The west region of Indiana is home to some of the most productive farmland in the state, so it’s no surprise that its food scene is something of a showcase for fresh and delicious farm-to-table fare.
A tour of Fair Oaks Farm in Fair Oaks is the perfect starting point, complete with opportunities for tasting the award-winning cheeses and ice cream made with farm-fresh milk from the 30,000 or so resident cows. In nearby Remington, the adorable Homestead Buttery and Bakery is a great detour for Amish-style bulk foods, baked goods and tasty panini sandwiches.
With a majestic courthouse, the Wabash riverfront and the charming historic Arts and Market district, Lafayette offers a lovely setting for a diverse range of ethnic cuisine, everything from upscale French-country fare at Bistro 501 to fish and chips with a side of rollicking good times at O’Bryan’s Nine Irish Brothers. Since 1929, loyal locals have been frequenting the Triple XXX (relax, it’s named for the house brand of root beer) for the best old-fashioned burgers and fries in town, making it the oldest drive-in within the state. Thirty miles south in downtown Crawfordsville, charming Arthur’s Café serves breakfast and lunch fare. For an upscale dinner, Iron Gate focuses on steaks and seafood. Farther south in Greencastle, sample a light lunch at the dainty Almost Home Tea Room. Beef rules with all the fixings at fine eateries farther west, namely Stables Steakhouse in Terre Haute. Less than three blocks away, Clabber Girl Bakeshop café features products such as homemade biscuits, muffins, scones and cookies made from their ingredients.
Parke County holds the distinction of having the most covered bridges in the world. Both White Horse Café in Rockville and Marshall’s Narrows Restaurant in Turkey Run State Park specialize in home-style food such as fried chicken, biscuits and fruit pies. Farther north, Covington’s Beef House displays choice cuts of beef and along the river, Hotel Attica carves succulent prime rib on weekends. Fuel up on pizza at Arni’s Restaurant housed in a gas station in Pine Village. Arni’s has a long tradition in Indiana, the first Arni’s opened in Lafayette in 1965. Drive on, and dig in!
Fair Oaks Farms
Open year-round, the Fair Oaks Farms gives visitors an opportunity to experience farm life. Witness the miracle of birth in a theater-style birthing barn where 80 to 100 baby calves wobble their first steps each day. Step on a bus for a narrated 40-minute tour to see the farming facilities, cows, feed piles and 72-cow milking station. In the milking parlor, stainless-steel machines gently pull 25 pounds of milk from friendly black-and-white bovines. Children line up for the indoor magnetic climbing wall; outside entertainment includes a Moo Choo Train and String Cheese Maze. Follow the flow to the retail store to see cheese made and to load up on ice cream and other wholesome Fair Oaks products.
Homestead Buttery and Bakery
Family-owned and operated, Homestead Buttery and Bakery is an unexpected gourmet foodie find serving limited breakfast and lunch.
From the curb, the bulk-food shop with a lunch counter looks nondescript, but inside is a small but well-stocked gourmet food emporium.
The bulk food inventory is large and varied, including jams and jellies made in house, dried spices, pastas, sauces, whole grains, cake and cookie decorating items, candy, chips and more. There's also cheese, bread, pies, freshly ground nut butters and fresh fudge. The complimentary self-service coffee and tea station with flavored syrups and creamers is a thoughtful touch; customers can also order iced coffees and smoothies.
Breakfast and lunch options are somewhat limited but tempting, namely panini made with whole wheat bread baked in-house, a soup of the day (white cheddar asparagus during our stop) and a couple of baked good items.
Triple XXX Family Restaurant
Indiana's oldest drive-in restaurant, Triple XXX offers old-school burgers, milk shakes and phosphates.
Named after a vintage root beer, Triple XXX still offers the option of sitting in your car with a tray perched on your window, or you can dine inside seated on a twirly stool, side-by-side with your neighbors diner style.
Decked out in Purdue memorabilia, this Boilermaker landmark names its burgers after football greats, and they're big enough to satisfy a linebacker. One of their most interesting options, the Duane Purvis All-American, features a thick layer of creamy peanut butter on the bottom bun, topped with 1/4-pound of chopped sirloin covered with melted American cheese!
Open 24 hours Monday through Saturday, the Triple XXX satisfies late-night munchies.
Located in Lafayette's historic Arts and Market district, Bistro 501 serves up a little taste of sunny Provence with French-country inspired atmosphere and rustic French fare.
Lunch offers a selection of frilly salads, French onion soup, a ratatouille sandwich, quiche and entrees like classic boeuf bourguignon. The open-faced croque madame comes with crisp fresh fries on the side. Dinner ups the ante with escargot, pate, mussels, steak frites and braised meats.
For dessert, Bistro 501 does something really cool. In addition to 10 or so full-size options, like cobbler, cakes and a cheese selection, customers can get a "theater dessert spoon" taste of chocolate pot de crème, cheesecake or crème brulee for $1.50. The pot de crème was a heaping spoonful of chocolaty lusciousness with whipped cream and a drizzle of raspberry sauce. Reservations are a good idea.
O’Bryan’s Nine Irish Brothers
Family owned and operated, O’Bryan’s two Lafayette locations are the real Irish deal.
Hailing from County Cork, Ireland, the O’Bryan clan (nine Irish brothers and five sisters) is paid tribute in this authentically re-created an Irish public house with Irish flags, shamrocks, Celtic crosses, Irish road signs, Guinness and Jameson memorabilia, and drinks served in pint glasses.
On the menu, there's pub grub like soups, salads, burgers and sandwiches. A selection of traditional Irish fare includes fish and chips, corned beef and cabbage, shepherd's pie and Guinness beef stew. Several entrees are available in half orders, although we'd never guess that these are reduced-size portions. O'Bryan's also features live Irish music on the weekends, and serves a full Irish "fry" breakfast, a decadently indulgent plate of eggs, rashers, sausage, roasted tomato, chips and toast.
A Crawfordsville downtown mainstay, Arthur's Cafe is a character-rich stop for breakfast or lunch.
Full of charm, this bi-level cafe visually maximizes its narrow space with clouds painted on the ceiling, murals on the walls and dining spaces split into themed rooms with different wallpapers and homey touches. For example, the back booth in the upstairs portion is an old blue bed frame, which kids might find whimsical and fun.
Open for breakfast and lunch, Arthur’s offers basic fare like omelets, soups, sandwiches and salads. The lunch special features a cup of soup, potato chips and a full-size sandwich, not just a half as you usually find with soup-and-sandwich combos. The BLT Club (bacon, lettuce, tomato and cheese) on lightly toasted white sandwich bread came loaded with crispy bacon.
Upscale and romantic, Iron Gate makes for a great date-night kind of place with steaks, seafood and such in a white-tablecloth setting.
The front dining room is candlelit and romantic, but a bar area decorated with old machinery parts provides more casual digs, as does a back room featuring small-scale live music. Most dinners start with a cup of beef broth-base onion soup, a house salad and bread before moving on to the main course. The filet mignon meal comes with a baked potato and side of veggie. The 8 oz. bacon-wrapped steak was a little on the small side, but for $20, a good value for the quantity of food. The retro-era desserts are created in house, including made-to-order meringue on the baked Alaska, and several options like the cherries jubilee and the peach Melba are flamed tableside to dramatic effect.
Almost Home Tea Room
For more than 20 years, Almost Home Tea Room has made a swanky stop for ladies who lunch.
Across from the courthouse on Greencastle's town square, Almost Home takes in several establishments under one roof. The Tea Room specializes in lunches and homemade desserts, and since expanding, now includes dinner service and the Swizzle Stick cocktail bar next door.
The romantic main dining area evokes a French bistro vibe with exposed brick walls, a painted tin ceiling, striped awnings, wine nooks and fleur-de-lis details. A smaller coffee shopish room feels like a cheery country kitchen with chartreuse stenciled walls, high ceilings and Shaker-style oak chairs.
The lunch menu shows off standard sandwiches, soups and salads, but there are a few surprises like shrimp cocktail, penne pasta, a Putnam County pork burger, and French-fried green beans with wasabi ranch dipping sauce. Dinner ups the ante with steaks, seafood and pasta dishes.
Clabber Girl Bakeshop Cafe
A cute bakeshop offers counter service of coffee, baked goods, breakfast and lunch fare from Clabber Girl and a handful of other Indiana vendors.
Hulman and Company, which manufactures Clabber Girl dessert mixes and baking ingredients such as baking powder and cornstarch, has been a cornerstone of the Terre Haute community for more than a century. It moved to its current facility in 1892, and the building serves as both a corporate office and a museum of the company's history.
Customers can enjoy their from-scratch bakery purchases such as biscuits, muffins, scones and cookies in two sprawling rooms. Or skip the standard tables and chairs to curl up in over-stuffed leather chairs. Watching the historic Crocker Wheel Dynamo, an early power generator, spin behind a wall of glass impresses.
Set in a Victorian-Era stable built to house the delivery horses of the Terre Haute Brewing Company, this high-end steakhouse delivers good food and historical charm.
Although the 1890 building was extensively renovated, many historical touches remain—each booth sits inside a private horse stall for intimacy. Keep an eye out for a stained-glass window that once decorated the Indiana Statehouse and an oak bar rumored to have served outlaw John Dillinger. The menu has traditional steakhouse offerings, including ribeye, prime rib and filet mignon. Other options include fresh fish, lobster tails, crab-stuffed pork loin and amaretto chicken. All are cooked and seasoned well and served with sides such as Lyonnaise potatoes and creamed spinach. Save room for the scrumptious desserts, such as warm, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate spoon cake and bourbon bread pudding topped with a cinnamon-bourbon cream sauce.
White Horse Cafe
Locals love the White Horse Cafe, which serves home-style favorites in a cozy, welcoming atmosphere.
The restaurant is a favorite with locals, who bounce from table to table to chat with friends while servers call everyone sweetie. The clean, cozy restaurant serves home-style foods like country-fried steak and blueberry pie, and it delivers on its promise to make most of its menu from scratch. Start your meal here with a "deep-fried delight" from the appetizer menu, such as deep-fried dill pickles with ranch dipping sauce. For your main course, try one of the many sandwiches, such as a turkey Reuben, hamburger or classic BLT. The Big Dewey Texas Tenderloin holds the distinction of being largest pork tenderloin in the county—the size of a plate. If you save room for dessert, the fruit pies are made in-house and have flaky crusts filled with sweet fruit.
Surrounded by the natural beauty of Turkey Run State Park, Narrows Restaurant inside Turkey Run Inn dishes up home-style favorites.
Turkey Run Inn is a rustic, cozy home base for exploring Turkey Run State Park ($5 fee) and the area’s many covered bridges. For hikers, the location of the inn is superb, just a quick walk to the main trailhead. For covered-bridge enthusiasts, the park is near several. Five color-coded routes lead visitors to all the bridges. The blue covered-bridge driving route actually runs along the park border. So, the inn is ideally situated for nearly every tourist who visits Parke County.
Stick with home-style favorites like fried chicken platters and pork tenderloin sandwiches. At breakfast, look for traditional options like fluffy pancakes, fried potatoes and country skillets.
Beef House Restaurant
Family owned, the Beef House is known for its choice beef and moist, delicious yeast rolls.
Inside the entrance a refrigerated display case with aged choice cuts of beef tantalize hungry patrons. The ribeyes range from a dainty 8 ounces up to try-it-if-you-dare 20 ounces at this popular steak house that cooks its beef over hardwood briquettes. The menu also includes T-bones, New York strips, sirloin and filet mignon, plus chicken, seafood and pasta. The Beef House is almost as well known for its big, fragrant and moist yeast rolls served with apple butter and strawberry jam. Many diners take home a dozen ready-to-cook rolls. Save room for the sugar cream pie, or get a slice to go.
On the National Register of Historic Places, this 1853 downtown hotel retains its original charm.
Antique fixtures, brass picture frames, ornate wallpaper and an ever-so-slight sloping hallway floor all contribute to the charm of the hotel that hosted big-names back in the day, like Bing Crosby, Bette Davis and (possibly even) Al Capone.
The tone set by a dark wood bar in the lounge expands in the main dining room where crisp white linen tablecloths, low lighting and rose-hue carpet make an elegant backdrop for dinner featuring walleye, tempura shrimp or ribeye. The Friday and Saturday prime rib dinner draws a crowd. Choose from three sizes of the choice cut (10, 14 or 16 ounces), which arrives at the table on a piping hot double plate swimming in pan juices. The prime rib dinner special comes with a salad and your choice of potatoes.
Surprising finds inside a gas station include thin crust pizza and chunky chili at unbeatable prices.
Since 1965, Arni Cohen and now his sons have been baking thin crust pies topped with a light layer of sauce and generous portions of cheese and toppings. The pizza was such a hit that Arni expanded with eight other restaurants. Interestingly, this quirky location has a homey feel with wood paneling and country-inspired curtains, which obscure the view of gas pumps.
Choose from 7-, 10- and 14-inch pizzas, ranging in price from $5 to 15. Most menu items cost less than $6; choose from soups, salads, sandwiches and bowls of their famous chunky chili—so thick you can eat it with a fork. The family-friendly destination caters to the short set with a bin of toys.