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There was sad news last week.

Longtime operator of Kern’s Korner dies, by Haley Cawthon (Louisville Business First)

The staff at a neighborhood bar and grill is grieving the loss of its longtime operator. Jeff Kern ran Kern’s Korner with his brother, Bob Kern Jr., from the 1990s until 2016, when the business was sold to its current owner, Clay Shulhafer. The business, located at 2600 Bardstown Road, announced Jeff’s passing in a Facebook post.

Here’s the text:

It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of our friend Jeff Kern.

Jeff was Kern’s Korner. He taught everyone who worked here, the business and how go about things the right way. None of us would be who we are today without the training and mentoring that Jeff gave us all.

Jeff’s one liners, all his jokes and his all around sense of humor will always be remembered and impossible to replace. He always had the Korner laughing.

From making sandwiches, “With Love” as he would say, to always betting the 5 horse in the 5th race- Jeff always found a way to entertain and put a smile on everyone’s face!

We are sure going to miss you Doc. Thank you for the lifetime of memories. You will be never be forgotten.

Please keep BJ and the Kern family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

In 2017, Food & Dining Magazine recognized Kern’s Korner for having the best bar burger in Louisville. Jeff Kern had more than a passing acquaintance with the grilling methodology, which he revealed to F&D’s publisher John Carlos White.

Bear in mind, the following snippet was published in 2017; the price of the cheeseburger at Kern’s has understandably risen, but the bar’s kitchen is emphatically budget-friendly to this very day.

The Best Bar Burger (2017)

America has a love affair with the burger. It can be found on more restaurant menus than anything else. You can find a burger anywhere from top fine-dining spots to Chinese restaurants. There are numerous restaurants dedicated to the burger. In F&D’s guide we list 24 restaurants with a form of burger in their name.

Chefs have taken the simple burger and elevated it to new heights with an array of world-class ingredients. Last year, for example, the Butchertown Grocery introduced a $50 burger with five-year-old prosciutto, shaved black truffle and foie gras.

But our goal this issue was to find the best bar burger — a simple burger around $5-$6 with a beef patty and a nice slice of cheese with simple toppings.

Our choice is the cheeseburger ($6) from Kern’s Korner, 2600 Bardstown Road.

Of all the dishes we selected for this column, the burger inspired the mostly lively debate. While still researching our pick, I invited Chef Fernando Martinez of Mussels & Burger Bar to join me at Kern’s Korner. He had three burgers that day. “Best burger in Louisville for the money,” Martinez said. That was enough to sway the vote.

Kern’s Korner has been a neighborhood bar for almost 60 years (20 of those years under the name Godfrey’s). A small spot with around a dozen tables and 14 seats at the bar, Kern’s has no kitchen, just a simple grill tucked in the back corner of the bar. There are no printed menus, just a board hanging on the wall with a short list of rotating soups, chili and a handful of sandwiches. But the burger is the star here.

To begin each day, a stop at Kingsley’s Meats is made to pick up a 30-pound supply of 85/15 ground chuck. Some days a second run is required. “We sell between 30 and 60 burgers a day,” current owner Clay Shulhafer said. “Around March Madness we can sell as many as 75 a day.”

What makes Kern’s burgers so special? The secret may be in the grill. Kern’s has been using the same grill for 60 years. They crank the grill to high (375 degrees to 400 degrees, they’re not sure since the print on the knobs have worn off years ago), where it stays all day.

They patty each burger to order. No special seasoning, not even salt and pepper. When the burger hits the grill they make a small hole in the center of the patty. “That’s a trick my mother taught me,” said Jeff Kern. “It makes the burger cook more evenly.” The bun goes on the grill too, giving it a nice crust.

“Once the burger hits the grill, don’t mess with it,” Kern added. After five minutes the burger is flipped and a slice of American cheese is added. Five more minutes, and the burger is done. It’s served cheese side down on a crispy bun with lettuce, tomato and onion, pickles and condiments on the side.

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