Breakfast is just one event that has become synonymous with Derby morning, and John Presley at the Office Pub and Deli has been cooking it up for his customers for the past 20 years.
Presley says he started doing a small buffet in OPD, as it’s known to its many loyal patrons.
The demand grew and so did the size of his business when he expanded about 10 years ago. Today he has a banquet room where the buffet is center stage and gives him seating for 175 guests.
“We served over 150 breakfasts last year,” Presley said. “People just seem to enjoying coming here, bringing their friends and their families.”
So what’s on his Derby morning buffet?
“It’s a traditional, Kentucky breakfast, what people have come to expect,” Presley said.
Scrambled eggs, potatoes, apples, country ham, bacon, sausage, biscuits, white gravy, fruits, pastries and a variety of juices are offered from 7 until 11 a.m.
Presley says it’s all hands on deck on the first Saturday in May when he starts cooking at 3 a.m.
“It’s hectic, but manageable,” he said, grinning as he talked about the task.
Presley, 65, has been in business on Comanche Trail for 34 years. He grew up in Frankfort, graduated from Frankfort High School and served in the infantry, 1st Cavalry, 2nd Division at Fort Hood, Texas.
Proud of his service to his country, Presley is also concerned about his exposure to Agent Orange, the deadly chemical sprayed throughout the jungles of Vietnam.
“I’ve been part of the study and research on men who were exposed to Agent Orange ever since they introduced it about 25 years ago.”
Presley goes yearly to participate in the study.
“So far, so good,” he said, explaining many of his friends have not been as lucky suffering from cancers that caused premature deaths.
But he doesn’t dwell on it and prefers to think about the business he has enjoyed and the many people he has met through the years.
“I have lots of older people who come here Derby morning, and they have been for years. They like to bring their friends, enjoy a bloody Mary or a mimosa and eat breakfast together as part of their celebration.”
Plus there is the added bonus of the half dozen or more televisions in Office Pub and Deli, which was the first sports bar in Frankfort.
“You hear a lot of discussion about favorites and picks for the race and a lot of laughter about who has won in the past and who will win this year.”
Presley says it is definitely a family-friendly atmosphere – think of the Cheers television theme song, “where everybody knows your name.”
Once breakfast concludes at 11 a.m., Presley and his staff turn to welcoming those who come for lunch and stay the day watching the races or those who come for dinner after either spending their day at the races or at other venues.
The Office Pub and Deli serves lunch until 4, and after that it is dinner until closing.
His weekend dinner menu draws folks who enjoy other Kentucky delicacies like lamb fries and that white gravy. Sometimes even beef liver and chicken livers are on the weekend menu.
Another favorite is his chicken pot pie, with a delicate puff pastry crust that covers the top and filled with a hefty portion of chicken and vegetables.
“It doesn’t get much more Kentucky than this,” he said. “We work all day to give everyone a good experience.”
For those looking for a snack, Presley has a full appetizer menu including Garland Brown’s beer cheese.
“I think it is one of the best I have ever tasted and comes as regular, hot and spicy. People really seem to enjoy it.”
Presley says while Derby Day is really busy for him and his staff, they look forward to it all year.
“We have a good time, and I think those who join us do, too.”
The Office Pub and Deli is at 614 Comanche Trail, and while there is always open seating, for those who want to be guaranteed a seat at a time they like, Presley encourages a call for reservations, 502-227-9585.