Twice a day, every day for 60 years. Many of the farmers on the west side of Daviess County have been eating at Del’s Restaurant so long, they don’t know anything else.
That’s good news for Catherine and Ricky Dowdy and their six kids. They sold their house to buy the Stanley restaurant in March, so this is not just a business venture for them – it’s a way of life.
“I love feeding people – I always have,” Catherine said. “I love having that open-door policy where we can just make somebody’s day better.”
Del’s offers typical diner fare, including burgers, fries, BLTs and all the breakfast you could want. They’re also branching out to include some low-carb options such as smoked sausage and zucchini, which some of their regulars from Kimberly-Clark (the plant is just down the road) appreciate. Most of their other regulars are local farmers, many of whom show up for breakfast as soon as the doors open at 6 a.m.
Pat Coomes lives just two miles from Del’s and almost every morning for the last 30 years has been there “within five or 10 minutes of opening time,” he said. “My wife doesn’t rise early, and I don’t enjoy my own company that well.”
He gathers with about a dozen others who sit and have their coffee and breakfast together.
“There’s a lot of social activity that is associated with that breakfast,” he said. “It’s the weather, it’s the crops, it’s everybody’s life. Most of us are lifelong residents of the community. It’s a family atmosphere.”
His typical breakfast is “Pat’s Special.” Since the doctor told him to watch his cholesterol, he devised his own menu: one egg, one sausage and one biscuit with gravy. “It has half of all the bad stuff and still tastes the same,” he said.
Gloria McCarty comes to the diner three or four times a week as well, sometimes bringing her grandkids. She appreciates the family-friendly atmosphere, including a small play area for children.
“They make it easy for kids to be in there,” she said.
She also invented her own breakfast: a bacon wrap with lettuce instead of a biscuit or bread.
“The food is good,” she said. “Catherine is a very good cook. All of her desserts are delicious.”
The restaurant bug bit Catherine when she started working at Norman McDonald’s in Philpot at age 14.
“That gave me my love for mom-and-pop type places,” she said. “Ever since then, I’ve wanted to own a place like that.”
When she and Ricky knew the restaurant was for sale, they decided to sell their farmhouse on the east side of town and move into a rental so they could swing the purchase. Seven months and several thousand meals later, the restaurant is going strong and they’re becoming homeowners once again.
“It’s basically a leap of faith,” she said. “We both always wanted to have our own business. If I have to be away and work, I want to work at a place where I know my children are welcome and can benefit. I love the thought of our children growing up with a good work ethic. (We) love hard work, love doing it together and modeling it for our kids.”
While Ricky isn’t often at the restaurant – he works at Kimberly-Clark – he and Catherine make the business decisions together.
Catherine said they are at least the sixth owners in the 60-year history of the restaurant. The restaurant includes nine employees, one of whom has worked for the previous five owners. Catherine’s two oldest sons work there, and the two younger ones also help on Friday nights.
Some of the local clientele may have initially been concerned when the Dowdys took over because the place had been an institution for so long.
The Dowdys soon relieved their fears by providing the same comfort food customers were used to, including fried chicken, mashed potatoes, meatloaf and more. They also cleaned the place up, replaced booths and chairs, and ordered new dishes.
Del’s is open from 6 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. every day except Sunday. They feature a different plate lunch each day, homemade desserts and, of course, their world-famous Friday Night Catfish on the one night of the week they are open for dinner.
“It’s one of the few places that still offers all-you-can-eat fish,” Catherine said.
She said they just obtained their wine license, and she envisions adding an outdoor patio where they can hold evening farm-to-table events.
“I love knowing where our food comes from and being able to make homestyle food for people,” Catherine said. “There’s just something about breaking bread with people.”
“Other than the church…it’s the center of our community,” he said. “I can’t imagine our little town not having an eating place…I really cherish the idea of a place where people can have a meal and conversation together.”
Del’s Restaurant is located at 7478 US Hwy 60 W in Stanley. Their phone number is (270)764-0504.