The Cafe celebrates 22 years in business this month. | Photo courtesy of The Cafe

It’s hard to believe The Café, located in the Paristown neighborhood near downtown, has been open since September 1996, but here we are.

Yes, it originally was part of the Louisville Antique Mall on Goss Avenue, moving to its stand-alone space 12 years ago, but still. Time flies.

The good news is, not all things have to change with the passing of time, and one part of Louisville that has remained consistent is the quirky restaurant owned by Sal and Cindy Rubino.

The quirky decor is part of The Cafe’s charm. | Photo by Kevin Gibson

Anyone who hasn’t been might be taken aback when they first enter. One side is decorated with old Broadway posters, the other focusing more on paintings, but dozens of assorted chandeliers really take the breath away.

Blend this with random antiques and photographs, architectural salvage (there are a lot of doors in The Café) and old furniture.

I’ve been there many times for breakfast, but seldom for lunch, so I decided to revisit the fun spot known for fresh, local ingredients, homemade baked goods, quirky décor and big portions.

It’s never easy decide what to order at The Café (really, is there any better name for a café?), in part because the menu descriptions are so enticing and also because the collections of ingredients can be so interesting. Sometimes, The Café takes basic ingredients and turns them into something unexpected.

I used to meet with a group Saturdays for breakfast and watched people order one of the apparent house specialties, the huevos rancheros. Fairly basic dish, right? But The Café’s version throws in roasted potatoes, chorizo, green chiles, cilantro and a ton more. It’s a massive, beautiful and tasty dish.

When I would go for breakfast, I would usually get the relatively small order of biscuits and gravy for $6, and still couldn’t always finish my meal.

But I digress.

On this day, I pored over the sandwiches and specialties, the salads and “Classics,” and finally landed on something I’d never tried before: a house specialty called “The Pimita.”

Old Faithful chili | Photo by Kevin Gibson

Most dishes at The Café come with a choice of side, be it pasta salad or fresh fruit, but this pizza-esque dish came with a starter of a cup of “Old Faithful,” described as a West Yellowstone Montana chili.

I had no sooner gotten my drink and ordered when I saw my server approaching me with the chili. Talk about fast service. The cup was nearly overflowing and topped with chopped green onions, sliced banana peppers and lots of shredded cheddar cheese. Slices of baguette came on the side, along with butter and crackers.

The chili was pretty much what you’d expect from a hearty chili: lots of ground beef, beans, onions, chunks of tomato, green peppers and a nicely spicy finish to the hearty, tomatoey flavor. This isn’t something exotic, as the West Yellowstone Montana description might suggest, but you won’t be disappointed if you get it.

The Pinito | Photo by Kevin Gibson

I was about hallway through my chili when the Pimita was placed before me. It’s a thin, round pita topped with plenty of cheddar cheese (The Café is big on cheddar, it seems), bacon, diced tomatoes and red onion.

The crust was crispy and dark on the edges and held up under the heavy cheese just enough that it wasn’t a messy disaster. On top was a colorful array of red, blue and white tortilla chips.

Immediately, the richness of the cheese took center stage, but I quickly noted that richness, along with the saltiness of the chopped bacon, were deftly offset by the brightness of the fresh vegetables. There was a light crunch, a hearty feel and was another example of The Café creating something unique with basic ingredients.

Predictably, my belly got full long before my plate was empty, so I asked for a to-go box and called it a lunch. Honestly, the chili might have been enough for me. I spent about $15, and it was easily two meals. That’s quality meets good value. And you can also still get boxed lunches to go.

So, happy birthday to The Café. And many more.

The Café, located at 712 Brent St., is open Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Kevin Gibson covers everything from food to music to beer to bourbon. He loves bacon, loathes cucumbers and once interviewed Yoko Ono (pissed her off a little, too). Check out his books, “Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft” and “100 Things to do in Louisville Before You Die.” He has won numerous awards for his work but doesn’t know where most of them are now. In his spare time, he co-hosts a local radio show and plays in a band called the Uncommon Houseflies. Check out his blog, 502Brews.com, or feel free to call him names on Twitter: @kgramone.


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