Cottage Inn going strong as it nears century mark

Quick! What’s the longest-lived Louisville restaurant that’s been in continuous business at its original location? I’m going to say Cottage Inn, where we, our parents and maybe even our great-great grandparents have been enjoying hearty, down-home country fare since 1929.

Just 11 years shy of its centennial, Cottage Inn is going strong, and that’s good news, as an ownership change has breathed new life into this local culinary institution. With owner Dan Zughbi at the helm for the past year and a half, Cottage Inn has a new look and a good vibe. We enjoyed a delicious lunch there the other day and look forward to making it a regular stop.

The little, stone cottage remains unchanged, of course, and the pretty little goldfish pool out front is still there. Inside, the old beige and dark-wood look is gone, replaced with white trim and bright walls the color of cream-of-tomato soup. The oilcloth table covers are gone, too, revealing undraped wood-look tables set with lightweight flatware rolled in paper napkins.

The menu holds true to the past, little changed, other than pricing keeping up with inflation in recent decades and perhaps for the last 89 years. It’s not gourmet-style but, the menu says, “home-style Southern cooking.” A dozen entrées range in price from $8.99 (for chicken livers, baby beef liver and onions, or chicken tenders) to $14.99 (for a frog leg trio).

We started with all the fried things, or a lot of them, anyway: The Southern sampler plate ($9.99) offers a hearty mix of sizzling fried green tomato halves, fried okra bits and cheese-stuffed jalapeño poppers, all fried crisp, hot and grease-free.

An old-school, grilled cheese sandwich ($5.99) was as simple and comforting as Mom used to make. Two deli slices of yellow American cheese were placed between white bread and grilled in butter until crisp, greasy and delicious. A side of hearty, flour-thickened vegetable soup hit the spot, too.

Fried chicken ($11.99 for half of a chicken, $8.99 for a white quarter, $8.49 for a dark quarter) was very good — it is after all, Cottage Inn’s signature dish. Toothsome and flavorful, the chicken was cooked just right within a light, crisp flour dredge. Accompanying mashed potatoes and simple brown gravy made a fine side. Great Northern beans were good, too, tender in a rich sauce with bits of ham.

Coconut cake ($3.99) was fine, fluffy and fresh with thick, sweet white icing topped with shreds of sweet coconut. We got it in a takeout box so we could make a quick stop at Dairy Kastle across the street for a cold, creamy dessert alternative.

Lunch for two at Cottage Inn, with a $1.99 glass of fresh iced tea, came to $35.99, plus an $8 tip.

Cottage Inn
570 Eastern Parkway

Noise level: It’s a busy, popular place, and a friendly, lunch-hour crowd kept up a constant buzz that, however, generally did not hamper conversation. (Average sound level 77-85 dB.)
Accessibility: A short, wooden ramp makes the entrance accessible to all. The restroom is equipped with grab bars, but narrow doors could be tricky to negotiate in a wheelchair.

Get your power bowl at plant-based Inwave

I’d been meaning to make a stop at Inwave, a locally-owned, fast-food spot near Middletown that features power bowls, acai bowls, vegan fare, juices and smoothies. It’s a fast-casual setup in which you walk down the line choosing grains, nuts, seeds and toppings for your individualized bowl. It’s an interesting concept, with the glitzy look of a chain-in-the-making.

A plant-based Beyond Burger cheeseburger ($12) and fries hit the spot. Similar to the offering at Morels without Morel’s tongue-in-cheek riff on Steak’n’Shake’s Steakburger, it features the excellent Beyond Burger — a dead ringer for the real thing — with vegan cheez on a light gluten-free bun. The fries were crisp and fresh.

We may not have made the best choices in our build-your-own grain bowl ($9). The quinoa base was OK, but the country-style greens were odd. A mix of kale, cabbage and yellow bell pepper was brined in a vinegary juice that permeated and gave its flavor to the entire bowl. Soft chickpeas and aging mushrooms completed a bowl topped with a generous swish of spicy chimichurri that battled the vinegar.

Sweet and sour kale salad ($5) was OK, and healthy juices — sweet green (kale, celery, cucumber, apple and ginger juice) and tropical green (celery, pineapple, cucumber, lemon and ginger juice) tasted healthy and good, but the $8.50 price each, not given on the menu, came as a surprise.

Lunch, bolstered by the spendy juices, mounted up to a surprising $45.58, plus a 20-percent tip. •

Inwave Restaurant & Juice Bar
10310 Shelbyville Road

Noise level: The environment was quiet, thanks to a nearly empty room, but hard surfaces could kick up the noise if there’s a crowd. (Average sound level 63-62 dB.)
Accessibility: All entrances and restrooms are easily accessible to wheelchairs, but most of the tables are high-tops; only two regular-height tables appear to be practical for wheelchair users.