There is so much to love about Cottage Café. But let’s start at the end, with dessert. As soon as you walk in the door, your eyes will immediately focus on the fabulous, tall cakes sitting on the counter. There might be a half dozen to choose from. It takes an iron will not to start your meal with dessert. To make matters worse, customers are asked if they want a bite of cake before being shown to a table.
The menu is mostly ladies-lunch classics. The sampler plate is a big seller that offers a scoop each of chicken salad, tuna salad and egg salad. All three are prepared fresh that morning and arrive on a bed of lettuce, plus tomato, fruit and a roll on the side. Chicken salad, which contain cut-up grapes, is the star of the plate.
My favorite days to visit are Thursday and Saturday because that is when a hot brown is the daily special. Found on menus throughout Louisville and now all over the commonwealth, a hot brown is an open face sandwich that piles toast points with sliced turkey, bacon, tomato, and a blanket of cheese sauce. The version served at Cottage Café uses turkey that has been roasted in-house and its cheddar cheese sauce is light enough not to overwhelm the rest of the dish. Many hot browns can be exceedingly heavy. This one is just right.
A lesser known unique-to-Louisville sandwich is the Benedictine. This features a spread combining cucumbers and cream cheese, adding bacon and lettuce on wheat bread. The sandwich does have a discomforting bright green hue, but still is highly recommended. Other popular menu items are club sandwiches, salads, and a simple cottage cheese and fruit plate.
Now, about those cakes: while we truly believe that there is no wrong choice, we agonized over making such an important decision. Ebony & ivory cake is a moist, dreamy devil’s food cake with fudgy icing. The Miss Margaret, with broken bits of toffee and a luxurious buttercream crown, was named after a now deceased favorite customer. Pumpkin praline, an autumn special topped with pecans, makes my wife swoon.
Even if the food weren’t wonderful, Cottage Café would be worth a visit. The building itself is a 100+ year old home with pink flamingo décor everywhere, much of which donated by customers. Service is polite and welcoming. Owner Susan Stivers breezes from table to table catching up with regulars and making unfamiliar visitors like us feel like old friends. Special needs adults patrol the dining rooms refilling coffee cups and iced tea glasses. Cottage Café is a place with plenty of heart.