There are only 2 places (other than Dr’s offices and the hospital) that I know Merton visited in Bardstown: the home of Thompson Willett and Hawk’s.
“It looks pretty run-down, do you think this is it?” Bryan asked. Tell you the truth, I don’t remember ever being at Hawk’s except at night, so I never was really sure what it looked like from the outside, but it was not a "fancy" place when I knew it the 50’s and 60’s. We would call ahead and then go as a big group. It always felt like a “secret” place. Special. And the best food in town.
My guess is that Merton came to know Hawk through his friendship with Thompson Willett, a local Catholic businessman (distillery owner).
On the night that Martin Luther King died, Merton went to the restaurant to be with his local Negro friends, Colonel Hawk and his daughter, Beatrice Rogers. Merton writes in his journal:
“Hawk with his arm around me saying, “This is my BOY, this is my FRIEND.” … I could cry.” (“The Other Side of the Mountain”, p. 78)
The barriers were removed in the early 1960’s and the restaurant continued to thrive. I am not sure if it is still operational, it’s hard to tell from the photo. The last time I was there was probably in about the mid 1980’s. Colonel Hawk was alive and the walls were decorated with photos of Merton.
Baptist minister, Will Campbell, claims that he was Merton’s close friend and they would slip away from Gethsemane to “enjoy country music and go to places like Colonel Hawk’s on the backside of Bardstown, Ky., and enjoy lamb fries and illegal whiskey in the back room.”