Getting to know a state through its foodie options is my idea of a perfect road trip! The Kid and I hit the road in late spring and headed west to check out some popular food offerings in Northern Indiana compliments of Indiana Foodways Alliance. They set up the itinerary, we plugged in the GPS- and traveled over, around, and through some well-known counties and some if-you-don’t-know-about-them-you-need-to-get-there immediately counties to taste test the best of the state. Not only did we have a delicious visit, we learned about our home state’s neighbor to the west. Curious? If you’re a food lover, you should be. Third leg of the journey? Hendricks and Hamilton Counties! If you missed any part of this delicious Northern Indiana food series, there’s Part One and Part Two to catch you up to speed.
The Kid and I ventured into foreign road trip territory in early May- but never assume foreign is a bad thing when it comes to road tripping. We learned so much about Northern Indiana culture- and learning about its culture through a foodie tour is my idea of fun! We traveled by state routes and back roads, all the while making pit stops at fun restaurants that serve delicious dishes.
Northern Indiana road trip part three was all about Hendricks and Hamilton Counties, Indiana. Both counties have a booming foodie scene and are super close to Indianapolis. Although food was our main reason to road trip to both, we soon happily found that there was far more to Hendricks and Hamilton Counties than we expected.
Disclosure: I was hosted by all of these amazing restaurants, cities, and CVBs to give you fine folks the scoop on what makes the Northern Indiana foodie scene so incredible. All opinions and photos are my own!
Think of Indiana as a whole and you’ll probably have a picture something exactly like this one in your mind. Beautiful fields, open spaces, and an all-around Midwest ambiance that makes you want to get outdoors and take in all of that quintessential beauty. Ok, I’ll admit, I did make a pit stop on of the back roads in Hendricks County to take this picture (I don’t have the opportunity to get this close to cows, after all) because it simply screamed Midwest beauty, but there’s so much more to Hendricks County than pretty fields and picturesque views (as if that wasn’t enough to sway me to visit!). The county has fun cultural spots and museums, quaint shopping areas filled with local artisans, and of course, an awesome food scene.
The thought of picking up an entire diner in New Jersey, loading it onto railroad cars, and placing it in Plainfield, Indiana, is not only quizzical but downright fun. This was exactly the scene in 1954. After many years, the Diner close din 2008 and was placed on Indiana Buildings “10 Most Endangered Buildings” list. The town rallied, moved the Diner four miles down the road, completely restored both inside and out, and reopened in 2014. Even with all of the restoration, Oasis Diner keeps true to its original form by making everything from scratch- except for the French Fries!
And from scratch doesn’t just mean adding breading to sliced pickles- the Diner makes its own pickles! The breading is thick and perfectly fried with no hint of mushy. And the pickles? Some of the best I’ve ever tried. They have a snap (again, no mush) and the flavor melds perfectly with the breading.
Here’s a quick lesson in Indiana food. The breaded Pork Tenderloin is the official food of the state of Indiana. Oasis Diner’s version was the size of my face, hand breaded, and served on a toasted bun with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and garlic mayo. There’s no way I could have eaten the entire sandwich it was so massive.
As for dessert, the Diner has homemade soda floats, Strawberry Shortcake served in a giant bowl, and our fave, Beignets. I know what you’re thinking, how does a New Orleans specialty fit in to a diner in Indiana, but it does. They’re made to order and topped with so much powdered sugar that you’ll end up with it all over your hands and face and it’s totally worth it.
After dinner, we had to make a pit stop to WHO North America- the largest retail store featuring all things Doctor Who in North America. The Kid was in heaven (she’s a huge fan) and the company is adding to its already- impressive space with a soon-to-be opened Doctor Who Museum. Seriously, if you can’t find what you’re looking for there, you’re probably not going to find it.
The next morning (after a pit stop near a cow field), we made a bee line for Bread Basket Café. In the heart of Danville, Indiana, the restaurant outgrew its old spot and now resides in a former home. When we walked in, I commented to The Kid that it felt like walking into the home of one of your favorite relatives. Wooden floors, quaint tables and a counter that looks like it should be in your grandmother’s house, Bread Basket Café is a breakfast hot spot. The restaurant has homemade sausage biscuits and gravy, omelettes with creative ingredients including smoked salmon and avocado, and my favorite, the Breakfast Sandwich.
And here’s why I love breakfast sandwiches: they’ve got an entire breakfast wrapped up in two slices of perfectly-toasted bread. I ordered mine with bacon, cheese, and egg whites only, and it was so filling and delicious.
If you’ve got a morning sweet tooth (or one any time of the day, for that matter) head to the dessert counter for homemade scones, giant cinnamon rolls (they’ve got fruit-flavored ones as well), and cakes to take home.
Hamilton County is bang next to Indianapolis and its easy location to the capital gives it a hip, urban vibe but still with touches of rural Indiana. Whether your visit includes Noblesville filled with county history and easy walking streets or Carmel filled with hip restaurants and an all over cool vibe, you’ll find one common tie: restaurants that are always filled compliments of their delicious meals and friendly atmosphere.
And speaking of a hip vibe, Eggshell Bistro in Carmel fits the description perfectly. Owner and chef Larry Hanes is not only an amazing chef that bases all of the restaurant’s dishes on eggs with a global kick, he’s quite a proficient artist. Serving breakfast, brunch, and lunch only, Hanes does all of the cooking. He’s coined the term “twistorical” and I’m loving the translation: putting creative spins on historic global recipes with a focus towards balance & flavor depth…discovering fresh uncharted realms, all influenced by his relentless research, travel, cross-cultural influences and personal experiences.
Shakshuka is one of those dishes that, if you like a spicy kick, you’ll keep returning back to inhale. The dish features a Moroccan-spiced tomato base, habanera, onion, garlic, kale, chèvre, baked hen’s egg, with a grilled baguette on the side.
I’m all for traditional-style egg dishes and Eggshell Bistro’s Quintessential Quiche was so up my alley. Applewood bacon, caramelized leek, roasted tomato, Comté, multi-grain crust, and a fruit tasting is perfect for any time of day, but you’ll have to head there pretty early to score a plate full.
Dessert time! We headed to Rosie’s Place in Noblesville. Sitting in The Square filled with mom and pop shops, Rosie’s the THE place to go in the city for pie and desserts. We hit the restaurant after lunch so many of its pies had sold out, but we did get to sample a slice of Coconut Cream pie. I could taste the love. On the Hoosier Pie Trail, the restaurant prides itself in using local, organic ingredients and baking fresh offerings daily.
To work off all of those calories, a trip to Koteewi Range was in order. Neither The Kid not I had ever tried archery and, always up for a challenge, we happily gave it a go. Also in Noblesville, the archery range has ranges that cater to every ability and style. We stuck with the beginner’s range and, using their equipment (yep, you can rent bows and arrows onsite), The Kid has a new hobby. She actually mentioned that she wants to find a local archery to take lessons. Score.
Next week? Part 4 and the reason why this delicious Indiana foodie tour all began: Anderson, Randolph, and Jay Counties!