I’m a sucker for old-fashioned cafes. I love the simplicity of their menus, the warm atmosphere of their interiors, and the nostalgic feeling I get for my hometown restaurant every time I visit one that is new to me.
I recently sat down with the owner of one such place: Shady Lane Café, on the far right of the Brownsboro Center, off Rudy Lane. As I sipped a glass of cool lemonade – available only in the summer – Carol Reeves told me how she and her husband, Satbir Singh, took over the business shortly before the world turned upside down.
“The restaurant was actually started by Bill and Susi Smith,” she told the Courier Journal. “They opened it in 2005. We (took over) three years ago… just before COVID. We had about three months before all the craziness started. It was interesting.”
Neither Reeves nor her husband had ever run a restaurant before, but after owning a gas station they were eager to use their business acumen in a new venture.
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“Working for ourselves was great,” Reeves said, “but this industry really wasn’t for us. (Singh’s) uncle owns the Indian restaurant Dakshin, so he knew a bit about the industry restoration.
The couple learned from the Smiths and had just embarked on day-to-day operations when they first heard of what would eventually be a global pandemic.
“COVID was all over the news and we…weren’t sure what was going to happen. And then they shut everything down – and that was fun,” Reeves said with a sarcastic laugh.
It was quite a learning experience to immediately switch from restaurant to take-out, but she says being a new business made things a little easier as they weren’t fully entrenched in their business yet. habits. They had to cut the hours of some employees and a lot of business was lost because customers just didn’t understand what was going on.
“But our regulars came regularly,” Reeves recalls, “(and) when we went to 25% (dining inside) capacity, they came to sit outside. Some people even (offered) to support us financially, which was good.
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Reeves and Singh were able to get monetary help through a Paycheck Protection Program loan, and with regular visits from their loyal customers, business is better now than it was before the pandemic.
“We won a lot of business,” Reeves said. “I think the Louisville Take Out group (on Facebook) brought us some eyeballs. And of course, when new people try us, they tell their friends.
According to Reeves, one dish that gets people talking is the Brownsboro Burger, a 1/3 pound beef burger made to order.
“The Reuben is (also) a really big seller,” she said of the hot corned beef sandwich served with Swiss cheese and kraut over rye, topped with Thousand Islands dressing, then grilled. . Other popular choices include the classic BLT, as well as the Cranberry, Granny Smith Apple and Pecan Salad, which features mixed greens topped with gorgonzola cheese and a house dressing on the side.
And a real old-fashioned dinner menu — at least for me, anyway — wouldn’t be complete without homemade desserts, of which Shady Lane Café offers a plethora.
“I have about 12 different cakes that I (cook),” Reeves said, adding that the orange dreamicle, lemon blueberry, banana and coconut cakes are current customer favorites. They are all sold by the slice, with whole cakes available if ordered in advance. Reeves even bakes fresh brownies and blondies, which also come in individual servings.
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Along with tons of pastries, Shady Lane Café’s new menu also features a few new additions such as the Crispy Chicken Sandwich and the Cubano. For the most part, however, longtime customers will find their old favorites available six days a week.
The dining experience inside also remains virtually unchanged; wooden beams hang from above, and the exposed kitchen sits along a brick wall, below the handwritten menu. There’s even a vintage pink Frigidaire stove next to the fridge full of beer. Although the old device is not operational, it adds to the overall vibe, reminiscent of a simpler time.
“Some of the decorations have changed, but not a lot,” Reeves said, adding that they also chose to keep the Shady Lane name, due to the cafe’s location.
“When (this place) first opened, Rudy Lane was lined with trees all the way, on both sides. So it was literally a shady lane.
Although the number of trees on Rudy Lane has changed a lot since then, Reeves and Singh have no plans to make any major changes to the restaurant anytime soon. The only interior modification is a large floral mural that Reeves painted in the upstairs dining room. They may add new items to the menu here and there and offer occasional specials, but for now their focus is on continuing to serve simple, homemade dishes.
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“We’re not really a deli, but not really a burger restaurant either,” Reeves added. “It’s a kind of cross. (We only serve) casual food. Nothing is really complicated. We are a small place, but we have big hearts.
Given the evolving nature of the coronavirus pandemic, the focus of our weekly restaurant column will shift for the foreseeable future. Each week, Lennie Omalza will interview restaurants struggling to adapt and survive while serving our community. Please send your cover suggestions to Managing Editor Kathryn Gregory at [email protected]
Shady Lane Cafe
WHAT: This is a local cafe that serves casual and fresh American food.
WHERE: 4806 Brownsboro Center
SERVICES: Indoor dining, outdoor seating, takeout, online ordering, curbside pickup and delivery via DoorDash and Grubhub; Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5.30 p.m. to 8 p.m.; close on Sunday
CONTACT: 502-893-5118, shady-lane-cafe.business.site