Walk into Kathy May's restaurant and it is reminiscent of those old roadside diners. You'll hear the hum of traffic going up and down Gothard Street if you're outside eating on the patio, but inside the traffic noise is canceled out by country music playing in the background.
The décor is absolutely middle-America. Plastic red and white checkered tablecloths are on the 11 boot-style tables. Wagon wheels suspended from the ceiling hold some of the lights and a quilt is enclosed in a glass case by the cash register.
The food is equally as comforting and doesn't take many chances, though I did see wrap sandwiches available, which is revolutionary considering the rest of the menu.
Culinary innovation is not why you come to Kathy May's. Eating here is all about comfort and security. Kathy May's is the dining equivalent of a well-worn, faded sweater.
If it was on the highway, this is where the family coming from church would eat at, most likely sitting next to the long-haul truckers carrying a load all night and eager to eat as much food as their bellies will hold.
Here, the waitress treats you like a regular even if you aren't. She is friendly, might call you "hon" or "sweetie" and always asks how you're doing. Here, the coffee or soda is filled before you have to ask, and someone will come by frequently to check on how everything is going.
This is a great spot for breakfast. It makes up a big portion of the business, and some of the dishes are my favorites.
The corned beef hash and eggs is tasty, as is the biscuits and gravy. The gravy has a great flavor and is the same gravy used in the restaurant's signature dish, chicken-fried steak.
There are eight different omelets, including a California omelet that has avocado, bacon crumbles and tomatoes, and is topped with cheddar and jack cheeses. Try Kathy's "The Works."
The usual menu items are available for lunch, such as soups, salads and chili, but it is the eight specialty sandwiches on the menu that patrons should investigate. I would recommend the roast beef dip or the ham or turkey deli.
Whatever sandwich you choose, don't miss the french fries. They are light and just crunchy enough and are some of the best I've ever had.
The burgers are good. An innovation the restaurant employs is to offer them in small, medium and large sizes. Small is a quarter-pound burger, medium is a one-third and large is a half-pound.
I have had the patty melt, and the combination of American and Swiss cheese makes it that much better.
The three different sizes are also used for the home-style dinner entries. There are 10 of them, including chili spaghetti, meatloaf and a favorite — hamburger gravy over mashed potatoes.
Kathy May's is a slice of another time, but one that diners will want to return to frequently.
JOHN REGER reviews restaurants for the Independent.