WHEN you step into Ready’s, it feels like time has stopped. The atmosphere is warmly lit. There’s a counter with stools. Behind that counter is an old milkshake machine as well as an old cash register. The ceilings are adorned with wheel chandeliers. The booths are comfortable. The place feels like home and is home to many people. The regulars are trickling back in after a June 2020 fire closed Ready’s for nine months. Besides Ready’s being rewired, it’s the same place that it was in 1962.
“There’s a lot of history here as far as the city,” said Doug Wing, owner. Ready’s is thought to be the original City Hall. Doug took his spot in Ready’s lengthy history in 2006 after the previous owner retired.
“I worked at the Green Grille at 17th and Asbury for 18 years,” Doug said.
After 12 years out of the kitchen, he made his way back to cooking. He started by adding a few menu items.
“Even when I worked for someone else, I came here to eat,” said Doug.
Ready’s is known for the basics.
“We’re known for the omelettes. Very simple comfort food. Cheeseburgers, turkey sandwiches, chicken salad, grilled cheese, nothing extravagant.”
Among Doug’s favorite items on the menu are chipped beef and cheeseburgers.
“I’m a real simple guy. I just really like a cheeseburger,” Doug said. “I brought chipped beef on the menu. I get such great feedback on it. It’s my favorite thing because I added it to Ready’s.”
He also added blueberry pancakes to the menu.
“We probably sell more blueberry pancakes than regular pancakes,” Doug said.
Doug used the words of his brother, Jamie, to describe his role in Ready’s.
“Jamie said, ‘We are the caretakers of an institution in town. When our time is up, hopefully there will be someone out there who wants to take it over,’” Doug said.
Doug and Jamie bought Ready’s together.
“I run the restaurant, he runs the building. It’s the perfect arrangement. He makes sure that we have tenants upstairs and that they pay the rent. He takes care of the finances. At 3 o’clock, I’m done for the day,” said Doug.
No day is the same for Doug.
“When it’s busy, I’m on the line cooking. When it’s not so busy, I do like to talk to people. People like to talk to me. I love it but when it’s too busy I know when I need to be on the line helping the guys get the food out.”
Among Ready’s regulars is the previous owner, Bob.
“The old owner, Bob, used to come in every day prior to the pandemic. He stops in once a week. Look where his knees are,” said Doug, gesturing to a worn spot under the counter. “He’d sit here for an hour and have his oatmeal and his coffee.”
He has many regular customers, which was evident from the waves people were giving him as they came through the door for their breakfast.
“Our price point makes it affordable and it always was for people to repeat. Give them a quality meal at an inexpensive price and they’ll come back and they do. People are creatures of habit and they get the same thing. You just know what they’re going to get,” said Doug.
“I do sometimes miss being a customer of Ready’s. If we came to breakfast, I wouldn’t worry about what’s going on over there. I miss that relaxation of coming to Ready’s.”
His customers were eager to return after the fire.
“I would walk out my front door and my neighbors would ask me. I would get stopped five times a day. I’d always come back with “In two weeks.” I just didn’t know and I didn’t want to scare anybody off,” Doug said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be nine months. It wasn’t even a structural fire.”
His staff missed Ready’s too.
“Most of my employees have been here longer than I’ve been here. At one point, I was the youngest guy here. In fact, today,” Doug paused to look around, “No, I got one employee that’s younger than me. They’re all great. Very lucky to have good people work here.”
Helen Libro has worked at Ready’s for 31 years.
“I love the job. I’m not a big one on change. When we had small children, I was home at night. I’m glad to be back after nine months. It’s so old fashioned and friendly. We get to know people and what’s going on in their lives.”
Working at Ready’s has created a new family.
“We’re like a family here. Doug and Jamie are awesome. There’s three of us [waitresses that] have been here for quite some time. We’re like sisters. It’s a busy little place,” Helen said.
“It’s just like Cheers. People know your name.”
This story and more can be found in our June magazine.