- 149 Spring St., Jeffersonville, IN, 47130
- (812) 284-2667
- Overall User Rating:
- (2 ratings)
- 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday
If you’re looking for authentic comfort food, search out the spuds. Real potatoes come in unwieldy bags that get piled up in rough brown mounds. In any busy kitchen, they’re easy to spot. And if you look through the kitchen window at Ann’s By The River, a family-owned and operated cafeteria that’s been a fixture in downtown Jeffersonville, Ind., for more than 20 years, you’ll see small mountains of potatoes resting on the floor.
Well, you’ll see them if you happen to look in before the peeling starts. The folks at Ann’s peel about 150 pounds of potatoes every day. By hand. If you pick up a tray and walk the cafeteria line, you’ll see those potatoes again. In their mashed form, you can have them plain, or you can have them covered with rich brown gravy. Or you can have them covered in a country-style white gravy that’s bolstered by doses of salt and pepper.
Real mashed potatoes are reason enough to patronize any restaurant. But there are other reasons to visit Ann’s. For one thing, cafeterias are an endangered species. From the 1890s until sometime in the 1960s, cafeterias were America’s fast food. Just think: There was a time when the standard workday lunch involved lining up with a tray, then sitting down — with knives and forks — to eat green beans, stewed tomatoes, creamed corn, meatloaf, pork chops. And mashed potatoes.
Now, our national diet consists largely of drive-through sandwiches wrapped in paper.
We should be grateful that a few persistent restaurateurs — like the Coomer family (owners Ann and Ken, and their daughter Morgan, who serves as assistant manager) — are upholding the tradition.
And they’re doing it quite well, at that. Ann’s is a cheery, unpretentious spot, bright, clean and comfortable. Tables and booths are covered with sturdy checkered coverings that have faded a bit with age, but are kept in good order by a bustling, smiling staff.
Service is as fast as the line will allow. You grab your tray and consider the pies and cakes. Somewhere early in the history of cafeterias, a wise strategist came up with the bright idea: desserts first! And most cafeterias still adhere to that principle. At Ann’s, the cakes are the thing: They’re made in house, and whether you’re going for a thick, moist slice of carrot cake or a big wedge of double chocolate ($2.69) you won’t be disappointed.
Next you come to the salads — slaw, tossed salad, three beans, macaroni, and the like. And then, of course, there’s the steam table. Some items are always available: crisp, golden fried chicken; chili with spaghetti; tender roast beef that can be ordered as an entree or as that staple of all cafeterias: a Roast Beef Manhattan sandwich slathered with gravy and served with ... mashed potatoes.
Then there’s a rotating list of daily specials. If you see chicken livers and steak and gravy, it’s Monday. Tuesday brings meatloaf and baked chicken. Wednesdays and Fridays there’s fried cod (and a very nice, slightly runny tartar sauce). On Wednesdays you also can dine on cafeteria-style baked cod — which is to say cod that’s been thoroughly baked, but tastes pretty good anyway, thanks to a generous sprinkling of herbs (and more than a bit of salt).
There are no surprises on this menu, but all the dishes are nicely done. And prices are hard to beat: Entrees run less than $5; an entree with two sides will set you back between $7.50 and $8.50. A meal of beans and cornbread (flat discs of cornbread) rings up at a mere $3.99. And if you crave a country-style veggie plate (four sides and a roll), you can fill your tray with four sides and a roll for $6.99.
Well, I should say, three sides and an order of mashed potatoes. Let’s face it: Nobody in full possession of his faculties thinks of scratch-made mashed potatoes as a “side.”
Contact freelance restaurant critic Marty Rosen at email@example.com.