RED RIVER GORGE, Ky. (LEX 18) — Inside the groovy basecamp with a cult following, a rainbow door welcomes you inside.
You’ve arrived at Miguel’s Pizza, perhaps the best-loved roadside stop in Kentucky.
“Everyone across the country knows about Miguel’s,” Tyler Edwards told us. He’s a former employee who keeps coming back for the friends, the food, and the rock climbing. “There is no other community like it in America.”
Visitors arrive from all over — as far away as Paris, France.
“They told us to stop for the pizza and the climbing gear at the shop,” said Mathilde Louette, who was about to embark on a rock climbing adventure in Daniel Boone National Forest.
Some visitors come from closer to home, like a group of high schoolers from Cincinnati who were learning how to camp. It only costs $3.50 a day to pitch a tent at Miguel’s.
“We heard they have some good breakfast burritos,” Bella Carson said.
To understand the mass appeal of Miguel’s, let’s travel back in time to the early 1980’s. Miguel Ventura and his wife Susan showed up in Slade, hundreds of miles away from their home in Connecticut. They took over an abandoned business across from Natural Bridge State Park, where they raised their three kids and built the business into what it is today.
“They moved here with nothing really. Pregnant with my brother. They made it happen,” said Mark Ventura, the couple’s youngest son who’s now the general manager. “This little Jot’Em Down store was available to fix up, so they fixed it up and started selling ice cream.”
But it’s dough – not dairy – in Miguel’s DNA. He comes from a Portuguese family of bakers and millers. He’s not a trained chef; he’s an artist who carved the door to the restaurant himself. But Miguel experimented, and as the rock climbers rolled up and began to set up camp out back, pizza came next.
These days, Miguel’s remains the spot for hungry rock climbers in the Gorge. They buy hundreds of pizzas on any given weekend throughout the summer. There are dozens of toppings to choose from, including unique options like pasta, avocado, hummus, or sweet potato (a customer favorite, according to Mark). You can also find coffee, beer, and a huge supply of Ale-8.
Some employees love the vibes so much, they showed up for work and never left. Taylor Bryant splits his time between Colorado and the Gorge.
“Will you keep coming here for as long as they’ll let you?” we asked him.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “Until I get run out.”
But there’s room for everyone at Miguel’s. So next time you’re passing by, stop in for a slice and leave a pizza your heart behind the rainbow door.