Fork in the road
An insider's guide to Southern Indiana cuisine
When it comes to cooking a traditional meal in Southern Indiana, we don’t mess around. No one is better than we are when it comes to serving up crispy pork tenderloin, a steaming bowl of beef and noodles or a sweet slice of sugar cream pie. But we’re not afraid to try something new. Today, an abundance of local, fresh ingredients allows us to create a variety of farm-to-table dishes that stem from many different cultures.
Our culinary roots date back to the early 1800s, when immigrants from Kentucky and Virginia arrived and let their hogs, the main source of meat at the time, run free in Indiana’s plentiful forests. These pioneers eventually formed communities and tended small farms but still kept their meals simple.
Richard Wilk, professor and director of the anthropology food studies program in Indiana University, says settlers lived on a diet of corn, salt pork and beans.
“Not a very elaborate cuisine, but one that you could provide with not a great deal of work,” Wilk says. “Plain, but solid American cooking.”
Over time, our towns and cities grew, and our sources of meat and produce expanded. But, for the most part, we still enjoyed the comfort dishes our forebears had perfected. It’s only in the last decade or so that we’ve started to think more elaborately when it comes to our food.
Chef Gethin Thomas, chef and proprietor of Henry Social Club in Columbus, says the farm-to-table movement has caught on in Southern Indiana and will continue to grow. He predicts more consumers will seek out local, fresh produce from farmers.
“The pleasure you get from eating a real green bean is much greater than if you ate a green bean that came from a frozen bag or something that got picked three weeks ago and on its way here from a foreign place,” Thomas says. “The energy in the food is completely different.”
He’s not alone in that belief. Many restaurants – and consumers – have started sourcing their ingredients locally. We can buy meats from Fischer Farms, eggs from Rhodes Family Farm and goat cheese from Capriole Farm. On weekends, we shop at nearby farmers’ markets, which have more than doubled in the last decade.
So come join our food adventure as we revisit some of the traditional foods of the past and explore how local chefs are shaping the way we look at food today. You’ll discover restaurants worth the drive and meet local Yelpers who have made their mark in the world of online food talk. You can explore the ethnic restaurants lining Fourth Street in Bloomington or try a spicy bowl of German goulash in Jasper. You’re in for a delicious treat of history, recipes and even a few cooking tips to get yourself into the kitchen – the Southern Indiana way.
We asked three professional chefs for advice to get you cooking up traditional dishes and new favorites in your own kitchen.
Chef Ed Ellis has more than three decades experience as an executive chef with private clubs, hotels and healthcare companies. For the past 17 years, he has been the chef instructor at the Southern Indiana Career and Technical Center and a mentor to many aspiring chefs.
1. Practice. "And then be open to suggestions, whether it's from someone else or from the product of the season. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut and have the same old thing all the time. When something new comes around, it's kind of a nice change for you."
2. Be creative. Don't be afraid to try something you didn't like before. "Do it a different way. Look for another angle or avenue."
3. Have fun. "You have to enjoy it. It can't be drudgery for you."
Next trend? The farm-to-table movement. “There’s a lot more variety for customers who like to eat out and those who want to cook at home. It’s just not all salt, steak and potatoes in Indiana, which is a big plus.”
Chef Gethin Thomas is known for his sophisticated cooking with a fresh, local taste. Formerly the executive chef at Cummins Inc., he is currently the proprietor and executive chef of Henry Social Club in Columbus.
1. Buy good olive oil. "Olive oil is almost like a magic ingredient. It's almost like cheating in a way, because if you get really good olive oil, the fat coats your mouth with a great flavor and aroma."
2. Always keep lemons or citrus in your refrigerator to brighten up almost anything. "Lemon on a salad in olive oil with a little bit of vinegar and some Dijon mustard is a great way to start a meal."
3. Keep it simple and buy fresh, local ingredients. "Then you get better and more confident, you can grow your personal repertoire of recipes."
Next trend? The influence of other cultures. "There’s a mom-and-pop Thai restaurant opening in Columbus this year. Two years ago it was a Vietnamese restaurant, and now we have two or three authentic Mexican restaurants. The food is absolutely incredible, and it’s also very inexpensive.”
Chef Watez Phelps is an associate professor and chair of hospitality administration at Ivy Tech Community College in Evansville.
1. Do your research. "Read plenty of periodicals, such as food magazines of any type, because they are so encompassing in terms of world cultures and our national culture of food trends."
2. Have the basics on hand. "Every kitchen should have kosher salt, black pepper, white pepper, garlic, thyme, sage and oregano. The great thing is that you can grow your own thyme, oregano and sage. Just put them in a flowerpot on your porch in your living room."
3. Plan ahead. "The French term 'mise en place' means have everything in place before you begin cooking. Have all your tools and ingredients assembled before you start. It will make it a much more enjoyable experience."
Next tend? Summertime fresh vegetables. "Once, a magazine called me and said they’d like to use a recipe for their publication, and it was due the next day. I went down to the farmers’ market, and I got five different types of tomatoes, wonderful spring onions and what have you. I made this classic tomato dish that I used to eat as a kid. I called it farmers’ market salad, and they liked it so much that I saw the recipe in three different editions. Sometimes we want to over-apply cooking to things when a lot of stuff, such as our vegetables, are excellent raw with just a very light dressing.”
What our forebears ate
We asked the experts what was likely on the plates of three well-known Hoosiers from the past.
Tecumseh – This Native American leader hunted turkey, deer and squirrels in the Indiana forests while the women grew the beans, squash and corn. They made soups and stews from the meats and vegetables and fried corn cakes that settlers adapted and called Johnny cakes. (Source: Wayne Huxhold, archival assistant of the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology at IU)
Abraham Lincoln – Our former president grew up poor in what is today Spencer County. A traditional, midwinter meal consisted of raw apples (his favorite food), ham cooked over an open fire, potatoes, turnips or carrots and corn dodgers (kind of like muffins, but more dense). (Source: Rae Katherine Eighmey, food historian and author of Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen: A Culinary View of Lincoln’s Life and Times)
Hoagy Carmichael – The singer-songwriter, who lived for a while in Bloomington, loved hominy grits, made from dried white or yellow corn kernels with the hull and germ removed. He enjoyed them with bacon and eggs, says his son Hoagy B. Carmichael.
The best food I've ever eaten
From donuts to goat cheese to pho, these 10 Southern Indiana residents shared the best thing they’ve ever eaten here.
1. Christine Barbour, author of Home Grown Indiana: A Food Lover’s Guide to Good Eating in the Hoosier State, Bloomington
“Goat cheese from Capriole Farms in Greenville.”
2. Jordan Shea, social media manager for the IU branch of Spoon University, Greenwood
"Plain glazed donuts from the Donut Bank in Evansville.”
3. Alisha Sims, owner of Alisha Sims Photography, Evansville
“The half-and-half plate from Sauced in Evansville. It’s half-fettuccine alfredo with fried chicken and half spaghetti with meat sauce and one meatball. It’s the best of both worlds.”
4. Laurie Therrien, retired Indiana State Teachers Union employee, Noblesville
“One of Southern Indiana’s best is the Overlook Restaurant in Leavenworth. They have delicious lunches and dinners. I specifically remember having fish and a variety of chicken dishes. Beautiful scenery, and it looks right out over the Ohio River.”
5. Joshua Bell, violinist and senior lecturer in music at IU, Bloomington“Hinkle’s Hamburgers, especially because it is next to Rac n’ Cue.”
6. Gethin Thomas, chef at Henry Social Club, Columbus
“Pho from Pho Shiki in Columbus. It’s really light — about 400 calories. It’s a broth, rice, noodles, a little bit of beef, scallions, cilantro and a little bit of onion. It’s absolutely delicious.”
7. Brian Gilliland, equipment salesman for JW Jones Company, Spencer
“Fried chicken at McKinley Orchard Restaurant in Oaktown. I like it because it’s wonderful. It’s all homemade.”
The Authors' Picks
8. Hannah Lavine, 812 online editor, New Providence, New Jersey
“The Stinky Pete pizza from King Dough in Bloomington. I love everything that’s on the pizza (olive oil, mozzarella, goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, gorgonzola and pecorino romano) and how they prepare it in their wood-fired oven. It’s fresh and delicious.”
9. Lanie Maresh, 812 editor, Chicago
"A lamb burger from The Irish Lion in downtown Bloomington. It's a little bit of a sweeter taste than a regular beef burger, but the blend of seasonings really makes it work. I have to get it every time I go there.”
10. Harley Wiltsey, 812 staff writer, Columbus
“Hands down the chicken fettuccine alfredo from Runcible Spoon in Bloomington. It’s really rich and creamy. I love the restaurant, too. It’s a little restaurant inside an old house, so it’s very cozy.”
Finding the classics
When we think of classic Southern Indiana food, our minds immediately jump to a golden, breaded pork tenderloin, hardly concealed by the bun. Or a slice of sugar cream pie, Indiana’s state pie. And don’t forget persimmon pudding, a classic dessert made from local fruit. Take a seat, grab a fork and explore 812’s guide to these Indiana classics.
The Breaded Tenderloin
In Indiana, the tenderloins are big, the buns are small and the breading is plentiful. It’s a slice of crisp, breaded-and-fried pork loin sandwiched between two fluffy buns. The pork tenderloin is believed by some food historians to have originated at Nick’s Kitchen in Huntington. The sandwich pays homage to Indiana, which is fifth in the country for pork production, says Lindsey Skeen at the Indiana Foodways Alliance. Breaded pork tenderloins vary from place to place but typically come with standard toppings such as tomato, lettuce, onion, pickles and mayonnaise. Try this Indiana classic at these local spots.
109 E. Main St., Greensburg
$5.10 sandwich or $8.40 platter
About 50 miles southeast of Indianapolis, Storie’s has a view of the town’s celebrated tree that grows out of the top of the county courthouse. But Storie’s claim to fame is their Big Tenderloin. Hand-cut and -breaded, it’s served on a bun with all the fixin’s: tomato, lettuce, onion, pickle and mayonnaise. It comes with French fries and coleslaw. Be careful with your first bite, though. This tenderloin is served fresh and very hot. “We go through about 320 to 350 pounds of pork loins a week,” says co-owner Jane Storie. “People from all over the country are familiar with our Big Tenderloins.”
22170 Water Street, Oldenburg
Nestled in the small town of Oldenburg, Brau Haus combines German influences and down-home cooking to create a twist on the Indiana classic. You can get a sandwich, breaded or grilled, as well as tenderloin slices. All the meat is locally sourced and hand-seasoned with a distinctive blend of spices that gives the sandwich its German twist, says Jeff Batta, general manager of the 26-year-old restaurant. “We use a coarse pepper rather than a table-top pepper. It's larger in size and has a stronger flavor.”
Sugar Cream Pie
Simply a pie shell filled with a mixture of cream, sugar, flour and butter, the sugar cream pie originated from the Amish and Shaker communities that settled in the state around the 1800s. “It is also known as desperation pie,” says Lindsey Skeen at the Indiana Foodways Alliance. Sugar cream pie is the perfect pie made out of items in the house when fresh fruit was unavailable or unaffordable. You can buy a taste of Hoosier history at these two locations.
Ahlemeyer Farms Old Tyme Bakery
2034 17 th St., Columbus
$10 a pie
When you enter Ahlemeyer Farms Old Tyme Bakery, you are hit with the sweet scent of confectioners sugar. The bakers are covered head to toe in flour, and rows of baked goods and pies line the countertops. Ahlemeyer’s sugar cream pie is a light cream color, dusted with nutmeg. It has the consistency of thick pudding and a sweet taste of vanilla. If you are craving this sweet treat, you better have an empty stomach. You can only buy full pies at Ahlemeyer’s.
Nashville General Store & Bakery
118 E. Washington St., Nashville
$3.99 a slice
Tucked away on a side street in a bright yellow building, you’ll find a slice of Hoosier pie presented with a firm golden top and a crispy crust. “For some, it is an acquired taste due to the pure sugar and sweetness,” says owner Sarah Yeatman. “Ours is served warmed and is one of the more popular pies we bake in house.”
After enjoying a slice, visitors can explore the antiques in the store. “Reminiscing about one’s childhood and comfort food is what brings folks back for more,” Yeatman says.
Persimmons grow abundantly in the 812 region and can be used for anything from brandy to pudding. Persimmon pudding is typically only available during the fall months after the persimmons have fallen from the trees. The persimmons are gathered, pureed and frozen to be used later on. Here's where to find it.
Miller’s Ice Cream House
61 W. Main Street, Nashville
If you’re craving classic persimmon pudding, venture into this Nashville mainstay. Millers has been serving up homemade ice cream for 39 years, as well as its popular persimmon pudding, made year-round with local pulp. A scoop of homemade ice cream pairs well with the spicy pudding. When asked why Miller’s chooses to serve persimmon pudding, manager Jenny Sue Whetstine says simply, “Because it’s good!”
Main Street in Mitchell
September 17-24, 2016
Dubbed by my-indiana-home.com as the Persimmon Capital of the World, Lawrence County is a hotspot for persimmons, which fall from the trees every autumn. Each year since 1946, Mitchell puts on the Persimmon Festival. The main event is the persimmon pudding contest, in which entrants compete to create the best recipe. You can buy slices of the rich and sweet dessert at most food booths. Visitors will also find carnival rides, live entertainment, crafts and a 5K walk and run.
Grab your keys! Restaurants worth the drive
Southern Indiana eateries run the gamut from cozy mom-and-pop diners to fine restaurants. Whether you’re in the mood for a fresh-off-the-grill onion burger or slices of pork loin with Castelvetrano olives, these eateries make great road trips. 812 scrolled through Yelp ratings to help us compile our picks worth hopping in the car for.
Average price of a meal including entrée, drink, tax and tip.
$ = under $10
$$ = $11-$30
$$$ = more than $31
6404 State Road 135, southwest of Nashville
Tucked away in the hills just south of Brown County State Park, the Story Inn is housed in a 1916 general store. While the exterior may be old and rusted, inside you'll find gourmet, innovative cooking. Using fresh and local ingredients, executive chef Eric Swanson creates elegant plates that highlight and define Hoosier cuisine.
“We want to showcase authentic Indiana, and only put food on the menu that is in-season and fresh in the state,” co-owner Jacob Ebel says. “We only work with what we can get.”
Just a short walk from the entrance to the Story Inn is the restaurant’s garden. What the inn can’t grow, they source locally. Meats from Fischer Farms in Bloomington and Viking Farms in Morristown are on the menu alongside ingredients from Martinsville, Seymour and Nashville.
“It just makes sense,” Ebel says. “It’s the only way I ever operated.”
The menu changes daily, and dishes range from a juicy and hand-seared pork loin served on a bed of sweet aioli, Castelvetrano olives to grilled winter squash to pork ragout. A wedge salad of roasted Brussels sprouts, blue cheese, prosciutto and smoked croutons primes the palate for further courses.
Once they finish dinner, guests can explore the surrounding property or spend a night in one of the guesthouses or rooms, complete with a ghost, but that’s another story.
Crystal & Jules
709 W. Main St., Madison
Since its opening in 2011, Crystal and Jules has dominated the upscale dining scene in Madison. In 2012, Best of Madison gave the restaurant the best steak and best dessert awards.
Using fresh ingredients, Crystal and Jules serves up gourmet cuisine. The most popular item is the 12-ounce Costa Rican New York strip, which is marinated for three days in 18 ingredients. It starts out spicy, but finishes with a sweet flavor. It's served with two sides, which can included bronzed cauliflower, butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, salad, soup or handmade fettuccine.
Crystal & Jules takes the extra step of making all its pasta in-house and by hand.
"Nobody else does it," says chef and owner Andy Richmer.
425 Washington St., Columbus
$$If you want a taste of Italy, this fine-dining Italian restaurant boasts ingredients, wines and beers and a coffee blend that are almost entirely locally sourced.
“We make everything from scratch, use local growers when available and grow our own basil in the summer to make pesto and freeze to use year-round,” says owner Kelly Glick. “Our wine list features smaller wineries, and our beer list is 90 percent Indiana breweries. We have a local roaster, Crownlinks, who has a special blend just for us.”
The most popular menu items include the house-made soups, the grilled salmon and the apple manchego with fig jam.
The Exchange Pub + Kitchen
118 W. Main St., New Albany
Housed in a historic 1875 building, The Exchange Pub + Kitchen is anything but stodgy. Executive chef Matt Weirich takes pride in seasonal menus featuring locally sourced ingredients. “We believe that a product from just down the road will always be much fresher, healthier and taste better than something that has been raised or grown half way around the world,” he says.
Menu items include dishes such as French-cut pork chops, blackened salmon tacos and salads straight from the garden. You can find ingredients on their menu sourced from Clarksville, Ramsey, New Albany and Louisville. Their most popular menu item is the Exchange Burger, from 3D Valley Beef in DePauw and topped with Gorgonzola, sautéed Portobello mushrooms and caramelized onions. It is served with a bed of Parmesan and garlic frites.
309 Walnut St., Jonesville
You’ll need to be 21 for this stop. The Brick in Jonesville is a classic dive bar and home to the Brick Burger, cooked with grilled onions and optionally topped with cheese.
It's “a major noontime attraction for workers from all fields of employ – be they in jeans; flannel shirt and work boots; or coat, tie and wingtips,” wrote Reid Duffy in Reid Duffy’s Guide to Indiana’s Favorite Restaurants.“I always get mine with the grilled onions and deluxed so it's a big, juicy, nasty, unhealthy delicious mess” says Erikka Thompson, a frequent visitor. “It might be a bar, but if you’ve grown up around there it became a family tradition. Of course, everyone needs to try it at least once.”
Other menu items include hot dogs, ham and smoked sausage sandwiches and a popular combination, the Brick Burger with chili.
Be sure to stop by an ATM first; the Brick only accepts cash.
Our top Yelpers
You’re feeling adventurous and want to try something new tonight. You’ve been eyeing that new restaurant on the edge of town, but something stops you: the fear of being disappointed. So, what do you do? Check the Yelp reviews, of course.
Yelp has changed the way we eat out. Last year, Yelp averaged 86 million visitors a month, and since its start has 95 million written reviews that give customers the chance to preview a restaurant before investing their time and money. For this, we have to thank the Yelpers.
The Southern Indiana Yelp Elite Squad are the top reviewers in our area, and they have a badge on their profiles to prove it. Yelp elites are invited to gatherings, parties and openings of businesses, and their reviews carry more weight on the site.
We’ve rounded up the top three 812-region Yelpers, who've reviewed restaurants from Bloomington to the Ohio River, to get their take on favorite restaurants.
Yelper since June 2013
Why you should trust her: “I don’t go out a lot, but when I do I make it count.”
It all began with a simple Google search. Kristie Tomes, 39, was looking up a Mediterranean restaurant when she clicked on the Yelp reviews.
“I started looking at it and thought, Well, I can do this,” she says. Her first review was for that restaurant, which has since closed. She gave it four stars.
Kristie is the queen of Yelpers in Southern Indiana. An elite since she began writing reviews in 2013, Kristie has racked up 482 reviews, posted 922 photos, and has received 159 compliments on her reviews from site users.
Kristie writes posts because she enjoys helping people out when it comes to getting a good meal with a good price. As one of the top sources for Kentuckiana restaurants, she’s often approached for advice.
“People come to me a lot asking what’s new that I’ve been to that they can try.”
Kristie doesn’t mess around with her reviews. She gets to the point of why she did or didn’t like the establishment and what she ate, and she always adds photos. A mother of three, Kristie also likes to say whether the restaurant is kid-friendly.
“I don’t give a lot of five stars, but there’s plenty of restaurants that deserve it.”
One of those is her favorite restaurant, the Come Back Inn in Jeffersonville. Though the restaurant specializes in Italian food, Kristie says the best, and her favorite, dish on the menu is the Hot Brown: an open-face sandwich of Texas toast topped with a tender turkey breast, crispy bacon, tomato and mornay sauce. Don’t miss out on this Louisville classic.
Yelper since November 2011
Things he loves: “Good art, good food and real beer.”
Kyle Snyder from New Albany has been a Yelp elite since 2012.
“I’ve been elevated to the elite status, so I almost feel a kind of responsibility to continue to post.” This responsibility has pushed Kyle to write 274 reviews.
Originally from the town of Brazil, Kyle moved to Los Angeles after graduating from Indiana University. In LA, his friends started using Yelp to find worthy restaurants and bars. Kyle moved back to the Hoosier state and found a home in New Albany. He saw an opportunity to mix his passion for writing with the new restaurants to evaluate.
“My wife and I started going to different places, and I wanted to share the experiences and help the small local restaurants and get them out there more,” Kyle says.
A 36-year-old product manager, he writes lengthy reviews that tell a story. He takes the reader through his experience at each restaurant and always hits on four main topics: the environment, the overall feeling, the service and, of course, the quality of food.
“There are a number of phenomenal places in Southern Indiana that are among the best places I’ve been to,” Kyle says. Some of his preferred restaurants are The Exchange Pub + Kitchen and Feast BBQ in New Albany and the Irish Lion in Bloomington. But his favorite is the New Albanian Brewing Company Pizzeria and Public House in New Albany. As he writes in his 5-star review: “Go there. Do it.”
Yelper since March 2015
Tag line: “Yelping is so fetch!”
Though she’s only been yelping for a year, Molly Blandford became an elite within three months. A native of Owensboro, Kentucky, the 24-year-old social worker moved across the river to Georgetown.
“Yelping was a way for me to start to get to meet new people in different areas since I’m not from here originally,” she says.
Molly considers herself a foodie and feels the best way to review a restaurant is through photos. Just look at her Yelp profile: She’s reviewed 111 businesses so far, but has posted a whopping 1,063 photos.
“Pictures speak louder than words. I think that my pictures will show it will taste just as great as my words.”
Along with pictures, Molly likes to check in to the restaurants she visits. By checking in through the mobile Yelp app, she can keep track of where she has been, update friends and share her location on Twitter and Facebook. Sometimes, if a business doesn’t have a Yelp page, Molly will create one.
It’s hard for Molly to choose one restaurant as her favorite; it depends on the food. When it comes to burgers, she recommends Big Four Burgers & Beer in New Albany, a burger joint she gave a 5-star rating to. She writes in her review: “Big Four is one of those places you can go over and over again and try something different every time! I love the new place!”
Yelpiest restaurants in Southern Indiana
Our region's top 10 reviewed restaurants on Yelp
$= $10 and under, $$= $11-$30, $$$= $31-$60
1. Mayasari Indonesian Grill
213 N. Broadway St., Greensburg
2. Sogno Della Terra
901 Washington St., Columbus
3. Crystal & Jules
709 W. Main St., Madison
4. Mother Bear’s Pizza
1428 E 3 rd St., Bloomington
5. Turkuaz Café
301 E 3 rd St., Bloomington
6. J Ford’s Black Angus
502 S 3 rd St., Terre Haute
American, seafood, steakhouse
7. Thai Papaya Cuisine Inc
1434 Tutor Lane, Evansville
8. Darn Good Soup
107 N College Ave, Bloomington
9. New Albanian Brewing Company Pizzeria and Public House
3312 Plaza Drive, New Albany
10. Carriage On The Square Smoke House
117 N. Broadway, Greensburg
Global dining in the 812 region
Goulash, pad Thai, chicken tikka masala: These dishes may not sound like classic Hoosier cuisine. But Southern Indiana, like the rest of our country, is home to many cultures that add spice to our palates. So let’s take a tour of the world right in our backyard.
Southern Indiana’s Rhine Valley
“You got the roast beef?” An older lady calls across the dark wood-paneled bar.
“Yeah!” answers a gentleman sitting alone.
“Just like mom used to make,” she says, with a hint of nostalgia.
These two are among the regulars that fill the Schnitzelbank Restaurant during lunch and want classic German dishes just like their ancestors used to make.
In 1961, Larry Hanselman decided to change his small tavern into an establishment that could give the heavily German town of Jasper something that was missing: traditional German food.
“He started asking around to families here in town if they had any old German recipes that came over from Germany that he could buy,” explains Alan Hanselman, Larry's son and co-owner of Schnitzelbank. “So he started buying recipes from local families.”
Many Jasper families had immigrated from its sister city of Pfaffenweiler, Germany. Larry was able to not only get recipes for goulash, sauerbraten and Wiener Schnitzel, but also have the Pfaffenweiler families teach the Schnitzelbank chefs how to prepare these dishes just as they would in their küchen.
“We’ve kept those recipes all these years, and we still today use the same recipes,” Hanselman says. “It was the food that made the place.”
Alan says the Sampler Platter, which gives the customer a choice of three different meats, is a must. Be warned: It’s big enough to feed a family.
Although Ramona Münzer, owner of The German Café in French Lick, is a newcomer by comparison, she feels the same way about authenticity.
When a family friend from Paoli visited Ramona's home in Würzburg, Germany, , she insisted that Southern Indiana needed a restaurant with Münzer's food. Münzer, who had never ran a restaurant before, tossed around the idea with her family for a couple of years. Finally, Münzer and her family decided eight years ago to move to French Lick. The German Café has been in business for six years and has already seen growth.
“We do it fresh, we don’t overdo our menu,” she says. “It’s a plain, simple, authentic menu.” The dishes are recipes from her husband’s side of the family, and the baked goods recipes descend from her family. Together with their three children, daughter-in-law and son-in-law, they run the cozy restaurant not far from the French Lick Resort.
“It’s something very different,” she says. “I divide it into separate private areas to look like a little home to make customers feel like they’re sitting at home.”
Münzer advises visitors to order the grosse platter fuer, which is like a buffet right at your table, or the Jeagerschnitzel, a pan-fried breaded pork tenderloin covered in a creamy mushroom gravy.
Around the world in two blocks
The region's quintessential college town is the spot for ethnic food. People from all over the globe have settled in Bloomington, bringing their favorite dishes with them. Fourth Street, between Grant and Dunn, is where it all began.
Hungry entrepreneurs converted the quaint old homes on the street into ethnic eateries. “You can really tour the world by eating at Fourth Street,” says Carol Kugler, food and outdoor editor of The Herald-Times.
“We were looking for a space to rent, and it was actually a very old house,” says Sibel Cekic, owner of Anatolia, a Turkish restaurant that, 12 years later, is one of the oldest of the nine establishments on the street.
Over the years, restaurants have come and gone, but Fourth Street has remained the place for Thai, Mediterranean, Korean, Indian and Turkish food.
Dharminder Singh, the owner of Taste of India, would always hear about Fourth Street when he lived in Terre Haute.
“People asked, ‘Hey have you been to Fourth Street?’ and I said, ‘Man, I need to go there. Right now, I’m on it!’” Singh bought Taste of India in July 2015. He loves how the abundance of multi-cultural restaurants brings in people from all walks of life.
Cekic agrees, adding that diners learn about other cultures while satisfying their stomachs.
“You cannot find a similar street in other places like Bloomington,” Cekic says. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Ethnic restaurants of Fourth Street
$= $10 and under, $$= $11-$30, $$$= $31-$60
Anyetasang’s Little Tibet
415 E 4 th St.
Popular dish: Mo Mo (dumpling)
413 E. 4 th St.
Popular dish: XXXXX
409 E. 4 th St.
Popular dish: Bibimbap
405 E. 4 th St.
Popular dish: Pides, kebabs
( Walking from campus left side)
430 E 4 th Street
Popular dish: Pad Thai
416 E. 4 th St.
Popular dish: Chicken tikka masala
D O: Asian Fusion Cuisine & Lounge
404 E. 4 th St.
Popular dish: Chicken fried rice
My Thai Cafe
402 E. 4 th St.
Popular dish: XXXXX
Taste of India
316 E. 4 th St.
Popular dish: Butter chicken