For 51 years, Chaperral Café owner Shirley Bailey has manned the kitchen at her downtown Shelbyville eatery. She gets there at 3:30 a.m. each morning to open the doors and start cooking breakfast for regulars who stop in for their coffee, bacon and eggs, or biscuits and gravy.
And she doesn’t stop cooking — or making her guests feel right at home — until the early evening when the restaurant closes.
Bailey, who dreamed of owning a restaurant since she was a child, is as much of a fixture in Shelbyville as Chaperral Café’s signature dish, the Stardust Breaded Tenderloin, is. The tenderloin, hand-pounded and breaded, and aptly billed as “bigger than your head” (and definitely bigger than the bun it’s served on!) is a favorite of State Rep. Sean Eberhart. The Stardust Breaded Tenderloin is a Bailey exclusive. She created it while working at the Stardust Drive-In years ago.
Fried chicken is another Chaperral Café favorite. A daily buffet is a great option for grazers who prefer sampling a bit of this and a bit of that. Everything served has that home-cooked, country style appeal. And whatever Bailey makes is liberally seasoned with love — just as if it came from Mama’s kitchen.
The café is named after the popular 1960s western show, “The High Chaparral.” Its regular patrons include just about everybody in the local community. So it’s no surprise that when Chapperral Café celebrated its 50th anniversary in March 2018, and Bailey treated everyone who stopped by with free food, the restaurant was overflowing.
For the consummate hostess, who says she thanks the Lord every day for her long career doing something she loves, celebrating her success by serving others couldn’t have been a better testament to a long life dedicated to keeping others well-fed and happy.