Sunday, June 28, 2009

As Seen on Food Network

My faithful readers will recall that while I don’t necessarily have an aversion to eating at chain restaurants, I do prefer to frequent the independent restaurateurs. This is especially true when we are traveling.

This does, however, create its own set of problems. Will the quaint diner in the small town on route to our destination deliver an inspired meal or will we be ordering a side of gastric indigestion? Are we walking into a cheerful restaurant filled with delightful and friendly characters or a grease pit populated with angry naked mimes ? In short, just choosing a diner at random is a form of culinary roulette. Sadly, this dilemma is exactly why the ubiquitous fast food chains are so very successful. Like it or not, they promise consistency in the food, even if that means that the food is not going to be all that good or memorable. An interesting tidbit of information is that Duncan Hines of cake mix fame first made a name for himself by writing a book that recommended good places to eat for the wary traveler. Duncan Hines was a salesman who was apparently tired of stumbling into greasy spoon diners and began to take notes of the good places on the road to eat. Some time later he got the idea that others would appreciate his list and published the book Adventures in Good Eating.*

*The Foodie daughter requested that I expand upon the section about Duncan Hines.

Today we have the Internet and can research places to eat along the way and once we reach our destination. Restaurant reviews can help to guide the traveler to the best places to eat in a given location. Yes, this is a bit of work, but the results can be outstanding.

Case in point: my husband and I were traveling to Lexington, Kentucky for the annual Indiana Scottish Rite Council of Deliberation. While we could have made the three hour trip without stopping, I knew that this was finally the chance to try out a restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky that I had first heard about on the Food Network show Throwdown! with Bobby Flay. Bobby Flay had shown up to challenge Lynn’s Paradise Café owner Lynn Winter to a breakfast throwdown. Happily, Lynn rose to the challenge and won handily.

To my great surprise, I found that I had no trouble at all in convincing my husband to stop there for lunch on our way to Lexington. At that point all that was left to do was to print out a map from the Internet and plot our course there.

Lynn’s Paradise Café was everything and more that the Food Network had promised. From the moment we saw the colorful building and the full parking lot, we knew this was a place to be. A sign at the rear of the parking lot directed us to another lot down the alley. On our way we passed an empty lot with several signs warning that only their customers could park there and promising that all others would be towed. After parking in the correct lot we walked through the sweltering heat to get a taste of the food that was good enough to beat an Iron Chef.

Owner Lynn misses no opportunity to interject fun and color in and on the building.

Even the parking lot is decorated.

The entire front section of the building was dedicated to selling merchandise, most of it as quirky and eclectic as the restaurant looked to be. Everything from wacky hats to toys to gag gifts filled the area.

Did I mention eclectic? Lynn’s Paradise Café is all that and more. In fact, this place enthusiastically embraces eclecticism and takes it to a whole new level. An odd assortment of thrift store lamps grace nearly every table, with one even hanging upside down over a table like a pendant light.

Two large dead trees stand in the center of the space with colorful kites suspended in the limbs of one, while faux foliage winds among the branches of the other. Color, bright and seemingly chosen at random, is everywhere. Crossed mannequin legs, attired in various slacks, protrude from the wall above the windows and figures of animals pop up in the strangest places in the restaurant.

Surprisingly, given how busy the place was on a Thursday afternoon, we were able to be seated immediately, though our table was in the back corner near the restrooms. I’m afraid that my dear husband had to sit in the seat that afforded little view so that I could have the better seat. But such is the life of a blogger’s spouse.

Lynn invites guests to place a dot on the large map to show their hometown.

Well, my husband did get to watch people go in and out of the restrooms. Lucky him.

What a busy place!

The waitress arrived and took our orders for drinks: unsweet tea with a lemon on the side for me and a sweet tea for my husband, before leaving us to peruse the menu. The very first item on the “Breakfast and Lunch Specials” menu was one of the winning dishes from the Throwdown. Of course I had to have that. My husband also ordered the dish, though he later decided that perhaps he should have ordered a different dish so that we could have shared and compared.

After waiting a bit, watching the other diners and attempting to make some sense out of what is by its very nature nonsensical, our food arrived. The Bourbon Ball French Toast consisted of thick slices of cinnamon swirl bread, dipped in a vanilla nutmeg batter. That was grilled and topped with homemade bourbon vanilla custard, chocolate syrup, fresh strawberries, sugar spiced pecans and freshly whipped cream.

On second thought, we really should have only ordered one dish for the both of us. Each serving could have fed a small village. Oh my, no wonder this dish sent Bobby Flay packing back to New York City. This is heaven on a plate.

After eating all that we could, and believe me, we both tried, we paid our bill and left. We later realized that we had left a bit of ourselves behind as my husband left his IU ball cap at the restaurant.

Sadly, though I looked, I didn’t catch sight of the elusive owner while we were there. I was really hoping to meet this interesting woman. Perhaps we will return one day and try the other dish that beat an Iron Chef’s best dish.

1 comment:

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Wow! That place looks like a lot of fun. I remember seeing it on Booby's Throwdown and remember thinking I'd love to eat there.
And that French Toast looks amazing.