Geraldine Hoyland loved the Pittsburgh tradition of creating salads with french fries in them. In fact, she loved salads in general.
“She was always on a diet,” says Christa Hoyland, co-owner of Geraldine’s Kitchen, a new cafe in downtown Jeffersonville that will celebrate its grand opening on Saturday, July 14.
Geraldine, a Louisville native who later settled in Jeffersonville, was the mother of Bob Hoyland, Christa’s husband and co-owner of the restaurant. She also was something of a foodie before foodies were a thing, giving her son an early appreciation for cooking and food.
So, when the Hoylands finally got serious about opening a business after years of consideration, they decided to make it a restaurant and, more importantly, a tribute to Geraldine, who died in 2003.
The small restaurant, which has a capacity of about 50, focuses on breakfast and lunch, but that’s due to another tradition — it is set in the former home of a Jeffersonville favorite, Wall Street Cafe.
The family-owned cafe opened in 1982 and up until the last piece of country ham was sliced and served, it was owned and operated by Jerry and Mary Ramser, along with their daughters Gerri and Micki.
The Hoylands looked at a couple of locations before choosing the spot at 402 Wall St., including a serious look at the building that would become Red Yeti.
The timing wasn’t right, however, until a friend and regular at Wall Street mentioned the Hoylands were looking, prompting the Ramsers, now in their 80s, to call it a retirement.
Geraldine’s Kitchen is now a tribute to Geraldine that was, in a way, customized to fit some existing elements of its former incarnation, such as yellow walls and dark green booths. When Christa was taking photos of food to use on the restaurant’s website, she used a vase as a background prop that held sunflowers.
It sparked an idea, leading to a theme with green and yellow sunflower tablecloths and other sunflower notes. A photo of Geraldine and a short bio greet customers as they enter. A wall of barn wood, which actually was made from a fence behind the property, has been added, and the lunch counter has been redone with corrugated metal, giving the space a more modern look without compromising its inherent coziness.
The menu includes a salad called It’s a Burgh Thing, a take on the aforementioned Pittsburgh Salad, as well as a menu of grilled cheese sandwiches, one of them topped with Fuji apples, sharp cheddar and cinnamon that pays tribute to Geraldine’s father.
The Bluegrass Burger, topped with bourbon barbecue sauce, is a tribute to Geraldine’s time living in Lexington.
Breakfast includes omelets, platters, pancakes, biscuits and gravy and a few other items, but one carry-over from Wall Street Cafe is country ham.
Jerry Ramser had his own recipe for the ham, which was beloved by regulars, and that recipe was passed onto the Hoylands. Currently, Geraldine’s is serving vendor-sourced ham, but the classic country ham recipe will be revisited when the restaurant is fully up and running.
“It’s coming,” Christa says.
But perhaps what makes the restaurant the biggest testament to its namesake are a few subtle signs around the place. One reads, “Thank goodness for dirty dishes,” a saying Geraldine spoke often and which clearly made an impression on her family.
“Bob has been saying that for years,” Christa says.
Another reads, “Oh gosh, let’s eat,” which was a sign that hung in the family’s dining room. And over an entryway to the secondary dining room — the restaurant is split into two spaces — a sign reads, “You are my sunshine,” in honor of a song Geraldine used to sing to Bob and his siblings.
When looking for a font to represent the restaurant, Christa, who works in communications for a private school while Bob runs the restaurant operations, tried several that alluded to sunflowers in the name. None was what she sought.
She then ran across one she thought was perfect and found the name of it to be Covered by Your Grace, which reminded her of the spiritual Geraldine. It was a perfect fit.
Christa tears up as she tells this story, then says, “It’s a God thing how this all came about.”
Asked what Geraldine would order if she walked into her cafe today, Christa smiles.
“She would love these salads,” she says. “She would love that apple pie grilled cheese. So many things.”
Geraldine’s Kitchen is open 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday. It’s located at 402 Wall St. in Jeffersonville.