Eggs are eggs, right? Wrong. If you think of this everywhere edible as a pleasant-yet-basic breakfast option, you haven’t been to Wild Eggs. Here, culinary genius meets farm-to-table freshness to create a breakfast, brunch and lunch experience you will want to repeat. Often. Whether you prefer the milder side with a couple of fried eggs, some skillet potatoes and an Everything Muffin, or a walk on the wilder side with a chorizo-laden Frito Bandito Frittata, you will not be disappointed. The décor is simple, the food phenomenal and the coffee perfectly brewed at Louisville’s signature breakfast destination.
The brainchild of company President J.D. Rothberg and COO Shane Hall, Wild Eggs treats breakfast with the same intensity and creativity typically reserved for the evening meal. “We have a high flavor profile, chef-driven menu,” Rothberg said. “We bring the detailed experience you would receive at a great dinner restaurant to breakfast.” And it is that attention to detail that made my most recent visit to Wild Eggs—just like all the others—a delight from beginning to end.
I try to order something different each time I go. I really do. Once, after an evening of reading Wuthering Heights, I selected the Sweet Home Apple Bourbon Crepes to assuage my wounded heart, as one must often do after Emily Brontë. And then there was the time a group of us were feeling raucous and only a Mexico City Maria’s Chilaquiles or Wild Western Omelet would do. But on this visit, like most, I knew I would return to the dish that sold me on day one: the Surfer Girl Omelet. There is something special about the flavor combination here—the earthiness of the spinach, mushrooms and onions mellowed by cream cheese; the south-of-the-border vibe from the sliced avocado, fresh pico de gallo and tangy sour cream; and the unexpected crispness of the alfalfa sprouts. Pure genius.
The friendly host staff and the heavenly aroma of Belgian waffles, applewood-smoked bacon, peppers, onions and skillet potatoes wafting through the air greeted me as I added my name to the register, collected my pager and headed for the pot of complimentary coffee and stacks of newspapers and magazines. Easing into a comfy seat in the lobby, I savored the handful of minutes until my table was ready, sipping java and catching up on current events. At the table, I ordered my Girl, an Everything Muffin and a fresh pot of coffee, and lamented the fact that every day didn’t begin this way. Relishing each bite, I thought of the words Rothberg had penned for the company’s website about his family—their commitment to fresh and wholesome ingredients, and their influence on his breakfast perspective.
“Life for my great-grandpa revolved around work and family, making an honest living in a new land,” Rothberg writes. “After coming to America from Poland almost 100 years ago, he settled in Denver, Colorado, hoping to make his mark. By the time you came to the breakfast table in my great-grandpa’s kitchen, you were plenty ready to eat. Maybe you spent the past hour working the fields or gathering eggs from the henhouse. You might have visited your neighbor’s home for fresh milk or butter. Everything on your plate would have been made from scratch. And any meal, especially one made by my great-grandma, would have included potatoes: home fried, scalloped potatoes, maybe even potato latkes.”
Crediting his mother for keeping the tradition of wholesome food going, Rothberg draws the connection between his heritage and his restaurant. The ingredients she provided for her family were fresh, including eggs and locally sourced produce. Rothberg’s vision for Wild Eggs is based on his wanting to continue his ancestors’ tradition of serving great food.
The concept for Wild Eggs developed when Hall and Rothberg, who also own Wild Rita’s Modern Mexican and Tequila Bar, were working together in another Louisville eatery. “Shane and I have a combined 55 years in the industry,” said Rothberg. “Wild Eggs was born when I owned Napa River Grill, and Shane was the general manager. We felt like Louisville was lacking in breakfast restaurants.”
Eager to create something unique, the two relied on each other’s strengths to construct a new business model that reflected the artisanal trends in food service. “J.D. has over three decades of experience,” Hall said. “He is a get-his-hands-dirty executive willing to do whatever it takes to make his restaurants successful, celebrated, and most of all, a hit. J.D. knows that a great restaurant must have both great food and exceptional service. He prides himself on excellent customer service to make each guest feel special.”
Rothberg added, “Shane has spent his entire career leading restaurants to expectation performance. In his quarter-century of restaurant leader-ship, he has had a hands-on role in leading diverse staffs to work together to prepare top-notch, award-winning meals that please both the dining public and the discerning critic.”
This one-two punch of professional prowess has produced a breakfast-based restaurant that goes well beyond the basics of bacon and eggs. “We offer custom-blended coffee made exclusively for the restaurant, as well as an espresso bar,” Rothberg said. “Spirited coffees, Bloody Marys and mimosas made with in-house fresh-squeezed orange juice are among the drinks served at the cocktail bar.”
The food menu is a feast for every palate, and those seeking breakfast or lunch are easily accommodated. “Menu favorites include the Kalamity Katie’s Border Benedict,” Rothberg said, “with green chili cheddar corn cakes topped with chorizo, two poached eggs, queso fundido, pico de gallo, sour cream, green onions and avocado; the Kelsey ‘KY’ Hot Brown on toasted sourdough bread, with roasted turkey, applewood-smoked bacon, diced tomato, white cheddar Mornay, fried egg and smoked paprika; the Bananas Foster Waffle, a house-made waffle topped with banana rum caramel sauce, fresh banana slices, vanilla bean ice cream, powdered sugar and cinnamon, and the grits of the day.”
For those feeling more midday than morning, the Spin-N-Chicken Salad, Bowling Alley Burger or Batman and Reuben are popular choices. Orange, cranberry, V8, grapefruit and apple juices are available, as well as fresh-squeezed lemonade, milk and Mighty Leafs Tea.
After nearly a decade of service, Wild Eggs has expanded its territory and now delights patrons in a half-dozen cities with more franchise locations planned for the future. “The first Wild Eggs opened in 2007 in St. Matthews,” Rothberg said, “and we immediately had a following.” In the nine years since, Louisville has added three more locations, serving patrons in Westport Village, Landis Lakes and the city center at 121 South Floyd Street.
“We have two stores in Indianapolis, and plan to open two more in Indy and three in Cincinnati,” Hall added. “We also have franchise stores in Lexington, Bowling Green, Jeffersonville, Denver and Nashville. The response from the new markets has far exceeded our expectations. The communities have really embraced us, and we are thankful for the support we have received.”
The connection to the community has been the cornerstone of both Wild Eggs and Rothberg himself. The roots were laid down by his aforementioned great-grandfather Zell, who had settled in Colorado and began to cultivate and sell potatoes, eventually establishing Zell’s Potato Company. In Rothberg’s great-grandfather’s day, breakfast played an important role in the family.
The custom of a hearty breakfast is alive and well at Wild Eggs, acknowledging both standby favorites and the diversity of contemporary tastes. Creative chefs serve up the finest traditional fare—seriously, there is no better omelet or bowl of grits around—alongside some of the most creative and delicious eats out there. (Think Wild Mushroom and Roasted Garlic Scramble with fresh goat cheese and white truffle oil.) And they do it in a welcoming atmosphere. As Rothberg states, it’s about honoring the old and embracing the new with farm-fresh ingredients, innovative options and making customers feel like family.