Sunday, July 31, 2011

Whistlestop Express Cafe

Most anyone who has picked up a Kentucky tourism book has heard of Whistlestop Cafe, and that reknowned recognition has been rightfully earned, for the destination has been cooking up the tastiest burgers in The Bluegrass, followed by fresh Blueberry Cobbler and mile-high homemade pies.  However, what visitors may not know, that the commuters, soccer moms, and coffee-sipping retirees of Elizabethtown know, is that Express is on, and any week day, you can drive past the shopping center off Ring Road  and see all of the Illinois, California, Michigan, and Florida license plates, for word-of-mouth travels fast when Whistle Stop Cafe comes rolling in, offering residents their Express version of their popular Gendale eatery. 
   My daughter, Deanna, and I got up at 7:00 AM, packed with a get our errands done, the car washed, books mailed out to Canada, and then to finally be one of the first patrons to swipe a table booth at Whistle Stop Express Cafe...but our plan failed us, due to The Martha Layne Collins Parkway being narrowed, due to much needed construction, down to one lane.  Deanna and I both exchanged eager looks as we cranked up the latest Third Day CD, took gulps of iced-down soda pop, and hoped to make our deadline.
    After three miles of slow traffic, I sighed, "That's OK, we will wait for a table." 
   Deanna smiled, then asked an interesting question:  "You're a food writer, a Home Economist, a Kentuckian, correct?"  I giggled, turning down the volume on the CD player.  I knew she was right, and I could feel the punch coming toward me, full-centered, for I knew I was guilty on the count of three....not visiting Kentucky's  great destinations, not eating enough Graeter's ice cream during this one-hundred degree month, heat index factored in, and not penning a Kentucky travel book.  I lowered my brow and let out a sigh, then my self-esteem kicked back in..."but I am finishing the manuscript pitch  to turn into Chip ( my agent), and we are headed to destination one:  Whistle Stop Express Cafe!"  I felt better, that was until Deanna shifted in the seat, grabbed her Five Star Food Mart soda and looked at me.  "We aren't going to Glendale." 

   I smiled and forced back a giggle...for I had already heard that, eventhough we weren't going to Glendale,  we were going to Express, and they had the same mile-high homemade pies.  I couldn't wait to see Deanna's expression when she would see that 'Express' didn't mean cutting corners; it just meant it was quicker service, for those of us who are out here hitting the work loads in this record-setting summer. 
   Pulling in, Deanna's expression changed as her eyes traveled to the dotting array of out-of-state license plates.  Our eyes met, and we agreed with smile:  we were at Whistle Stop, and we both knew it.  However, we weren't the first ones to claim a booth, for  several couples were already perched on the beautiful laquered table booths, dining on country ham sandwiches,  roast beef and mashed potatoes, and hearty-topped salads.  My mouth watered.  "WOW!" Deanna whispered as she sat down.  This place is different.  She whipped out her new Blackberry Smartphone, you know those new phones that have Foursquare and Facebook applications installed on them, snapped a photo, and emailed it to her friend, Julie.  After our friendly waitress took our drink orders, her phone beeps...Julie says that this place looks like the little diner in Fried Green Tomatoes.  I lean back against the booth, grin, and feel like such a good mother, to let my daughter experience the best of in Kentucky. 
   The waitress returns.  Deanna announces that she knows what she wants.  I crinkle my brow in astonishment, for unless it is sugary foods, she is a very picky eater.  "I am going to let Gail pick!"  Smiling, she hands the menu back to the waitress. 
   "It is Chicken and Dumplings today.  Do you like them?"  The waitress has a mother-like charm that really sets her apart from the competition.  And her home-sewn apron and neatly tucked hair reminds me of The Anderson Grill, a place where my mother worked, and a place that my grandmother owned. 
   "Yes, I love dumplings. "  Deanna's eyes get saucer-like as I give the waitress my order of roast beef and mashed potatoes.  When she leaves our table, I inquire,"  "What do you see?" 
   "Graeters!"  Her eyes are full of zest and anticipation as I remembered my promise to enjoy more of Graeter's Black Raspberry Chip Ice Cream, only in a waffle cone, of course. 
"They have Graeters here!" She points over my head, getting a startled reaction from me as I turn to look at the menu board behind me.  My eyes search in dire need for the wonderful words...Black Raspberry Chip.  And I found it, right there atop the pie case, where mile-high homemade pies sat, nestled next to a fresh-baked Blueberry Cobbler.  It was over a heaping plate of roast beef and mashed potatoes that I vowed one thing... Whistle Stop Express Cafe would be on page number one of my Kentucky's Treasured Eateries,  then Glendale, when we get there, will be on page number two...with Graeters, in Louisville, on page number three. 

 IF YOU GO:  Whistle Stop Express Cafe is located at 2407 Ring Road Cool Springs Center in Elzabethtown, Kentucky.  They can be reached by calling 270-766-1119, or visit their website at:  They are open Monday thru Friday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.

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