds. The restaurant bakes 15 to 20 every morning, “and their number drops as the day wears on.”
By 1 p.m. on a recent afternoon, the pie safe held seven pies — mostly coconut cream and lemon — each with a snowy crown of meringue at least 2 inches high. “Sometimes I accuse my daughter of just trying to get rid of it,” Dick says of the sweetened egg white topping.
Daughter Debby Fisher bakes most of the desserts; she retired from teaching after 32 years. “She’s trying to let me retire now,” says Dick, who returns daily after supper to close the restaurant at 9 p.m.
Dick grew up in living quarters above the restaurant, which her parents started. The Kurtz family’s matriarch lives at the neighboring Bardstown Parkview Motel, which she and her late husband Donald opened in 1960. He died eight years later, leaving Dick with five children to support. The restaurant and motel provided “a great place for me to work while looking after my kids,” she recalls. The family restaurant has built a reputation for home-style Southern cooking: fried chicken, skillet-fried cornbread and those luscious desserts.
Both properties are on Bardstown’s Stephen Foster Avenue, overlooking a well-groomed state park called My Old Kentucky Home.
While the restaurant pushes the pie safe’s contents, Dick safeguards the pie recipes passed down from her mother.
However, she gladly shares the recipe for another of Kurtz’s signature desserts: biscuit pudding with bourbon sauce. It’s an homage to the favorite spirit in Bardstown, which, with several local distilleries, bills itself as The Bourbon Capital of the World.
This recipe is from Kurtz Restaurant in Bardstown, Ky. which calls itself as The Bourbon Capital of the World. The recipe should be started at least a day before serving.
- 1 cup raisins
- 3 tablespoons Kentucky bourbon
- A dozen 1 1/2-inch biscuits
- 1 quart milk
- 6 eggs
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- Bourbon sauce
- Bourbon Sauce
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/3 cup Kentucky bourbon (more, if desired)
Soak raisins in bourbon overnight. Break up biscuits into small pieces and place in large bowl. Add milk and allow to soak for 5 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
In separate bowl, beat the eggs with sugar and vanilla, then add to the bread mixture. Into 2-quart baking dish, pour melted butter, turning pan to coat bottom. Add bread mixture and bake for an hour, until set. Serve with bourbon sauce.
For bourbon sauce,In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter, add sugar and water and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg. Remove butter mixture from heat. Gradually add this mixture to the egg, whisking constantly. Add bourbon and stir until smooth. Serve with biscuit pudding.