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STILL COOKING: Ohio’s ‘Mom’s Restaurant’ thriving in new locale


FRANKLIN, Ohio – It all started 40 years ago, when Hilda Ratliff was a newly divorced mother of two.

On a normal day she’d walk two houses down to the local restaurant for a cup of coffee.

One day she arrived, and, in a sense, she never left.

It turned out the owner needed help, so Hilda started getting other people coffee. And, when the business became too difficult, the owner of the restaurant sold everything to Hilda for $1,500.

Cups. Plates. Everything.

Hilda became owner of Mom’s Restaurant.

Now in its 40th year, Mom’s Restaurant has changed locations, but its people – and the food – have never been better.



Hilda Ratliff was raised near Hazard, Ky., and it didn’t take long before she wished to spread her wings.

Growing up she’d hoe corn and pick strawberries. And after graduating high school, she received $82 in cash for the achievement.

“It was more money than I’d ever seen in my life,” she says. “So I took my $82, my luggage – which was two grocery bags – and I left. I swore I’d never hoe corn or pick strawberries or wash dishes ever again.”

She headed north, and settled in Red Lion, Ohio, about 40 minutes northeast of Cincinnati. She married and had two children.

Of course, she kept her Kentucky influences close by.

Hanging above the fireplace at home was a 16-inch by 20-inch picture of Cawood Ledford.

After a while, Hilda decided to bring that picture into the restaurant.

“I just needed a better spot for it,” she says. “So I brought it in.”

Other UK fans started to bring in pictures and gifts, too, and slowly the restaurant became an oasis for Big Blue fans in Ohio and Northern Kentucky, completely decorated in UK memorabilia.

But why UK?

“I’ve always been a fan, and UK basketball is everything in Kentucky,” she says. “I always say I’m American by the grace of God but Kentuckian by birth.”



Due to local construction, after 37 years, Mom’s Restaurant moved from its first location in nearby Red Lion to its current location on Ohio 123, next to the BP gas station in Franklin. That was three years ago.

Now Hilda, 74, and her 100-seat restaurant are still cookin’.

Besides the UK memorabilia, a customer will notice the 1,000 mugs lining the walls. They harken back to the beginning, Hilda says, when local police would hang their mugs up and use them upon return. Customers can do the same thing today.

Former Bengal and Kentucky great Doug Pelfrey actually owns the gas station/convenience store/restaurant complex and will show up from time to time. Celebrities like Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Joe B. Hall have also visited.

“I had my picture taken with Joe B.,” Hilda says. “But I was in Florida when Dale Sr. stopped by. But I was a Mark Martin fan anyway,” she laughs.

Fans of the restaurant say you have to go with the scratch-made breakfast – eggs and meat and biscuits like, well, Mom used to make. And sometimes (during the NCAA Tournament, for instance), Hilda will offer her signature gravy, but with bright blue food coloring, another tribute to UK.

Others will point out you can’t go wrong with the massive double cheeseburgers, crinkle-cut french fries and dessert pies. But be warned: Mom’s only accepts cash.

It seems like there’s really only one drawback, Hilda says.

“Back when I left Kentucky, I said I would never do any more dishes,” she says, laughing. “Now all I seem to do is wash those biscuit skillets.

“But I love it, and I love UK. You should come by and visit some time.” 4


Ever been to Mom’s? Are there other awesome Big Blue hangouts like this across the state and country? Leave your comments below and let us know. Or email me at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter: @rhinoKSR or my website: and maybe I’ll share them.


Article written by Ryan Clark

Ryan Clark has spent most of his life avoiding real work. He has walked the back nine with Tiger Woods, partied with Lebron James in New York and watched Kentucky basketball with Ashley Judd. He's hunted for ghosts in Civil War mansions, screened a movie with Cameron Crowe and interviewed Klan members while eating fried Twinkies at the Mississippi State Fair. He's made bets at the Kentucky Derby with Gilbert Gottfried, shared bootcamp quarters with our nation's finest National Guardsmen and women, and was even named an honorable mention Academic All-American while on academic probation at WKU. It makes sense then that he's now an editor and an instructor at Northern Kentucky University.

12 Comments for STILL COOKING: Ohio’s ‘Mom’s Restaurant’ thriving in new locale

  1. Great story! I collect coffee mugs and cartoon & other collectible glasses, so I really like the part about the cops leaving their mugs. If U’m ever up that way I’d love to eat there. Probably will skip the blue gravy though. 🙂

  2. Yitbos
    10:33 pm July 30, 2015 Permalink

    I live like 10-15 mins from there and have never heard of it….I’ll be giving them a try here soon!

  3. LeitchfieldAlex
    11:27 pm July 30, 2015 Permalink

    Guess next time I’m in Cincy area I’ll have to stop by and eat. Hope to meet Mom. Go Blue!!

  4. Springboro Cat
    11:39 pm July 30, 2015 Permalink

    I’m a UK alum who moved from Lexington to Springboro, OH 2 years ago. Mom’s is about 10 minutes from my house and I didn’t know about it until now. Will definitely check it out soon. Thanks KSR!!

  5. CincyCat
    5:55 am July 31, 2015 Permalink

    Most of the time a person can tell if a place of business is good or not by their employees. Her employees have been with her for a while and are warm and friendly just like Hilda. Great place for a hungry person.

  6. seefus
    8:03 am July 31, 2015 Permalink

    i’ve eaten breakfast at her old place several times and it’s just as advertised–simply like home cooked and very good. the one saturday morning i meant to eat breakfast there and didn’t, was the same time joe b was there, which i didn’t know about until later that day. i’m only 10 min from mom’s but haven’t been to her new place yet.

  7. Jim Porter
    10:40 am July 31, 2015 Permalink

    Mom’s Restaurant is an institution in the Middletown-Franklin-Springboro, OH area. Folks from all
    ages and varied backgrounds, especially UK Fans, love the food, service, UK décor-the whole atmosphere. Anytime that my wife Mary and I have out-of-town(state) company, Mom’s is a must!
    Easy to find: Exit 36 off I75 onto east 123 adjacent to the BP station. You won’t be disappointed.
    Jim Porter, Director-Ohio’s UK Convention
    PS: Thank you, Ryan, for your article.

  8. Don Osborne
    11:54 am July 31, 2015 Permalink

    I live about 10 min from Mom’s. Been there several times. Breakfast is great and if you love the Big Blue, you’ll love Mom’s.

  9. Lil Hampton
    2:04 pm July 31, 2015 Permalink

    Sure is a great place to eat. Hilda is my sister and I am so proud of what she has accomplished. Go get some good gravy and biscuits. Go big blue!!!

  10. Mark & Missy
    6:08 pm July 31, 2015 Permalink

    Great article, Ryan. We love “Mom’s Restaurant”! We eat there all the time…the food is ALWAYS good, everyone in SW Ohio knows that by now. We don’t go just for the food…we want to see Hilda!! Her and Malissa, Teresa the two Kim’s and the gang always makes us feel at home when we’re there. Last year when I was laid up after surgery, I read Ryan Clark’s book “100 things Wildcat Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die” (a great read). Eating at Mom’s Restaurant should be #101, or at least be in the next volume.

  11. Catherine south
    8:00 pm July 31, 2015 Permalink

    i was the one that brought Hilda to Ohio . Eat there all the time .wildcat fans love if
    Enjoyed the article Mr Clark