When Jeffrey Rothberg opened his first Wild Eggs restaurant in Louisville in 2007, he did so in the hope of bringing good, honest food at reasonable prices to people who appreciated such. He based his restaurant philosophy on memories of his great-grandparents’ kitchen, where a hearty breakfast was made from ingredients both fresh and plentiful.
He has expanded his concept to include restaurants in Denver, Nashville, Cincinnati and Indianapolis, and in three Kentucky cities — Louisville, Bowling Green and Lexington, where there are two (Palomar and Hamburg).
If my recent visits are any indication, Jeffrey has much to thank his great-grandparents for. My first visit was for breakfast, the meal that started it all. The line stretched out to the parking lot (expect this on weekends), I opted for a spot at the communal counter (even that fills up pretty quickly).
With multiple choices, both savory and sweet, I finally settled on one of the more sophisticated egg dishes. Eggs Bennie ($9.99) is Wild Eggs’ version of traditional eggs Benedict: poached eggs and Canadian bacon, garnished with fresh hollandaise and smoked paprika on a toasted English muffin, served with a choice of skillet potatoes, plain grits or grits of the day.
Warning: Rothberg’s great-grandparents were feeding folks who did hard manual labor for a living and needed lots of early-morning fuel to get them started. That’s reflected in the eggs Bennie. If you aren’t eating for two (or more), request a half-order.
One thing I love about living (and eating) in the South is the willingness of others to taste what’s on everyone’s plate, even complete strangers. I was seated next to a Lexington visitor who, after a pleasant conversation, invited me to try a bite of his wild mushroom and roasted garlic scramble (wild mushrooms and roasted garlic folded into four scrambled eggs with fresh goat cheese and white truffle oil, $11.99).
It was delicious, and I would have returned the favor if I hadn’t already polished off my eggs Bennie.
Omelet lovers can build their own, starting with four eggs and choice of one of six cheeses ($7.29) and adding any of seven meats and nine vegetables (79 cents for each additional filling), or choose from several kinds of pancakes, crepes, waffles and French toast (gluten-free bread is available).
The specialty breakfast menu offers such imaginatively named dishes as Mr. Potato Head casserole, Kalamity Katie’s Border Benedict, and Jimmy the Greek frittata, for $9.99, $10.69 and $11.99, respectively. The most expensive item on the breakfast menu is the Crabby Patty Bennie: The cost of lump crab meat raises the price to $15.99.
Libations to accompany your breakfast range from adult beverages to Wild Eggs’ own house coffee, described as a rich, bold blend featuring the earthy tones of Brazilian and Honduran coffee beans.
Once you inch your way to the front of the line, breakfast at Wild Eggs is an immensely satisfying meal for the entire family.
I found my second visit, for lunch, to be somewhat less so. The lunch menu is a bit more limited — although it has the creative monikers: the Yellow Submarine (scrambled eggs, American cheese, grilled shaved ham and applewood smoked bacon, $9.99) and the Batman and Reuben (a half-pound of lean corned beef or roasted turkey, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut on toasted light rye with Thousand Island dressing, $11.99).
Both looked substantial, as did my taco salad ($9.99), which appeared at first to be enough to feed two. On closer inspection, it turned out to be primarily lettuce, necessitating a search among the leaves for the roasted corn, black beans and cheddar Jack cheese, which proved hard to find.
My server, upon seeing my almost untouched plate, asked me if anything was wrong. When I told her, she responded by taking half off my bill. That’s a level of customer satisfaction that is sometimes harder to find than any missing corn, beans and cheese.
FYI: At both Wild Eggs restaurants, you can order from the breakfast menu during lunchtime.
Wild Eggs is not about gourmet cuisine or celebrity chefs — just good substantial plain food, like the kind Rothberg’s great-grandparents served. Whatever they’re offering, Lexington diners are buying.
Patti Nickell is a Lexington-based travel and food writer. Reach her at email@example.com.
Address: 3735 Palomar Center Drive (the location reviewed); 1925 Justice Drive, Hamburg
Hours of operation: 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat., Sun.
Payment: Cash, major credit cards accepted