The landscape throughout east-central Indiana is pretty but fairly homogenous, consisting mostly of quiet country roads through picturesque rural farmland punctuated by small towns and midsize cities. The food scene, on the other hand, couldn’t be more diverse. Whether your tastes run toward traditional Hoosier comfort-food classics or innovative fine-dining cuisine, this trail has it all.
Kick off the journey in Richmond with a trifecta: delicious Italian cuisine at Galo’s Italian Grill, upscale dining at The Olde Richmond Inn and beautiful chocolates at Ghyslain Chocolatier. From there, the road winds north through charming little towns like Winchester, where travelers can sample a slice of heaven and the official state pie—sugar cream—at locally revered Wick’s Pies. Farther north in Fort Wayne, diners find a delicious array of choices to suit every palate. Line up for scrambled eggs with cheese at Cindy’s Diner, take a behind-the-scenes tour of DeBrand Fine Chocolates, enjoy alfresco dining at trendy Club Soda or pair a handcrafted house ale with a gourmet pizza at Mad Anthony Brewing Company. The trail winds west to the adorable village of Roanoke, home to the upscale and destination dining-worthy Joseph Decuis. Farther west in Huntington, catch dinner and a show at The Huntington Supper Club or sample one of the state’s signature dishes—the humble but delicious pork tenderloin sandwich—at Nick’s Kitchen.
Follow the trail west to Wabash, where award-winning breads and mouth-watering bakery items tempt at Big Brick House Bakery, then head south to Marion for lunch at the Historic Wilson-Vaughan Hostess House. Veer east to Upland for a super-thick shake at Ivanhoe’s Drive In before winding southwest to Perkinsville, where kitschy Bonge’s Tavern serves fine dining-caliber meals like steaks, seafood, pastas and pizzas without a hint of attitude.
From the littlest hole-in-the-wall to the fanciest dining room, these eateries all have one thing in common: They serve heaping helpings of Hoosier hospitality. Customers can expect a friendly welcome and attentive service, no matter where they dine.
This cozy 15-seat diner serves classic breakfast and lunch fare until 2 p.m.
Fiercely loyal customers stand in line for a seat at the counter. Since 1952, Cindy's has offered a full breakfast and lunch menu of omelets, patty melts, chili and other diner fare, but Garbage is THE dish to order—eggs scrambled with cheese, slivered ham and diced onion, rolled into a log and then browned until crispy around the edges. Follow the locals' lead and cap off your meal with a Murphy's Dime Store Donut from the case. Cindy’s now accepts credit and debit cards.
A 19th century warehouse-turned-eatery offers great alfresco dining during warmer months.
This 13-year-old upscale eatery has an undeniably cool exterior: The bricks still have the 1950s-style painted letters on the side of the building. Inside, a chic, glass four-seasons area opens to first-floor outdoor dining and supports a second-floor deck for additional alfresco dining during the summer months.
The sassy-lingo menu at this Chicago-style jazz club and steakhouse offers eclectic options heavy on beef and seafood. Starters include shrimp cocktail and crab cakes, but duck egg rolls and a signature smoked Gouda dip also make the list. The rest of the menu is a mixed bag of salads and entrees like stuffed chicken breast and pasta. Save room for homemade desserts from Club Soda's bakery. Live jazz and award-winning martinis complete the experience on Summer weekends.
DeBrand Fine Chocolates
Fort Wayne’s premier chocolatier offers world-class products and a behind-the-scenes tour with tasting opportunities.
A waft of chocolate welcomes you to the corporate headquarters and 30,000-square-foot production facility. A jewel box-like display counter awaits, full of picture-perfect chocolates in every size and shape. Choose from three collections: Classic (traditional favorites), Truffle (twelve rich, chocolatey fillings) and Connoisseur (exotic flavors)—as well as chocolate bars, marshmallows and so much more that it's hard to select one favorite. The on-site cafe serves a sugar buzz with a menu of housemade ice cream and gelato, downright sinful desserts, hot chocolates and coffees.
The 45-minute tour is worth the $5 price (which is redeemable with a $10 purcharse) and offers tasting at each of three production kitchen stops.
Mad Anthony Brewing Company
Five signature on-tap beers complement upscale pub grub in the downtown flagship location.
The eclectic decor of local businesses’ retro signs hanging on wood-paneled walls and black-and-white-checkered tile floors give the brewpub a homey feel. The menu offers the sort of stuff you’d expect—appetizers, sandwiches, wings, nachos and pizza—with a few surprises like the house salad, which comes topped with red beans and rice and served with a warm corn muffin. The deep-dish Chicago-style Almost Famous Pizza baked in a wood-fired oven is a house fave. Select one of a dozen or so gourmet pies, or build one with ingredients both standard and exotic (seafood, Thai peanut sauce, fajita chicken). Smaller and thinner, the Unwrap (a 10-inch wood-fired tortilla with toppings) makes a nice alternative for a light lunch.
In a tiny rural town, indulge in gourmet farm-to-table dining worth the splurge.
Housed in a former bank building, the upscale restaurant changes its menu of American cuisine seasonally and emphasizes Indiana vendors, but the year-round claim to fame is the Wagyu beef raised for Joseph Decuis at nearby Heritage Farms (along with other organic ingredients). The atmosphere is romantic, service impeccable and food simply outstanding, from the pretty-as-a-picture roasted beets starter to the decadent chocolate pecan bourbon cake. Be forewarned, though, with the nightly Wagyu beef preparations commanding market prices, it's easy to spend $100 a head on dinner.
This century-old eatery's claim to fame is the invention of the pork tenderloin sandwich—Indiana's unofficial state food.
The diner is pretty old-school, with paneled walls and yellowing framed newspaper clippings, but the food keeps Huntington residents and visitors coming back.
The thin, crunchy breaded tenderloin is served on a plain hamburger bun with a few leaves of lettuce, a packet of Miracle Whip, and a plastic cup of mayonnaise-based pasta or potato salad. Nothing fancy, but good and filling. For dessert, loosen your belt a notch to enjoy a slice of Nick's messy but decadent homemade sugar cream pie.
There are several offshoots around Huntington, but the downtown location is the original.
The Huntington Supper Club
Flashy cabaret-style productions draw theatergoers to this renovated space.
New York City transplants Rich Najuch and Joel Froomkin, performing-arts veterans, purchased the neglected theater in 2007 and began massive renovations. The main auditorium reconstruction is a work in progress, but the Art Deco-style lobby now houses supper club seating for 75 and a small stage for song and dance numbers. Romantic lighting enhances the subdued decor of browns and wood. The dinner part of the dinner-and-a-show event is top-notch, and a sinfully rich slab of chocolate cake with a drizzle of raspberry sauce made intermission memorable. Full bar service available.
Big Brick House Bakery
The owner grinds her own flour for an array of baked goods sold in this Victorian house dating to 1854.
Owner Leigh Rowan runs this small family bakery as a tribute to her Grandma Robbins, the woman she credits with teaching her how to cook. A devout locavore, Leigh sources eggs, fruit and other products from area farms and producers, but grinding her flour is what really sets her products apart.
Beyond the award-winning breads, customers find pies, cakes, cinnamon rolls, muffins, honey, maple syrup, fudge, candy and homemade noodles for sale. Two on-site dining rooms give patrons a place to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee.
Open since 2007, Wednesday through Friday, 7:30 am to 5 pm, but it’s best to call ahead and double-check before making a special trip.
Historic Wilson-Vaughan Hostess House
This majestic historic property is a popular destination for weekday lunches and special events and houses a boutique and resale shop.
With frilly, feminine decor and a menu heavy on salads and sandwiches, this is a hot spot for ladies who lunch, and the pretty patio fills up quickly when the weather's nice.
With pineapple, grapes and white raisins in the mix plus fresh fruit on the side, the signature chicken salad plate is refreshing, if a little sweet. The accompanying buttered poppy seed bread is tasty and calls to mind cute tea sandwiches.
Wander the second-floor boutique, and browse the consignment shop at the back of the building.
With more than 100 different shakes and 100 sundaes, there’s a flavor for everyone.
Formerly Wiley's Drive-In, this old-school Upland eatery has been owned and operated by the same family since 1965, and it hasn’t changed much. Milkshakes and sundaes cost anywhere from under $2 for a basic mini up to $10 for a large Gram's cheesecake or German chocolate cake concoction. Popular with locals, the Trojan Three, is a super-thick chocolate shake with chopped Reese's Cups and a scoop of cookie dough ice cream on top.
In the mood for a regular meal? Ivanhoe's also fries up standard diner fare like burgers, tenderloins, onion rings and such. The chicken salad is a popular choice.
The big red barn dubbed Bonge’s Tavern offers great food and a chance to socialize (especially on weekends).
Bonge’s draws crowds bigger than the dining room can hold, so customers tailgate in the gravel parking lot. Visiting in camping chairs and tossing beanbags help pass the time. (Just be sure to leave the kids at home; no one under 21 is allowed.)
Inside, wood paneling and colored Christmas lights make for a laid-back and instantly welcoming feel. A chalkboard above the bar lists the menu of six or seven options. Vegetarians beware: Entrees are meats, but the chunky tomato soup and wedge salad are meal-worthy appetizers. Names of dishes come from regulars including customer fave Harger Duck stuffed with jalapeno cream cheese and wrapped in bacon as well as the Perkinsville pork tenderloin, pounded thin, breaded and served with lemon sauce.
Exquisite chocolates resembling works of art can be found in this chic pastry shop in Richmond's Historic Depot District.
These are gorgeous pieces of candy—stunning hand-painted butterflies, seashells, horseshoes and other shapes. The turtles are noteworthy: A new-wave spin on traditional caramel-nut-chocolate turtles, they actually look like little turtles. The milk chocolate shells are hand-painted different colors, each signifying a different caramel-nut combination.
Ghyslain Chocolatier serves lunch Tuesday-Sunday, as well as dinner on Fridays and Saturdays. Chocolates are definitely the main draw, but the French- and Italian-inspired savory fare is delicious, too. The sweet potato salad with red peppers and cilantro is especially good.
The Olde Richmond Inn
Located in a historic neighborhood, The Olde Richmond Inn serves generous portions of traditional food in an 1892 home with many original architectural details.
The Olde Richmond Inn offers white-tablecloth dining in several separate rooms graciously appointed with stained glass windows and period details that evoke a pleasant, nostalgic feel.
The menu features traditional American fare such as prime rib, lamp chops, and roast duckling, but you can also choose from Italian classics like lasagna and linguini marina. The prices, which on the surface look expensive for Richmond (around $20 for an entree), are really quite decent when you consider the portion sizes. Budget-conscious guests could easily split an entree and have just enough room for a piece of the inn's signature chocolate peanut butter pie or creme brulee.
Galo’s Italian Grill
Galo’s serves a refreshingly authentic taste of modern Italian cuisine in an upscale, romantic atmosphere.
Located just off National Road East behind a strip mall, Galo’s huge taupe-color, columned exterior is hard to miss. Inside, the classy white-tablecloth decor vaguely recalls Tuscany, with a warm, romantic vibe running throughout. The circular dining room is basically one big open space below a faux-fresco ceiling painted to resemble the sky.
An ambitious menu details antipasto appetizers, salads, wood-fired pizzas, pastas, house specialties, chicken, seafood and meat. Most items are large enough to share between two people; the kitchen will split portions if requested. Galo’s also offers housemade desserts, a well-chosen wine list with lots of Italian varietals, and some intriguing cocktails (strawberry limoncello martini, perhaps?).
Family-owned Wick’s makes its signature sugar cream pie using a recipe dating to the 1800s.
Wick’s—short for Wickersham, the family who owns the company—got its start in 1944 when it baked 20 handmade pies a day and then delivered them in a Buick sedan. By the end of their fourth year in business, the company was producing 300 pies daily. You can guess the rest of the story; today, the Wick’s factory houses a modern bakery that churns out 12 million pies and pie shells a year.
Tours of the facility are available from April through October, but the family-dining restaurant across the street serves breakfast, lunch and dinner year-round. It also houses a shop where customers can purchase nearly three dozen different pie varieties—fresh, frozen and ready-to-bake—in addition to ready-to-fill pie shells and fresh fruit glazes.