The Fern Cafe’s Mythical Meatloaf

. January 8, 2016.
fern-cafe

452 E. Sandusky St. Findlay, OH 45840
419-423-2700
Hours: Monday and Tuesday 10am to 11pm, Wednesday through Saturday 10am-1am,
closed Sunday
Find them on Facebook under The Fern Cafe
Drive thru window and carryout available

The Short Course

Kid-friendly: Yes
To avoid wait: Not usually a problem, drive thru also available
Noise level: Quiet/Moderate
Bathroom amenities:  Very nice, newly renovated
High chairs? Yes, and booster seats
Got milk?  Yes, white and chocolate
Kids’ menu? No, but kid-friendly many choices available
Food allergy concerns? The Fern Cafe does not use peanut oil. Let your server know and he/she can assist you in finding something safe to enjoy.

I try to stay alert, no matter where I am – and so I was ready.

Waiting in a hair salon for my son’s turn for a trim, I heard it, coming from stylists and patrons immersed in a dandy chat: “Oh yeah, the meatloaf at The Fern is so great. I love it!” They all appeared delighted and in agreement, basking in the remembrance – and so began my quest to sample the mythical meatloaf. (If there’s any place to find the pulse of the community, it’s a hair salon.)

Luck was on our side when my family and I visited The Fern Cafe, as Cindy Kroetz was our waitress. She could open a window into the past, providing a base of knowledge to introduce the enigmatic meatloaf. Kroetz has worked at The Fern for 37 years, and said her aunt and uncle opened it almost 70 years ago, in 1947. In 2015, they sold it to Jerry Aller, its current owner.

“It just a great place,” Kroetz said. “It’s all friends and family – my best friends are from The Fern and anyone who works here stays here.”

The outside of The Fern can best be described as a giant cement box with two fern plants dangling on either side of the entrance.  We walked in and my son’s NASCAR feathers were ruffled, alarmed by the Dale Jr. and Brad Keselowski influences in the decor. Being a Kyle Busch fan, he needed some calming.  On one side of the building there is a bar area with tables, and a dining area on the other. It reminded me of a place I might visit with my grandma before a  BINGO outing, or a little golf course clubhouse, in a cozy kind of way. There are tables and booths available for seating, several flat screen TVs, and several neon beer signs.

Affordable Tasty Food

So what about the food? The Fern Cafe is wonderfully affordable They serve several sandwiches including meatloaf, fish, chicken, shredded chicken, smoked sausage, and more. You can also get a hot dog, coney dog or corn dog, or choose something from the fryer – mini tacos, cheese or broccoli balls, onion rings, jalapeno poppers and more.

Baskets of fried entrees like chicken strips, clam, fish or scallops range from $7 to $8.75, served with french fries, a side and bread and butter. Dinners include the daily special, beef Manhattan or Meat Loaf Manhattan, or pick from homemade soups, salad, pickled eggs and beets, potato salad or applesauce as a side. Those who love greens can try the Buffalo chicken or Chef salads. Finish your meal with a slice of pie or a piece of cake.

You can purchase a whole pan of The Fern’s prized meatloaf for $15.

There is no kids menu at The Fern, but kid-friendly options are available such as chicken strips, hot dogs, fries and soup. Our kids, ages 10 and 7, ordered the chicken strips and fries basket, and received a half-portion, at half-price.

No Longer an Enigma

When is she ever going to get to the meatloaf?

Now, my friend. The time has come.

As promised, I ordered the meatloaf dinner, which included two slices of meatloaf and my choice, mashed potato side, both with gravy. When it arrived I could hardly believe the fateful moment had come, the answer to the meatloaf mystery truly at the tip of my tongue.

AND…

I can see why everyone loves it.

It’s a home cooked meal, a comfort food meal no less, that you didn’t have to make. The meatloaf itself had a strong and tasty flavor, peppery and rich, the texture firm but not too firm, and I could see green onions were baked into it. This may seem weird to mention, but it was the perfect temperature as well, every inch was steaming hot.

The mashed potatoes and gravy were also great – pure contentment lying on a plate. I found that the applesauce was an excellent complement to the meatloaf and mashed potatoes, providing a cool, sweet contrast.

My kids enjoyed their chicken and fries, and my husband, who dined on a double order of the appetizer chicken wings with fries, was happy and satisfied.

Easy, affordable comfort food at its best – an enigma no more.