The Crow's Nest Cafe
138 E Main St
Glendale, KY 42740
Tuesday - Saturday, 5-9 pm Eastern
Reservations strongly recommended
There is a little place about 20 minutes from my home that Fey and I love to frequent. It's a restaurant called The Crow's Nest Cafe in the small town of Glendale, KY, just about an hour south of Louisville. The Crow's Nest is a tiny place--not more than ten tables on a generous estimate. Quite often, there are only two employees working--the cook and the server. If you can get in at all without a reservation, you're probably going to wait for your meal.
Now you probably think you know where this is going--a dietribe on restaurants that understaff, that cannot handle the volume of customers, blah blah blah. Well, you're wrong, I say. Wrong. My official statement on The Crow's Nest is, if you don't have the time to wait for the food, come back when you do have time, sit down, shut up, and enjoy yourself.
So what is this miraculous food served up by the good people in Glendale? What is this culinary delight that makes a limited menu and long wait seem like such a small price to pay?
Pizza, dudes. I kid you not. Hand to heart, voice to the gods, pizza.
The Crow's Nest is a mom and pop pizza joint, five-course prix-fixe delight nestled in this little hickup of a quaint old downtown. The restaurant is situated in an old home, with a tiny dining room dominated by a view of the kitchen and wood-fire stove. Almost everything they serve, from the crusty bread to the wood-fired vegetables to the pizza all the way to the cookie that comes with dessert, makes its way through that wood-fire stove. And every bit of it is fantastic--so worth the wait.
Now a place this small would be a nightmare without the right people running it, and The Crow' Nest is lucky enough (or smart enough) to know that. Owner Dick Franklin is in the back, cooking the pizzas and bread and veggies. There are usually one or two servers covering the small room, preparing salads, filling drinks, and being generally as friendly as your best friend's mom (the cool one--not the mom who thinks you're a bad influence).
Everything is pretty cozy, so it isn't uncommon to have conversations cross from table to table over to the kitchen. We've been there several times, and they never seem to forget about my cheese and meat thing. They are completely open to working with me on getting it right; consequently, I do not have any trouble leaving this joint full and happy. Also, Dick seems perfectly content to answer questions and crack jokes while he cooks the food. It's like visiting the home of a friend who makes really fantastic pizza.
Okay, so we've covered decor, service--what about the food?
Oh, man. If I could, I would go there just for the bread and the wood-fired vegetables. The bread is of the French persuasion, crusty and perfect and hot out of the oven. The small loaf comes sliced to your table with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and pesto.
A salad follows--one selection here, this is the house salad and it changes regularly. The last time we went, our salad was green leaf lettuce, pineapple, a fried onion ring, and dried cranberries, drizzled with a raspberry walnut vinaigrette. Sure, they would work with you if, for instance, you hated dried cranberries, but the delight of trying it as is can be a reward in itself. Sometimes I'm generous and give Fey my onion rings. Sometimes I'm greedy and only stop short of licking the plate due to some misplaced sense of propriety. (My grandmother would be so relieved.)
The salad leads into my favorite course--the veggie plate. A variety of vegetables -- the usual suspects, including carrots, broccoli, etc., plus rarer choices like sweet potato, Brussel sprouts and radish - are dusted in flavored bread crumbs and cooked in the fire. The regular veggie plate also comes with genoa salami and a bite of cheese (which the good people in the kitchen always replace with extra veggies for me!). I can't speak to the cheese and meat (although Fey swears it's delicious), but I can tell you I'd travel all the way to Nashville just for a plate of those veggies.
There are five different pizzas to choose from, each namd in honor of Dick's family. With the prix-fixe menu, you can either get one pizza per person ($19/person) or two people can share a pizza ($16/person). There is enough food for two people to happily share one pizza--even if the two people are Fey and me! (Yeah, no cheese or meat on that side. No, seriously. Put all my cheese and meat on her side, please.) The Fun with Dick and Jane is my personal poison--roma tomatoes, baby spinach, and mozzarella (which they held without even blinking, adding onions instead at my request). Other choices include The Ben Franklin - a white pizza with Kentucky country ham, pineapple and mozzarella - and the incredibly popular Burn Lady - ground beef, jalapeno peppers, five cheeses and tortilla strips. Oh, and did I mention they set the Burn Lady on fire? Yeah, it's that kind of place.
Once you've gorged yourself on pizza, salad, veggies and bread, you'd probably think that was the end of it. But no--they give you ice cream and a home made chocolate chip cookie. Because they can, that's why!
Now, the menu offers blackened or sesame-ginger salmon as an alternative to pizza ($22/blackened; $25/center-cut sesame-ginger), but I can't see why you would do that. I'm sure it's delicious--everything else is. But the pizzas are the crowning glory, and if you're coming all this way, you might as well go with the specialty.
As I said earlier, Fey and I can split one of their pizzas (and her cheese and meat never touch my pristine slices) and leave as happy as if we had sense for between $35-$40 (including drinks, tip and tax). Of course, this is not the place to go when you're in a hurry. Even when they are not busy, this is not fast food. This is good food, and face it--some things are so worth the wait. So block out some time. Prepare for a leisurely meal. Slow down and enjoy yourself. Oh, and make reservations. Seriously--the only thing worse than not being able to get in is not being able to get in after you've smelled the food.
1 year ago