Mad for Madison

Another week, another trip… and more good eats!

Spent a few days this week in Madison, hugging the banks of the Ohio River in southeast Indiana. As far as small towns go, this is about as pretty as they come. Madison takes great community pride in maintaining blocks-long stretches of gorgeously maintained historic homes, a main street of antique shops and eateries, and a ridiculously scenic riverfront.

18 Madison fountain.jpgThis is small-town Indiana, so the food scene’s heavy on familiar comfort-foodie fare, with a few surprises tucked in here and there.

Here’s what was on the menu:

Crystal & Jules is THE place to go for a romantic dinner or special occasion in Madison. The menu isn’t huge, but everything on it makes sense with a respectable selection of surf and turf choices. The housemade pastas immediately got my attention, although I hear the Costa Rican New York Strip also receives plenty of raves. In the end, I couldn’t be swayed, and was glad I went with my first instincts.

16 CJ salad.jpgMy dinner started with a simple yet delicious house salad composed of ingredients grown in the garden just out the back door — spicy lettuces, tiny jewel-like tomatoes and diced cucumber with a super tasty champagne vinaigrette.

16 CJ pasta.jpgAs for my pasta – a lemon/lime marinated chicken breast atop a luscious tangle of tender fettuccine covered in creamy tomato sauce kicked up with a whisper of poblano. So, so good.

16 CJ Creme brulee.jpgFor dessert, a textbook-perfect vanilla crème brulee adorably presented in a white coffee mug.

17 Horst donut and coffee.jpgBreakfast at Horst’s Little Bakery Haus – bringing a little taste of Bavaria to Madison with Old World décor that highlights cuckoo clocks, a collection of tiny porcelain Christmas village houses that spans an entire wall, and other kitschy German mementos. The food’s your basic breakfast grub – omelets, corned beef hash, B&G… but the baked goods seem to be the honey that lures in most of the customers. Especially the light-as-air traditional glazed donuts. A sweet way to start the day.

21 Hinkle burger fries.jpgSpeaking of loyal customers, fans have been frequenting Hinkle’s Sandwich Shop since 1933. Nothing fancy, just a tiny local burger joint that’s made a name for itself by serving up slightly-bigger-than-a-slider “Hinkleburgers” dressed with onions and pickles, along with fries and several dozen flavor options for extra-thick milkshakes. Grab a seat at the counter (if you can, there are only a handful and they fill up fast) and load up on the greasy-spoon goodness.

22 Ice cream cannoli.jpgThree words: ice cream cannoli. The Ice Cream Dessert Factory makes them, and you  know you want one. Large and small pie-crusty cylinders piped full of vanilla, strawberry or mint ice cream. If you really want to splurge, get yours dipped in chocolate. Go ahead. I won’t tell anyone.

2 me boat.jpgI’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I enjoyed the Rockin Thunder Jet Boat adventure trip I did, an idyllic day-long journey from Madison up the Kentucky River all the way to Frankfort.

9 Blue Wing.jpgPit stops included a box lunch at the bucolic Blue Wing Landing Inn in Owenton, KY and a quick tasting at Buffalo Trace Distillery.


ALWAYS happy to revisit the handsome campus here, and bourbon tasting — well, if you’ve been paying attention, you already know how I feel about that…