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April 30, 2014

Taste Bud: Everyone’s a regular at Wall Street Café

You know you’re in a neighborhood hangout when the server already knows what you’re going to order. And your first name. And the first names of all your friends.

And that’s exactly what Wall Street Café in Jeffersonville is. When my dad invited me to join him and his buddies for breakfast at the quaint location downtown at 402 Wall St., just minutes from downtown Louisville, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The next thing I know, our server, Jeri, is calling me by my first name, too. It was as if I were a regular, and I hadn’t even been there before!

I sat down to the gentle strains of the Monkees’ “Daydream Believer” and a cacophony of chatter by Jeffersonville’s resident character, Cowboy, who apparently is not only the best basketball player on the planet but can also sing the tune “In the Garden” so beautifully it makes grown men cry.

Wall Street Café reportedly has good burgers, but breakfast seems to be king there. Basically, you order the meat, and the rest is a given. For $4.49, I got three strips of bacon, two eggs scrambled, potatoes and two pieces of whole wheat toast with jelly. But the café owners seem very proud of their country ham.

Heck, you gotta like any place with a chalkboard that reads, “Ham and eggs available any time of day.”

The tiny place, which is family owned and operated and has been for three decades on, features three booths, four mismatched tables and two small counters with retro diner-style stools. On the walls are varying photos and other décor, from Babe Ruth to the “Honeymooners” to a group of people identified by an accompanying plaque as The Hamhead Club.

While my dad and his friends Mike, Bill, “Big Mike” and Rick mostly sipped coffee from porcelain mugs and talked about sports (except for Bill, he hates sports) and the news of the day, I ordered a Pepsi, which was poured from a can and served in a red plastic Coca-Cola tumbler.

At one point, the subject of a Churchill Downs goat came up. And then my dad told the embarrassing story of when I was 12 or 13, and the front wheel literally fell off my bike, the fork then burying itself into the ground, sending me flying over the handlebars like a derelict trapeze artist. Yes, he laughed at me. Because that’s what dads do.

Our meals came out staggered, but the smells and presentation were just what you’d expect — like eating at Grandma’s house.

My scrambled eggs were amazingly fluffy and tasty — quite possibly farm fresh. The bacon was on the crispy side and was very thin, while the potatoes were not home fries or hash browns, but rather looked like half of a skin-on potato that had been cut into several chunks and fried crispy. The toast was huge — you may want to ask for extra jelly.

But you’ve got all the breakfast staples as well, from biscuits and gravy to country fried steak. You can even get eggs with your burger if you so choose. If you’re into desserts, Wall Street has that as well. I even spotted a homemade chicken pot pie on the café’s Facebook page that made me want to special order one just for myself. And don’t even get me started on the “colossal” butterflied pork chop. Rumor has it you need two plates for one of these things.

Part of Wall Street Café’s charm is the humor in the menu. Most people just order from the chalkboards on the wall (or from memory), with choices like “Hefty Cut Ham.” My favorite, however, was the “Filet of Baloney,” with the description, “It’s not just a bunch of baloney, it’s a lot of baloney.”

“I ordered a baloney and egg sandwich one time,” my dad said. “It was three slices of bologna and two eggs. It was huge.”

Jeri happily refilled our drinks and engaged in banter with Cowboy and the rest of the crew. A few other regulars came and went as well. At times, people even sang along softly to the radio in between bites and conversation.

“Jeri breaks into a dance sometimes when the music is right,” my dad whispered to me at one point.

One can only imagine what might happen if Cowboy decided to sing “In the Garden.”