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F&D columnist Ashlee Thompson publishes book on “Louisville Diners”

Ashlee Thompson, who occasionally writes her “$10 Challenge” column for Food & Dining, has expanded her quest for inexpensive, tasty meals into a book-length study of the history and future of diners in the Louisville area. “Louisville Diners,” published by History Press, is now available at local stores.

For the purposes of her book, Thompson decided on a specific definition of “diner,” a type of restaurant that has different connotations around the country. For Thompson’s purposes, she confined herself to restaurants where the average entree is less than $10, the food is considered American home-style cuisine, and they serve breakfast.

Since she is an African-American writer, Thompson stretches her criteria a bit to include soul food joints, like Shirley Mae’s, which were important to her vision of the diner history in Louisville.

Louisville’s diners share some traits, Thompson found: their ambience is very Southern; both regulars and new customers are treated like family; there is an honest lack of pretension that allows customers simply to be themselves.

The three sections of “Louisville Diners” deal with the early history of diners, especially in Old Louisville; present-day diners, focusing on the South End where Thompson grew up (plus soul food); and the future of diners, with an emphasis on chef-driven diners on Bardstown Road and Frankfort Avenue. Among the diners featured are Barbara Lee’s Kitchen, Ollie’s Trolley, Shady Lane and Eggs Over Frankfort.

Thompson hopes “Louisville Diners” will inspire readers to venture out to places they have never been. 

Thompson will hold the first signing March 21, 3-4 p.m., at McQuixote Coffee and Books inside the Tim Faulkner Art Gallery, 1512 Portland Ave.