KENTUCKY –My editor asked me to stop by and check-out Wood’s Bait Shop. I agreed, but was not all that confident. The thoughts swimming (bait shop joke, sorry) through my brain involved smells and foods that just do not belong together.
I have eaten at places that sell bait and food at the same time. I fish every chance I get so these places are familiar to me. When I walked in the smell from the minnows, gold fish, and crayfish for sale on the other side of a short wall was nonexistent. No odd smell. No feeling of being in a bait and tackle shop. Well sort of. You can see the tackle from the front door. However, once you have taken your seat the bait shop dissolves into the background.
This is a clean café. I noticed they earned an “A” rating on the last health inspection. I like “A” students. I was greeted by Angela almost as soon as I arrived. I noticed several things all at once. I surprised myself, I usually stink at multitasking. (Proofreader gives big amen.)
First, they are smoke friendly. Rejoice smokers and be ye warned non-smokers. I would be remiss if I did not point out that two other patrons smoked while I was eating. The only reason I know, is I watched them. I could not smell the smoke from my seat. So be aware, but don’t be afraid.
Second, they are very tuned into customer service. I could see it in the way the staff handled themselves. I confirmed this by talking to other customers; each of them had something good to say about the service.
Third, everybody was happy. Most of the diners were called by their first names. Before I left, I had joined the club. I liked this place after two minutes.
There is something cool about a place that has a fish tank with very well behaved large shiners swimming in it. The good behavior may have been due to the tank being placed where the shiners would have a clear view of the walls in the tackle area where the taxidermist displays what he did to the many large fish that misbehaved. (Nothing like seeing comrades stuffed, mounted on drift wood, and put up for display to straighten a fella out.)
I overheard Angela taking an order and she said something that I do not hear often. “We’ll fix it anyway you like it, Hon” (I added the Hon. In my head it sounded like it needed a Hon). She meant it. She listed just about any combination a customer could want and then placed the order as the customer wanted. When was the last time you tried to make a substitution? Was it free of charge? More importantly was it free of hassle?
I later heard that customer tell Angela that the cornbread was the best he had ever had and his wife’s roast beef sandwich was equally good. I was very encouraged by this as I am sure the customer has had many meals in his eightyish years of living. That is a lot of cornbread.
I ordered several things. I started with a salad. The salad was fresh and crisp. I was hungry and made short work of it. I am pretty sure I gave it 7 out 10 salad bowls. This is a simple salad done correctly. Good start, time to dig in. I told you I was hungry.
I next had a cheeseburger with a ½ order each of fries and onion rings. The onion rings are hand breaded here. Yes, I said they are made here. The meat for the burger is pressed out and seasoned here. You would be amazed how many burgers you order at diners that are precooked and shipped frozen. The corn nuggets and corn bread are made here, same thing with the catfish. (Insert your favorite bait shop/fresh fish joke here.)
The point is, Brad, the owner, cares. His first priority is to the customer. Fresh food, cooked to order is the best way to put the customer first; however, if the food is the best thing I have ever touched to my lips and the service is bad my meal is diminished. At Wood’s the attitude of the entire staff made my meal that much better.
I asked for my cheeseburger to be dressed in a tuxedo. When it showed up for the meal it was looking sharp. The burger itself filled out the large bun perfectly. No meatless bites found on this cheeseburger. The flavor was very good. Brad takes the time to brown the patty, not simply cook it. I promise; there is a difference. The spice mixture used on the burger was familiar to me but I could not place it.
I have a few guilty pleasures. Cheeseburgers are one of them. Wood’s cheeseburger earned 8.5 out of 10 smiling chickens.
Speaking of guilty pleasures, it is time to play guilty pleasure trivia. The following is one of my guilty pleasures. It popped up on my playlist on the way to lunch.
“The other day I had a cool water sandwich and a Sunday go-to-meeting bun.” E.B.
Send me and e-mail if you know where it is from. And now, back to our show.
The onion rings pair perfectly with the cheeseburger. Give me a malted milk shake and put a poodle skirt on Angela the waitress and I could be in the fabulous fifties. The onion rings are battered and cooked the way onion rings have been made for years; the batter forms a crisp golden shield around a flavorful, tender onion (sliced thick for your dining enjoyment). The rings earned 9 out of 10 deep fryers that I did not have to use to get great rings.
The final nuggets of golden goodness I had were the corn fritters. I have only started eating corn fritters in the last ten years. I have seen them paired with many different things and eaten different ways. My Uncle Tom loves them with a little maple syrup and I have seen others dip them in catsup. Brad serves them dusted with powdered sugar. I enjoyed the compliments the sugar paid to the fritters. I love it when food gets along. 8.5 out of 10 grateful doughnut holes are awarded to the corn fritters.
I sat down and talked with Brad after my meal and can see why people like coming here. Brad does have help in the kitchen. Daisy works in the kitchen and the front of the house as well. Melissa helps with the register. That is it. Four people taking care of a store that can fulfill all your fishing needs (a guy picked up his boat seats while I was eating) and feed you a fine meal of fresh cooked to order food (I am told the breakfasts here are incredible also). This is quite a feat. To see it done with such a good attitude is a refreshing change.
The location is less than half a mile from the fast food joints. I spent almost the same money but I had a meal free from disappointment and poor service. If you do not need your next meal to be handed to you within three minutes of ordering it then why not go a few extra feet to get genuine food? When you do visit Brad and the girls tell them Romeo says, “Hi.”
Wood’s Bait Shop Cafe in Central City, don’t let the name fool you. You will be hooked. (Come on, you know I had to do at least one more.)
Thanks for reading. Next week I am going to take you to a very special establishment. Like it or not, many of us find the need to go to Evansville from time to time. This place started as a suggestion from a friend while shopping five years ago and has become a destination restaurant for my wife and me. I will give you a tour soon. Be patient grasshopper.
Disclaimer: This is just my opinion. If you agree with me I am glad. If not, thanks for playing. Keep trying new items and I will try to find something for you next time. Promise.
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