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Tucked into the side of a hill where Lower Howard’s Creek branches off of the Kentucky River, Hall’s on the River continues a tradition of serving up fresh seafood with a side of Kentucky history.
Hall’s on the River, located at 1225 Athens Boonesboro Road, is built on the site where Holder’s Tavern once stood.
The establishment was owned by Captain John Holder, a pioneer and companion of Daniel Boone. In addition to his work as an early Kentucky settler, Holder was a shrewd entrepreneur who had several business interests in what became modern day Clark County. Holder’s landing on the Kentucky River made commerce between Kentucky and New Orleans possible, bringing wealth to the area in its early days.
Many pioneers, workers and statesmen visited Holder’s Tavern, and the tradition continues to this day at Hall’s.
According to General Manager Ryan Curry, the restaurant’s bar has been named Holder’s Tavern to pay homage to the rich history of their location. He said over the more than half a century Hall’s has been in existence, the restaurant has seen numerous visitors, from local regulars to international celebrities.
It has played host to marriage proposals, business deals and even University of Kentucky Wildcats celebrations.
“I want people who come here to feel at home,” Curry said. “Whether they’re here for a drink at the bar or visiting for dinner with their families, I want them to feel like part of the family.”
And family is exactly how employee Jean Bell describes the staff at Hall’s.
Bell has been employed at the restaurant for 51 years. She said when Steve Hall — the original owner — first opened the business, she was working at a nearby competitor.
“They begged me to come work for them,” she said. “They would ask me every day.”
Eventually, Bell did make the move over to Hall’s, one she hasn’t regretted since.
She helped create the initial menu at the restaurant and claims she has done “a little bit of everything” during her time there.
After ownership of the restaurant was transferred from the Hall family to a group of investors, including the father of the current owner, Karl Crase, Bell stayed on as a member of the staff.
Curry said Bell is such a popular fixture at Hall’s many diners ask her to visit them at their tables.
“It’s like one big family here,” she said.
In her time at Hall’s, Bell has also seen the worst of when nature temporarily stopped business: flooding along the Kentucky River.
She was working at the restaurant in 1978 when the highest flood in the business’ history took place. Water nearly reached the ceiling in the building.
Bell said after the waters receded, the staff came together to clean up what was left in the building.
“I made food for them,” Bell said. “I would have to make it all at home, then I’d drive down here where they were working to serve it.”
Flooding couldn’t keep the restaurant down, however, and after two months, Hall’s was back on its feet.
Hall’s menu offers a variety of fun appetizers, steaks and burgers and fresh seafood.
Of course, the restaurant’s most famous dish may be its popular “snappy” beer cheese, which has won accolades in local competitions as well as been featured by popular media like the Food Network.
Hall’s also offers a full bar with specialty drinks and an ever-expanding selection of Kentucky bourbon. §