The $10 Challenge: The Main Eatery

I’ve discovered my own little quantum of solace at The Main Eatery.

This lunch spot is my destination on the days when I’ve taken too many conference calls, my inbox never empties and my eyes strain under the fluorescent light.

I should keep this place a secret. But judging from the line that spills onto the sidewalk, somebody blabbed.

Main Street Eatery serves simple, wholesome lunches to office drones like me. And the stringent, assembly line operations at the counter and in the kitchen are ideal for getting back to the office in an hour — as long as you can slide into the routine.

Knowing how to order at The Main Eatery can make or break your experience. First, have basic knowledge of the menu:

  • The core of the Eatery’s menu is soups and sandwiches. No croque monsieurs, just ham, turkey, tuna salad, chicken salad and roast beef.
  • Salads, baked potatoes and desserts are also on the menu.
  • Each day, there is a special soup available in addition to the standing selections: broccoli cheese, vegetable beef, chicken noodle and garden vegetable.
  • There are a range of combinations that include a drink and some medley of soup, salad and sandwich. Most are between $5 and $10.
  • There are also Blue Plate Specials each day. Information about the day’s soup and Blue Plate Special is displayed on a white board in front of the restaurant. You can get the Blue Plate Special with chips or soup, but the soup costs a few cents more.


Got it? Let’s move on to waiting for your food. As I mentioned earlier, the line is usually out the door by 12:10 p.m. This is prime menu-studying time. Review the white board outside with the day’s specials. Once you make it into the building, there are two large signs that display the entire menu AND another white board full of specials. You’ll be in the line about 10 minutes, so it’s your own fault if you don’t know what to order by the time you make it to the register.

Now, the cashier. This guy (one of the owners) knows how to take an order. But his style of asking a barrage of questions can be daunting. Don’t blurt out everything you want to eat, just answer his questions one at a time. I’ll walk you through some examples:

  1. Here or to-go?
  2. What type of bread?
  3. Chips or soup?
  4. Would you like anything else?
  5. How are you going to pay for that today (more on this later)


Easy peezy, right? This efficiency is what will get you back to your desk in an hour. Respect the system.

You will earn a delightful lunch that tickles your insides if you can get into the swing of The Main Eatery’s flow. The food evokes a culinary déja vu — everything tastes like something I’ve had at home, only better. That’s because the ingredients are simple and familiar, yet the dishes are prepared with enough love to transform them into something special. And all this comfort rings up at less than $10.

My favorite Eatery lunch is Friday’s Blue Plate Special — a panini grilled cheese sandwich made up of Wisconsin whole-milk cheese on sourdough bread with a side of bread and butter sweet pickles. I recently had this sandwich with Friday’s soup of the day, tomato bisque, and a cornbread muffin.

Grilled cheese and tomato bisque from The Main Eatery (cornbread muffin not pictured).

This meal is perfect for winter weather. The tomato bisque is creamy and filled with chunks of tomato. I could feel my insides warming up after just one sip. It tasted as good as my Snuggie feels on a cold day.

The grilled cheese is perfect in its simplicity. No fancy cheese. No extra toppings. Just a thick slice of American between hearty bread. The sandwich was toasted to a light brown that was enough to warm the cheese and make it gooey, but not hot enough to make the cheese slide out of the sides.

The cornbread muffin isn’t available every day, but add it to your meal when it is. For 94 cents, I got a muffin that was a struggle to hold in one hand. This cornbread was sweet, which I prefer. There were also corn kernels throughout the bread. I split the muffin in half — I crumbled one half into the tomato bisque and took the other back to the office. Both incarnations were delicious.

Learning the ways of The Main Eatery is worth the good midday meal you’ll get. Find a quiet corner, sip on some soup and let the problems of the corporate world fade away.

Notes on The Main Eatery

  • This business prefers dealing in cash. There’s a $6 minimum to use a debit or credit card. There is also an ATM in the lobby. I recommend going to your bank and popping a $20 out of your account before you get to The Main Eatery. Not only will you avoid the ATM fee, but you also get a small discount on your meal for using cash.

The Stats

The Main Eatery, 643 W. Main Street, Louisville

  • Blue Plate Special (panini with tomato bisque): $6.93
  • Cornbread muffin: $.94
  • Cash discount: -$.33
  • Total (with tax and discount): $8.34

Mission: Accomplished

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