Monday, January 16, 2017

Indiana Eats

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties
-The Signature Eats of Indiana 

Over the years we've featured handfuls and handfuls of spots from the Hoosier State. Today's post is a handful of spots I've been to that feature one of Indiana's signature regional eats. As you scroll down you may wonder is anything they eat healthy? Sure. There's good produce such as corn I guess. Other than that though these spots don't exactly cater to a South beach like diet. Though I still managed to squeeze in a completely vegan meal while in-state, and it was delicious. Please read on for the info.
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Nick's Kitchen

Huntington, IN

What's a round-up of Indiana regional eats without the inclusion of a breaded pork tenderloin? Incomplete. I don't like to leave readers hanging so instead of just any old tenderloin the first stop up is the place where the sandwich is said to have originated. Due to this claim Nick's has been featured in many publications and is always mentioned when BPT's in Indiana are discussed. Nick's is a full fledged kitchen churning out a variety of standard diner fare offerings but the breaded pork sandwich and pie are what most people are there for. Looking down on the pic of the menu I took that day I can see I made the wrong call by going peachy apple with the pie. It was just ok and Sugar Creme is the official food of the state so I should've known then and there what to get. Can't win 'em all.

Pie is Life in Indiana

As mentioned Nick's claim to fame is the breaded tenderloin. Maybe the most well known restaurant in the Hoosier State. So they claim it made it's debut in 1908 when Nick's was just a pushcart serving the more well known hamburger at the time. So they say the rest is history and the BPT is now the signature eat of Indiana. I liked Nick's just fine but have had better both in Indiana and also Iowa.

Breaded Pork Tenderloin
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A Kaung Zarr

I've featured Burmese food in Indiana before. As mentioned in that post Indiana has one of the highest populations of Burmese refugees. Many of them reside in Ft. Wayne. So with them there's a decent amount of Burmese food in the area. More than in Chicago and many other metropolises. One day we took a ride to explore the scene and came to find many of the spots closed on Tuesday. Luckily this one here was open and even better it's probably the spot you want to check out. We would end up ordering samosas, tea leaf salad, and a lo mein salad served Burmese style. This would unintentionally be a vegetarian meal that was also fantastic. It was fresh and had some flavors we don't get to experience every day. I'd say this spot is worth a detour. A true hidden gem.

Burmese Feast in Fort Wayne
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Gray Brothers Cafeteria

The Cafeteria is a staple in Indiana cuisine. If you do alot of travel thru the state I suggest taking a look at Joanne Raetz Stuttgen's book titled 'Cafe Indiana: A Guide to Indiana's Down-Home Cafes'. She documents all of the states hometown mom-and-pop restaurants in celebration of small-town Midwest culture. One of the more well known Cafeteria's in the state is the roadfood approved Gray Brother's Cafeteria which rests about 20 minutes southwest of Indianapolis.

Moorseville, IN

This would be my first visit to one of these fill your tray up Indiana cafeterias and thus I learned a few things as I went. The line starts with dessert and there's lots of it. So much I was overwhelmed. Even though I'm not the biggest dessert guy you cant go thru one of these diners in the middle of the Midwest and not get a piece of pie.

Start of the Buffet Line

Moving thru...Beef and Noodles, Fried Chicken and Meatloaf

Along with my slice of apple pie I went ahead and had them put three pieces of dark meat fried chicken and a few hush puppies on my tray. For my sides I went overload and got green beans cooked in ham juice, mac and cheese, sliced potatoes, and of course the standard Hoosier classic of beef (or chicken) and noodles, second only to the pork tenderloin for most beloved eat in-state. Read more on this in this excerpt HERE.

So photogenic

My friend went slightly lighter than I and got the Friday special of baked cod and some sides and pie to go with it. My next learning lesson would be in the price of all this. It wasn't cheap, maybe the fact it was being served cafeteria style led me to believe this but my tray and drink were easily over $20.

Friends Plate

First up the fried chicken which is taken very seriously around this way. It was ok. I'm not totally opposed to it when it's pre-fried and served cafeteria style and there wasn't a problem with it as far as temperature or crunch on the exterior, it was just plain. I didn't hate it but I don't feel the need to return for more. The sides were all pretty good and in case anyone was wondering, the meat in the beef and noodles was indeed real and not from a can. I know this because I got a little piece of butcher string that was still stuck to a piece of beef in my order. I'd imagine this place gets packed on the weekends. There were multiple generations of family in there on our visit.

My Plate
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The Flamingo

Lenten season is coming but you don't need to go go to The Flamingo Lounge on a Friday just to get some fish. Lake Perch is a specialty of the Northwest Indiana region which I wrote about HERE. This historic Gary Indiana restaurant now located on Miller Beach serves plates of lake perch year-round. While the old school neon sign is gone most of the bars charm inside remains intact.

Gary, IN

Opened in 1941 as a lounge serving pizza I read elsewhere that it was one of the first pizzerias in the state. The current owners added a dining room addition onto the bar and to keep the local feel they sourced the building material from other local establishments now out of business. We stopped in out of season thus there were locals cuddled up at the bar smoking cigarettes watching football and not much else going on. The Lake Perch was lightly dusted and very flaky, tasted good in my book. Extra points for the cup of drawn butter included with each order.

Plate of Lake Perch
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Lisa's Pie Shop

 Atlanta, IN

Here's a place I found one day when returning home from Indianapolis. I took an off-highway route and came across this pie shop sitting on a corner in what was basically the middle of nowhere. How could I not stop? It was nearing the end of summertime so they had some fresh apple pies on display. No way I walked out without one. As good as I expected it to be. Another spot worth a detour.

Apple Pie
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Nick's Kitchen
506 N Jefferson St
Huntington, IN 46750
(260) 356-6618

A Kaung Zarr
5205 Decatur Rd
Fort Wayne, IN 46806
(260) 203-9056

Gray Brothers Cafeteria
555 S Indiana St
Mooresville, IN 46158
(317) 831-7234

Flamingo Pizza of Miller
8341 Locust Ave
Gary, IN 46403
(219) 938-0323 

Lisa's Pie Shop
5995 US-31
Atlanta, IN 46031
(317) 758-6944

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