This is one of the biggest problems with Louisville: People get so stuck in their narrow comfort zones that they never wander far off the beaten path, never discover the undiscovered gems that help make Louisville such a diverse place. People from the East End never go to the West End or South End; people from the South End look down on “the snobs” who live in the East End, and so on. Let’s not even discuss Hoosiers.
I wanted to counter this mindset and venture out to Jessie’s Family Restaurant in Valley Station. Of course, we’re talking about challenging the norm, so finding a partner on this mission wasn’t easy. The first problem with a place named Jessie’s Family Restaurant, at least for most of the people I know, is the connotations conjured up by the name. In the words of one of the many friends who turned down the opportunity to be treated to a fine dinner at Jessie’s: “The name makes me think of fried pork, grease and iceberg lettuce. No, thanks.”
So I drove out to Valley Station with the one person I was able to get to have dinner with me — thanks, Mom. I was hopeful I could prove wrong those who had dissed Jessie’s without even trying it.
I had the meatloaf dinner special for $6.95 (hey, you go to a place billed as a family restaurant, how do you not try the meatloaf?). The meatloaf with red sauce was a surprise, with a homemade texture and taste, stuffed with green peppers and onions. The red sauce was a bit more watery than I’d have liked, but it still accented the meatloaf well. (I also heard that the pork chops have savory home-cooked flavor.)
Dinners come with three vegetable selections and a choice of breads. Mom ordered the vegetable plate — three veggies and bread — for $3.75. We both picked cornbread — hers was baked and just so-so, while mine was fried and really quite good, like a tasty cornbread pancake. My veggie selections came down to corn, mashed potatoes and fried apples (yes, we all know apples aren’t vegetables) while Mom picked the beets and onions, green beans and mustard greens with vinegar. The beets were reportedly “very good,” firm and tart, but that was about it. Everything else was just OK — not bad, just OK.
Most of the vegetables tasted like they’d come right out of the can.
We rounded the meal off with tea — unsweetened for her, sweet for me. And I had a milkshake, which was a big disappointment. I was hoping for a nice shake infused with the taste of real peaches. What I got was a vanilla milkshake with some peach slices sitting on the bottom.
The service was friendly and the people there seemed like nice folks, so I can’t complain on that score, and Jessie’s is apparently a popular place, given the thriving business they’re doing. (Both my mom and I also were among the youngest people there.)
I wanted Jessie’s to be great to prove the naysayers wrong. Hope soared when I saw how packed the place was on a mid-week night. Unfortunately, there were only a few bright spots in an otherwise pretty pedestrian meal. It didn’t live up to the fare I’ve been served at some other home-cooked eateries like The Cottage Inn or Jay’s Cafeteria.
While my experience may have been colored by the weight of my expectations — hey, the price was right. Dinner for two people came out to $17.65 plus tip.
Jessie’s also serves breakfast all day, except for some items like biscuits and gravy or oatmeal, that aren’t available after about 2 p.m. Diners also can get a steak dinner for under $10, and the lunch special on the day I visited had been a tuna sandwich with chips for a whopping $2.65.
Given the prices, if I lived a little closer, Jessie’s might actually find its way onto my restaurant carousel.
On another note, I did notice that the place really could use a good scrubbing. The floors looked a bit grimy, but that could possibly have been the result of a long day at a busy restaurant. And my mom reported that the women’s restroom was, well, not very clean. (Note: If you go, pay attention to the many signs leading to the restroom to watch your step. She somehow missed those.)
Jessie’s Family Restaurant is located at 9609 Dixie Highway. Hours are Monday-Friday 5:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m., Saturday 5:30 a.m.-9 p.m., and Sunday, 7 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Most credit cards accepted, and it’s wheelchair accessible. For more info, call 937-6332.
BY Christopher Hall