Since 1982, Frontier Diner, or a version of it, has been treating Louisville’s South End to all-American food — burgers, breakfast, grilled cheese, soups — and I didn’t even know it was there.
General manager Stanley Osborne told me the cracker-box structure originally was a doughnut shop, until it was heavily damaged by fire. It was rebuilt and reimagined then as a restaurant, and Osborne said he was the seventh owner since that happened.
But what was is hardly as important as what is.
The diner is exactly what appears in your mind when you think of the word “diner” — matching red leather counter seating and booths, black-and-white-checkered floor, fun tchotchke such as Coca-Cola memorabilia adorning walls and shelves, busy servers rushing this way and that, and a feeling of warmth and welcoming as soon as you walk into the small environs.
I sat at the counter and perused the menu as diners came and went, with servers greeting them and saying goodbye in between taking orders and clearing dishes.
“Ya’ll have a safe trip!” one server told a family as they were leaving.
“We’ll let you know how it goes,” a male customer responded.
It’s that kind of place.
I was dining alone for lunch and pored over items like the patty melt, a “world famous” third-pound cheeseburger, pinto beans and cornbread, smoked turkey sandwich, grilled Reuben, and more. Of course, even though I’m usually not a breakfast-for-lunch kind of guy, diners like Frontier serve breakfast all day for a reason, so I had to take a peek.
Flap jacks and french toast stared back at me. The french toast breakfast, which prices out at a measly $4.50, comes with six pieces of toast — for another $1.25 you can get a couple of slices of bacon or a sausage patty, in case six slices of toast isn’t enough.
You can get pancakes with fruit. There are five different types of omelet from plain cheese to Western to Spanish. Miss Kitty’s country fried steak breakfast looked tasty, and the Frontier Sunrise Special also looked tempting, but a house special called The Hog Wild finally grabbed me.
The Hog Wild includes two eggs any style, hash browns, a biscuit with gravy, and a slice of smoked ham. For $8.95, I worried it might be a bit big for a light eater such as myself, but I was willing to risk it. When I mentioned my concern to my friendly server, she asked me if I’d ever had the dish before at Frontier.
When I told her I hadn’t, she said, “It’s huge.”
Maybe 10 minutes later, my breakfast/lunch came out, and it was on two plates. I knew I was in trouble, but I decided to dive in, first chopping up my over-medium eggs so the yolk ran everywhere.
The hash browns, a huge pile of them, were browned at the tips and could have used some more grill time, but with that I’m picking nit. The eggs were ample and cooked perfectly, and she did not lie about the ham steak, which took up half my main plate and was about a third of an inch thick.
The biscuit was crispy on top and bottom, and just fluffy enough in the center to soak up some of the gravy, which was thick and loaded with chunks of sausage. I added pepper, but it wasn’t really necessary. Regardless, the ham stole the show, with a big salty-meets-smoky flavor.
At one point in my notes I scribbled: “Ham dunked in egg yolk for the win.” Yeah, that was delicious.
I tackled most of it, but ended up leaving a few bites of biscuit and about half the hash browns — I simply ran out of room for the delicious bounty of food.
Adding a fountain drink, my lunch was just a bit over $10 — not bad considering I really didn’t need to eat for the rest of the day. I only wish I’d known about this place starting around, oh, 1982.
Frontier Diner is located at 7299 Dixie Highway in Pleasure Ridge Park. Hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.