Lynn’s Paradise Café has been the subject of many articles, so our first visit doesn’t quite fall into the category of a discovery. And yet, we weren’t prepared for what we found. Lynn’s is, as Hollywood used to say about its comedies, "a laff riot." It’s not one of those folksy spots filled with old photos and guys in feed company caps discussing their high school’s athletic losses. But the menu is a partial throwback, and the food is, too.
On the curb out front are a yard-high coffee cup and an even larger pot pouring liquid into a foaming bowl of "cappuccino." The building itself could be a former warehouse, painted in brilliant colors. And inside—well, all we can say is that every year Lynn’s holds an Ugly Lamp Contest. It’s been going on for some time now, and whether current entries or past winners were on display, they brought groans and chuckles. In the lamp tradition -- ugly or not -- hanging over the hostess stand is a chandelier made of old tea bags.
Breakfast is served any time, and it was difficult to forego multi-grain pancakes sprinkled with crunchy granola or a daily special of French toast stuffed with blackberries and cream cheese. It speaks to how interesting the rest of the menu is that Ann gave up the latter. But an old Louisville tradition called the Hot Brown drew her. It’s an open-face sandwich, roasted turkey topped with tomato slices, strips of crisp bacon, and a cheese sauce. Lynn’s kitchen then adds more cheese and runs it under the grill, creating lots of crispy edges. It’s sinfully delicious, sparked by its base of juicy, house-roasted turkey. Joe dug into a BLGT, bacon, lettuce and fried green tomatoes on toast, with a parmesan-garlic mayonnaise. The sandwiches come with diners’ choice of sides; Joe opted for cabbage, braised and seasoned with a little rosemary. It was among the best takes we’ve seen with that vegetable.
Cabbage is one of numerous side dishes that arrive with country-style entrees like meat loaf or catfish, and we heard a trio of local society-lady types carefully choosing lunches from that part of the menu. In the evening, there are more choices, and the appetizer selections provide a wonderful response to wine snobs, offered softly and with a Southern accent.. Lynn displays a pork rind flight, four flavors, locally-made, or white bean hummus, and many other options.
Yes, dessert is mandatory. We tried a fruit pie with strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb with a crust so light the pie seemed to hover slightly above the plate. And if you have a real sweet tooth, a pre-dessert is possible since banana pudding is a side-dish option.
The welcome centers on Kentucky’s major highways offer an excellent state map; we used it to find an easy-to-follow, dead-on route to Lynn’s. The neighborhood is amusing, more bohemian than one might expect, and there’s plenty of parking next to the café and in another lot a half-block south.
Lynn’s Paradise Café
984 Barret Ave.
Louisville, KY 40204