Shady Lane Café: Make yourself at home

Shady Lane dishes
Shady Lane Café owners William and Susi Smith have been in business two years. Two excellent dishes are the meatloaf (left above) and the tomato basil soup. Photo by Robin Garr

This friendly East End spot has long been a favorite for breakfast and lunch; when my mother and sister arrived ravenous from Florida on a late-afternoon flight, I was delighted to learn that Shady Lane stays open for dinner Tuesdays through Fridays until 8 p.m.

The four of us presented ourselves for duty and had a hard time choosing from all the goodies on the blackboard menu. And fine goodies they are, priced for recessionary times. Sandwiches and specials range from $3.95 (for my mother’s choice, a classic grilled cheese sandwich, molten cheddar spilling over toast grilled to a mouth-watering golden brown) to $6.95 (for my sister’s pick, the cranberry, Granny Smith apple and walnut salad with blue Gorgonzola cheese and Dijon mustard dressing).

Each night offers a different dinner special: On Tuesdays, it’s a varying “comfort food” item, such as chicken pot pie or meatloaf; Wednesday is cheeseburger night; Thursdays are marked as “summer pasta special,” a seasonal riff that I assume will be changing soon; and Friday night brings a fish fry of hand-battered cod.

My wife and I were smitten with the Tuesday meatloaf, which was 10 bucks and change. Two thick, beefy slices were dense and rich, with a small tub of Henry Bain sauce on the side. It was plated with an Italian-style roast tomato topped with pesto and melted Parmesan cheese and what was perhaps the best potato pancake I have ever eaten, a thick patty of grated potatoes (Mr. Smith said he makes them from his morning hash browns) laced with cream and seasonings and deep-fried so the exterior is crisp and golden, the interior creamy and steamy. I could eat about eight of these.

Soup of the day, served in heavy coffee cups with cello-wrapped saltines, was tomato-basil, a thick, textured tomato puree flecked with and redolent of fresh garden basil.

A filling dinner for four came to an eminently reasonable $40, and I couldn’t resist tucking 10 bucks into the tip jar.

Shady Lane Café
4806 Brownsboro Center
Robin Garr’s rating: 87 points