In business for over 50 years, The Rootbeer Stand in Corbin, Kentucky is a curiosity, a time travel restaurant where a $1.10 will get a you a grilled cheese sandwich and you can park in a spot where a man was murdered over a love rivalry back in 2009.
Southeastern Kentucky is the sort of rough and tumble region where sticking your head inside a man’s tow-truck window, unbidden, can lead to all manners of bad things happening.
Like getting yourself killed.
Root Beer Stand owner Willie Champlin: “… All that machinery is running, fans are going, exhaust, fans, people are talking, it’s loud in there, so I didn’t hear a thing until those girls came busting through the door screaming ‘call 911,’ so we called 911.”
It was too late. Tod Carter of Woodbine, Kentucky was already dead, and Larry Wilson was in handcuffs and being led off to jail.
Over a woman.
Larry Wilson’s secret love affair with Kristi Carter was finished. Carter had reconciled with husband Tod and told Wilson to please quit coming to the Rootbeer Stand where she was employed as a waitress.
Wilson declined, noting that The Rootbeer Stand has “awful good hamburgers.’
And they do. On a recent stay in the little railroad town of Corbin where the drive-in is located, I ate multiple burgers, chili buns, onion rings, french fries and house-brewed rootbeers over the course of a week.
Locals complain mightily about the pricing (a hamburger is $2.70) but that doesn’t stop the old, gravel and blacktop parking lot from filling up Monday through Saturday from morning to night.
I ask the waitress what the secret to their success is and she allows as how it’s due to Kroger bringing freshly ground beef by the restaurant multiple times daily.
Rootbeer Stand does not cut their own french fries and the onion rings are from a freezer bag, but their food is still delicious and somewhat of a rarity in that mom and pop restaurants in rural Kentucky are scarcer than hen’s teeth. It’s a lot easier to find a Hardees or Dairy Queen than a homespun burger joint.
Larry Wilson: “Tod Carter was trying to kill me. He was beating me with a rootbeer mug trying to bust my skull.”
The cuckold was soon shot dead, his young daughter watching from a nearby car, his wife scrambling out the back door of the restaurant.
Love and rage in Southeastern Kentucky.
11 am – 10 pm Monday-Saturday
The Rootbeer Stand closes around Halloween and reopens in the Springtime
129 18th St, Corbin, KY 40701