Shelbyville’s Claudia Sanders Dinner House History

Claudia Sanders Dinner House, an old country-style home with columns, is the stop in Shelbyville, Kentucky. The last name might ring a bell because of her spouse, Colonel Harland Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame.

But how exactly did Claudia Sanders Dinner House come to be?

History of Claudia Sanders Dinner House

Claudia Sander's Dinner House in Shelbyville, Kentucky
Claudia Sander’s Dinner House in Shelbyville, Kentucky

Colonel Sanders and his wife Claudia moved to Shelbyville, Kentucky, in 1959. The move was a necessary one when the new Interstate-75 bypassed Corbin, Kentucky, home to their restaurant, motel, and Kentucky Fried Chicken’s headquarters at the time.

Blackwood Hall, which is next to the Claudia Sanders Dinner House, was the Sanders’ residence. It became the future home base for Kentucky Fried Chicken operations.

In 1968, the Claudia Sanders Dinner House opened its doors as The Colonel’s Lady’s Dinner House. This wasn’t too long after the Colonel’s nephew opened his own fried chicken joint, Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken.

Colonel Sanders wanted to help his wife launch her restaurant chain. According to the late Claudia Sanders, the idea was to include her original recipe for fried chicken and eight different shareable bowls filled with vegetables.

You would, in turn, help yourself to how much you wanted in a very family-style environment.

The Lawsuit

A few years later, in 1971, Heublein bought the Kentucky Fried Chicken corporation. The Colonel’s relationship with Heublein had grown very tense over the first couple of years.

He was extremely outspoken about what was being done to the food in the company he founded. Now, Heublein was well within their rights to use his likeness as per the original agreement from Kentucky Fried Chicken’s sale to John Y. Brown in 1964.

Heublein did not like the use of the word Colonel in this new venture and filed a formal lawsuit in 1973 against Harland and Claudia Sanders.

Lawsuit MEET Lawsuit

Then, a lawsuit came from a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise owner over remarks that the Colonel made about KFC‘s food. He referred to the gravy as “pure wallpaper paste and spoke about how the chicken tasted like “a damn fried doughball stuck on some chicken.” The judge would dismiss the lawsuit.

The Sanders retaliated with a $122 million lawsuit over interference in the creation of their new concept plus the misuse of his likeness to promote food & products that he had not created, like:

  • Pastries, bread, and dairy products
  • Barbecue ribs
  • The Kentucky Roast Beef restaurant chain’s failure
  • Colonel Sanders Inn restaurant chain failure

This quote from the Colonel says it all.

I only want to find out how much of my body and soul they own.

Colonel Sanders referencing his lawsuit with Heublein

The Colonel and his lady Claudia Sanders would change the name to Claudia Sanders Dinner House after the lawsuit settled out of court. Sanders also received 1 million dollars in the 1974 settlement.

In a newspaper article from 1975, there was mention of a second location opening up in Bowling Green, Kentucky, that never seemed to materialize.

Selling the House

In 1973, Tommy and Cherry Settle bought the dinner house. Cherry was the national sales hostess for Kentucky Fried Chicken and worked closely with Colonel on teaching new employees his standards and practices.

They were interested in opening their own Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in Virginia but did not have the funds.

After approaching the Colonel about helping them out, he gave them an option they weren’t anticipating: to run the Claudia Sanders Dinner House.

He not only lent them the money but also financed it for them.

Some Changes

The menu has seen beefier additions like black angus filet mignon and New York strip steaks, along with seafood options. There’s even a hot brown, which was a collaboration with Colonel Sanders.

After an electrical fire destroyed the original Claudia Sanders Dinner House on May 10th, 1999, it was rebuilt bigger and better. The new 24,000-square-foot building itself has a Civil War-era air about it.

The present-day dinner house seats more than 800 folks with an efficient top-of-the-line kitchen.

Inside of the House

A long stairway greets you upon entering the majestic building. Make sure to take a good look at all the historical artifacts of Colonel and Claudia Sanders.

Stairs leading to?
Claudia Sanders Dinner House Dining Room
Dining Room
Bust of Colonel Sanders
Bust of Colonel Sanders
Claudia & Harland Sanders
Claudia & Harland Sanders

The gift shop is to your right as you walk in. They have copies of the Claudia Sanders Dinner House Cookbook and chicken seasoning for sale. I couldn’t resist and picked up a couple myself.

Claudia Sanders Dinner House Story on Menu Back
Claudia Sanders Dinner House Story on Menu Back
Claudia Sanders Dinner House Cookbook
Claudia Sanders Dinner House Seasoning

Claudia Sander Dinner House Food Pictures

I was emotionally overwhelmed to be eating at Claudia Sander Dinner House. I’ve daydreamed many times of sitting in this dining room eating fried chicken, and here I was, finally.

Yes, the fried chicken was excellent, but those buttery yeast rolls took our breath away. Marcela and I, along with our friend John, spent the entire meal talking about how great they were.

Sugar Cured Ham n Biscuit from Claudia Sanders Dinner House in Shelbyville, Kentucky
Kentucky Ham and Biscuit
Mashed Potatoes from Claudia Sanders Dinner House in Shelbyville, Kentucky
Mashed Potatoes
Milk Gravy from Claudia Sanders Dinner House in Shelbyville, Kentucky
Milk Gravy
Claudia Sanders Dinner House Menu
Claudia’s Kentucky Hot Brown Description
Milk Gravy from Claudia Sanders Dinner House in Shelbyville, Kentucky
Hot Brown
Inside the Hot Brown from Claudia Sanders Dinner House in Shelbyville, Kentucky
Inside the Hot Brown

When it came time to pack up our leftovers, Marcela squeezed as many yeast rolls into the containers as she could. They really are that good.

Yeast Roll from Claudia Sanders Dinner House in Shelbyville, Kentucky
Yeast Roll

If you can leave some space for the chess pie, you won’t regret it.

Chess Pie from Claudia Sanders Dinner House in Shelbyville, Kentucky
Chess Pie

Claudia Sanders Dinner House
3202 Shelbyville Rd
Shelbyville, KY
(502) 633-5600

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Tuesday 11 am – 8 pm
Wednesday 11 am – 8 pm
Thursday 11 am – 8 pm
Friday 11 am – 9 pm
Saturday 11 am – 9 pm
Sunday 11 am – 8 pm

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