Miguel's Pizza offers a slice of life to climbers and tourists
SLADE, Kentucky-- The rock walls in the Red River Gorge have attracted visitors for more than a century, but in the late 1980s it became a mecca for rock climbers. That's when serious lovers of the sport began bolting overhangs and mapping routes that went straight up cliffs that had previously been regarded as unclimbable. Now, on almost any day, you can find groups of adventurers throughout the gorge, pulling themselves to new heights.
Chris Eason, as climber from Geogia, said " It's a world class destination. You've got people coming from Europe, Asia, South America, just everywhere."
A study by Eastern Kentucky University found about 7,500 climbers visit the gorge each year.
Climbing may be fun but it's also exhausting, making you hungry and thirsty. For many climbers, part of the routine is going to Miguel's Pizza when they come down from the rocks.
You can't talk about climbing in the gorge without mentioning Miguel's. The yellow building along state route 11 is the starting point and ending point for countless excursions. Dario Ventura largely runs the business started by his father Miguel, a native of Portugal who moved to Kentucky more than 30 years ago to raise a family.
"The first 15 years of my childhood, we were like poverty business owners," Dario Ventura said. "It was rough, but my father enjoyed it and we got by and eventually it changed."
It changed, because Miguel's switched from being an ice cream shop to becoming a pizza place when climbers told him they needed some real food. The pizza is made with fresh ingredients and you can choose from nearly 50 toppings, everything from mango salsa to tofu and sweet potatoes.
"If you can think of it, we can put it on a pizza" Dario said.Miguel's employs 25 climbers, who can camp on the land behind the restaurant, where there are also showers, a laundry and rental cabins.
The Miguel's logo, a colorful moon face, is well-known throughout the climbing world. Dario has seen it on bumper stickers and t-shirts at campgrounds coast to coast.
"I think it's a prime example of the American dream, starting with nothing, coming to this country and working from the bottom up."
Maybe Miguel's wasn't an overnight success., but it's proof good things come to those who wait, And for climbers... and tourists... that good thing is a slice of pizza and a slice of life.
Miguel's is open from March through November, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.
SPIRIT OF THE BLUEGRASS is sponsored by Regency Memory Care