Skip to content

Where to Dine by the Water in Frankfort Written by Patti Nickell

It may be a bit early to be thinking of waterside dining when the temps are hardly tropical and the view is without the colors of spring and summer, but hey, no one said you had to eat outdoors and after all, spring will be here before you know it.

Frankfort has more restaurants with a riverside view (the river being the Kentucky River) than anywhere else in Central Kentucky.  So, take a look at the list and decide where you want to enjoy your next table with a view.

Jim’s Seafood

There is nothing fancy about this Kentucky River outpost, but it will certainly satisfy your craving for seafood, with catfish, shrimp, crab, oyster, clam, scallop and salmon dishes on the menu.  They don’t forget landlubbers either as fried chicken is also a favorite. Everything is made from scratch and this popular waterfront dining spot has been family owned for more than three decades.

Bourbon on Main

In nice weather, you can dine on the outdoor patio for a view of the river and great apps such as deviled eggs with house-made bacon preserves and pickled onions or beer cheese served with a jumbo pretzel.

Paying homage to the distilleries of the area, the cocktail menu is heavy on bourbon, and if you have a sweet tooth, try the Creamy Buffalo with Buffalo Trace bourbon cream, Disaronno cream and orange.  If you’re a non-tippler, you’ll have to be satisfied with chocolate chip bread pudding with bourbon caramel sauce. Either way, sit back, enjoy and hum a few bars of Old Man River.

Goodwood Brewing

This spot has a lovely tree-lined balcony overlooking the river, where it’s fun to spend several hours on a warm afternoon doing a beer flight or enjoying a craft cocktail from their respectable bourbon list.

The food menu features burgers, pub food and the local favorite, chicken and waffles.  For heartier appetites, try the shrimp and grits, Drunken Chicken or cod with a house-made batter, accompanied by such sides as mac ‘n’ cheese, Chipotle sweet potato mash and spicy braised collards.

Bring your camera as the balcony tables provide one of the best views of the lazily meandering river in Frankfort.

Riverboat Grill

You can’t get much closer to the water than at this spot at the marina alongside the river.  Tables are on a covered patio, so the grill is open only when the weather cooperates and it’s always wise to check.

When the weather does cooperate, reserve one of those tables and try their most popular dish – fish and chips – fresh cod fried in seasoned flour from Weisenberger Mill.

Cliffside Diner

Opened in 1948 on a cliff with the Kentucky River directly across the road, it seems a natural choice for water viewing.  But be forewarned – the river is only visible in the winter when leafy trees don’t block the view.  Then, it appears as a watery ribbon at the base of the cliff just below the Governor’s Mansion.

The rest of the time you’ll have to be content with the 1950s nostalgic vibe at the 35-seat diner.   Tile floor, counter seats and booths are all there, although classic country replaces 50s rock and roll as a musical choice. You’ll hear lots of “hons” and “sweethearts” from the friendly staff, who, depending on the meal, always seem to be bustling around with coffee pot or iced tea pitcher in hand.

As for food, fan favorites include the signature Cliffside Burger (two patties, grilled onions, bacon and tartar sauce on Texas toast), coney dogs and an open-faced roast beef sandwich, a particular favorite of former governor Julian Carroll.

The Stave

Although your water experience here will be downgraded from the Kentucky River to the sliver known as Glenn’s Creek, it has lots of other things to recommend it. 

Most particularly, Southern specialties with a twist, such as Shark and Grits (yes, you heard that correctly) or fried bologna sandwich with house-made chow-chow.

The setting is pastoral with lots of covered outdoor seating for warm weather and firepits for when it gets cooler.  Another plus in the winter is that it’s just down McCracken Pike from Castle & Key Distillery, so you can warm up with a bourbon tasting before heading to dinner.