Main Street Cafe
221 Main Street
Louisville, NE 68037
(402) 234-FOOD (3663)
Blown away by Louisville cafe’s comfort food
How far would you drive for a REALLY great meal?
That’s a question we ask ourselves often in rural Nebraska. It’s not unusual to drive more than one hundred miles to try the legendary steak you’ve heard your friends rave about or to treat yourself to a meal at a small town bar that claims to have the “best burger in Nebraska.” We set out on these culinary excursions because we appreciate good food and understand the value of supporting other communities.
With this in mind, the Rural Foodies set out in search of a Poor Boy sandwich that has people talking all the way from the muddy Missouri to the bluffs of the Panhandle. One of the exciting things about an online platform such as Nebraska Rural Living is that you often get feedback and suggestions from readers and subscribers. A loyal customer who appreciates rural stories and good food told us about this signature sandwich at the Main Street Cafe in Louisville. He claimed we would never taste anything quite as good. Who could pass up that challenge?
Our journey began on a Saturday morning as we headed east with nothing more than high hopes and a Nebraska road map. Our destination was the small town of Louisville and we opted for state highways as opposed to the Interstate. We felt this would be a safe decision since a cold front was passing through with the help of 60mph winds. A true Nebraskan would never let the wind keep them from a solid meal. Corn husks and debris pelted the car and with every small town we passed through, our hunger and anticipation grew.
Swept away by charm
Nearly two hundred miles later, we arrived at our destination. Louisville is a charming community, beautifully plotted on a bluff overlooking the Platte River and resting comfortably in the shadows of the Ash Grove Cement Company. The downtown district is what you would hope every small town in Nebraska would resemble but somehow very few achieve. It doesn’t take long to realize that something positive is happening in Louisville. They don’t allow the proximity to Lincoln and Omaha to dictate their livelihood, but rather they have made themselves a destination that draws in people from those cities. Brilliant!
Even from the outside, the Main Street Cafe was everything I had expected it to be. A thoughtfully restored facade highlighted large window panes and the hustle and bustle of a true cafe could be seen by any passerby. I also appreciate a business that hangs an American flag from its storefront every morning.
We entered Main Street Cafe and it appeared to be our port in the storm for more than one reason. It was our refuge from the wind and they were serving the comfort food we had traveled so far to find. The dining room was filled with the usual suspects you tend to see in a small town restaurant; hearty people with friendly faces and warm smiles. A young girl greeted us in passing with an empty pitcher of iced tea and an arm full of licked-clean platters; clearly the aftermath of well-fed patrons. She welcomed us and said she would quickly return to show us to a table. This gave us an opportunity to take in our surroundings. Established in 2007, Main Street Cafe was meticulously renovated by Cory and Mandi Chubb, a young couple whom seem to be at the heart of the revitalization of this small town. The interior was a perfect blend of old and new, and a restored tin ceiling and historic Louisville black and white photos anchored the restaurant. People came here not only to eat the great food but also for a slice of history. Like promised, the young waitress quickly reappeared and we were escorted to what I like to call The Best Seat In The House. It was an antique farmhouse oak table that fit perfectly in the nook of the front window.
Let’s try them all!
Another woman came to the table to take our order. Instantly, you could tell she was the type of person who had a heart as big as her smile. Her name was Jodie and she was eager to explain the menu and give us her best recommendations. We told her we had traveled far in search of the catfish Poor Boy and she agreed it was worth the drive and pointed out a few other favorites.
“You have to get the Pork Tenderloin Sandwich”, she stated as a fact. “Everyone that orders it takes out their phone to get a picture of it.”
That sounded promising. In addition to the Catfish Poor Boy and the Pork Tenderloin Sandwich, we took Jodie’s other recommendations and also ordered their famous onion rings and Grandma Chubb’s Chicken and Noodles. Even before the first plate arrived, I could tell this lunch was going to be memorable.
Our food appeared with a smile, freshly prepared and piping hot. Immediately we knew why every table was occupied and a hungry group was forming at the “Please Wait To Be Seated” sign. It was no surprise why the Pork Tenderloin Sandwich was a commonly photographed menu item. It dwarfed the plate and the bun placed on top seemed to be there as a reminder of its legendary size as opposed to function. It took me awhile to amass a plan to tackle this “sandwich”. I thought a fork and knife seemed to be the best option for navigating my way to the bun. The hand-breaded tenderloin itself was well prepared and moist while the crust was crispy and light; not an easy feat with deep fried food. The seasoned potato chips were all this sandwich needed as an accompaniment. Our window seat proved to be a wise choice as people outside would stop and admire the sandwich I was trying to conquer, which was the size of my head. All Main Street Cafe has to do for advertising is put one of those Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches in the window.
Just what we came for
The Catfish Poor Boy was a familiar nod to its Louisiana roots. The thick-cut catfish was breaded in a lightly seasoned crust and served on a toasted French roll. I love fish but I have strong feelings about eating it in a landlocked state like Nebraska. I get a little nervous when I see sushi on a menu and I’m a firm believer that some fish shouldn’t be served when there is no water in sight. That being said, Main Street Cafe knows how to properly prepare locally sourced fish. It was a wise choice to offer pollock, catfish and walleye on the menu and the popularity of these dishes created a weekly event at the restaurant. Fish Fridays bring people to Louisville from all over Nebraska. The Poor Boy we shared was evidence of their small town fame. A Cajun mayo was served alongside the sandwich and their famous onion rings were crisp and delicious.
We moved on to the Grandma Chubb’s Chicken and Noodles and after one bite, I realized why the term “just like Grandma used to make” exists. You could tell this was the recipe of a well seasoned home cook. Everything from the noodles to the broth were made in-house and served on a pillow of mashed potatoes. A flaky made-from-scratch biscuit was served on the side with butter and honey. I’m not making this up! It was comfort food beyond measure; the kind of dish that warmed us up and gave us courage to go back outside.
The homemade pies and cakes seemed to taunt us, but by the time our plates were cleared, we didn’t have the momentum to continue on to dessert. As with most of our Rural Foodie adventures, we get too eager and excited with the main course. Jodie thanked us for stopping in, told us it was a pleasure to meet us and to come back soon. I imagine she says that a hundred times a day but for some reason it seemed like that comment was meant for only us. I don’t know if it was the amazing food, the cafe itself or the hospitality of Jodie, but with only one meal at the Main Street Cafe, we already felt like locals. This felt like our town.
I guess that’s why we drive really far in order to get a GREAT meal in rural Nebraska. Turns out it’s not just about the food … it’s also about the experience. And what an experience we had!