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Our Story

Seven years before Aristides’ hooves beat a winning path in the first Kentucky Derby, construction was starting on a delicatessen and horse stable located at Fifth and Breckenridge. This began the long and interesting history of Cunningham’s Restaurant.

Mr. Melton opened the doors of his delicatessen-grocery in October 1870. Due to poor management, he sold out in 1871 to Dave Oswald (a meat cutter of Melton’s). In 1890, Oswald installed a beer bar, with mammoth mirrors and heavily carved wood supports and reopened as a beer and food establishment.

In 1906, Oswald sold the business to Henry Schultz, who took up residence on the second floor and leased the stable area to his brother Harry, a blacksmith. The Schultz brothers remained here only two years before selling the business to Mr. Joe Insert, a man of questionable integrity. Mr. Insert remained until 1920 when another “shady” character took over. He immediately leased the rooms upstairs to Mary Polly and “sisters” who ran a very profitable “rooming house”.

This lasted two years before the now famous “Cap” Cunningham took the reins, evicted the Polly sisters, and renamed the restaurant “Cunningham’s Delicatessen”. Cap Cunningham’s menus (one of which can be seen on the wall) were quite extensive and extremely reasonable. This is a tradition that remains today.

sign outside cunningham's creekside
dock with boats

Shortly thereafter, the nation was jolted – PROHIBITION. Cap’s clients were known to enjoy a nip or two, so business dropped drastically. But Cap, a true restaurateur in an effort to please his customers, took on a partner, Mr. Colemen. Together they opened up “Cunningham’s Soft Drink Stand”. With the nation’s thirst being what it was, business boomed. It was so good that Mr. Coleman and Cap Cunningham opened another soft drink stand at 1922 South 3rd Street. However, much to the dismay of the local citizens, a Federal Agent took a sip of “Cap’s soft drink” and upon finding out it was not quite soft enough, closed Mr. Cunningham down.

The ending of the soft drink business also meant the end of Cap’s partnership with Mr. Coleman and the rebirth of Cunningham’s Delicatessen.

The post-depression rise in the economy had a direct effect on Cap’s business, and in the 1930’s he turned the stable area into private rooms and the blacksmith shop into a liquor bar. In 1942, in an effort to serve everyone who desired to dine at the restaurant, Cap, utilizing the large parking area, started Louisville’s first drive-in restaurant with full waiter service. As you can imagine, it became very popular.

In 1967, Cap, who by now was getting on in years, sold the business to four restaurateurs. They stayed in the business for less than a year before selling out entirely to John Morat. In 1969, Mr. Morat sold the corporation to three businessmen: Mr. J. W. Smith, Mr. C. B. Shaaber, and Mr. D. R. Felker.

In 1981 the Cunningham’s tradition was transferred to Don George and Family. Unfortunately, a massive fire destroyed the restaurant on July 28, 2001. This brought an end to the Fifth and Breckenridge location after 131 years.

Accompanied by a great deal of excitement and anticipation, Cunningham’s was reborn on March 23, 2003, directly across from another Louisville landmark, The Louisville Palace, at 630 South 4th Street.

The tradition continued when Cunningham’s expanded into the former building of another Louisville restaurant legend, Bus Parsons. Mr. Parsons operated his popular restaurant, River Creek Inn on Harrods Creek from 1965 to 1991. After Mr. Parsons retired from the restaurant business in 1991, the restaurant was operated by a couple of groups until it was destroyed by a flood in 1998. The restaurant was purchased, renovated, and reopened by Ward Plauche in 1999. Brothers Joey & Brent George purchased the restaurant and Cunningham’s Creekside was born in May of 2006.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief history of Cunningham’s and also hope you enjoy your meal. If you have any comments or suggestions, please let us know. The goal of this restaurant is to provide the best food and service at the lowest possible price, a tradition we have upheld since 1870.

“WE’RE GLAD YOU’RE HERE!” ~ Brent George

view of a bridge at sunset