James Rada, Jr.

Kountry Kitchen has come a long way in 40 years, and the food continues to please customers.

Sherry Myers was just a freshman in high school when her parents opened Kountry Kitchen in 1984 on Water Street in Thurmont. It was not a large restaurant, but it served delicious food.

“The original restaurant fit into our dining area out front now,” Sherry said. The only heat came from a wood stove in the center of the room.

Kountry Kitchen was a family operation from the start, with Pat Ridenour, Sherry’s mom, doing the cooking. Sherry’s grandmother worked as the dishwasher. Sherry and her father, Roger Ridenour, worked part-time.

The original recipes for the meals were family recipes from Sherry’s mom and grandmother.

The business was so successful that Roger had to leave his full-time job to work in the restaurant, and the couple bought their building in 1986. As its reputation grew, so did the business, adding space and upgrading its equipment.

Through it all, Sherry worked in the family business. Even before Kountry Kitchen had opened, Sherry had been learning the restaurant business from her mom. Pat had worked as a line cook at Gentleman Jim’s in Emmitsburg. Sherry would go there after school, and when she was done with her homework, she would help her mom and learn what she did. Sherry was a trained line cook while she was still in her teens, without even realizing it.

“She [Mom] was so good at what she did, I just wanted to be like her,” Sherry said.

She saw first-hand how hard running a business was, but she appreciates the work her parents did to build a strong foundation for Kountry Kitchen. The customers do, too.

“The customers become like family,” Sherry said. “We have regulars who will eat two or three meals a day here.”

The Myers purchased a chicken broaster in the early 2000s and developed a recipe that leaves the chicken crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The Broaster Company awarded Kountry Kitchen the Broasted Chicken Award in 2005. MSN has also named the restaurant as the “Best Hole in the Wall Chicken in Maryland.” MSN praised the chicken, writing “It’s got a thin, smoother coating than most fried chicken, letting the meat be the star.”

Sherry said that a few months back, a family on vacation from Wyoming made a special stop in Thurmont just to try out the chicken.

Pat and Roger retired in 2019, and Sherry and Rob bought the business in late 2019. Of course, they didn’t realize that it would soon be the worst time in modern history to operate a business that depended on customers walking into the business.

The pandemic hit the following year, closing businesses for months, and only allowing them to gradually reopen. Many businesses couldn’t deal with the losses and closed up.

Sherry and Rob rolled with it, though, and even tried to help out. With schools also closed because of the pandemic, they began offering students in the area breakfasts and lunches. They were serving around 125 meals a day.

“We felt like we needed to do something to keep the children fed who depended on those school meals,” Sherry said.

They made it through those trials, though, and have continued growing and being part of the Thurmont community. They also have continued to garner awards and rave reviews for their food, customer service, and community spirit.

In 2022, they purchased a van that would allow them to cater special events with Kountry Kitchen’s crowd-pleasing food.

On February 15, 2024, Kountry Kitchen held an open house all day with hors d’oeuvres, mug and shirt giveaways, and a drawing for a monthly breakfast for two. It was all in celebration of 40 years in business with many more expected.

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