Halfway between Owensboro and Bowling Green, Kentucky, Rodney’s Southern Style Home Cooking used to be called O.C. Cafe, but I am told by longtime customers that only the name has changed. The new name is true in one way — the food definitely is Southern style; but I don’t see it as home cooking. Here you will eat town-cafe cooking: food that’s rarely made at home but is not surprising in Dixie diners where locals congregate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Country-fried steak smothered in white gravy and sided by hash browns, eggs, and a biscuit? To me, that’s downhome, for sure. But how many people nowadays go to the trouble to make such a meal at their own own stove? There’s nothing deluxe about it, just nice harmony of beef, crust, and gravy: basis of a fine lunch-counter breakfast, especially with a cake of crisp hash browns on the side.
A few not-too-homey items on the lunch menu include pulled pork egg rolls, loaded cheesy fries, patty melts, and beer-battered onion rings with house-made yum-yum sauce.
Then there’s the deep-fried honey bun, a banner dish about which my waitress enthused, “I don’t know how they come up with things like this. Crazy, isn’t it?” Yes, it is: a honey bun dipped in pancake batter and deep fried until its surface turns crisp while the inside gets all soft and creamy. It comes as-is or topped with strawberry compote or chocolate sauce. I say the fried bun is rich enough and sweet enough. The toppings are overkill.
Rodney’s is a happy place with a town cafe vibe. It seems to have expanded modularly, with three very different dining rooms. The front room has a late 20th century diner feel. The second sports vintage wooden soda fountain booths. The one in back is more like a party room. A television plays in all of them so people can watch instead of converse. Like home?